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Brides fight to get refunds for weddings canceled because of COVID-19 pandemic

Coronavirus means smaller weddings, but venues resist refunds
Brides fight to get refunds for weddings canceled because of COVID-19 pandemic
Posted at 12:05 PM, Jun 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-05 12:05:57-04

A wedding is supposed to be the most beautiful day in a couple's life.

But for thousands of couples this year, it's become a nightmare, because they have to cancel their reception, and couples are finding they can't get a refund due to the contract they signed months ago with their reception venue.

Kristina Finley's dream wedding was scheduled for May 30, until COVID-19 and her governor changed her plans.

Despite a state shutdown of big events, her mother, Becky Finley, said her daughter can't get her money back from her venue.

"She asked for a refund, and they said actually my daughter owed them the second half of the payment," Finley said.

The wedding venue still has their $2,500 deposit, half the total cost of the $5,000 wedding and reception, the family said.

It offered new dates next year, but Finley's daughter does not want to wait, and instead she has selected a small church wedding and backyard party for the original date.

"My daughter picked May 30, 2020. All the invitations, the pre-engagement announcements, everything had that date on it," Finley said. "And she said, 'I've been waiting a year for this, and I'm not going to reschedule.'"

Rules vary by venue

When it comes to weddings and other events, every event center has different rules.

Some will give brides and grooms a refund if there is no other option, owner Drew Hester said.

Drew Hester, owner of one hall, said that unlike many other halls, he has given full refunds to several brides, and he took the financial hit.

"I just believe in karma. I believe in good," he said. "The emotional loss for them has been awful. You work with these brides for a year, and now they are devastated. And on top off that I am not going to say, 'You lost $1,500, sorry.'"

But many wedding contracts do not allow refunds; only credits toward a future date.

What you can do

Forbes Magazine said many brides and grooms are facing thousands of dollars in losses this year due to canceled weddings. It suggests people:

  • Request a refund as soon as possible; do not wait for the date to approach.
  • Ask if you can get a discount for a smaller gathering, if they are still open.
  • If they refuse a refund or discount, dispute the charge through your credit card if you paid the deposit that way.
  • File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.

If all else fails, contact a lawyer, who for a few hundred dollars can examine the contract and send a letter to the center explaining that since this is an "act of god," the contract should be null and void.

Finley hopes to get something back, and said her daughter is just heartbroken having to cancel her dream reception.

"It's what every little girl dreams of, and it just fell apart," she said,

One other option: Some reception centers have gardens where you can move everything outdoors, and where, if allowed by local laws, you can still have that dream wedding.
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