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Coronavirus: Your wedding questions answered

Coronavirus has created a lot of uncertainty within the wedding industry. Many couples are uncertain as to whether or not to postpone their weddings, and unsure what their legal rights are if they do.

Rosie Walker, Partner and Head of Litigation & Dispute Resolution answers some of your questions.

I’ve had to postpone my April wedding to December, and my suppliers have been great. But my make-up artist can’t do my new date, and says I need to pay her for the full booking as it’s so close to my wedding date. I paid her a deposit which I know I can’t get back, but do I need to pay her in full? We had no contract – it was all done on Facebook Messenger.

Unfortunately this situation is going to be very common.  A contract is just an agreement between two parties.  Contracts don’t have to be in writing so an agreement reached via messenger or even over the phone is still a valid contract.  However informal contracts like yours won’t usually contain any more than a few basic terms.  Sometimes all the parties will have agreed is that your make up artist will do your make up on a certain day and in return you will pay an agreed price.  Unless you agreed to pay something on cancellation, there is unlikely to be any obligation on you to do so.  You should bear in mind, however, that sometimes a supplier will have full written terms and conditions covering situations like cancellation charges.  These might be issued to you in writing but they can sometimes instead be displayed on a website or at the bottom of an email.  In that case, those conditions might become part of your contract and you could be bound by them even if you didn’t read them.  If you are unsure about what your contract or terms and conditions say, you could discuss them with a lawyer or with Citizen’s Advice.

My venue has announced that all weddings will be postponed until further notice, but they haven’t actually given us a new date. This means I can’t check my other suppliers will be available on the new date and I’m just living in uncertainty. Can my venue have me in limbo like this? I just want to plan something concrete.

I appreciate this uncertainty is stressful but in reality no one really knows how long the current situation will last for.  Giving you a date too early might risk another cancellation.  The solution here is likely to involve communication.  Could you and the venue agree a date further away?  That would mean a longer delay but the venue may be more comfortable agreeing to that now.

My wedding is in July, and I’m thinking of pre-emptively postponing my wedding. What is the best way to do this without upsetting my suppliers?

Before you speak to your suppliers you should check the terms and conditions in the contracts which you have with each of them.  Do they contain cancellation fees?  Do these only apply if you cancel after a certain date?  Are the fees waived if you rearrange another date?  Each contract could be different in which case you may need to focus on the ones where you stand to lose the most money.  If you are facing cancellation charges, they key is to communicate with the suppliers.  These are such unusual circumstances that many venues and suppliers may agree to postpone without penalty where they wouldn’t normally do so.  Trying to postpone to an agreed new date is likely to be a better option for the suppliers than indefinite postponement.  It would also give you more certainty.

With all the uncertainty, my partner and I are considering cancelling the wedding and just starting again when everything is settled. We don’t want to have to postpone it twice. But would our wedding insurance cover us for this, since the government hasn’t actually placed a ban on events such as weddings?

This is another very common experience just now.  The starting point is to read the insurance terms and conditions.  They should tell you when they will cover cancellation and when they won’t.  You can also discuss this with your insurer.  In most cases, however, insurers are unlikely to pay out for cancelled weddings unless the Government actually bans such events or the venue cancels due to an outbreak of disease.  An option might be to contact the venue and suppliers to see whether you can agree to postpone the booking to a later date.  That way you wouldn’t be out of pocket and may not need to make an insurance claim.

My wedding isn’t until next year, but I stupidly didn’t get wedding insurance and it’s now impossible to get. I’m worried that some of the suppliers I’ve booked may go out of business before my big day, through no fault of their own – would that mean I’d lose my money?

Unfortunately that is possible.  If a company becomes insolvent, it will usually stop trading and won’t be able to supply the services you paid for.  It is sometimes possible to register a claim for repayment but generally the company will have no money and so customers will get little or nothing back.  If you paid using a credit card, you should contact your card provider or bank who may be able to refund you the money.  If you are worried about a supplier going out of business, it may be worth getting legal advice sooner rather than later.

What constitutes a contract between a customer and a business – is it only legally binding if it’s a written contract that’s been signed, or does an email exchange or even social media exchange count as contractual agreements?

You do not need a signed, written agreement to create a contract. You need to show that there was an intention to commit to the arrangement. Email chains, social media messages and telephone calls can create a contact.

An enquiry or a loose arrangement with many of the details still to be agreed is unlikely to be a contract. Generally, the who, what, when, where and the price need to be confirmed for a contract to have been concluded even if some of the details or any “add-ons” are to be confirmed later on.

Each set of circumstances need careful consideration for both the customer and supplier.

I have to postpone my wedding until 2021. I’ve paid the venue in full, and now they want to charge me 2021 prices even though the situation is out of my control. Do I have to pay?

Again, this will depend on the terms of your contract with the venue. Unless the contract states otherwise, if the venue has postponed the event they should be honouring the price agreed to for 2020. If they won’t agree to this, and you don’t wish to go down the legal route, your other option may be to ask for your money back and move venue. If your heart is set on the venue mentioned, is the difference worth the aggravation and the hassle of moving? Is it more than any deposit you would lose?

If you are choosing to postpone the wedding, even if it’s because friends and family can’t attend, then you will likely have to pay the 2021 prices. Your contract was for a wedding in 2020 not 2021. If the venue is insisting on the higher price, discuss with the venue’s events co-ordinator about paying the additional amount in instalments or closer to the wedding rather than upfront.

Again, each set of circumstances need careful consideration.

If I have to postpone my wedding, do I need to take out a second wedding insurance policy for the new date?

That will depend entirely on the policy that you have taken out. Consider the terms carefully and seek advice. Each insurer will have their own terms and conditions and even then it will vary from package to package. Some packages may let you claim for repeat supplier/vendor failure as long as it does not hit the maximum amount of the policy whereas other may only let you claim once per issue. If the latter is the case and you’ve had to make a claim in respect of the initial date, you will likely need to take out a second policy. As you will have made a claim under a previous policy, you may well find the cost of a second policy will be greater. Some policies will also have an end date regardless of whether any claims have been made. If you’re unsure you can get in touch with your insurance broker and ask them to clarify whether you would be covered based on your new date and the current claims (if any) on the policy. If you’re still not sure, although weddings insurance is likely to be expensive in the current market, it’s worth weighing the cost of the new policy against the cost having to rebook a second time without cover.

If you’ve booked a honeymoon that you need to postpone or cancel and you don’t have travel insurance it may be covered under your wedding insurance policy. Equally, if you are taking out a new wedding insurance policy, it may be possible able to add honeymoon cover to the new policy (although this will likely only protect you from issues arising after the policy is taken out).

Any general advice for couples finding themselves in a situation where they may have to cancel their contracts?

This is a really stressful time for wedding couples and the wedding industry alike, particularly with the uncertainty surrounding how long the current measures are to last on for. The best thing you can do is try and work with the vendors and suppliers to agree a way forward together. The sad reality is that some suppliers and venues may have to cease trading so we would advise against paying any more money until you have to.

If you have wedding insurance, read the terms and conditions carefully. You are unlikely to be reimbursed if you chose to cancel the wedding but the government has not banned large gatherings.

Although this will not apply to many couples facing issues with suppliers, for anyone who has only recently booked a service and didn’t agree to the contract in person, broadly speaking, you have a consumer right to cancel the contract within 14 days of agreeing to it. If you are going ahead with your wedding, we are aware that a lot of suppliers have longer waiting times for dresses and other items to come into stock than usual so be as organised as you can!

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us on 0131 516 5374 or rwalker@gilsongray.co.uk

The information and opinions contained in this blog are for information only. They are not intended to constitute advice and should not be relied upon or considered as a replacement for advice. Before acting on any of the information contained in this blog, please seek specific advice from Gilson Gray.

 

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