The coronavirus pandemic has hit people in different ways with many having to adapt and postpone long-held plans, while adjusting to a new way of living.
One group hit with major disruption are couples with a wedding booked. Some brides and grooms have seen their weddings delayed, others have had to abandon their plans altogether, often leading to a financial loss.
To make matters worse, some wedding venues have not been holding up their end of the bargain, charging customers a cancellation fee – despite the circumstances -and not allowing for any other course of action.
This is Money, with the help of experts, reveals what your options are if you have a wedding booked – and what your rights are in this difficult time.
Many bride and grooms wedding plans have been halted, due to the coronavirus pandemic
What to do if a venue is refusing to refund you
One of the most common issues plaguing some parties is that venues are not being flexible with their plans – either not letting customers move dates, charging them for cancelling or cancelling the date themselves.
In this situation, as the consumer is not cancelling, the venue is, the venue is in breach of contract and should make a full refund.
However, a number of them are charging a cancellation fee, stating that it is in their terms and conditions.
This could be deemed an unfair contract term and condition under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations and the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
Helen Dewdney, consumer expert and also known as The Complaining Cow, reveals what you can do to try and get your money back:
1. Write. Always write to the venue so that you have an evidence trail. Try writing to the chief executive. Whilst you are unlikely to get a response from the chief executive, it will help to escalate the matter.
2. In the current circumstances it would help to support businesses if you accepted a new date for the event, at no extra cost, if you can.
3. If you are not able to do this, state that you require a full refund under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, as the company is in breach of contract.
4. Include in your email the date by which you expect to hear back from them and what you will do if you do not receive a satisfactory response.
5. Say that if you are not fully satisfied with their response, you will not hesitate in taking the matter further.
This will include, but not be limited to, reporting them to the CMA, sharing your experience on social media and seeking redress through the Small Claims Court.
Dewdney said: ‘It is outrageous that companies are treating customers this way.
‘Ultimately it will backfire, as now more than ever consumers are taking note of which companies are doing the right thing by their customers and which ones are not.
‘Consumers can only rely on the law and the law should be upheld. Ultimately only a court can decide if a company is in breach of consumer law.
‘However, it is unlikely any company in breach of contract would want to go to court and let the flood gates open.’
’20 of our guests now can’t make the wedding’
Megan House, 22, from Essex, and her fiancée, Liam Dorian, are one such couple whose wedding has been affected by the pandemic.
Megan, 22, and her fiancee, Liam, have had to change the date of their wedding
They originally had their wedding planned for May 16 at a venue in Cornwall but the venue decided to move the date to August 8, now saying if that isn’t possible, the couple cannot move it to next year.
Instead, if it doesn’t go ahead in August, they will have to have a mid-week winter wedding with the venue refusing to refund anything, despite the fact they have paid for a Saturday May date.
Despite taking out wedding insurance to cover any issues such as this, her insurer has said it won’t cover the change in date, despite originally saying they would.
Megan said: ‘We originally had 120 guests due to come, however, by moving the date over, 20 people now can’t make it, including an usher and bridesmaid.
‘All of our suppliers except the florist and cake aren’t available on the new date.
‘We’ve lost deposits from the hairdresser, makeup artist, band, videographer and photographer.
‘We’ve also paid out for a bridesmaid dress for the one who can’t attend anymore and had favours personalised with the date.
‘So far, we’ve lost approximately £2,500, potentially slightly more.’
Is wedding insurance worth it?
Many prospective bride and grooms will be looking at purchasing wedding insurance which should help them should a venue cancel or a supplier fail.
Those who have insurance are advised to contact their insurer to see what they can claim back on if they find their wedding has been disrupted.
However, some are finding that their insurer won’t pay out now, claiming their terms and conditions don’t cover pandemics.
So is it worth forking out even more money for your big day?
Charlotte Ricard-Quesada, founder of La Fête, a wedding planning firm, said: ‘Wedding insurance should, in my opinion, be included in any budget. However, in the wake of Covid-19, dependent on the provider, there is no coverage standard set out.
‘It seems as though if your venue closes and is unable to host your wedding or if a close relative were forced to self-isolate or passed away, then you would be entitled to compensation.
‘Air travel, accommodation and personal choice to cancel do not seem to be covered.’
She said that if customers can postpone their weddings, rather than cancel, this is a better idea.
Charlotte said: ‘If you want to ensure that your suppliers can keep their companies afloat during this difficult time, don’t cancel.
‘Speak to them openly about your concerns and negotiate a middle ground, such as keeping your already-made payments as credit with them to use for your wedding, once a date has been set.’
Several insurers, including John Lewis Finance, Debenhams and Emerald Life, have now said, however, they cannot take on any new wedding insurance customers, leaving some couples in a tricky spot.
‘Our wedding insurance says we won’t be covered if we change dates’
Bride-to-be, Monika Ciezarek, was meant to get married to her fiancée, Liam, on Sunday 12 April, a bank holiday weekend, in Chelmsford, Essex.
They were due to have 150 guests for the day plus an additional 50 for the evening with family due to fly over from Ireland and Poland.
Monika and her fiancee Liam were due to get married in April but had to postpone it
Monika, 28, from London, said: ‘We’ve spent approximately £30,000 but will now have to fork out on new favours and signs that has the old date. We’ve also had to pay extra to move our honeymoon to New York and Jamaica.
‘We’ve now moved it to Sunday 4 October but obviously there is no guarantee it will still happen or if our family from abroad will be able to make it, including my dad and grandmother.
‘Also, everyone will have to now book the day off work on Monday if they want to make the most of things which we wanted to avoid. I’m worried my mum will have to go into work the next day too given she’s a teacher.’
Fortunately, she said her wedding venue has been exceptional and they’ve not lost a single penny by moving the date. However, her wedding insurer has been less than helpful.
Monika added: ‘We did have wedding insurance for 12 April but they’ve been extremely difficult to get hold off and their terms and conditions state that if we move it to a new date we’re now not covered and we’re struggling to find new wedding insurance providers amongst all this mess.
‘Now we’re just holding tight to see what happens for October but I feel like I can’t get excited for it, it’s the fear of this all happening again.’
What if your wedding was due to be abroad?
Some wedding planners have had more to contend with than others – especially for those who had planned to have their ceremony abroad.
With lockdown still in place and UK citizens banned from any but essential travel, these couples have had no choice but to abandon their plans.
Honor Jackson was due to get married to her fiancee in Marbella on 22 May with 120 guests but has had to postpone the ceremony until June 2021.
However, her fears were amplified as the location she had chosen to get married in was due to be demolished at the end of 2020 and rebuilt.
Honor said: ‘We had actually agreed that we wouldn’t plan another wedding, as we had spent so much money and time planning this one, and we didn’t think another venue could live up to it.’
Change: Honor and her fiancee’s wedding location was due to be demolished this year
Fortunately, the owners decided to push back the demolition by one year to ensure all the events could go ahead.
However, they are still unsure of what will happen next as they will need to reorganise transport.
She said: ‘We are still in limbo about our flights, as are our many guests.
‘It’s really stressful for everyone involved, as the new date for the wedding is over the 12 month change time that most people are being offered by airlines.’
Customers with outstanding plane journeys are currently being offered vouchers, rebooking within 12 months or, in some cases, a cash refund.
However, for those who don’t know when they want to rebook for, this leaves them in a difficult situation.
Charlotte Ricard-Quesada said: ‘If you have booked a wedding abroad, my advice would be to postpone for no less than a year from your original wedding date.
‘Hopefully the issue will resolve quicker, but you need to have some breathing room to get back on track with planning and allow your suppliers to deal with the backlog of events.’
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