What are My Legal Rights When Cancelling or Postponing My Wedding?
Cancelling or postponing your wedding is every couple’s worst nightmare. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, the UK government has announced the ban of all social gatherings, including weddings. So, cancelling or postponing has become a necessity for couples with weddings in the coming months.
When you postpone your wedding, you are simply moving the entire wedding (or as much of it as you can) to a new date further in the future. Find out more about how to postpone your wedding here.
Cancelling your wedding means cutting ties with every supplier and your venue and starting the planning process again from scratch.
Below we have outlined the legal rights you will have when dealing with your suppliers if you cancel or postpone your wedding.
Deciding whether to Cancel or to Postpone Your Wedding?
If your wedding is within the next few weeks, or even months, it is unlikely it will be able to go ahead. Should you cancel, or simply postpone? We’d strongly encourage you to postpone rather than cancel unless you really can’t find a new date that works for all involved. Remember, there was a reason you fell in love with that venue and carefully chose the suppliers you want to work with. Cancelling incurs costs for the venues and suppliers and you’ll probably end up paying higher prices when you rebook.
If your wedding is in May or June, either you or your venue may still be hoping it might go ahead. How soon do you need to make a decision on changing your plans? Is it reasonable for your venue to ask you to wait to see if a further lockdown period is enforced? The lowest risk approach if the wedding might be affected is to keep the original date pencilled in, agree a date you can postpone to, and agree a date that you’ll make the final decision by. Doing this by mutual consent before either side is forced to cancel removes the element of fault or blame for both parties.
If you choose to postpone
Most venue and supplier contracts treat postponements in exactly the same way as a cancellations, with the same penalties. These penalties will usually increase as you get closer to the wedding date. However, all the venues and suppliers we’ve spoken to have taken a very lenient approach and are allowing couples to postpone if they feel that their wedding might be affected. Your venue may already have booking for popular dates in the autumn and next spring so be prepared to be flexible in finding an alternative date. They are quite within their rights to charge a supplement if you choose a more expensive “peak” date. Most are waiving their usual annual price increases if you have to postpone it to next year. The important point to remember is that you probably don’t have the “right” to postpone without penalties, so work with you venue and suppliers to find a compromise. If you can’t agree on a date to postpone to, your options are to cancel, and probably forfeit payments you have made so far, or wait to see if the lockdown is enforced for longer and your venue is forced to cancel.
Postponing will have implications on your payment schedule. It is likely that you paid your venue a deposit followed by stage payments at various points with a final payment due when you confirm final plans. Once you have agreed a postponement, any future payments should be in line with the new date, ie a payment due 2 weeks before the wedding will now be due 2 weeks before the date you’ve postponed to. You can’t assume that your venue or suppliers will refund anything already paid, they will prefer to apply it to the new date. One important point to note; keep to your original payment schedule, making payments when they become due, until a postponement has been confirmed. Missing payments, without the venue’s agreement, could constitute a breach in contract.
If your venue asks you to postpone
If it is the venue asking you to postpone, for example due to lockdown or because they don’t have sufficient staff, you tend to have more rights. However, this will depend on their contract so it is sensible to check. Again, the ideal is to work with them to find an alternative date to avoid unnecessary costs for you both. Remember to check with your other suppliers; if some aren’t available for the alternative date and you lose deposits, who’ll cover those costs? If you can’t reach agreement on a date to postpone to, the only alternative will be to cancel and book an alternative venue.
If you want to postpone but the original venue or suppliers aren’t available
Ask if your venue is part of a group. They may be able to move your deposit to a different venue with availability in their group. Suppliers such as photographers, videographers, musicians and florists may already be booked up for your preferred date, but again they may be able to transfer your deposit to another supplier. These suppliers may appear to be competitors, but the wedding industry is a close knit community and are pulling together to help each other out. They’ll be happy to give you recommendations or to put you in touch.
Alternatively, you can check the late availability section on Guides for Brides. Many suppliers show what kind of availability they have on our website. So, you can be certain that those listed have the availability you need.
If you choose to cancel your venue or suppliers
If it is you making the decision to cancel, in addition to forfeiting your deposit and any money already paid you may be liable for the final balance. It is worth checking carefully the cancellation policy in your contracts before you make a decision. Most venues may ask for a cancellation fee which will be based on the notice you have given and details will be set out in your contract. All the venues and suppliers we have spoken to are being as accommodating as possible. Most are not asking for balances that are contractually due unless they have already incurred costs, but it is down to their discretion. If you cancel at short notice, and the venue or supplier has already committed money or started work on your wedding, such as dress makers, caterers, florists or bakers, you should expect to pay for the costs incurred.
If your venue or suppliers cancel
In this situation, as it is the venue or a supplier cancelling your contract, you would expect your deposit and any other payments to be refunded. It’s unlikely that you’d be able to charge them for any consequential losses, for example if the venue cancels, and cancelling causes you to lose the deposits paid to other suppliers.
From the experts
We've found that venues and suppliers will be very reasonable if you have a good reason to cancel or postpone. They have tight contracts to protect themselves but rarely enforce them if they can find a compromise that will work for both parties.Alison Hargreaves, Guides for Brides Founder and CEO
Does it help to have wedding insurance?
Wedding insurance will usually cover a couple if their venue or a key supplier has to cancel. Business interruption insurance will usually cover a venue that is forced to close under instruction from the local authority. However, when it comes to cancellations relating to Coronavirus, nothing is certain. It isn’t sensible to rely on insurance covering the loss. Some studies have estimated that less than a quarter of 1% of insurance claims will be paid as Coronavirus wasn’t a notifiable disease until 5th March 2020. It is a much better approach to work with your venue and suppliers, find a solution that works and minimise possible financial losses for everyone.
What happens if you can’t get the refund you are due?
The venues and suppliers that are being the most helpful by allowing couples to postpone and cancel without penalty will be working hard to manage their cash flow. The government has put various grants and loans in place for the hospitality industry, but it takes time to access this finance. In the meantime, not only have they lost their source of income, they are also refunding payments they weren’t ever expecting to. Try to bear with them while they make arrangements to refund any money due to you.
In the unlikely event that you have been unable to contact the business, or they are refusing to pay you the amount due, you may have protection under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act if you paid by credit card. Under this Act, your credit card company may be equally liable to you for losses on payments of a minimum of £100 and a maximum of £30,000.
Be sure to stay up to date with how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting the wedding industry.
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