Tip of the Day #68: Expert Legal Wedding Advice from Katy Carrier of Carrier & Associates

Tip of the Day #68: Expert Legal Wedding Advice from Katy Carrier of Carrier & Associates

Although legal woes are not something that brides and wedding vendors typically like to talk about, I believe it is important for both brides and vendors alike to have a working knowledge of how to navigate contracts. The beautiful, smart and savvy Katy Carrier of Carrier & Associates and mastermind behind www.lawforcreatives.com provides her insight on navigating the legal landscape of events.

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What drove you to pursue a career in Trademark Law? Why, do you believe, have you landed with a concentration in servicing creative businesses and event professionals?
While earning my undergraduate degree in journalism, I took a class on copyright law that sparked my interest in pursuing a law degree. After graduating from law school, I took a job at a law firm in Los Angeles, but also started a wedding and event planning company to feed my creative side, and managed to do both jobs until I ultimately decided to start my own law practice geared towards the event industry and other creative professionals. I love being able to combine my legal experience with my understanding of creative professionals and their businesses.

You are the event vendor contract expert! Based on your expertise, what are some important things a couple should look for in a vendor contract? What are some red flags?
I think it is very important to get everything in writing in an official contract. Too often, crucial information is contained in multiple documents (proposals, service description sheets, invoices, email chains, etc.), but if that language is not in the contract, it is not part of the binding agreement between the parties. It can be a red flag if a vendor is not willing to work with you on making adjustments to their contract so that the specifics outlined in all of these other documents are contained within the body of the written contract.

It is also very important to understand the cancellation and postponement policies of any vendors you are working with. Most initial deposits and retainer fees are non-refundable since they serve as payment to hold open your event date (and the vendor may turn down other work as a result), so you need to understand this before signing any contracts. You may also be responsible for additional payment amounts for services already performed by the vendor, whether partially or in full, as well as expenses incurred by the vendor in connection with your event.

What are some important details a wedding vendor should include in their contract and negotiations with clients to protect his or her company?
Cancellation and postponement policies are so important for both sides of the contract. It can be very difficult to reach a mutual agreement after a cancellation or postponement if the contract is silent or vague on this subject. It is also important to make sure that an accurate and detailed description of the services and/or goods are contained in the contract, as well as information about policies and rates for adding services and/or goods after the contract has been signed.

What are the potential issues for both a bride and a vendor if a formal contract is not signed for a wedding product or service?
The main problem is that you may end up with a very unclear picture of the official terms of the agreement reached by the parties, and this can become particularly messy if there is any kind of dispute between the parties. You should always get everything in writing!

Many creative “right brain” thinkers go hazy when discussing business matters. How do you bridge the gap between “legalese” and every day terminology to establish a positive working relationship with your clients?
This is something I work really hard to achieve. I think the key is to explain things in “plain English” whenever possible, and also to be approachable and patient when it comes to answering questions.

Whether a wedding company is a small one-man operation or a large corporation, why is it important to employ standard legal business practices? Do you believe that all vendors should file for trademarks on their brand and likeness?
The importance stems from the value of establishing a business with a solid foundation that is successful and protected from unnecessary exposure to liability. Certain proactive actions like filing trademark and copyright registrations can definitely help protect a business’s brand and creations.

Natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy have now become a reality that some couples have had to face. Can you explain “force majeure” and how it impacts events, particularly weddings?
“Force majeure” translates to “greater force” in French, and in a contract context it generally refers to some sort of natural disaster that affects the ability of the parties to perform their duties under the contract. A fair force majeure clause in a contract will balance the interests of both parties. Check out this post on my blog for an in-depth look at force majeure clauses: http://www.lawforcreatives.com/blogs/news/6803282-force-
majeure-and-your-event-business

Should a couple consider purchasing wedding/event insurance?
Wedding and event insurance can be a good thing, but you want to be sure that you understand exactly what is covered. A $200 day-of policy is likely to have a lot of exclusions and other restrictions, so you need to read the policy language very carefully and ask questions of the agent if necessary.

There are tons of wedding copy-cats on the Internet from social media sharing sites like Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. What precautions should a wedding vendor take to protect his or her work?
Copycats are inevitable, and there’s not a whole lot you can do to guarantee that this never happens, but you can of course take responsive action if necessary, and can also take steps to monitor your work. If someone is passing their work off as yours, or stealing photos or text from your website or blog, you can contact that person or business by way of a “cease and desist” letter demanding that they stop the offending activity. For impermissible photo use and text copying that is occurring online, you can also use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s takedown notice process. For more
reading on the DMCA, visit http://brainz.org/dmca-takedown-101/. You can run scans on the internet for copyright infringement, which is a great tool. For photos you can use www.tineye.com, and for text you can use www.copyscape.com.

The beauty and curse of the Internet is that it is a free-flowing medium for sharing information. If a client (or disgruntled ex) writes a less than stellar review about a vendor and his or her company, what can the vendor do to remedy the situation?
Most review sites have a process in place for challenging reviews that are fraudulent or defamatory, with the exact process and policies varying from site to site. If the site does not assist you in the matter, you can also consider a legal action for defamation.

To learn more about the services that Carrier & Associates provides or to contact Katy directly, please visit www.carrierandassoc.com, contact via phone at 310.424.55856 or email at info@carrierandassoc.com