Your Wedding Event and Covid 19 – Corona Virus..?
Update 14th August 2020 – for a related article on wedding insurance please check out our how not to fall foul of wedding insurance fraud
Updated 11:32 Friday 1st May 2020 – CMA update , see below..
Thursday 7th May 2020 (Now live check out our good practice guide on how to successfully postpone your wedding)
With everybody seemingly settled in to a new normal, and with most couples and suppliers reaching positive arrangements for postponement It’s been a little while since we felt the need to update this article. However the CMA’s publication on refunds has stirred up a hornets nest and whilst needed its also been largely misinterpreted so heres our view.
The CMA correctly posted a reminder and a shot across the bow to businesses especially those in tourism, hospitality and events of a few key points surrounding refunds. However in their effort to simplify the understanding of the information, it can and has been largely misinterpreted and placed out of context with some couples and suppliers believing they are suddenly automatically entitled to a refund or obligated to issue a refund if a consumer cancels during Covid 19 restrictions.
This is leading to a rush of consumers quoting the CMA demanding refunds, a rush of businesses attempting to understand if this affects them and a large amount of disappointment and misunderstandings on all sides. So what does it really all mean..
Firstly contrary to popular misconception this isn’t a sudden new law or new piece of legislation in reaction to Covid, it is however a shot across the bow of those that are not already correctly adhering to existing consumer and contract laws relating to cancellations, frustration and refunds.
We are a couple, how does the CMA’s announcement affect us…
Largely it doesn’t assuming your supplier and venue are working within current contractual and consumer law. You have a legal and contractual obligation to your venue and suppliers to provide them sufficient opportunity to supply at an alternative date, therefore the advice hasn’t changed if you simply cancel or provide the supplier only one choice of date you will likely find yourselves out of pocket with a loss of deposit. It does however remind your venue and suppliers that they also have the same duty to agree an alternative date without undue restriction or additional costs, alternatively they can choose to cancel you and refund 100%.
I’m a supplier or venue, does the CMA announcement mean I automatically have to refund any couple that chooses to cancel?
In short… No, its a reminder and a shot across the bow that you should be looking at each case in line with your terms and conditions, deciding if those terms are fair and applicable to both parties and offering couples all dates you have available without undue restriction or increased cost, alternatively you should cancel the couples contract and refund 100% This isn’t new its just something neither business or consumers have understood.
We are a couple, we have picked an alternative date some of our suppliers cant do, should they refund us?
Probably not, depending on the individual situation, you have an equal obligation under the contract to prevent what is called frustration, if you have issued your supplier just one date and insisted on that date alone, you are more than likely not meeting your contractual obligations and the supplier could deem that you are effectively cancelling and apply their cancellation policy. If however you can demonstrate you have worked with all suppliers to find a date for example the majority can do and you’ve offered for example 8 dates which the supplier has refused then it is likely you would be due a refund.
As an example, My original Wedding date was in March is it reasonable to request a premium date in August 2021 at no extra charge?
No… If you booked a Saturday in March its unfair and unlawful of the venue to insist for example you can only book Oct to Dec this year or any Tuesday next year, it would be reasonable to offer you an equivalent Saturday in March next year and they should do so at no additional cost or hindrance. It would also be unreasonable to having booked an off peak wedding day in March this year to expect a premium peak day in August without paying the difference in fees.
Ultimately nothing has changed but the methods applied to a postponement especially by a small number of venues and suppliers that are deemed by the CMA to be imposing unfair restrictions or undue increased costs should be reduced and above all our previous bottom line still stands true even now, always work with your suppliers and postpone don’t cancel…
As of the 20th March 2020, the UK’s fight against Covid19 is now reliant on responsible social distancing and strict guidance from government.
Whilst I’ll leave the FAQ’s and most of the original content below for historic reference purposes, the situation has changed and the only advice we can really now offer is that if your wedding is due within the next 8 -12 weeks you should probably be discussing postponement with your suppliers and venue, If your wedding is beyond 8-12 weeks out expect your suppliers to be resolving immediately due weddings in the first instance, with an ever changing scenario its still important not to jump too early.
One word of additional advice and one that has run through the core of this entire article from the beginning- DON’T CANCEL…. but Postpone, it seems like a trivial difference in words but the difference right now is huge and ‘Cancel’ should be considered a trigger word (scroll down for the legal bit on this topic). The whole events industry in the UK which employs 530,000 people in over 25,000 businesses has essentially just written off an entire year of trading worth over 39 billion to the UK Economy. With that in mind you can imagine that all thoughts are on when we can get back to business as usual and of course our future weddings and events.
The industry as a whole is geared up to work with you to postpone your wedding with many suppliers working far outside and in addition to your basic contractual rights. Work with them and discuss postponement options and all will be well. Mention cancellation and in the majority of cases the need to survive as businesses, families and human beings will see even the biggest of venue groups and smallest of suppliers not want but need to stick to your agreed cancellation terms which will leave you as a couple out of pocket.
After all you are still getting married and the only thing that needs to change is the date, let’s work together with empathy and understanding.
What we are seeing as a common approach is for reduced or even nil postponement fees at venues and with suppliers most are agreeing with couples a partial payment of 50% of the outstanding balance due at the original contractual due date with the remaining balance due before the revised wedding date to aid cashflow in to 2021. Pleased don’t take this as gospel as not every supplier will or contractually has to take these extra steps but they are a great starting point and one that so far seems to be the preferred option for couples and suppliers alike.
Your wedding date – heres the additional rub, by postponing your wedding to a future date you directly and substantially affect the suppliers ability to provide services on that date to any other couple. what this translates to is that for the wedding industry Covid 19 will still be a huge financial burden for the next 2 possibly even 3 years long after everybody else has hopefully forgotten about it. For the best result from your suppliers and especially your venue be prepared to be very flexible on dates provide a number of alternatives and for the best response avoid premium dates, this could mean looking at out of season or midweek alternatives but will represent the best chance of everybody finding a postponement agreement that works for everybody.
Your suppliers will want to work with you to postpone your wedding if postponement is necessary however the logistics of doing so can be complex and if you have a Wedding planner they should be managing this for you, if you don’t have a wedding planner then now might be the time to invest in one as it could be the single best headache remover you’ve made yet.
Stay Safe, Stay Well, don’t buy too many toilet rolls at once and we are all in this together and we will all get through this together. We Are One….
With Continual comparisons being made by the press on the situation here and in Italy using our vast array of industry contacts we spoke to Noemi Bellante one of the most respected wedding planners in Italy whom while she has seen this years weddings wiped out has also seen an influx of enquiries from couples realising just how complex postponing a wedding can be. in her own words here is what Noemi had to add to our article from an Italian Wedding planners perspective
We are living a difficult and uncertain situation : as a wedding planner I’m realising that we can foresee or resolve any inconvenience but nobody could have imagined all this.
To almost all of my clients I am suggesting to postpone weddings to the next year or trying to find an available date between the end of summer and autumn considering that, in case the emergency ends in a couple of months as happened in China, it will be necessary to be careful with social relationships for further several weeks.
The presence of a wedding planner in this scenario is a psychological and practical support. She will help you to postpone your wedding and efficiently coordinate the work of all your vendors: in this way you can relax avoiding stress or a nervous breakdown that could lead you to cancel the wedding!
In case you don’t have a wedding planner because you decided to plan everything by yourself, you are still in time to hire one: we as wedding planners are in fact used to solve problems and coordinate vendors work even when almost all the planning has been completed by clients to make come true the wedding they have always dreamed!
Thank You Naoemi its reassuring to know that as an industry world wide we are able to help and assist couples at this difficult time for everyone For anybody looking for a Wedding Planner in Abruzzo check out Noemi Bellante
The legal perspective
We’ve been really concerned by the amount of misinformation and couples acting on incorrect advice which is both destroying the supplier relationship and ultimately even more likely to leave a couple of of pocket. So before you copy and paste that email to all your suppliers because “Karen on Facebook said so” make sure you know where you stand. With that in mind I wanted to share with you, a validated post that put this very succinctly which when checked with the advice from a practicing contracts specialist lawyer nailed the issue in an exemplary way. The post had this to say from a legal basis based on UK courts of law.
“Force Majeure” is a term insurance companies use as a defence. It is not a legal term used by others in UK law.
“Frustrated Contract” is however a UK legal term for us all to use.
“an unexpected intervening event that makes it impossible for BOTH parties to fulfil the contract. “
Coronavirus is an on going event at the moment, not a one off. Which means that postponement is inevitable.
1. If a clients cancel, because they have cancelled the wedding, not giving a date to postpone to, they are cancelling the contract, so standard t’s & c’s apply.
2. If a client moves to a date which the supplier cannot do, they are not working with the supplier, for the supplier to be able to transfer the booking to another date, therefore they are in breach of contract. the supplier does not have to refund.
3. If a client moves the wedding date and to another venue which you cannot do; as for example the venue is out of your travel distance, again, they are in breach of contract. the supplier does not have to refund.
Suppliers must make it clear that they are willing to transfer to a new date. Any changes are to be emailed to the client, DO NOT write up a new contract.
As a “frustrated contract” is where BOTH parties cannot fulfil the contract, and the date can be postponed to enable to be fulfilled on another date. It therefore falls on the client to find a date the supplier can do. If they can’t, then it is the client who are in breach of the contract.
The above sounds harsh and may not in reality be how every supplier chooses to handle the situation, however this article from the very beginning has warned about the dangers to couples of cancelling weddings and suppliers instead of postponing. Whilst Covid19 still rips our nation and our world apart for the time being at least the storm created for couples looking to imminently marry seems to be settling with most suppliers and couples now settling in to a routine of working together to find suitable solutions.
Legal Disclaimer – the above should be taken as general guidance only, as always if in doubt you should seek professional legal advice as every case may be uniquely different dependent largely on the Terms and Conditions entered in to when you booked your Wedding supplier
If you are still unsure of the theory of a frustrated contract it may be helpful to visit this article by Hall & Ellis, specialists in contract law
Reference only – the below ceased being updated as of 19th March 2020
Ok so right now the UK is swamped with Corona virus media and the very last thing you want while planning your wedding is to be reading yet another article on Covid 19… This is not an article on Corona but more an article on weddings and how corona may affect it.
Regardless of how much media hype, Government material or social media opinions you are reading you are quite probably very aware of the possibility of the above…
As a leading professional wedding and events planner based in the UK and working with many international clients across the UK and London we have been keeping a close eye on the story as it unfolds using our unique connections and attempting to sort out the myth from fact and the media hype from actual news and heres the current situation as we see it.
We have been blown away by the response to this article and whilst we gave up counting views after 100,000 I thought I would share the our daily page view stats as of the 17th March which topped at 23k views per day.. Thank You and please keep sharing…
The Corona Virus Bottom Line for your Wedding – If you want to skip reading the FAQ’s below; Our opinion is that the bottom line for UK couples is that with the measures announced in the first of the PM’s updates it seems sensible that any events including weddings in the next 30 days should be considered for postponement, We recommend keeping your wedding suppliers and venue close, and if necessary working constructively with them to move to a different date later in the year. We don’t really know how long this will a last but we would assume it should be considered to be in the region of 30 days as a min. We think the risk for late spring and summer weddings should still be currently manageable as hopefully we should be returning to normal by then. If worried about your wedding later in the year check your insurance and do not not “panic cancel” your wedding as doing so will likely leave you with the full burden of the cost of your wedding possibly unnecessarily… If concerned speak to your wedding planner about the possibility of negotiating the rearrangement of your wedding date for later in the year summer 2020 onwards.
Stay informed and seek advice from your wedding insurance provider or wedding planner along with official government advice and consider any guests that may have underlying health issues or that may be travelling from affected areas. Be sure to check out the FAQ’s at the bottom of this article.
LIVE CORONA VIRUS NEWS UPDATES (collated, wedding and event related)
19th March – So some great news from the Church of England, Weddings can proceed albeit with the legal min number of people which is the priest, bride, groom and two witnesses. One complication to consider is if your Banns have been read, as these need to be read to the congregation, it’s still possible that your church may postpone your wedding if the legality of reading banns can not be met or a special license applied – Our advice, if your church has cancelled your wedding in the last few days, contact them again in light of this guidance as it may be possible to continue even under special license.
18th March – Tonight along with some chosen industry friends we had the responsibility of appearing on BBC regional news discussing the issues surrounding Corona and Weddings, if you didn’t catch it, you can check it our on our Facebook page @randfweddings its a brief piece cut short by the news on schools but its an important step to highlighting the plight that couples face at this time.
17th March – Mass confusion as the Church of England announce the stoppage of public prayer, A Church of England spokesperson has stated that they intend to carry on with Weddings and funerals although no detail has emerged yet we wouldn’t be surprised if these are limited to the essential wedding party, Check with your church directly to see if or how you could be affected.
16th March – PM’s first daily announcement lands and it looks se to to affect all impending social events – We believe this will be a short term measure to flatten the peak fo infections placing load on the NHS.
15th March – Current headlines are talking about self isolation for over 70’s – Our view, this is yet to be confirmed and we ill change our FAQ’s once this is confirmed in the meantime as we’ve previously suggested couples should consider elderly relatives when finalising plans for weddings this spring. We’ve also seen headlines that scientists are lobbying the government to take more action, Time will tell who is right and who is wrong but the lobbyists are made up of statisticians and geneticists and not disease control experts the headline goes on to say.
The proposed plan to isolate the elderly while allowing herd immunity to build amongst the strong seems to be one backed up by leading experts and in theory should mean that most weddings could still go ahead.
14th March – US to extend European travel ban to UK from 4am Monday – US Couples marrying in the UK need to consider when their wedding in the UK is planned for and the likelihood of the ban still being in effect. Our thoughts are that this will definitely affect immediately impending weddings and that the ban will likely be lifted as the number if new infections plateau’s which is expected to be within weeks.
14th March – “Government sources” which essentially means we can’t confirm this but it’s probable suggest a possible restriction on mass gatherings may be considered next week. Our opinion is to wait until an official announcement is made, as given the government stance to date and the scientific advice the government are currently working to its unlikely this will affect small gatherings such as a wedding. Obviously as we’ve learnt however this could change.
12th March – Is proving to be a busy day, with many fearing a wide ban on public gatherings for the UK, only Scotland and Ireland have advised that gatherings in excess of 500 people for Scotland and 100 people for Ireland should should be postponed from next week, further details to follow on how long this is expected to be in place. Clearly it leaves Weddings in England completely unaffected, weddings in Scotland only affected if totalling more than 500 people and given the average number of guests is between 80-120 its fair to predict a number of weddings will be affected in Ireland. It’s also worth noting that the 100 people ban for Ireland only applies to indoor venues.
12th March – PM’s Update, Cobra Meeting – New measures – People with Persistent Fever or cough requested to self isolate for 7 days but No need to close schools or public places – Lets take a positive from this, yesterday we all thought it would be 14 days, we also thought it would be anybody with almost any cold type symptoms and we dreaded school closures would be the first step towards closing all public venues, however this update seems to indicate a well balanced and sensitive approach.
12th March – Scotland moves to ban the wedding buffet in headlines – well not quite but they have issued sensible guidance that food items served at a public buffet should be individually wrapped – Our opinion is if you are marrying in Scotland, speak to your venue or caterer as there are many easy steps that can be applied to reduce the risk and meet the requirements.
12th March – Trump halts incoming flights from 26 countries – this does not include the UK
11th March 2020 – WHO label the Corona virus a pandemic… One word of wisdom, Pandemic is a dictionary definition that merely categorises the virus as one that is spreading in multiple different countries at the same time – it doesn’t make the virus any more harmful than it already is nor has the WHO’s current containment advice changed in relation to relabelling.
11th March 2020 – John Lewis amongst wedding insurance providers to temporally suspend offering new policies in light of Corona virus- existing policies are understood to be unaffected. This represents an increased reason to not panic cancel and to go ahead with your wedding even if it means lower guest numbers.
10th March 2020 – Italy the worst hit in the European region to date has postponed all weddings until 3rd April, as part of measures to curb the spread of the virus
9th March 2020 – The situation in Italy? a number of reports are quoting 16 million people in lockdown, sources in the area have confirmed that whilst schools and pools are closed and people are being encouraged to stay home for the most part it’s very much business as usual.
8th March 2020 – Confirmed cases in the UK now in excess of 200, The UK looks set to move to the next stage of the laid out plan “Delay”
4th March 2020 – Diagnosed Corona cases in the UK jump dramatically by 34 to a total of 85 cases and Italy considering shutting down all schools and colleges in an attempt to control the outbreak.
Your Wedding and Corona Virus FAQ’s
I’ll be keeping these FAQ’s updated as the situation develops.
How bad is Corona virus Covid 19?
We are not medical experts, but our opinion is it very much appears that (Corona) Covid 19 is a virus similar in many ways to that of influenza (Flu) but unlike Flu which passes amongst Humans only, Corona viruses are common amongst Humans and Animals alike.
Corona viruses aren’t new although this is a new strain. what makes Corona virus more worrying is that; of people catching this bug there is a higher rate of people needing serious medical attention than “just the flu” and seem to have a higher mortality rate amongst the elderly and those with underlying medical especially respiratory conditions which makes it much more serious.
Why the apparent Covid 19 Corona panic?
A key reason is to flatten out the natural peak in cases, currently the expectation is that infections will peak in April/May placing a load on to the NHS. The measures being taken are designed to flatten out this natural peak and reduce the load on the NHS. In addition it seems to make sense to us at least to avoid needless suffering and rather than this virus becoming yet another daily killer in the world we just accept, if it’s possible to contain and build natural immunity that is desirable. Another factor is economics with the UK predicting that 1 in 5 of the workforce will be off work at its currently predicted peak and shortages of imports the economic cost globally is huge.
How could Covid 19 Corona virus affect my wedding?
There are a number of factors including government restrictions on social distancing, insurance, event cancellation and delays in both small items such as decor and larger items such as your wedding dress.
Could Corona Virus cancel my wedding?
Following the PMS updates, If you are getting married in the UK late this year, it may still be unaffected. Please be aware that should you choose to cancel instead of postpone your wedding while most suppliers will endeavour to assist with rearranging dates where possible, normal cancellation terms and conditions do apply as they would if you cancelled for any other reason and you could face a heavy bill.
Will my wedding insurance cover my wedding if its cancelled due to Corona virus?
Every policy is different and you would need to check with your provider. As a generalisation however most existing policies cover you if specifically if your UK wedding venue had to close due to an outbreak of infectious disease, however outside of this it’s unlikely that cover will apply but always best to check with your insurer. The potential other issue with insurance is where destination weddings are involved and if your policy is going to cover travel issues such as the majority of your guests being unable to travel in to the UK or to your destination wedding.
Will Corona Virus delay my wedding dress?
There is a lot of media hype on this, and it very much depends on where you are sourcing your dress. a lot of dress designers have their designs produced directly in China and if this is the case we would definitely recommend you contact your Bridal shop for advice. A lot of our clients use boutique bridal designers in which case the only issue is the raw material such as silk, it is likely that boutique and couture designers will contact you if they have issues with supply of raw materials.
I have a destination Wedding and may need to cancel due to corona virus covid 19?
We would advise that you continually monitor the countries and areas affected, if your wedding is in an affected area we would advise you contact your wedding insurance and travel provider at the earliest opportunity to ascertain what is and isn’t covered and only cancel with the express agreement of your insurance company or if your travel provider advises. As any other reason for cancelling may leave you uninsured. We also advise staying informed as to the latest in travel advice.
Corona Virus – Covid 19 What could happen next in the UK
The UK government has laid out its action plan to tackle Covid 19, Including in the PMs first daily address the new social distancing guidance, for the interim period. We believe this to be in line with the plan to reduce peak infections for the NHS and build what the government refer to as herd immunity we could see these restrictions lifted in as little as 30 – 90 days but perhaps longer.
OK So the worst has happened and my wedding is cancelled due to Corona Virus, Can I seek refunds from suppliers?
Technically your wedding is never cancelled unless of course you don’t plan to marry ever, so more accurately you should be looking at a postponement and how this is handled.
So this is a worst case scenario, and your existing contractual agreement between you and your supplier should already cover this. The contract you have will dictate if a refund is due or more likely not, for this reason most suppliers will look to postpone your booking date. Under most supplier contracts it would be very unlikely that you would receive a refund and could also still be liable to any due balances, depending on how late you cancel and the terms of the contract in question. Under the current situation most suppliers however will want to work with you to renegotiate the wedding date if at all possible.
From what we can see from speaking to a number of insurance providers and underwriters is that where cover is already in place, they explicitly almost without exception do not cover you if its a decision to cancel just in case or because a number of guests are unable to make it. However it’s important to check your individual policy.
What happens if my wedding supplier is unable to work due to corona virus?
With a predicted 80% of the population possibly catching the virus its important to note that the prediction is an absolute worst case scenario, however should one of your suppliers actually contract the virus and be unable to deliver for your wedding, for most unless extremely niche such as hiring a confetti camel, its very much business as usual, providing you have booked a professional and reputable supplier the Professional supplier network is strong and there has always been a best practice of providing emergency cover between suppliers – Our advice is ask your supplier what their contingency plan is?
How can I take precautions against Corona Virus at my wedding?
You must always follow up to date official advice however there are a number of possible precautions you could arrange to take based on basic simple hygiene. First and foremost is awareness, if you have any guests that have been tested positive for or been in substantial direct contact with someone that has been tested positive they should sit this party out.
In addition if you have guests that are either elderly or considered high risk due to underlying conditions they should seek professional medical advice, which could include to either refrain from attending or take additional precautions. You can also encourage the use of hand sanitiser and good hygiene, none of the above completely mitigate the risk but are all good practice steps to reduce the risk and in line with current official advice.
- Article Resources with thanks to amongst others the below plus our amazing expert advisors
- WHO – World Health Organisation – https://www.who.int/
- UK Government – https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public
- BBC News – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/10318089/bbc-news-channel
- The Wedding Insurance Group – https://www.weddinginsurancegroup.co.uk/
- Hall & Ellis Contracts Specialist Solicitors
- Reference to lawteacher.net from practicing litigations lawyer
- Law Reform Gov Frustrated Contracts Reform 1943
- Money Supermarket Wedding Insurance – https://www.moneysupermarket.com/wedding-insurance/
- NHS UK – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
- UK Health & Safety Executive – https://www.hse.gov.uk/news/coronavirus.htm
- RandFWeddings – https://www.randfweddings.co.uk
This article is updated daily with current facts as we are able to verify them and is subject to change – Although we make every attempt to publish only verifiable information from reliable and official sources this article should at all timed be considered the opinion of RandFWeddings and no liability is accepted, although we have full indemnity to offer professional Wedding advice, we are unable to offer specific legal, medical or financial advice as per the recommendations to seek specific proper advice in the above article.
All replies to article responses are opinion only and based on the UK situation at the time of the response only as this is a very fluid and rapidly changing situation.