02 June 2020
Wedding postponed due to Coronavirus?
Wedding season is well and truly upon us, yet across the country many couples have been left devastated after their wedding receptions could not take place due to COVID-19 and some venues have been refusing to return deposits worth thousands of pounds.
B P Collins spoke with its clients, Dr Perry Green, a cardiologist and his fiancée, Dr Seema Alaee, a respiratory specialist, who were due to marry in April 2020 in Gloucestershire. When their wedding could not go ahead due to the pandemic, B P Collins was instructed to help them recoup their deposit, which all took place while Dr Green was suffering from coronavirus. Thankfully he has now recovered.
The facts of the case
Initially the venue’s owners offered to move the wedding to an alternative date in September 2020 for an additional payment of £2500. However, due to both their jobs as hospital doctors and the disruption of COVID-19, choosing an alternative date in the future was impossible. The venue did eventually offer to re-schedule the wedding for next year at no additional cost, but this was not feasible as Perry and Seema really wanted to marry this year and so they requested a full refund as the contract had been frustrated due to COVID-19.
By April 2020, the couple was still chasing for both a response and refund from the venue, but neither were received. The venue eventually said that the offer to re-book the wedding for free was now withdrawn and incorrectly suggested that Perry and Seema had cancelled the contract, with the consequence being that the venue was entitled to keep their deposit.
In addition to this, the couple had made enquiries with their wedding insurer and were told that as the wedding was not going ahead due to a Government order or regulation, they would not be able to claim those monies under their insurance policy. Faced with potentially losing the monies, they had little choice but to seek legal advice.
Perry explains how they felt when the wedding had to be cancelled and the deposit was not forthcoming:
“Like many couples we felt upset and frustrated. We’d been planning our wedding since July 2019, and we’d done a lot of the preparation ourselves including designing personalised decorations for the marquis and creating our own bespoke menu for guests.”
“We’d put in extra shifts at the hospitals, working every weekend from November 2019, and whatever little free time we had was spent planning our wedding. I was also upset that my dad wasn’t going to be able to walk me up the aisle.”
Perry instructed B P Collins, which sent a letter before action to the venue demanding the return of the monies. Under the Law Reform (Frustrated Contracts) Act 1943, Perry and Seema were entitled to claim the return of their monies paid under the contract prior to the wedding being frustrated due to COVID-19. The parties subsequently agreed a settlement, whereby the venue refunded Perry and Seema £4,264.62, which was their deposit less the venue’s expenses, which could not be recovered from its suppliers or insurers.
Settling the case at an early stage saved time, money and the added stress of potentially taking the matter to a small claims court
Perry and Seema added:
“Jacob was amazing from the beginning and was really open about the whole process and what we could achieve. Without Jacob we would not have got our money back. He helped us to draw a line under the discussions with the venue and move on.”
Perry and Seema are still hoping to marry this year and hold a celebration for friends and family after lockdown ends.
Could hiring a lawyer save you money in the long run?
Many prospective newlyweds are facing insurers not paying out so seeking legal advice early on is helpful. Perry and Seema did the right thing by querying what would happen to their venue booking in relation to COVID-19 early on and sought legal advice before requesting the return of their deposit.
Has the government given any guidance?
Yes, but a lot is contingent on when the guidance was published and what has been said between the parties, so putting things in writing is key when arranging everything initially.
Should the venue return your deposit if you decide to cancel the wedding?
Not always, but if the contract has been ‘frustrated,’ the venue should return your deposit, subject to any expenses that may have been incurred by the venue.
Should different approaches be taken with different suppliers?
A date for a venue may not be flexible but other wedding suppliers such as the caterer, photographer, band and so on, may be flexible. Always check the contracts.
Should you always have a written contract?
Yes ideally, but the devil is in the detail with any written contract. Any correspondence between the parties may also be relevant as to what has been agreed.