So you’ve been planning your wedding over the last year, and you’re ready to book your entertainment.

You’ve decided on a 2-part show with a costume change, one set modern Egyptian and one traditional folkloric style. You’ve agreed on a price, reviewed musical requests, and are ready to call it a day and forget about it until – STOP!

I just want to make sure you got that all in writing.

If not, or if you’re wondering why you need to, this post is for you.

Contracts are one of those unsexy things like rates that I don’t really like to blog about – but, at the same time, they’re a fact of life in today’s society, and they’re totally essential. A few key pointers on dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s. (Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, and this post contains no actual legal advice – just a bit of clarification on the main things you’ll see in a belly dancer’s performance contract.)

Get it All in Writing:

A verbal agreement doesn’t count! Get your belly dancer to put everything in writing – date, time, location, type of show, etc. If she refuses, or insists on working without a contract, then find another belly dancer. Period. Any responsible wedding vendor, be it a florist, a photographer, or someone who makes little bride and groom outfits for your dogs, will use a contract to cover YOUR butt as well as their own, by getting all the responsibilities, expectations and “what-if’s” of their services on paper. A dancer who works without a contract is not under any sort of legally binding agreement to show up at your event. In other words, if the dancer flakes on you for a better opportunity (like a hot date), then you have no protection.

Double-Check for Silly Mistakes:

I’m about to overstate the obvious, but once you get a contract and fill out the required fields for date, time and location, please make sure to double-check for accuracy. (I highlight all those fields in yellow on my contracts so you can’t miss them!) One dancer, who shall remain nameless, was shocked to show up at a wedding venue, 45 minutes early and ready to dance, only to walk into an empty ballroom and find that the event was actually scheduled for the next day. Turns out the client had given her an incorrect date through a lead-generating site, missed several references to the incorrect date in their ongoing email communications, and even signed a contract with the wrong date. Yikes! While these types of errors almost always get picked up long before anyone signs a contract, they can and do happen, and it’s easier to double-check for human error than it is to deal with the mess of letting a major mistake go unnoticed.

Cancellations: Understanding the “What-If’s”

In envisioning the perfect event, you don’t want to think about the possibility that you (or your belly dancer) might have to cancel. Let’s say a family emergency comes up and you’ve had to change the date of your wedding. Or, the dancer has to go in for emergency surgery the night before your wedding. Or, you’ve decided you’d rather have an extra ice sculpture than a belly dancer. Will you get your deposit back? If you cancel on short notice, will you have to pay the dancer in full? Will the dancer help you find a replacement, if she’s the one who has to cancel? These should all be in the dancer’s contract – read them carefully.

Late Fees

Lateness is a fact of life at many events. (9 out of 10 weddings runs late, even with a planner, so I build a reasonable fee into my wedding prices to allow me to ease up on late fees). Yet, with so many people to see and things to do, it is still important to keep your vendors on time – especially entertainers, who often have more than one booking in a night. Keep a dancer waiting and you may incur late fees. So take a moment to review this section on a dancer’s contract and avoid “surprises” later!

Encore Performances and Diva DJ’s: Extended Stays and Minding the Music

Sometimes, a dancer might end up on the dance floor longer than she’d bargained for. Whether you wish to hire the dancer on the spot for a second set, or a sneaky DJ decides to add tracks or replace the dancer’s music with his own tracks, the dancer will most likely have policies in place for extended performances. If you think either of these will be a concern, then ask your dancer to cover these in her contract. My contract includes a fee schedule for additional songs/sets, and a clause for sets that are extended by diva DJ’s.

Seek Clarification:

Our contracts are designed to be clear, readable and helpful, not unnecessarily confusing or intimidating. However, if anything doesn’t make sense, then ask the dancer for clarification! It’s better to ask and feel silly than to let a simple misunderstanding cost you time and money.

Any questions?

Orlando Belly Dancer Carrara Nour

Orlando Belly Dancer Carrara Nour, Photo: Jennifer Soltren of Portrait Divas

About Carrara Nour: Not a lawyer and doesn’t even play one on TV, Carrara Nour is an Orlando-based belly dancer offering custom entertainment for weddings and glamorous events. For more information, check out her Weddings Page or find her on Facebook or Google Plus: Carrara Nour+

8 Responses to “Sign on the Dotted Line: Your Guide to Contracts”

  1. Julia says:

    I’m interested in what your clause about “diva DJs” says! Any chance that you might share an example?:)

  2. carrara says:

    Hi Julia!

    My contract is currently on the chopping block for a few minor revisions and will be re-posted to my Booking page shortly, but the “diva DJ” clause will look something like this:

    d)The client shall communicate any special suggestions or requests prior to the beginning of the performance. The performance has been carefully planned and it is difficult to make changes once the performance has begun. Be assured that, if appropriate, audience participation song(s) will be included. If the DJ or client modifies the artist’s musical set by adding or substituting different songs, the artist may leave after she has performed for the contracted length of time.”

    So, if you plan 2 audience participation songs, and the DJ swaps out your 2 songs for his 2, then your contract gives you some protection so you don’t get held hostage on the dance floor an extra 20 minutes.

    If the client wants to keep me around for an extra song or set, then I have this verbiage:

    e) If the client wishes to hire the artist on the spot for an additional song or an additional set, and if the artist’s schedule allows, the client shall pay the artist a fee of $25 per additional song or $200 per additional set, before the artist performs the additional song or set.

    Hope this helps ;)

  3. Bessy Ochoa says:

    I was going to ask the same thing as Julia, thanks Carrara!

  4. carrara says:

    Bessy, I hope you found my “diva DJ” clause helpful! LOL.

    You might also consider editing all your songs into one seamless track with software such as Garage Band or Audacity to further avoid any “margin of error.” ;)

  5. Nyla Crystal says:

    I use one long seamless track and it always works out great, except when the DJ tries to remix my drum solo on the spot or announces every move during the entire performance!

  6. Nyla Crystal says:

    I also like to add in a section about dancer safety stating that the client will provide a performance space free of debris, keep an eye on pets/small children, ensure an environment free of sexual harrassment, etc.

  7. carrara says:

    Good catch, Nyla! I have one of those in my contract, too. That’s one reason why I don’t spin my wheels on clients who refuse to sign a contract. Contracts are one extra measure I use to protect myself against a Worst Case Scenario, and people with nefarious intentions often refuse to leave a paper trail. I firmly believe you can head some ugly situations off at the pass by including a clause on harassment.

  8. carrara says:

    Yes, unfortunately, this happened to me literally the day I became hip to the idea of mixing my music into one seamless track. My music was cut in half, new music came on, and the DJ came out with a dhol and started rocking out. You have no other choice but to grin and bear it, but it’s aggravating nevertheless. Thank goodness none of the DJ’s I hang out with in the wedding industry would ever dream of doing anything like that!


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