Q: My fiancée and I were due to get married in a few weeks’ time. We paid the deposit for the venue around 12 months ago and the balance was due two weeks ago. However, in view of government guidance the wedding has been cancelled. The venue is now demanding payment of the remaining amount. Do we have to pay?
A: Broadly speaking, if the venue has informed you that your wedding cannot be held due to coronavirus it could be considered a breach of contract on their part. Exceptions to this depend- on the venue’s T&Cs or the doctrine of frustration
If there is any Force Majeure clause it could excuse a failure to perform a contractual obligation due to unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract. The venue may rely on such a clause. However, it doesn’t mean that clause is valid and/or that it can be relied on in this scenario. The clause should define what happens with payments and may delay completion of the contract, rather than refund i.e. the wedding will be re-arranged.
If the terms do not contain a force majeure clause or one covering the coronavirus outbreak, you may need to consider the doctrine of frustration. Generally, a contract is frustrated when something happens after drawing it up that is the fault of neither party but makes it impossible to perform as envisaged. A frustrated contract automatically ends and both parties are released from future obligations. If payment has been made for something not yet done it should be recoverable subject to payment of incurred expenses.
Speak with the venue to try and rearrange the wedding for a future date. Also check the small print of any insurance policies you have to see if cover exists. Finally, ask a solicitor to check the terms of your agreement with the venue.
This question has been answered by James Denton a Solicitor with GHP Legal. If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter it is still possible and we are doing everything we can to ensure that we continue to offer our high levels of service to our clients. In accordance with government guidelines, most of our lawyers are currently working remotely which means you may not now receive a response as promptly as you may expect. Please kindly bear with us and we will respond as soon as we are able.
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