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Wedding deposit refund advice


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Hi there,

 

If anyone could give me some advice it would be extremely appreciated.

 

We originally booked our wedding for last July. The venue and us were concerned about Covid and rules, so the wedding was postponed for July 2022.

The venue stated at the time of postponement that the suite we had booked was not appropriate for social distancing measures and asked to move us to a larger suite. We were told by email that this would be the case only if social distancing measures were still in place at the time of our wedding.  It was our understanding from the venue that if there were no restrictions in place at the time of our wedding we could have our original suite, and signed the new terms based on this advice.

 

Upon discussing the wedding with the venue last week we were told that the original suite is now their main restaurant and has been withdrawn from public hire.

This is the first time this has been mentioned to us since we postponed. If we had known this at the time of postponing, we would have asked for a refund of our deposit from the venue. I now note from their social media that the restaurant has been in place since they re opened last May, yet we have only just been told.

 

The venue have offered us an alternative suite which is not suitable for our day and we would never have booked this originally. 

 

The second set of signed terms relates to the new suite but states that all previously signed terms apply.

 

I have now asked twice and have been refused a refund. 

They have refused based on my not mentioning the original suite since postponing (I have not mentioned any suite) and that the signed terms state the deposit is non refundable. They have stated that the signed terms allow for them to move suites if necessary, however it actually states this is in the event of fire, damage, strikes or circumstances beyond their control. I have argued that this clearly is not beyond their control.

 

They have given me no reason as to why they cannot refund the deposit, they have just refused and said they have had a hard time with the pandemic. 

 

Could anyone advise if there is anything I can do to get a refund please?

 

 

 

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How much are we talking about here?

What is the name of the wedding venue?

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Thank you for responding. 

 

The deposit amount is £2,500 and the venue is based in Kent. I'd rather not name them at this stage if that's ok. Just in case we can reach an agreement.

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Quote

I'd rather not name them at this stage if that's ok. Just in case we can reach an agreement.

 

More likely you will reach an agreement if you do name them :roll:

  • I agree 1

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I agree with my site team colleague above. These places value their reputation enormously and you should name them. As long as you are honest and straight dealing about them then there is no problem.

By failing to name them you are protecting them and not yourself.

I understand that there are two contracts – one which apparently varies the first one.
The second contract specifically refers to the new venue – is this correct?

What is so special about the first venue that it is essential to your plans?
What is so un-special about the second venue that it is not appropriate?

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I understand that. My plan was to get some advice regarding the signed terms so that I could email them with something more formal, as opposed to keep going back and forth with emails and getting nowhere. 

If my next email does not work, I am happy to name them and also happy to answer any questions to help my case.

 

The first set of signed terms were based on the original suite we booked. 

The second set were based on the other suite but the new terms state "Your original deposit paid of £2,500.00 has been transferred over to your new date. Your terms and conditions previously signed still apply" and the rest of the text relates to covid measures.

 

As explained we were told this larger suite would be required if social distancing measures were in place at the time of our wedding, which they are not.

 

The second suite is entirely different from the original. It holds around 300 guests as opposed to 70 in the first suite. It will cost a lot of money to decorate and partition, I explained this concern at the time of postponing but remained hopeful that the restrictions would be lifted by the time our day came around. The original suite is located at the back of the hotel facing the grounds, the second suite is facing a car park. 

It basically is not what we would have originally booked and they are complete opposites.

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What I gather you are saying is that the terms of the first agreement are imported into the second agreement – is this correct?

If that's the case, then you would certainly be correct. However, where there is a conflict of terms then the later agreement will apply.

From what you say, it seems to me that the terms of the second agreement override the first where there is an incompatibility between the two of them.
Clearly you can only have a contract in respect of one venue and it may well be that you have expressly renounced the use of the first venue in favour of the second.
Unless you can produce some evidence that the first venue was still intended to be included and that the second venue was simply an alternative, then I'm not sure that you are in a good position.

However, there is another element to this and that is the size of the deposit.

You say that the wedding is scheduled for July this year. Have you cancelled? If so when did you give the notice of the cancellation?

You say that the deposit is £2500. What is the full price of the function?
 

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When the postponement was discussed, the venue stated regarding the first suite

"we have come to the conclusion that it would not be suitable function space to fulfil social distancing requirements if these were still in place at the time of your wedding

Also

"Please find attached the amendment letter to read though and sign in agreement with the above changes. I have also included the amendments to our terms in relation to COVID-19 relating circumstances for next year."

The letter states

"Your original deposit paid of £2,500.00 has been transferred over to your new date. Your terms and conditions previously signed still apply" and as before the rest of the letter is just about covid related issues.

 

So I signed this letter based on the venue telling us that the new arrangements would only be required if social distancing was in place when we got married. 

 

Last week they said that if we cancel the wedding we would be subject to cancellation fees of £3,000 (escalating to £5,000 after 08/03) and attached an invoice. I refused to pay this due to the fact that they were not honouring the original booking and their confirmation that it would only change if SDM were in place. They then emailed me to confirm no cancellation fees were now due if we do cancel and that they were sorry. They said they would hold the deposit.

So we haven't officially cancelled the wedding, I am not sure what there is to cancel as they have already waived any cancellation fees which I would assume means they know they are in the wrong.

 

Full price of the wedding venue was just over £10,000.

 

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In your opening post you said that the second agreement refers to the new venue.

Maybe you'd like to put up in a quote box the wording which was used.

In terms of the deposit, they would only be entitled to withhold from you as much value as needed to cover administrative losses caused by any breach of contract by you – if there was a breach.

25% of the contract price seems rather excessive

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Of course, apologies the venue are now calling it the second set of signed terms, it is however described as a letter in their original email. I had posted shorter bits from the emails just to make for less reading.

 

"I am pleased to advise that we have reserved Royal Suite for your Wedding Breakfast & Evening Reception on the above date. 

Your ceremony has been changed with the registrars and you should have received a confirmation from them directly. All charges previously agreed remain the same for your future date, but please be aware that any additional items may have had a price increase for 2022.

Your original deposit paid of £2,500.00 has been transferred over to your new date. Your terms and conditions previously signed still apply, therefore in the event of cancellation, our tiered cancellation terms apply based on your minimum number of 50 guests. In the event of postponement, only due to UK government enforcements/measures outside of the hotels control, we will seek to find a mutually acceptable postponement date. Or if there is a guest attendance limit put in place by UK government on the day of your wedding, we will reduce your numbers to the maximum limit, safely socially distanced, and refund you any difference."

 

As before this was signed after the venue stated regarding the original suite "we have come to the conclusion that it would not be suitable function space to fulfil social distancing requirements if these were still in place at the time of your wedding. In the Royal Suite, with your numbers, we are very confident you could enjoy your day as planned comfortably socially distanced, thus not jeopardising the wellbeing of your guests or our staff."

 

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I haven't asked for a breakdown of costs regarding them holding on to the deposit and they haven't given us any.

I did think it excessive as we haven't actually done anything wrong.

 

 

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It is still a bit confusing.
You had a contract for the original venue. This talked about its suitability subject to social distancing rules.
They then sent you a letter saying that they had now chosen a second venue for you and were transferring your deposit there.
Did you sign this letter or did you sign something agreeing to it?

Is there anything which gives the sense that the new agreement was simply provisional?

 

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When we booked the venue we signed the contract for the original suite for July 2021, this was signed prior to the pandemic starting.

In 2021 we signed the postponement letter after we were told via email that our original room would not be suitable if social distancing measures were still in place at the time of our wedding in 2022.

 

We were never told that the original room was going to be withdrawn from private hire regardless of covid. If we had known this at the time or any time since, we would have asked for a refund. The two suites are like chalk and cheese.

We found out last week that this was now the main restaurant and even though we did not have to worry about social distancing, we could not have our original booking honoured.

The venue have said I have not mentioned the original room since we postponed, which is true, but I haven't mentioned the other room either. I am not sure how this is even relevant.

 

There was only one contract ever signed at the time of the original booking, and one amendment letter signed when we postponed. The amendment was based on covid measures being in place at the time of our wedding in 2022.

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Okay it's becoming a little clearer.

I understand that there was originally a contract for the first venue – subject to social distancing regulations.

Your wedding had to be postponed until June this year.

They then unilaterally changed the venue but the original understanding was that the first venue would only be not available because of social distancing.
In the letter – which you have reproduced above – they refer to the "Royal Suite" but don't give any explanation as to why there has been this change.

You are saying that the only valid reason for making the change would be because of social distancing rules.

Maybe you have told us already but I don't see it. How long ago did they inform you of this change?
 

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The wedding was booked in 2019 and was due to take place in July 2021.

The original signed terms say nothing about covid, as this was prior to the pandemic starting, so nobody knew.

 

The venue got in touch with us in October 2020 wanting to stress their concerns over covid and we had our own concerns, so agreed to postpone from July 2021 to July 2022. We were told that original suite would be unsuitable if restrictions were in place on our wedding day, so agreed to move to the royal suite if restrictions were in place. I signed the amendment letter based on this understanding.

 

All I have from the venue regarding moving us to the royal suite is this email sent in October 2020 and this was received prior to signing the amendment letter ""we have come to the conclusion that it would not be suitable function space to fulfil social distancing requirements if these were still in place at the time of your wedding. In the Royal Suite, with your numbers, we are very confident you could enjoy your day as planned comfortably socially distanced, thus not jeopardising the wellbeing of your guests or our staff."

 

In my email last week I referred to the original suite, and that things had calmed down now (no social distancing measures) we would be able go back to the original plan only to be told that it  was now their main restaurant and they had withdrawn it from private hire. So we only found out last week.

I checked their social media and this has been in place since last May, yet they didn't tell us. 

 

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Thank you.

Okay I think I have it clear in my mind now.

It certainly seems to me that the only contractually agreed basis they have for changing the venue is because of social distancing concerns. If those concerns no longer apply then they have no right to change the venue and by doing so they are in breach of contract.

On the basis of what you say about the two venues and the importance of the first venue to you, it seems to me that the breach of contract is so fundamental that it effectively amounts to a repudiation of the contract and that you are then entitled to treat it as cancelled.

The second issue is the matter of the deposit which they are attempting to hold onto. If they want in breach of contract then they would certainly be entitled to retain sufficient money to cover any administrative losses caused by your breach of contract.
You would be entitled to a detailed account of those losses and they would have to reimburse you with the balance.

As we are now saying that it is they who are in breach of contract, they are not entitled to retain anything – and in fact they could be the question of damages that they owe you.

I think you need to protect your position and act as quickly as possible and that means that you should give them seven days to change their mind otherwise you are accepting the repudiation of the contract and treating it as terminated and you will require full reimbursement of all monies paid to you.

Additionally, have you incurred any costs such as wedding invitations, any other plans that are dependent on the address – et cetera? I would be looking to recover those ancillary losses as well.

Another comment on their proposal to return your deposit. In addition to being an unenforceable penalty because it exceeds their administrative losses, it is also probably an unfair term under the consumer rights act 2015 because I suppose that the contract entitles them apparently to withhold funds from you in the event of your breach but does not include any element of reciprocity in the event of a breach by them.
This imbalance of contractual rights is specifically addressed in the 2015 Act and is therefore unfair and unenforceable.

Have you found an alternative venue?

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Thank you so much.

 

We have not found another venue. As I said this has come to light only last week and the venues I contacted yesterday were all fully booked. I believe we will have to push the date back. I have to explain to our suppliers now and hope that they are ok for another postponement. I really am dreading it.

 

The contract only allows for them to keep our money / charge us fees to cancel if we breach. There is nothing in the contract to say I can claim anything from them if they breach.

 

Am I right in thinking they know they are in breach by waiving all the cancellation fees that they invoiced me for? 

 

Should I just ask for the deposit back based on what you have said above, and not ask for a breakdown of their costs? I.e just tell them that the contract is terminated.

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I don't think you should make any assumptions about what they know what they don't know.

One thing you can be certain of is that it will be a struggle to get your deposit back – but of course we will help you. You can pretty well guarantee that you will have to you bring a county court claim to get the money back.

Yes, you don't need to ask them for a breakdown of their costs at the moment. You can always ask that later.

You should tell them that they are in breach of contract and that they have offered a termination of the contract and you are accepting because they have breached their contractual obligations so fundamentally that the contract is void.

Tell them that you want your deposit back and that you are calculating whether you feel that there breach has placed you in a position whether you have incurred other losses.
Tell them that once you have ascertained this, you will come back to them for a further discussion.

I know which company this is and I think it's probably getting to the time where you had better let everybody else know as well.

One thing you should understand is that this seems to be pretty well standard behaviour by wedding companies and they hate it when people go public about them.

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Thank you, I was hoping to avoid any court action to be honest. So I will remain hopeful that this does not have to happen. 

I just feel that if they had made us aware of the change of use regarding the original suite at any point prior to last week we would have asked for a refund. We were never given that option despite them obviously knowing this was the case since last May. In their emails they have just dismissed the severity of what has happened and just said sorry you are disappointed, have the other suite or cancel. Either way we are keeping your money.

 

I will draft an email to them later today and I will let you know how I get on. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Any progress on this? 

seen lots of problems popping up online with this sort of thing. 

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Please remember the only stupid question is the one you dont ask so dont worry about asking the stupid questions.

 

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