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Don’t get tied in knots over wedding cancellation

At a time when a health and economic crisis has hit the world, we are hearing of some companies that are taking advantage and not adhering to their legal obligations. Whilst the majority of businesses are doing the right thing by their customers, many are not. They are hoping that consumers do not know their legal rights or believe that consumer rights don’t apply in this situation, when they most certainly do!

For example, we have heard of many airlines breaching the law and only offering vouchers or making it very difficult for customers to claim full refunds, for example. Coronavirus and travel – who’s taking advantage? And for what your rights are and how to assert them see Travel in the time of Coronavirus – Your rights explained

Another sector not playing by the rules is wedding venues.

outside of a hotel front door with canopy

Hotels, that are also often hired for weddings, have, of course, had to cancel events due to COVID-19. The consumer is not cancelling, the venue is, so 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. The venue is cancelling, so this could be deemed an unfair contract term and condition under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPUTRs) and the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is closely monitoring businesses through this period. It has the power to open a consumer enforcement if it finds strong and compelling evidence that the law might have been broken and can call on the company or companies to change their behaviour by committing to formal undertakings or promises. If they refuse, then the case can be taken to court. It is asking consumers to report price hikes or making misleading claims about their products and services. Its report published 24 April 2020 stated that:

“• As of 19 April, the CMA had received just under 21,000 COVID-19 related complaints, of which 14,000 have come via its dedicated online form.
• The CMA has written to 187 firms accounting for over 2,500 complaints about large price rises for personal hygiene products, such as hand sanitiser and food products.
• Complaints relating to cancellations and refunds now account for 4 out of 5 complaints being received.”

A spokesperson for the CMA said “CMA will not hesitate to take enforcement action if there is evidence that businesses have breached competition or consumer protection law.”

So what can you do if you have booked and paid for a venue and it is now refusing to refund you?

1) Write. Always write so that you have an evidence trail. Go straight to the top. Write to the CEO getting the contact from You are unlikely to get a response from the CEO but 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. But this should be like for like. For example a weekend date for a weekend or a partial refund  if it is a weekday.

Update July 2020. As weddings start to start again…! This is the KEY thing. It has to be like for like. So although it may have been clearer before (i.e. it couldn’t go ahead) it still stands. IF you booked for X and you can only do Y (e.g. fewer guests) you ARE entitled to a full refund or like for like postponement.

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 or will be contacting your Credit Card company or bank A guide to credit and debit cards and the Consumer Credit Act 1974

6) If they are relying on any unfair terms and conditions such as unrefundable deposit then quote from the CPUTRs (link above).

7) If you do use Section 75 and are refused take the case to the Financial Ombudsman.

8) If you have wedding insurance you could also try using this and if you have difficulty take the matter to the Financial Ombudsman. However, it is worth noting that insurance is there if YOU cancel. The Insurance company is likely to correctly say that the venue should be paying up. It may get more complicated for other services regarding the wedding!

9) Once Government advice is that wedding venues can run as normal and offer you the same service as you booked e.g. for 200 guests and 200 are allowed then you will need to go ahead or forfeit any costs as it will be you changing your mind and breaking the contract. In these circumstances you insurance may cover you as it is there for if you not the venue cancels.

10) I am amazed by the number of people who have contacted me all of whom are taking up my time and asking for my expert help for free without a “Please” or a “Thank you”. When you try and negotiate with a venue or are asking anything of anybody manners go a long way!

This advice goes for all the associated services too!

Coronavirus - how to ensure you gain redress when a venue cancels

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.

Wedding venues and insurance getting refunds

Businesses can take advantage of Government schemes, such as furloughing staff, and business grants and not least insurance if they properly protected themselves. But the consumer has no such cover. 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….”

Further Covid and consumer rights related help

Covid 19: Guidance for small weddings and civil partnerships Government updated advice on numbers of people who can attend venues etc.

See Travel in the time of Coronavirus – Your rights explained for more about holidays, travel, rights and how to assert them.

See All you need to know about booking/complaining about holidays/flights/travel for more advice and help including coronavirus related travel/events.

Cover of How to Complain updated 2019 large cow logo


For more advice, tips and templates for complaining  see GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!




Hotel sign and how to get a full refund on venue cancellations

By Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow

Consultant | Author | Speaker | Blogger | Presenter | Journalist
Helping to make, prevent and deal with complaints

5 replies on “Don’t get tied in knots over wedding cancellation”

Can you believe that the registrars for my sons wedding which has been cancelled are saying they do not have to refund any of their £800 fees for officiating?

Hello, I’m wondering if you could please give me some advice. My friend has a wedding booked in October for 60 people. Now the government have said 30 people are allowed, she would still like to go ahead on the date with 30 people (more if the government allow it by then). The venue are saying that them holding a wedding for 30 people is not feasible. She has paid half of the balance for the wedding. Where does she stand asking for a refund? The venue are adamant her only option is to change the date. This is something my friend really does not want to do. She would happily have a refund and get married at the registry office if they will not hold a wedding and reception for her at the venue.
Thank you so much in advance. Any advice that you have will be greatly appreciated. These are such hard times to be getting married in.

Hello Helen, thank you for taking the time to put this together. I wonder if you wouldn’t mind offering some advice – we had to postpone our wedding due to Covid from summer 2020 to summer 2021, we’ve now recently found out we’re expecting and therefore need to postpone again as I will have only given birth a few weeks before the wedding date. Our venue are saying that a 50% cancellation fee (which is what we’ve paid so far, amounting to around £3,000) is reasonable and they are making no attempt to resell the date – the contract does state a cancellation fee of 50% however is a postponement treated the same as a cancellation? And if so, would 50% be deemed a reasonable amount under consumer rights? Sorry for the long winded question.
Many thanks.

Please see post and links above. You are postponing so are therefore in breach of contract. Postponement is not to do with Covid or fault of venue. Would all depend on terms and conditions that you agreed to which should be reasonable and fair.

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