Another Lockdown means further uncertainty surrounding the status of weddings for the year. With many couples and suppliers having postponed weddings from 2020 to 2021, the Government’s national lockdown in response to the increase in COVID-19 infections, raises uncertainty for weddings in 2021.
1. Can I get married during the lockdown?
Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies can take place in lockdown 3.0 subject to strict limits on attendance and must only take place in COVID-19 secure venues or in public outdoor spaces unless in exceptional circumstances. The Government, whilst stating weddings can take place, has also stated that these should only take place in exceptional circumstances. For example, if one of those getting married is seriously ill and not expected to recover or undergoing life changing surgery.
Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies must only take place with up to 6 people. Anyone working is not included (e.g., the total number of people will not include suppliers booked to provide services).
As most hospitality businesses are required to close, it is likely to be exceptionally difficult to get married during Lockdown 3.0.
2. I am due to get married between January and March 2021 – can I obtain a refund from my wedding suppliers?
The first review date of the national lockdown rules will not be until at least Monday 15 February 2021. On 5 January 2021, Michael Gove (Cabinet Office Minister), stated that the current restrictions may not start to be eased until March 2021.
Therefore, if you are due to get married between January and 15 February 2021, it may be worth reviewing the “Force Majeure/Events outside of the control of the parties” clause in your supplier contracts to see whether they are drafted to deal the eventualities of a Government restriction preventing the contract to be performed.
Where there is no Force Majeure clause in the contract, it may be possible to argue that the contract has been frustrated and the obligations under the contract discharged on the basis that the restrictions in place significantly changes the nature of the wedding or reception beyond what could reasonably have been contemplated when you first entered into the contract with your supplier. If a couple can demonstrate that a supplier contract has been frustrated, it is possible to recover the monies paid under the contract subject to any reasonable expenses incurred by the supplier.
If you are due to get married between 15 February 2021 and March 2021, it is likely that the Wedding will still be subject to significant restrictions on the basis that the Government has indicated moving back to the tier system after the lockdown is over. It is highly unlikely there will be significant changes to the restrictions on weddings by mid-February to March 2021.
3. My wedding is unlikely to go ahead as planned after March 2021, should I cancel my contract with my suppliers?
From a legal perspective, care should always be taken before any party opts to cancel a contract. More often than not, there are cancellation clauses contained within contracts which may require the payment of cancellation charges by the cancelling party. Therefore, before cancelling a contract you should carefully check whether you could be liable for any additional charges.
It may also be worth checking whether any cancellation clauses are fairly drafted, and you are advised to seek independent legal advice on this point.
4. My wedding is unlikely to go ahead as planned after March 2021, can I obtain a full refund from my suppliers now?
It may be possible to obtain a refund where you can demonstrate that the performance of the contract is either impossible or radically different from that anticipated at the time of entering the contract with your supplier.
If a Government restriction prevents the wedding taking place, for example, because the hospitality venue must remain closed or because there are strict limits on the number of guests who can attend the wedding, you may succeed in demonstrating that the contract has been frustrated and a refund ought to be provided on the sums paid to your supplier (subject to reasonable deductions for costs incurred by your supplier).
At present, it is not clear what Government restrictions will be in place post-March 2021 and therefore, caution should be taken before assuming the contract has been frustrated and a refund should be provided. With a mass roll out of the vaccinations in place, it may be possible that the Government guidance on events and hospitality change after March 2021. Therefore, couples should consider waiting to see what Government restrictions are in place post March 2021, before asserting their right to refunds due to potentially frustrated contracts.
5. My wedding is unlikely to go ahead as planned after March 2021, is there anything I should do now?
Many of my clients are asking whether there is anything they can do now in relation to their wedding which is unlikely to take place as planned later this year.
Couples may wish to have an open discussion with their suppliers to see whether they can agree a suitable postponement for the wedding day and delivery of the service under the contract or negotiate a suitable return of any sums paid under the contract. Suppliers are equally being severely impacted by the Government restrictions and therefore, an amicable and cooperative approach should be welcomed.
It is also worth obtaining transparency as to what costs your supplier has currently incurred and you may wish to ask your supplier to limit the expenditure of any further costs (e.g., hold off ordering any items for your wedding or pause on partaking in internal planning meetings) until there is some clarity as to whether your wedding will in fact go ahead. Where a contract has been frustrated, a supplier can deduct costs for time and expenses incurred towards your wedding.
For any more information or assistance, contact Pranav Bhanot (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Lauren Clark (email@example.com).
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