I’m sitting at my desk on a Friday and I get a phone call. It’s Saturday’s wedding venue, and they’d like for me to sign my life away. In what’s becoming an all too common practice, the venue has decided that for me to be allowed to photograph my client’s reception I should grant them a waiver of liability that allows for their potential future negligence to go unchallenged in court, even if it results in my death. Seems like a pretty fair deal for the guy showing up to take pictures, doesn’t it?
If you don’t agree with this arrangement, wedding photographers, then do us all a favor and tell these venues “no.” As a business owner, a husband, and a father, I have a hard time stomaching these sorts of agreements — even though I question whether they are actually legally binding.
I’m not a lawyer, and when I reached out to PPA to have an attorney address my concerns on this issue, they declined to comment on record. So why don’t we stick to the ethics of these hold-harmless agreements? My latest liability waiver would like for me to know that my participation in a wedding reception requires me devalue own drawing of oxygen:
“I, voluntarily and knowingly execute this Release with the expressed intention to hold the [Awesome Wedding Venue], harmless and release the [Awesome Wedding Venue], its officers, agents, representatives and employees from all liabilities, claims, actions, damages, property, equipment, merchandise, products, persons, losses, or expenses, including injury, illness, or death which may be suffered before, during or after participation.”
Seems fair, right? Unless the cook runs out of the kitchen drunk, trips, and a flaming veal kabob skewers me and reduces me to ashes. My wife might expect them to be held just a little responsible should that happen. She might. Just saying.
This wonderful hold-harmless agreement then goes on to reinforce my fear that a horror movie death is something they’d like to avoid being responsible for.
“Furthermore, the undersigned understands that this waiver includes any claims based on negligent action or inaction of the [Awesome Wedding Venue], its officers, agents, representatives, or employees. The undersigned has elected to assume all such risks.”
See! The drunken kabob flinging would surely fall under “negligent action,” right?
Now, I might be crazy (so tell me if I am, folks), but it seems silly to have me sign something like this when you’re not going to ask any of the 200 folks sucking down booze all night to do so as well? Who would you expect to be more likely get themselves into a “negligent’ situation: me, or Uncle Tom who’s had 10 whiskey and colas before dinner?
To add to the hilarity of the situation, most of these contracts seem to think that the year is 1832 and that I am the full legal custodian of my wife. It turns out — you’re going to love this — that some wedding venues think that my spouse need not participate to sign her rights away. If only I had the power to agree to line items such as this:
“It is my intention that this Release is binding upon my spouse, heirs, legal representatives, and assigns; and that its coverage extends to my spouse, heirs, legal representatives, and assigns.”
Sorry, honey, but “it is my intention” that you aren’t a legal adult. What!?
Thinking that I can even agree to something like this on the behalf of my wife or children is not only laughable, it’s just insulting. The whole thing is, really. I don’t mind agreeing to provide proof of liability insurance or signing something that acknowledges that I am responsible for my own actions and am a legally separate entity from the venue. That seems fair, and probably a safe designation for the venue to want to make.
However, the logic that any venue can open shop to thousands of guests and hundreds of vendors every year and do so expecting to take on no professional liability for their own action or negligence is just insane. It’s devaluing my life, my profession, and my family. I’m sick of it. You should be too.
Venues, how dare you!? How dare you ask me to acknowledge that I am personally responsible for my own actions, while in the same breath asking that you be released of any responsibility at all? If that’s not unprofessional, I don’t know what is.
Again, having asked around does lead me to believe that general waivers of liability don’t hold up too well in court. I wasn’t able to get any hard and fast rules to say why, but I did talk to a few folks that deal with these types of things on the legal end and most them referred to this sort of contract as garbage.
The sickening part is what choice do I have, anyway? In an effort to serve my client, and because I respect the choices they’ve made for their wedding day, I have to sign this so that I’m not causing a big stink for them.
Maybe I’m being a diva, but I still don’t want to sign this thing. It just seems off to me.
How often do you guys sign waivers like this, and have you ever confronted the venue about the policy?