A Legal Guide For Weddings Restricted By Coronavirus.

If you have any queries relating to weddings taking place under Covid-19 restrictions or any other events please do not hesitate to contact us for a free, no-obligation chat on 0207 703 5034  or fill out our contact form and we will come back to you.  We are happy to answer your questions and advise how we may be able to help.

Our expert legal advice is featured in financial guru Martin Lewis’s MoneySavingExpert website. Click here to read the full article

 

If your wedding can go ahead under the new rules, but will be drastically scaled down (ie, 30 at the wedding, six people at reception), is it fair that people pay the same price? 

  • The starting point when considering whether it is fair for a supplier to charge the same price when a wedding has been drastically scaled down, is to consider what service was being provided by the supplier.
  • Where the cost of the service is contingent on the number of people attending the wedding or reception, for example wedding caterers, decoration companies or drinks/bar services, it is likely to be unfair for the supplier to charge the same price when fewer guests will be in attendance. After all this would constitute an unfair windfall for the benefit of the supplier and to the detriment of the consumer.  Further, it is unlikely that a supplier will legitimately be able to justify the increased costs when the service they are offering has been scaled back.
  • The Consumer Rights Act 2015 aims to protect consumers from potentially unfair terms and an example of a potentially unfair term could be where a consumer is being charged a disproportionately high sum in circumstances where they are not receiving the full benefit of the contract. An unfair term in a contract is unenforceable.
  • However, where the service being provided by a supplier is not contingent on the number of people attending, for example, a DJ, live band and some wedding venues it may be more difficult for a consumer to argue for a price reduction where the wedding is scaled down. This is because the service would need to have been supplied irrespective of the number of people in attendance. In this scenario, the most efficient and cost-effective approach would be for consumers to try their best to negotiate a reduced priced or a rescheduled date.

 

Overview: “Where the contract price is determined by the number of guests attending, it may be considered an unfair term for a supplier to charge the same price where fewer guests are in attendance. Consumer legislation aims to protect consumers from being charged a disproportionately high sum in circumstances where they are not receiving the full benefit of the contract.”

 

Can you cancel the wedding if you have a booking, but can now only take 30 people/six at the reception?

  • Our advice to couples is to always check the cancellation clauses in their contracts and to take great care before cancelling. Afterall, the risk is that if a party cancels a booking when they had no right to do so, they could risk being in breach of contract.
  • If a couple are seeking the return of funds paid under the contract given a drastically scaled down wedding, it may be possible for the couple to rely on the doctrine of frustration.
  • A contract may be frustrated where the performance of the contract is “radically different from that contemplated by the parties at the time of the contract”.
  • For example,  where a couple have entered into a contract for the provision of services for 100 people but only 6 can attend, it could be argued that the contractual obligations are radically different to that contemplated by the parties at the time of the contract.
  • Where a contract has been frustrated, a couple have the ability to recover monies paid under the contract, though a supplier may be able to retain a proportion of the funds where they can demonstrate that they have incurred expenses for specific to that particular wedding.

 

Overview: “Couples should carefully read their contracts and in particular the cancellation clauses as the devil is very much in the detail. However, couples may be able to exit the contract with their suppliers where the performance of the contract is radically different from that contemplated by the parties at the time of the contract”.

 

If you have a big venue and they are still allowing it and you’re going ahead, can you ask for a reduction?

  • In the first instance, couples are encouraged to check the terms of their contracts to see whether any provision has been made for a price reduction where there is a reduction in guests attending.
  • Where the contract is for a “dry hire venue” (e.g. venue only without catering and decoration) the  difficulty couples may face is that the venue may attempt to argue that irrespective of the number of guests in attendance, exclusive use of the venue would be necessary and therefore no price reduction should be provided. In these circumstances, couples may attempt a negotiation exercise to reduce the contract price.
  • Where the venue contract also includes catering and decoration, as these services are often contingent on the number of people attending, couples may be entitled to a price reduction on the catering and decoration element of the contractual price given the reduced guest list size.

 

Overview: “Couples should check whether the contract makes provision for a price reduction where there is a reduction in the number of guests attending.  It is likely to be easier to argue a price reduction for services which are charged based on the number of guests attending. Many wedding venues which provide exclusive use to a couple for the wedding day may argue against a price reduction as the service they are offering will not change irrespective of the number of guests attending”.    


If you can still have the ceremony at a venue, but not the reception – can they keep the reception money and insist you have it at a later day?

  • Couple may wish to agree an alternative day for their reception; however, the Competition and Markets Authority have made it clear that couples should not be pressurised in accepting an alternative or rescheduled date.
  • The Competition and Markets Authority also state that where a service under the contract is not going ahead, wedding supply businesses should offer a refund. However, where legitimate costs have been incurred by the business specifically for the wedding (e.g. food tasting or bespoke table centre pieces), they may be entitled to retain this sum.

 

Overview “It is likely to be unfair for a wedding venue to retain the entire contract price for a reception where the event is not going ahead.  If a wedding venue attempt to insist on keeping the entire contract price for the reception, this could be considered an unfair term and therefore, unenforceable.”


If the registrar can’t do the ceremony (many are local councils are still not doing weddings yet as too busy registering births and deaths), can the reception venue make you pay for a reception for six people if the wedding doesn’t go ahead?

Overview : “Where the wedding ceremony and reception are due to take place at the same venue and you have entered into the same contract for both, a couple may argue that on the basis that the reception was dependent on the wedding ceremony taking place, the contract has been frustrated and the parties are discharged from future obligations (including payment terms). Where the wedding ceremony and reception are at two different venues and a couple are bound by different contracts, the position is more complicated, and it may not be so straightforward for a couple to avoid their payment obligations. In these circumstances, couples should check their contract terms carefully to see whether any provisions can assist them, failing which, couples may attempt to negotiate a price reduction or rescheduled date.”

 

This legal blog was compiled by Pranav Bhanot, a litigation solicitor with a specialist interest in wedding and event industry disputes at leading law firm Meaby&Co Solicitors LLP.

Over the COVID-19 pandemic, Meaby&Co Solicitors LLP have provided legal guidance on cancelled/postponed wedding supplier contracts to over 300 couples and 100 wedding suppliers.

If you have any queries relating to weddings taking place under Covid-19 restrictions or any other events please do not hesitate to contact us for a free, no-obligation chat on 0207 703 5034  or fill out our contact form and we will come back to you.  We are happy to answer your questions and advise how we may be able to help.