Weddings – what to do if your big day doesn’t have a fairy-tale ending

What happens if your wedding plans end in disappointment because of problems with your dress, your hair or the food?

14th August 2018

With wedding season firmly upon us, everyone is expecting an elegant, tear-jerking ceremony followed by an exquisite and enjoyable reception. Whilst the guests generally have it easy, the bride and groom are often faced with problems that have to be solved to ensure the occasion goes without a hitch.  Of course, this is often easier said than done. 

What happens if, through no fault of your own, your plans for a fairy-tale wedding end in disappointment? Sarah Garner, solicitor at DAS Law, tells you what you need to know and gives you legal advice to ease the stress on your special day…

The Venue

The venue currently has ongoing construction work.  They informed us before the wedding date but it is much worse than they initially said. Can I request a refund or partial refund, even if my wedding has already happened?

If construction works being carried out at the wedding venue are significantly worse that you were advised of, you may be entitled to some form of refund for the reduction in value of what you booked and paid for, especially if part of the venue was unusable for part of the day or for photographs to be taken.

Importantly, because of the nature of the contract, you may also be entitled to compensation for your disappointment, distress and loss of enjoyment, which could amount to a considerable sum.

The appearance of the venue has changed since my viewing and I don’t like it anymore. Can I cancel my reservation and get my deposit back?

In order to cancel the reservation and obtain a refund, you would have to argue that there has been a breach of contract, and that the breach is sufficiently serious to bring the contract to an end.  The change in appearance of the venue would have to be quite significant in order to argue that the contract is brought to an end.

I have been informed my wedding venue has been double-booked and my reservation was cancelled. Can I sue them? Can I get them to pay the difference in cost for another location?

If the wedding venue has failed to provide the service that you contracted and have paid for, you would be able to argue that they have breached the contract. Remedies for breach of contract include a full or partial refund.

The aim is to put you back in the position you were in prior the breach.  Therefore it can be possible to pursue the venue for any additional costs associated in transferring the wedding to a similar standard venue. 

The Dress

I bought my dress and had it professionally altered at the store but it doesn’t fit me properly and they are refusing to do any complimentary alterations. Do I have to pay for alterations or are they obligated to provide this as part of the service?

If the store has failed to provide the service that you have agreed with them or failed to provide the service with reasonable care and skill, you would be able to argue that they have breached the contract under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

The store would be required to provide the service that you have paid for at no additional cost.  This would not be the case, however, if the store has made the alterations as agreed, and the bride had changed her mind about those alterations.

The dress I ordered didn’t arrive in time and the shop has a no refund policy. How can I get my money back?

If you place an order for an item to arrive by a certain date, and delivery within the initial time frame is essential, then if that item does not arrive this could be argued to constitute a breach of contract.  Due to the nature of the event, the timescale is likely to form an essential part of the contract.

If the trader fails to meet the initial delivery period you may treat the contract as being at an end. The fact that the shop has a no refund policy will not override a claim for breach of contract where the shop has failed to provide the goods you have paid for.

The dress I received from the dress maker was not what I ordered. What legal action can I take?

If the dressmaker has failed to provide the goods that you have requested, you would be able to argue that they have breached the contract under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.  Remedies for breach of contract include full refund, partial refund or to be provided with the original dress that was ordered.

The Photos

The photographer/videographer did not produce good quality photos or videos of my wedding and is refusing to give back what we paid. What legal action can I take?

If the photographer has failed to provide the goods/service that you have requested or failed to provide the service with reasonable care and skill, you would be able to argue that they have breached the contract under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.  Remedies for breach of contract in this instance would include full or partial refund.

How do I ensure that I get what I paid for, and how do I know if the contract will protect me?

The best way to protect you in a contractual agreement is to ensure that the contract details the full service that you require and ensure that this is outlined in writing.  Verbal contracts are as equally legally binding as written contracts, but it can be more difficult to prove exactly what was agreed.

I would suggest couples pay for the service on a credit card (even if this is just the deposit) as the protection offered under s.75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 in holding the credit provider joint and severally liable for any individual contract in excess of £100, in the event that the contract is breached.

The photographer turned up late and missed the ceremony, I have already paid for their services, can I request a refund or partial refund?

If the photographer has failed to provide the service that you have paid for, you would be able to argue that they have breached the contract under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.  Remedies for breach of contract include full or partial refund.

The photographer has added some extra fees to our bill and is holding our wedding photos hostage until we pay. What legal action can I take to get my photos?

If you were provided with a fixed price by the photographer and they did not make you aware of any additional fees prior to the contract being entered into, then they are unable to withhold your photos. If they fail to provide them you would have to obtain an order from the county court for them to be given to you. This is a form of injunction known as a ‘Delivery up order’.

I don’t want the photographer to use my wedding photographs for promotional purposes or put them on social media. Who owns my wedding photographs and videos?

Under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, legally the creator of the image holds the copyright. In order to be able to reproduce images from your wedding you should ensure that you obtain a licence of use from the photographer.

It is possible to purchase the copyright from your photographer and this should be negotiated and confirmed in writing as part of the contract. If the photographer holds the copyright to your wedding photos, they may be free to use those images for promotional purposes or on social media.

If you do not wish this to happen then you should ensure that this is outlined in the contract before the wedding takes place.

The Food

If the food was not of the same quality at the tasting, can I insist on my money back?

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, goods supplied should be of a satisfactory quality, fit for purpose, and matching a sample.  If the food was not of the same standard it may be possible to argue that there has been a breach of contract.

It is unlikely that you would be entitled to a full refund as the food provided would have been consumed, however you may be entitled to pursue a claim for a reduction in the price due to the poor quality of food that was served.

A guest requested a specific meal as they have allergies but they were given the wrong dish by the staff and had an allergic reaction. Can I be sued?

If the venue was made aware of specific meal requirements due to a guest having an allergy and they provided the wrong food, the guest could potentially have a legal claim for personal injury against the venue. Therefore, if you had passed on the information about the allergy to the venue, you would not be liable for their mistake.

The food wasn’t cooked properly and some of the wedding guests got food poisoning. What can I do?

In the event that guests suffer food poisoning through the negligence of the caterers not cooking the food properly, the guests may have a claim for personal injury against the catering staff or the wedding venue. You would not be responsible for the poor standard of the caterers.

The catering staff didn’t prepare enough food even though they were given exact guest numbers. What can I do?

If the caterer has failed to provide the service that you have paid for, you would be able to argue that they have breached the contract under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.  Remedies for breach of contract include full or partial refund. You could therefore pursue a refund for the number of guests not catered for.

Hair and Makeup

I booked a hairstylist/makeup artist for my wedding but they did an awful job and it ruined my big day. What legal action can I take against them?

If the hairstylist/makeup artist has failed to provide the service that you have requested, you would be able to argue that they have breached the contract under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.  Remedies for breach of contract include full, partial refund or specific performance where they should provide the service again at no additional cost.

Prenuptial Agreements (pre-nup)

What is a pre-nup?

A pre-nup is a contract/agreement that couples can make prior to their marriage to determine how assets would be distributed in the event of a divorce. A pre-nup can be very useful in circumstances where one of the parties owned assets prior to the marriage, such as a property or a large inheritance, and wishes to protect ownership of those assets if the marriage were to break down.

Are pre-nups legally enforceable in the UK?

Pre-nups are not legally binding in the UK in the same way as other contractual agreements. In a 2010 case, the courts ruled that where agreements are freely entered into by the couple with a full appreciation of the implications, the court is likely to hold the parties to the prenuptial agreement unless it would be obviously unfair to do so.

Is it sensible to sign or ask my partner to sign a pre-nup in order to protect our assets?

If you are bringing assets to the marriage, especially ones of considerable value, and want to be able to protect ownership of them in the event that the marriage was to break down, then consideration of a pre-nup may be sensible.

Do I have to sign a prenup if I am asked?

No one is under any obligation to enter into a pre-nup agreement.

Can I get a ‘post-nup’ after the wedding?

It is possible to enter into an agreement as to how marital assets should be divided in the event the marriage ends in divorce.  These agreements are usually referred to as post-nup agreements.  As with pre-nup agreements they are not legally binding in the UK, but can be taken into consideration by a Judge as long as the agreement was entered into freely.

Runaway Bride or Groom

Who is responsible for the cost of the wedding if the bride/groom doesn’t show up on the day?

The person who enters into the contract with the service providers for the wedding would be responsible for the cost. For example, the person who arranges and pays the deposit for the dress, photographer, catering etc would be responsible for the contract in the event the wedding did not go ahead.

There is no longer the right to argue breach of promise or breach of contract to marry to hold a person responsible for failing to enter into the marriage, although historically this was possible.

Wedding Insurance

What is wedding insurance?

Wedding insurance is a policy of insurance that would provide financial cover in the event of something going wrong and potentially ruining your special day.  Venue cancellation and supplier failure are the two of the main reasons main reasons people buy wedding insurance.

What would invalidate wedding insurance?

What would not be covered under any wedding insurance policy would depend on the terms and conditions of the relevant insurer.  Typical examples of what would not be covered include, ‘cold feet’, cancellation if only a small part of the day goes wrong, cancellation due to financial difficulty, or bad weather affecting the wedding experience.

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