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They Called Off Wedding: A Case Study

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 28 Nov 2012 |
Wedding Refund Cancel Deposit Hire

Martha and Tony (not their real names) were getting married. Martha’s parents paid for the wedding, and between them spent nearly £16,000. The bride and bridegroom to be also contributed a further £1000. Along with 98% of people who get married every year, no one thought about purchasing wedding insurance.

What the Wedding Cost

The wedding costs were as follows: The couple decided to have a civil ceremony in an hotel, which cost £2500 for the venue, and £4500 for the wedding breakfast, wine and champagne for the toast. The bride’s and bridesmaid dresses had already been made, and cost a total of £2100. The groom and usher’s suits were hired, coming in at a total of £740. Flowers had been ordered for £1200.

The cake was £650; invitations were £150 and the photographer had been booked for the whole day at £1250, and a cameraman to film the ceremony for £500. There was to be a disco afterwards; the DJ was going to supply his own equipment, and charged a flat fee of £400 for the night. The hotel was to have a paying bar in the evening. The honeymoon to the Maldives was £3000 on an all- inclusive basis, including flights.

What Went Wrong

Two weeks before the big day, Martha called the wedding off. She announced that she was still in love with her ex-boyfriend, who by that time was married to someone else and left Tony, who was devastated. As Martha moved out of the home she and Tony shared and went to live elsewhere in the UK with her ex-boyfriend, who had by then left his wife, the two families were left to pick up the pieces. Once it became obvious that there was no way the wedding would go ahead, Martha’s parents set about ensuring that they got as much money back as they could.

Tell Contractors as Soon as Possible

Some things were relatively easy to cancel, such as the suit hire and the cake. Others, however, could not be refunded. Here’s what Martha’s parents did: Martha’s mother, Rachel, contacted the florists and explained that the wedding had been cancelled. As payment for the flowers was not due until the day, they only had a 10% deposit of £120 which they refunded on a goodwill basis. The photographer and cameraman refused to refund the deposits stating that it was now too late to arrange other bookings instead. This meant a loss of £350, which was a 20% deposit.


Martha’s father, Joe, went to the hotel to negotiate. The hotel was unwilling to refund the 50% deposit that had been paid to secure the booking and the 50% that had been paid for the food. (The contract with the hotel required full payment to be made one week prior to the wedding.) The hotel management insisted that the terms and conditions of the booking clearly stated that refunds would not be made less than four weeks before the wedding under any circumstances other than Act of God or other circumstances outside the parties’ control.

Joe called an old friend who was a solicitor who said he had no chance of being able to sue the hotel for breach of contract, and that unfortunately he would just have to wear the £3000 loss. The solicitor did however write to the hotel, issuing them with a ‘threatening letter’ and managed to recoup £800 for Joe, which the hotel said they would provide as ‘full and final settlement.’


Rachel put the bride’s and bridesmaid’s dresses on eBay, and managed to get £600 for them, which meant a total loss of £1500. The lady who was due to make the cake (she hadn’t started yet) was very sympathetic and returned the full amount that had been paid (£650). The invitations had already been used, and were personalized in any event, so they could not be refunded.

The Missing DJ

The DJ didn’t return any phone calls despite the fact that Rachel contacted him repeatedly. The DJ had already been paid 50% upfront, which meant that they lost £200 through his failure to respond. The suit hire company also insisted on keeping their deposit, which was £100.

After working so hard to try to mitigate their losses, Rachel and Joe lost a total of £5100. Martha apologized and told her parents to take the honeymoon holiday for themselves, which they did!

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