After yet another 'pause' on our wedding industry, we now have to wait until the...
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We know there must be a whole host of confused brides out there wondering what to do about their upcoming nuptials, so shoe company Moda in Pelle has put together a short guide to legal rights when it comes to postponing or cancelling a big day.
The wedding industry has been bit hard by the impact of coronavirus, with large scale gatherings effectively banned and flights cancelled all over the world, as well as advice to restrict travel within the UK unless absolutely necessary.
Many couples will be looking to postpone but if this is not possible due to venue constraints or other reasons, and you sadly have to fully cancel, what rights do you have? When it comes to a wedding abroad, if the FCO has advised against travel to the country you were due to get hitched in and your flight is actually cancelled, rather than you're choosing not to take it, you will be due all your money back. However if the location of your wedding isn't included in guidelines, and you decide not to travel, you may not be covered. At the time of writing the government was still advising against all overseas travel, and this looks unlikely to be revised any time soon. However if your wedding is in the UK your insurance may not pay out despite the rules on social gatherings - a lot of policies don't provide cover for governmental regulations, though with current circumstances it's possible that some insurance providers will relax their rules.
Below is some official advice from bodies including Which? on your legal rights if your special day has had to be put on hold or cancelled.
If you cancel
If you take the decision to cancel you might be liable for any money or fees already paid - having said that, few people realise that by law companies cannot claim a deposit is non-refundable unless they give a very detailed explanation of why the money cannot be returned. Depending on the specific circumstances, it might be wise to wait until the venue themselves is forced to cancel as this affords you more protection.
Most venues may ask for a cancellation fee which will be based on the notice you have given. For example if you cancel the day before, it's unlikely that they will be able to recoup any costs - but if you cancel 2 months in advance, they will be able to amend food and drink orders, rearrange staff rotas and potentially even use the venue for something else. This increases the likelihood of getting more cash back. In the current climate it might be wise to hold back on cancelling as if your venue/suppliers/flights are cancelled first, you'll be afforded more protection.
If your venue cancels
If your venue cancels you should be entitled to all of your money back, but this could be a tricky process - particularly if the venue has been hit hard by coronavirus and is facing financial difficulties. If your venue goes into formal administration, you will need to contact the administrator and register with them for a claim, but this can be a long and drawn out process. In the meantime you can lean on Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act if you paid by credit card - under this section your credit card company is equally liable to you for losses so long as the item or service paid for is worth a minimum of £100 and a maximum of £30,000.
If you want to postpone
Depending on personal circumstances, many couples may decide to just postpone their big day to a time when things are a little calmer. With so many companies feeling the hit of coronavirus it is possible that all your suppliers (food, flowers, wedding dress, transport) will be temporarily pausing their own operations and be glad to hear you want to postpone rather than fully cancel. If any of your suppliers permanently close their doors and cannot provide the service you've paid for, then you will be covered under Section 75 as mentioned above if they go into formal liquidation, and they should provide a refund anyway if not.
If you end up going ahead with your wedding, or postpone until another time, but your suppliers do not provide what was originally promised, then you can claim. Examples of this might include a caterer not providing enough/lower quality food than ordered, a DJ or band arriving very late or in a different format (say you paid for a string quartet and only 2 people showed up to play). Issues such as this are likely to be more common in the current climate, so it's important to check and double check the specifics of anything you've paid for/ordered.
While everyone wants their special day to run as smoothly as possible it's also vital to keep a sense of perspective - small business owners are under an incredible amount of pressure at the moment so consider whether an issue was a real "day ruiner" before you proceed. For example a poorly altered wedding dress or a wedding car that was two-hours late = day ruiners. But if your venue forgot to put some bows on a few chairs, or the DJ was ten minutes late, try to put it in perspective.