It’s such a difficult time for any couple planning a wedding, whether that’s because they postponed their 2020 wedding or if their wedding was already planned for 2021 and now everything remains uncertain. Most couples, even pre-covid, spend around two years planning.
Lots of couples are wondering whether they can claim a refund from their venue or suppliers should they have to cancel them due to a change of plans or postponement. This will depend on the terms and conditions agreed when deposits were paid. Sometimes when booking suppliers, there are few or no terms in place and no mention of difficult circumstances such as the pandemic. Wedding insurance may help if you managed to secure it, but those terms and conditions will vary from policy to policy.
If your venue cannot hold the wedding in accordance with their contract with you because of the Government restrictions on the date of the wedding, generally they will be in breach of contract for not fulfilling the contract terms unless there is a relevant clause (called a force majeure clause) in the contract. There may also be other exclusions in the contract which apply.
If you are seeking to cancel your wedding venue, then it is best to seek a solicitor’s advice on the contract terms to avoid any issues. You may cancel and then realise that the contract stipulates that the venue is still entitled to be paid in part or in full!
The other way forward is to speak to your venue and suppliers early if you are thinking of postponing or cancelling to discuss a solution that you are both happy with avoiding legal dispute.
Wedding venues and suppliers
If a wedding you were hosting or supplying is to be cancelled then the first thing to do is check your contract with the couple. You need to look for a clause that states what will happen if either party cannot perform their contractual obligations due to unforeseen circumstances. If there is no (force majeure) clause then the contract may be frustrated due to the unforeseen circumstance – the pandemic. The circumstance is more likely to be considered as unforeseen if the contract was entered into prior to knowledge of the pandemic.
If there has been frustration, the contract is ended and the parties are discharged from their obligations. You should seek legal advice in this circumstance particularly with regard to any monies you are seeking to charge the wedding couple or if you intend to retain their deposit. You may not be entitled to, even if you consider a non-refundable deposit has been paid.
Difficulties will arise if couples are seeking to cancel in advance but it is not known whether the contract will actually be frustrated on their wedding date. Again, the terms of the contract will need to be checked for any terms that deal with requests to make changes to the original contract and how that affects the deposits or if further charges can be raised as well as the termination clause if the couple are looking to cancel rather than postpone. There is also consumer protection legislation to take into account (Consumer Rights Act 2015).
Our Dispute Resolution team can advise you on any of the above issues. It is important to seek advice early and we can agree a fixed fee with you for the advice to avoid you incurring excessive costs during this difficult time. We also offer a free initial consultation so contact us now on 0800 294 4410 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article written by Katy Rider, Dispute Resolution Solicitor who is currently planning her own 2021 wedding
Further information on frustration of contracts can be found in our previous article here.