During the initial national lockdown on 23 March 2020, a ban was placed on all wedding and civil partnership ceremonies, causing upheaval and distress to many. Since 4 January 2021 we have been in a further national lockdown and whilst wedding and civil partnership ceremonies are allowed this is only in “exceptional circumstances” (such as where one partner is seriously ill and not expected to recover). For the majority, therefore, plans were once again upturned.
Many couples hope that weddings will return to normal by summer 2021, but what steps should they be taking now?
It may be wise to consider entering into a Pre-Nuptial Agreement (a prenup). Increasingly, many couples are choosing to enter into prenups as a way of dealing with their finances and the financial consequences of the relationship breaking down, instead of leaving it to the discretion of the court. An interesting and recent development is that couples are increasingly attempting to use prenups not only to regulate their finances but the use of social media in relation to their relationship (and any subsequent breakdown of that relationship).
Couples also need to consider the legal options available to them if they are facing a cancelled or postponed wedding
If there is a written contract with the venue and suppliers, it is important to check the postponement and cancellation provisions (if they are any). Some contracts also contain clauses for when an unforeseeable event outside of the parties’ control (such as a pandemic) causes the wedding to be postponed or cancelled, known as ‘force majeure’ provisions. All of these clauses need to be read carefully together before taking any decision to cancel or postpone the wedding.
Even if weddings can go ahead this summer, but couples feel that their big day will be very different from what they had 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.
Lastly, many prospective newlyweds should consider taking legal advice early on if there is a potential dispute. With the Covid-19 regulations being updated periodically, the evolving advice from both the Government and the Competition and Markets Authority, and the question of whether a wedding is legally ‘frustrated,’ obtaining legal advice at an early stage can be invaluable before requesting the return of any monies paid under a contract.