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Newbie Bride June 2021 Kent

Manipulative venue - won't refund!

Junebride, 30 October 2020 at 10:24 Posted on Wedding Planning 0 20
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Hi everyone!


Just wondering on your views on what I should do/if anyone else has experienced the same issue?


My wedding was originally planned for June this year, however our venue refused to refund us multiple times at the start of lockdown as nobody knew if things would return to normal by June. They "kindly" allowed us to postpone until June 2021 instead, and we confirmed the actual date in July. Again, no mention of refund despite saying they will give a full refund/postpone all couples not being able to marry as planned due to the pandemic.


Anyway, recently our financial situation had changed, and so we're quite tight on money now, so we want a simple and intimate wedding instead. We contacted our venue again to request for a full refund, and was only offered 50% of our deposit! I questioned them about the full refund that they offered to couples who couldn't get married as planned, and their reply was "what I meant by a full refund was minus the costs incurred". Can they even say something like that? Anyway, I understand it's fair to deduct actual costs spent for my wedding, so I asked for a breakdown for what was spent as we hadn't even finalised any details about our wedding when lockdown started as it was still 3 months away. Their reply was charging us for: showing us around the venue before booking, invoicing paperwork (everything was sent electronically and all drafted templates), ceremony booking fee (I agreed to paying this), and.....£1,100 for emails sent to me!!! I counted and there were only 13 emails sent, including confirmation emails!


They're clearly making up the figures. They've been manipulative throughout and keep threatening us by using the contract we signed against us which was "drafted by top lawyers", and that they're members of this and that. It was only when I challenged them by sending them the CMA guidelines downloaded from the gov.uk website, that they're now seeking legal advice with a group of other venues as a member of the 'Wedding Venue Support Group' to fight against the CMA guidelines!


I'm so stressed and anxious about this whole situation. I've even offered up my peak wedding date in exchange for an off-peak weekday wedding, but they're refusing to change the date for me without cancelling the contract and still trying to keep 50% of my deposit!!


It appears my only option is to keep my June 2021 wedding date and keep it as simple as possible. But after all this ordeal with them, I don't even want to get married there any more! Not to mention my wedding was supposed to be for 200 guests, and they won't refund me any difference should there still be guests restrictions!


Please help!! I just can't believe our special day has become such a nightmare!!!





20 replies

Latest activity by RomanticGreenStationery27135, 18 November 2020 at 08:10
  • R
    Rockstar Bride July 2020 Monmouthshire
    RomanticGreenStationery27135 ·
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    That is outrageous! Unless the person who sent you those emails is paid £100 per hour or more, it's hard to see how they justify those email costs. And I've never heard of a venue charging just for showing prospective customers around - would they still have charged you if you hadn't booked? We looked round about 4 venues and didn't have to pay any of them!

    I would definitely report them to the CMA, but that's not going to help you now. It might also be worth talking to Trading Standards.

    How much money is at stake? Is it worth getting legal advice? If you don't mind publicity, it might be worth contacting your local paper - negative publicity is not going to help the venue book weddings in future.

    I guess in the end, you have to weigh up how much money you will lose by cancelling v how much you will have to spend if you go ahead + the stress + the fact that you don't want to be married there any more anyway.

    I'm so sorry you're having to deal with this - having to postpone a wedding in the first place is tough enough, without dealing with all this on top. Sending hugs xxx

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  • J
    Newbie Bride June 2021 Kent
    Junebride ·
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    Thank you so much for your input and suggestions! I've looked into reporting them to the CMA, but I didn't think they fell into any categories when selecting a department to report them to...

    What I'm most worried about is that they've joined as a member of 'Wedding Venue Support Group' where a lot of other venues are going together to fight against the CMA guidelines using legal help!

    I may look into getting legal advise if I'm going to lose 50% of my deposit anyway, but was thinking of waiting for my venue to get back to me before proceeding. But at the same time, I'm more annoyed with the fact that they think they can get away with this!

    They are listed on the Hitched website and so I was thinking about writing a bad review of them on here and also on Google, but I can't help but feel guilty about doing so.

    Thanks so much again xxx

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  • RomanticBrownStationery29719
    Savvy Bride December 2020
    RomanticBrownStationery29719 ·
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    Hi there. So sorry to hear about your struggle. What does your contract say regarding cancellation times?
    I guess legally if weddings are allowed to go ahead in june 21 then they dont have to give you your full deposit back unless you contract states that. Usually there are time frames and charges noted in it.... As it is not pandemic dependent cancellation you request anymore (as you agreed to date change) I guess what your contract states goes bound to the new date you agreed to. So refunding would be a gesture of good will rather than a legal binding requirement. As many businesses lost a huge amount of money and struggle atm I kinda understand why they are not keen to accept a full cancellation for next year at this point. Obviously in june 21 if restrictions were still in place prohibiting the wedding they would have to refund you. But if weddings can go ahead I guess your contract stands and obviously you wont know like all of us what's happening for months to come.
    So sorry that I this stressful time you have to go through this financial struggle too. Maybe if you struggle a lot financially it's best to cut the losses and look for something small in your budget rather than risking being liable for even more costs with them as time goes by?I dont think leaving raging reviews will help your cause tbh. I get why you are stressed and upset. But they likely would have refunded you in june if you wouldn't have picked a new date. Now many venues struggle and I obviously want to stick with bookings that might not be affected by coronavirus. Obviously the admin charge for emails is ridiculous so it is worth checking what your contract states re % of deposit being none refundable etc... you might manage to get some back. But going the legal route can be pricey too just keep that in mind. Maybe it would be a good idea to meet someone face to face(social distanced of course) to discuss options in person as emails seem to do more harm than good in this case. Maybe you can find a middle ground? Hope you find a solution.
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  • J
    Newbie Bride June 2021 Kent
    Junebride ·
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    The contract does state that deposits are non-refundable, however the original contract was frustrated and the CMA states that an option of a refund must be clearly made known to consumers - in which case they refused to refund our deposit many times and only allowed us to either postpone our wedding or lose all of our deposit. Hence why we agreed to postpone. Also, the consumer protection law states that despite signing a contract, it is not legally binding if it is deemed as unfair - we previously highlighted our concerns about how strict the contract was but they told us that it would be the same for all wedding venues, so of course we were made to think that the same T&C's would stand whether we booked with them or other venues. The contract is deemed unfair as in the instance of Government Law preventing them from holding our wedding, it states they are not liable to refund us the deposit - however the CMA says otherwise...
    Thanks again for your advice anyway! I will speak to them again to get an update via email. If we were to meet face to face, I know they will manipulate us on the spot again....
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  • Hayley
    Curious Bride April 2022 Staffordshire
    Hayley ·
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    I can’t help but wonder if they’re actually within their rights to be only refunding 50%...


    I agree it sounds like they’re making up figures and trying to fudge things, but if you’ve actually agreed on a date in 2021, it stands to reason (in my mind at least) that a full refund couldn’t and shouldn’t be given just because a couple has changed their mind on wanting a simple wedding now and/or now has different financial circumstances.
    However, that isn’t to say I think they’ve behaved reasonably in even getting you to the point of having to agree to a 2021 date! It sounds like they really put the pressure on there.
    I personally think, if you definitely don’t want to go ahead, I’d either fight it or take the 50% refund. Alternatively, they might have to cancel because of Covid, and surely then you’d get refunded?
    Xx
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  • J
    Newbie Bride June 2021 Kent
    Junebride ·
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    Yes I completely understand that we shouldn't be allowed a refund if we were to cancel the 2021 wedding as it would be our own decision, and stated clearly in the contract. However, my point was that since the first lockdown, they refused to give us a refund several times. It was only when our financial situation had changed and we contacted them, that we realised that we were actually eligible for a refund in the first place and not just the option to postpone according to the CMA. I think they know themselves that I should've been due a refund, that's why they're offering 50% refund and stating random figures to keep the other 50% if that makes sense?
    I've tried to be civil with them as we just want to get married by asking if we could instead change our peak date to an off-peak date between now and early next year, and treat it as a postponement of the original date, but nope, they still want to keep my 50% deposit. From a business point of view, it baffles me why they wouldn't allow it as 1) they could potentially make more money if they sold my peak date to someone else as my wedding with them is only going to be half a day with canapés only 🤷🏻‍♀️ whereas another couple could book a whole day with them instead? And 2) I'm pretty sure they have plenty of dates available at the moment as they did say they didn't have any bookings in November prior to the lockdown announcement!
    From their attitude in their emails, I hate to imagine how many times they've gotten away with this with poor couples being given the same treatment and not given refunds they're clearly due.
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  • Hayley
    Curious Bride April 2022 Staffordshire
    Hayley ·
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    Yes, that's absolutely disgraceful. I would do everything in your power and go to whomever you need to--and I would also tell the venue that. Say that all of their actions at this point have been contrary to the refunds you were due, and so you're contacting X Y and Z to have them resolve this.

    Maybe that will frighten them. They're clearly reluctant to give you the money back, hence all of the crazy figures (I would never dream of charging for emails in my business!). Maybe they'll rethink if they believe a formal complain is being made?

    Xx

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  • Hayley
    Curious Bride April 2022 Staffordshire
    Hayley ·
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    *complaint

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  • J
    Newbie Bride June 2021 Kent
    Junebride ·
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    I don't think anything would frighten them at this point. They clearly don't want to admit being wrong so it looks like they'll fight till the end until clearly proven wrong (i.e. legally etc.) So that's what we're planning to do. Just hope legal costs aren't too much though.....
    We did mention to them that we're looking to give them negative reviews online to warn potential couples of how they're dealing with this issue, but they didn't seem fazed 🤷🏻‍♀️
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  • April21Bride
    Savvy Bride April 2021 West London
    April21Bride ·
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    Who are your venue? Good luck with everything.
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  • J
    Newbie Bride June 2021 Kent
    Junebride ·
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    The Barnyard. Thank you!
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  • R
    RomanticPurpleStationery48127 ·
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    I lost when I read about the cost of those emails. If you have the money, make them pay in court honey.

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  • C
    Somerset
    Chris ·
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    My daughter has had the same problem. Venue has kept the deposit, despite the wedding being "frustrated" CMA guidelines. Tried using No win No fee lawyer who wanted to take them on, but although very good chance of winning, if we lost there would be costs to the other side. Could go down the County Court route which is a cheap option, but as you say these venues have ganged up with a fancy QC barrister and if you ever watch Call the Sheriffs there are all sorts of get out clauses for not paying.

    The Venue managed to delay things until the deadline for refunds had passed, and same as you hid behind massive expenses clause.

    In the end she booked a wedding at a Registry office. That looked like it would be cancelled because of the new lockdown, but they phoned her last Monday and offered to fit the wedding in before the lockdown, they also had a list of pubs / restaurants to hold a reception afterwards. After a frantic two days she married on Wednesday, It was a great day. It was just the 15 relatives and close friends. The ceremony was zoomed to those who didn't make the cut. An intimate special event.

    We now count this as a blessing in disguise, with a wonderful day rescued from a terrible year.

    For those of you thinking about a big wedding next year, watch out for the "Catch 22" clauses, and don't choose any with more than 15% deposit, and look out for added costs like minimal spend drinks package.

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  • J
    Newbie Bride June 2021 Kent
    Junebride ·
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    Trust me, everyone I've told were so shocked too! We're planning to write to the CMA first to see if they are able to advise Smiley smile
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  • J
    Newbie Bride June 2021 Kent
    Junebride ·
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    I'm so sorry this happened to your daughter too! People say your true character is revealed at your worst of times, and it honestly makes you think how fake they were acting when things were "normal"! Was your daughter able to get anything back in the end?


    Yeah, all we want to do now is to just get married at a Registry Office. But we're worried that if we do that, effectively we're cancelling the postponed date for June 2021 (which I have kept reserved as we still haven't had our deposit back yet). Although, technically if we're still holding our reception there, we've still not cancelled our contract?
    It's so nice to hear your Registry Office did that for her and it definitely sounded like a lovely one! And congratulations! I wish my head wasn't so drowned on fighting for the deposit that I didn't realise that the most important thing for us is to just get married! Now we're in the middle of another lockdown so we have no choice but to carry in waiting.....😅
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  • J
    Newbie Bride November 2020 Berkshire
    Jane ·
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    We are currently in a similar situation where we are cancelling our wedding with the venue as they cannot provide what we want so our contract is technically “frustrated”. They want to retain £2500 of just over £4000 paid so far, citing advertising and maintenance costs as the reasoning behind it all.


    We have since found out that they are tailoring their responses to each individual couple, ie what they offer us is not what they were offering everyone else and was asking us to sign a non disclosure etc. We said no.
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  • J
    Newbie Bride June 2021 Kent
    Junebride ·
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    Signing a non-disclosure?! That sounds crafty!

    I suppose every wedding is different so they would have different amounts of direct costs incurred for each wedding. Although I don't agree with advertising and maintenance being direct costs for your wedding as whether you booked with them or not, they would've still spent that amount.
    May I ask how you found out about other couples who booked the same venue?

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  • J
    Newbie Bride November 2020 Berkshire
    Jane ·
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    We found two couples online after a bit of trawling the internet. They both had been offered different things. We had also been told that the non disclosure was because they were not offering this to others. It’s disgraceful.


    One thing that I find rather suspicious is that there is no negative press or threads about this venue anywhere along with absolutely no talk about their COVID-19 responses to anyone’s wedding. Also one couple we were talking to just went cold and wouldn’t speak to us anymore. It’s almost like they are on total damage control to make sure there is no negative press about them at all.
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  • C
    Somerset
    Chris ·
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    No, have not got anything back. Here are some of there reasons and threats. They don't mention if they took advantage of the government schemes. They did offer dates in 2021, but by the time they did, all weekends from Feb to Oct were gone, what's the point of a large venue in midweek. Anyway my daughter and fiancé wanted to marry this year

    Added costs

    Non- payment of the balance, according to our contract with you, is viewed as a ‘cancellation of the booking’ and as such we are entitled to chase you for the balance of hire and the estimated drinks bill as per clause 29 of the contract. In the contract, Clause 29 states ‘notice to cancel with 150 days or less of the function date The Hirer/Hirers will be charged 100% of

    the estimated charges, including venue hire fees, estimated drinks requirements and entertainment.’

    Response to the CMA guidelines

    With reference to your request for a refund, we have made a number of attempts to explain to you by email and by phone that deposits are not received as a payment for the wedding day itself but go some way towards the fixed costs incurred by a wedding venue which in turn enable the venue to run as a business and these costs are specific to the nature of this particular industry. The CMA (Competition and Markets Agency) of which you have referenced previously and to which we have already commented on does not, in the opinion of many wedding venues up and down the country, fully appreciate that wedding venues and wedding businesses are vastly different from the standard ‘consumer contracts’ although they are getting a sense of it - particularly because there is currently a huge amount of legal support being built up against the CMA in defence of wedding venues. The CMA does not fully recognise the huge amount of services that venues provide to couples from the very first moment a couple pops over to view the venue and has not given adequate attention to the work that takes place at a venue (much of which takes place behind the scenes) to plan a wedding day or considered that the majority of work - in nearly all cases - occurs throughout a period of a 12 months to two years due to bookings being made so far in advance.

    I expect this is a similar response to what many have had from what seems to be a cohort of these venues.


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  • R
    RomanticPurpleStationery48127 ·
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    I'll pray for you to win over that case. 2020 has been bad enough to us so I'm not even sure if I can be civil enough just in case something like that happens to me.

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