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In response to the COVID-19 outbreak and uncertain times, we totally understand your concerns about committing to booking wedding suppliers. On one hand you’re keen to get things confirmed but you’re equally worried about losing your deposit should you have to postpone. The following guidelines should help you ask the right questions when talking to wedding suppliers. Note, we can’t advise on the situation that venues are currently facing and the following is based on our experiences and talking to our fellow wedding suppliers. The following does not constitute legal advice.

Insist your suppliers agree to YOUR terms and conditions regarding postponing.
Remember suppliers WANT your business and deposits are an ‘instant‘ income if things are tight. Therefore, YOU can call the shots. Explain your concerns and if they’re reasonable they should agree to honour your deposit without penalty (at least once) should you have to postpone. Otherwise, tell them you’ll book elsewhere as many suppliers are happy to do this. They know you’ll get married eventually, it’s not like a 21st birthday party where you’d just cancel everything. Get this written in the contract.

Check if they’re solvent and consider their outgoings.
With all the Government help and support available to help small businesses, we’re amazed how some have ceased trading. Established ‘sole traders’ should have been able to ‘moth-ball’ their business to stop or reduce their outgoings and now using lockdown to try new ideas, improve and develop. Think about what they supply in terms of what their outgoings might be. A décor or car hire company may have continuous outgoings like warehouse rent, whereas a cake or stationery maker can just stop buying ‘ingredients. For a toastmaster or some DJ’s it may just be their side-line, in which case their regular job should support them. Companies in business rated premises would have claimed a £10’000 grant (which they don’t need to pay back) and will shortly receive another. 

You might be safer booking from a sole trader as opposed to a limited company.
A sole trader that has been in business for more than 3 years would qualify for the four SEISS payments (Self Employed Income Support Scheme, the furlough equivalent for the self-employed) so should be able to ride the pandemic out. The whole point of SEISS is to stop them going out of business!!! Booking from a sole trader is also legally easier to claim against as your booking is with them personally as opposed to them hiding behind a limited company.

Book from recommended, established suppliers
An established, quality supplier would already have had the main 2021 dates booked before Covid-19 came along. Many postponed 2020 couples have only been able to secure midweek date for next year. Therefore, for most established suppliers, 2021 should actually be their best year ever and more than make up for lost business this year. Many businesses we know are two or three times busier next year than usual. Therefore, if you have booked from a popular supplier, there’s really no excuse why they can’t do the decent thing and return your deposit if they’re unavailable on your new date.  Remember a deposit is your commitment to them to keep the date free for you. If they’re now working elsewhere (and busier than ever) they should really give it back. We know loads of small businesses that have given deposits back. It’s more likely to be the part-time or newly established companies (not eligible for grants) where you may have trouble. In fairness though, if your supplier has given you a lot of time and assistance then you may get better results by asking them for a partial deposit refund to help with their costs.

Insist that if you do have to postpone you have a new “balance due” date.
(i.e. your balance due date is moved proportionately and is still the typical 3-6 weeks prior to your new wedding date). Do not be forced into paying any balances on your original payment date as a lot can happen between paying your final balance and your new wedding date.   

 

Avoiding rogue companies.
Sadly, we have learnt of a couple of ‘rogue’ companies who have used Covid-19 as an excuse for their company’s demise, costing many brides thousands of pounds. If you have been told by a supplier that they will no longer honour your booking then consider the following.

Are their excuses credible?
For suppliers where you are hiring a ‘talent’ such as photographers, musicians, DJ’s and cake makers, remember these people made their hobby their businesses and usually have dedicated their lives to their craft. Therefore, stopping their business doesn’t make sense as for them it’s their most enjoyable and easiest way to earn money. There should be no valid reason why they would not just resume again once larger weddings are permitted. They’d still need to go and work somewhere so why not for you!

Never be forced into paying the balance early in exchange for 'allowing' you to postpone.
We’ve heard of one company that only allowed couples to postpone on the condition they paid their balance in full plus a postponement fee. Thus collecting all their 2020 wedding incomes as usual (plus fees) right until the end of the wedding season, then liquidated themselves ‘blaming’ Covid. If a company changes their Terms and Conditions after you've booked, consider you may be better off forfeiting your deposit than losing the balance as well.  

If you’ve paid in full and they’ve STILL gone bust, be very suspicious!
If your supplier pays freelancers then they definitely wouldn’t pay them until AFTER your wedding. Therefore, if you’ve been forced to pay in full and they’ve STILL gone into administration then it’s very suspicious as they’ve kept everything (so better off than ever). This is fraud and needs reporting as it’s “Caused harm to their suppliers or customers” report them to www.gov.uk/complain-company Accepting money with no intention of providing a service is known as “Advance fee fraud”. It’s easy to Google the directors and see if they are ‘serial liquidators’ or genuinely unfortunate. See also www.actionfraud.police.uk as if the same company is reported by lots of people it will be investigated fully which may help recover your money.

Join facebook wedding groups
These are great places to find out whether other couples have experienced problems with a supplier.

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