When Covid-19 leaves your wedding plans in tattersPosted: 4th August 2020

For hundreds of couples across the North East, coronavirus has ruined one of the biggest days of their lives.

Weddings have been cancelled and the best laid plans left in shreds, with many couples now trying to cancel or rearrange their nuptials, while mourning the loss of their big day.

Knowing what your rights are can be a minefield, and when the law around social distancing and weddings keeps changing, it’s even more confusing.

Weddings and civil partnership celebrations were banned when we went into lockdown on March 23. They have restarted with restrictions from July 4, but if your big day fell within this lockdown period, your wedding fell into supervening illegality. This means the contract was legal when it was made, but it became illegal because of something that happened afterwards.

Ultimately, this means you are entitled to your money back, less reasonable expenses already incurred by the venue.

Check your wedding insurance first, but many policies won’t cover extraordinary situations like Covid-19. If insurance won’t cover it, the venue should.

You may also have a claim if you paid by credit card and the failure to supply a service amounts to a breach of contract by the supplier.

These rules cover all your advance bookings during lockdown – not just the main expense of the venue, but also flowers, photographers, suit hire, catering, cars and so on.

The dress, (plus shoes, handbag, and veil), and maybe the groom’s suit, on the other hand, will have been bought outright and possibly altered, and the best you can do is store them carefully and wait for the new date.

If you’re rescheduling, you should not be expected to pay the same price for a cheaper alternative. For example, if you originally paid to hire the venue on a Saturday in summer, which is often at premium cost, you should not have to pay the same price for a Tuesday in January.

Likewise, you should not have to pay significantly more for the same package a year later.

But what if your date, or the new date offered by the venue, falls under the rules after July 4?

At the moment, the government has paused some of the planned easing of restrictions.

Current guidance is that ceremonies can go ahead, but have to be as short as possible, and Covid-secure.

A maximum of 30 people can attend, including the couple, guests, and photographers.Parties or receptions are not allowed, and any celebration afterwards should follow social distancing rules i.e. two households can meet indoors or six people from different households outdoors.

This will not apply in areas that are subject to local lockdowns. If this applies to you, you need to check the rules in your area.

The government has published a roadmap for allowing small wedding receptions in the future. This will mean sit-down meals for not more than 30 people in a Covid-secure venue.

The earliest this can happen will be August 15, but we have no guarantees that this relaxation in rules will take place, and everything will depend on how the virus is contained.

Inevitably, the guidance will change, perhaps at short notice, as the government responds to the spread of the pandemic.

Clearly, if your big day does go ahead, it’s likely to be very different to what you had planned.

There won’t be an automatic right to a refund for weddings after July 4, but most venues are working with couples to find workable solutions. Expect discussions about whether the price should be less if fewer guests are attending. Many venues are offering incentives to re-book, such as free photography, so it’s worth asking what they can do.

Be pro-active and have open and honest discussions with your venue and suppliers and, hopefully, you will find a solution you can all work with.

For advice about your wedding, contact Disputes Solicitor, Ursula Collie at ursula.collie@emgsolicitors.com or call 0191 500 6989.

This Legal Expert column has been produced in conjunction with the Law Society.