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Wedding Postponements: Dealing with Difficult Situations

Wedding Postponements: Dealing with Difficult Situations


Alison Hargreaves Updated:
8th of March 2023
COVID has thrown couples and businesses into a situation that wedding contracts simply weren't written for. At the point at which you planned your wedding, it's likely that postponements were virtually unheard of. Very few businesses have held couples to their contract terms, instead they try to find a solution that is acceptable for both sides. This minimises the emotional, logistical and financial strain on both. 
Your venue and your suppliers will all want to help you to have a wedding in accordance with your original plans, on your original date, if that is possible. If the Prime Minister's roadmap announced on 22nd February, or the roadmaps announced for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, have meant that your wedding can no longer go ahead as planned, this article should help you with the difficult decision on whether to postpone or continue under the relevant restrictions. 
 
Our video, recorded in January, before the easing of restrictions was announced, may be helpful.  It helps dispel some of the myths and misconceptions we were facing at that point and that had caused couples to postpone unnecessarily. 
 
Where postponement is inevitable, we hope this article will help couples and businesses to work together to find solutions and to avoid conflict. Seeing the situation from the other party's side can help, so we have tried to approach parts of this article from both perspectives.
 
NOTE: Video recorded in January 2021 so some parts may no longer be relevant.
 

Reaching an agreement that works for both parties

Most businesses have tried to be fair and consistent in the way they arrange postponements; however, a solution that works for some couples might not suit others.  If both parties can tread that fine line carefully and with empathy and an open mind for solutions, there is almost always a positive outcome.  
 
Starting a conversation by demanding your rights will lead to the other party defending their position, and vice versa. 
 
Try to organise a video or phone conversation. Emails can be easily misread and the tone affected by our frame of mind. Speaking with the other party directly is always the best way forward as any misunderstandings can be addressed and resolved more quickly.
 
Groom on video call with supplier

Beware of "part facts"

Facebook groups are a great source of information but can be one-sided. We read posts in business groups and well as brides/grooms' groups so we see it first hand. 

Typical mis-advice we see:

  • "If the contract is frustrated you are entitled to a full refund". Those offering this advice forget to add "less reasonable costs". The amount that could be deducted varies depending on the business type and their business model so there is no set formula. However, in the first well documented venue case, the CMA confirmed reasonable costs as being up to 37.2%. There is a good reason that we encourage postponement, not cancellation.
  • "I'm not sure if my wedding this summer will be as planned, so I am postponing". This is, understandably, perhaps the most common point of discussion. Please remember that if the contract isn't frustrated, you probably don't have the automatic right to postpone. Approach the issue accordingly.
The best source of information to start with will almost certainly come from your venue and suppliers. This might be your first postponement, but it may be their 100th. They have had almost a year of establishing policies that work for their clients and for their business so simply ask them what their policy is. 
 
If it simply won't work for you, explain why. Suggest some reasonable alternatives that could work better for you both. 
 
Everyone wants the same outcome; for you to have the wedding you are happy with, ideally on the date you booked. No one will want you to go ahead if your wedding isn't what you are wanting - we are all in this industry to create magic and not misery - and there will be nothing more heartbreaking than giving up too early on a wedding that could have gone ahead.
 
Bride with engagement and wedding rings

If you can't reach an agreement

It's unusual not to find a solution, but around 2% of couples feel their venue has been unreasonable. We assume it is a similar proportion for other suppliers. 

If you booked a venue or supplier on Guides for Brides

We can only directly help if you have booked a venue or suppliers that have a professional listing on Guides for Brides. We've worked hard with all of our clients for the past year to help ensure that policies are fair and reasonable and we can be confident that in almost every case, any misunderstanding is exactly that; a misunderstanding that can be quickly rectified. We have also vetted the businesses we represent and we follow up on any occasional less-than-perfect reviews, so you can be confident that if you booked through us, you should be in safe hands.

If you booked elsewhere

If you booked through a planner, they'll usually be your point of contact now with the venue. If you booked through a different channel, the first step is to check the key facts. Do this with a calm, clear head and an open mind. It is likely that you are in this situation because both you and the business are equally convinced that the other is wrong, so it is good to work out why. You won't necessarily need a solicitor to do that and one of the challenges has been that the current situation is so unprecedented and most solicitors would take a long time to understand the full complexities.
 
Many couples realise at this stage that either the business has misunderstood them or that they have misunderstood the situation.  This can then be quickly resolved.
 
However, if you are sure that the business is not acting reasonably, set out the facts as briefly and as clearly as you can, without any emotion or blame. Explain what you have asked for and why you feel that you are entitled. Refer to the consumer law that supports your reasons, with a link, so the business can understand your perspective. 
 
If you are still unable to reach a compromise, speak to Citizen's Advice or a solicitor. They will be able to give you more guidance on your contract and should be able to give you an unbiased opinion.
 
Couple reading contract for wedding

What is a typical postponement policy?

Unless your wedding is frustrated, the venue or supplier's normal Terms & Conditions will apply so check what they are. If the business is already being more flexible than the contract requires, negotiate tactfully!  
 
Couple looking at their wedding contracts and finances

What is reasonable?

Almost every business has tried to act in a fair and reasonable way to look after their couples. In the majority of cases that have done more than the couple expected. However, it is not unreasonable for them to protect the interests of their other couples, for example by offering postponements in strict date order, or not being more generous with refunds than they are required to be if you have cancelled rather than postponed.
 
It is so tempting to try to get to the front of the queue, but it isn't fair on other couples. Remember that if your venue is being strict on not letting you queue-jump, they will be doing the same with others. So, you won't be at a disadvantage by waiting. In the meantime, hopefully, you'll get more of an idea of whether your original plans might be possible after all. 
 
Businesses should, of course, always operate fairly and within the law. Just as with all other aspects of customer care, individual policies will differ and just because one business is treating their couples in a particular way, it doesn't mean others will.

What if your suppliers are unable to move to your new date?

This is a really important point to note in order to avoid unnecessary costs. If you have changed the date of your wedding without the agreement of your suppliers, technically you are in breach of contract by varying the date without mutual consent. Check with them in advance. Late availability calendars can help but if it looks like they are available for the new date, double check with them directly too and ask them to hold the date for a day or so while you check with others.

If a supplier not available for the new date but you decide to go ahead regardless, the expectation is for them to be reasonable over the costs they charge. Assume that you will lose your deposit but be aware that you may be liable for additional costs incurred. 

There is an expectation that a supplier will do what they can to accommodate your new date, but if they choose not to, the solution would usually be to terminate the contract by mutual consent and refund accordingly. 

Supplier/client relationship irretrievably broken down?

Businesses and couples are under immense stress that doesn't always lead to the conciliatory phone calls or email exchanges we all want to have. However, you will hopefully be dealing with wedding professionals who will simply get on with the job in hand once a compromise between the two parties has been met. Put any disputes behind you and definitely don't worry about their professionalism on your wedding day.
 
It won't "spoil your day" or "leave a bad taste" as some couples fear; instead your venue or supplier will be keen to prove themselves and you will be proud of yourself for finding a solution that worked for both sides in difficult circumstances.
 
Bride being walked down the aisle by her father
 
Above all, remember that neither you, your venue or your suppliers wanted to be in this situation. You are all working towards the same goal; creating a day to remember for you, your family and your friends. 
 
For more information and guidance about weddings during COVID-19, the Government's guidance for small marriages and civil partnerships has the most up-to-date information. For the latest news, our COVID Wedding News article is kept as up-to-date as possible following any announcements made by governments across the UK.
Alison Hargreaves photo

About the author


Alison Hargreaves

Alison founded Guides for Brides in 1995 and has been advising brides and businesses ever since. She has an unrivalled knowledge of the wedding industry and is part of an international network of wedding professionals and entrepreneurs. Alison frequently appears on podcasts and expert panels as well as judging various wedding awards.

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