If you are one of the many couples in the unfortunate situation of having to postpone or cancel your wedding for any reason arising from the changing pandemic restrictions, during 2020 or 2021 – thanks to advice from the Consumer Protection Ireland (received in June 2020) and the EU Unfair Contract Terms Directive (93/13/EEC) 2019, you could be entitled to a full refund of your booking deposit and all monies paid in advance to a service provider for your original wedding date.
In everyday life, when a couple organises and books their wedding, the separate contracts with each service provider for the various aspects of their wedding ceremony and celebrations after are deemed (by the consumer law) to be a contract to provide a service at a certain place on a specific date.
Ordinarily (outside a government declared emergency such as a pandemic) if a couple wishes to postpone / cancel / change their wedding plans for any reason, and there are no compassionate circumstances, eligibility for a refund of booking deposits and monies paid in advance is determined by the contract agreed to with a supplier.
However – thanks to the EU Unfair Contract Terms Directive (93/13/EEC) 2019, if there are compassionate grounds – it may be a different story all together. A couple who are postponing / cancelling / changing their wedding plans for any reason arising from the pandemic may very well be entitled to a full refund booking deposits and monies paid in advance.
There is more – a couple who are postponing / cancelling / changing their wedding date for any reason arising from the changing pandemic restrictions – are not under any obligation to re-book a supplier for a later date, if doing so is not in their best interests, for any reason including financial hardship.
The reason is that any consumer contract which puts the consumer at a disadvantage for reasons which were clearly beyond their control, is an unfair contract and cannot be enforced – even if the couple have already agreed to the contract in writing.
There are varying circumstances which make a contract an unfair contract, which couples in this situation would be very wise to investigate. But one thing is for sure – thanks to the EU Unfair Contract Terms Directive (93/13/EEC) 2019, if a couple postpones / cancels / changes their wedding plans for any reason arising from the changing pandemic restrictions, they may in fact be due a full refund of booking deposits and all monies paid in advance.
There are exceptions to this rule for work already completed / items purchased in preparation for the wedding day which cannot be on-sold to another couple within a reasonable time frame (14 days). Such as:
- Ceremony – design consultation & preparation of a custom-made ceremony
- Food & perishable items
- Invitations & Stationery – already printed or special paper ordered
- Jewellery – custom made or materials on special order
- Purchase of clothing – custom made or on special order
- Purchase of shoes on special order
- Wedding cake
- Any other special items ordered / made or work already completed in preparation for the wedding day which cannot be on-sold to another couple within 14 days.
In the case of a custom made item or an item on special order, a refund may not be possible where work has commenced and expenses already incurred. In some cases you may be required to pay for the item in full and take delivery of the item.
If you have postponed / cancelled your wedding from it’s original date and you are in dispute with a supplier regarding an amount of money to be with-held for work already done, for which receipts are not applicable or cannot be provided, you are advised to contact Consumer Protection Ireland for further advice, as you may have an unfair contract according to the EU Unfair Contract Terms Directive (93/13/EEC) 2019.
Online purchases special note: If you have made first contact with a wedding supplier online, such as through their website or social media, ie. without ever meeting them in person (even if you have spoken on the phone) there are further contract obligations required by the EU Unfair Contract Terms Directive (93/13/EEC) 2019 which your supplier may not have fulfilled (such as not advising you of the 14-day cooling off period) which could make your contract an unfair contract.
If you have postponed / cancelled / changed your wedding plans during the pandemic restrictions and a supplier is claiming that your booking deposit is non-refundable, and/or that you must book them for another date, you should read every detail of the EU Unfair Contract Terms Directive (93/13/EEC) 2019 which you can find here:
For advice regarding your rights to a refund for any reason – pandemic or no pandemic – please speak to a lawyer with experience in Consumer Law. Lawyers in Ireland are obliged to provide a free 30 minute consultation. Advice from any other source may not be in your best interests.