Frustration of a Contract- Wedding Cancellation FAQs

Due to COVID-19, many couples are facing a wedding cancellation. As a wedding supplier, where do you stand with this? Here are some contract FAQ’s that may help, including information about the frustration of a contract…

  • If there is a wedding cancellation on the couple’s own accord, and not as a direct result of any Government lockdown or other restriction, then I follow the cancellation clauses in my Terms and Conditions as normal, correct? 

That’s right – stick to your T and C’s!

  • If there is a wedding cancellation because of some government restriction – lockdown or public gathering restriction – what happens?

In the case of a force majeure, the contract cannot progress. A force majeure is something that is an external and uncontrollable event like government lockdown, catastrophic fire or flood,  or similar. In this case, the contract cannot be delivered, then the contract is what lawyers call ‘frustrated’ and comes to an end.

This is NOT a cancellation event and does not mean those provisions apply.

After the frustration of a contract, the starting point would be as if the contract never existed:

  • There is no longer any obligation to provide any undelivered services or goods under the contract
  • There is no longer any obligation to pay for goods or services under the contract.
  • This means (when applying first principals of the doctrine of frustration) that advanced sums paid would be refundable. No one has any previous or continuing contractual obligations.

OBVIOUSLY to be avoided at all costs where possible.

However, if some services and goods had been provided before the frustration of a contract, then there could be scope for these to be considered paid for part delivered goods or services: ‘paid for’ by the sums already paid as instalments.

This is very subjective and would have to be properly assessed on the circumstances for each customer.  

This is easier if you are a wedding planner, for example, and have provided substantive services already. It’s trickier for wedding photographers or cake makers, for example, who take a deposit essentially to keep the date free.

There is no blanket legal approach. My strong advice would be to negotiate a deal with customers on a case by case basis which will depend on some compromise that probably both parties will need to feel a little bit aggrieved by, at the conclusion.

The range of outcomes for a wedding cancellation could be:

A full or a part refund – only keeping the non-refundable deposit –offering another date for no extra fee (subject to availability)

Communication is key – the earlier you have this call, the better.

I’d also suggest that you only deal with clients on this basis at the moment who have weddings in the next 2/4 weeks.

We simply do not know what’s happening any longer term than that so that needs to be reviewed weekly – an on-going exercise – as events and the situation with government advice enfolds.

  • If I am forced into self isolation and cannot attend a wedding OR if I am in lockdown. What then?

Normally you can substitute in a contract for services even if you don’t have a specific clause in the contact – but communications to the couple are going to be key because that is all about maintaining quality.

Stanford Gould Online provide contract templates for wedding suppliers. Get in touch for a review of your current contract terms.