25 September 2020
Wedding rule of 15
As we come out of what should have been a busy high season for the wedding sector, on Tuesday the Government introduced stricter controls on the number of wedding attendees. We sat down with Jacob Gatley, one of our solicitors in B P Collins’ dispute resolution team, for a Q&A session on the latest changes and how it may affect your legal rights should you find yourself in this situation.
How will the changes affect my wedding?
From 28 September, only 15 people are allowed to attend a “Covid-secure” wedding venue. Previously, couples in England could have up to 30 people attend their big day. This limit on attendees includes guests, the officiant, and any staff not employed by the venue, such as the photographer. For most, this means guests lists will be largely confined to immediate family and a very small number of friends. This rule change is in addition to existing government guidelines published on 11 September, which includes restrictions such as no food or drink being allowed (unless essential for the ceremony), singing and playing instruments should be avoided, and different households have to stay at least one metre apart.
What should I do if I am due to get married from 28 September this year?
If you feel that your big day will be very different from what you originally planned, having an open and frank conversation with the venue about postponement on the same or similar terms is generally better than cancellation. While some wedding venues have been very accommodating in what are difficult circumstances, others have cancelled or postponed weddings without offering refunds or making alternative arrangements for couples, in line with their consumer rights.
What are my rights if my wedding can’t go ahead?
Earlier this month, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published guidance on consumer wedding rights and how they would treat cases should they bring enforcement actions against wedding venues. The guidance touches on the rights available under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and the Law Reform (Frustrated Contracts) Act 1943. Some of the legal remedies available to consumers will depend on whether the wedding was cancelled (by either the couple or the venue), or the wedding was unable to go ahead due to Covid-19. With the latter scenario, lawyers often say a contractual event is legally ‘frustrated.’
If your wedding is on or after 28 September, the position may not be straightforward. Much depends on how long the existing restrictions are expected to be in place for. Under the current regime, the government has to review the rules and regulations at least every 28 days. To complicate it further, the current regulations are due to expire on 7 January 2021, and the Prime Minister’s comment that they may continue for around six months means that we are potentially looking at March 2021. Bearing the above time frames in mind, the sooner the wedding date, the greater the risk that your wedding may be postponed. In addition, there are also potential issues as to whether a reduced number of attendees means that the contract is radically different to what was intended. However, it is important to note that the terms of the agreed contract are often key. Much depends on the facts of each case, which is why obtaining legal advice at an early stage can be invaluable.