The Government have banned my wedding: A three-step plan for couples

With Coronavirus being described as the biggest threat the UK has faced for decades, the Government have imposed a ban on all social events including weddings. This means all weddings and parties booked in the coming weeks will be cancelled. Whilst this news can be devastating for couples, it is important to be practically and legally minded when dealing with your wedding suppliers.

Step 1 – Commence discussions with your wedding supplier

If you are concerned about the impact of the wedding ban, you are advised to speak with your wedding supplier in the first instance to see if you can try and negotiate an agreeable and amicable way forward.  This will certainly be the more efficient and cost-effective method of dealing with matters.

Step 2 – What does your contract say?

Is there a Cancellation/Termination clause?

It is important to carefully review the terms of your contract to see what happens in the event of cancellation. If a party seeks to cancel or terminate a contract when there is no right to do so, the cancelling party could be in breach of contract and liable to the other party in damages.

It is important to note that by law, deposits cannot be “non-refundable”, if a company keeps your money ask, for a breakdown of why it cannot be refunded.

Is there a Force Majeure clause?

Check whether the contract contains a force majeure clause which typically excuses one or both parties from performance of the contract in some way following the occurrence of certain events.

In English law, force majeure is only recognised if it is specifically provided for in the contract. Check whether the pandemic is specifically covered within the force majeure clause. If so, does the contract excuse you from performance and/or exclude/limit your liability in the circumstances?

It may be the case that a pandemic is not specifically covered as a force majeure event, however, on the basis that the Government have now banned weddings, it may be possible to rely on wording which covers a government decision or administrative action preventing performance that meets the political interference language commonly included in definitions of force majeure.

Has the contract been Frustrated?

Where contracts do not include a force majeure clause, the parties may have recourse through the legal doctrine of “frustration”. This provides that a party is discharged from its contractual obligations if a change in circumstance makes it physically or commercially impossible to perform the contract or would render performance radically different.

On the basis that weddings and parties are banned, one could argue that it is impossible to perform the contract and therefore, the contract is frustrated. The consequence of this is that it may allow you to recover monies paid under the contract before it was discharged, subject to expenses incurred by the other party.

Step 3 – Do you have insurance?

In the event of a cancellation or termination which leaves you at a loss, it is worth checking whether you have wedding insurance in place and if so whether the insurance policy will cover any losses sustained as a result of the cancellation.

It is important that contracts are interpreted carefully. For assistance to review or negotiate your consumer contracts, please do not hesitate to contact Meaby & Co for a free initial consultation.