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There are a couple of parts to this question, so I have tried to emphasise the specific questions using the quote function (>quote). The location is UK (specifically England). Additionally...

TL;DR. Can my reception venue without a deposit when they cannot confirm with any remote certainty that the event will go ahead?


I have my wedding booked for early September 2020. The ceremony and reception are at separate places, booked independently. Due to Covid-19, it is extremely unlikely that the reception will be able to proceed as planned.

To what extent is the reception venue required to provide the service we discussed? Eg, their room is no longer large enough to hold the requisite number of people while adhering to 2 metre physical distancing?

If they cannot provide this, do they have any legal grounds for keep hold of the deposit? (My thought being that they are the one not providing the service)

As a follow-up, until the very day before, they could argue "the rules may change so we are not cancelling yet".

Can they require that we pay them additional monies while they are unable to confirm with any reasonable certainty that the event will go ahead? Similarly, can they withhold a deposit if we wish to cancel due to their not being able to provide any certainty?

We have been offered to change dates without forfeit. In principle, this would be ideal for us. However, it's possible that they won't have suitable dates available. Further, they say that there will be an increase in price for 2021. Naturally, our contract is for the 2020 prices.

If we are not happy with an increase in price, can the without the deposit if we want to cancel as a result of this?

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To what extent is the reception venue required to provide the service we discussed?

The company, your guests and, you are subject to the constraints --including the unreasonable ones-- dictated by the authorities. If these constraints (1) were unforeseen when your contract was formed, and (2) frustrate the purpose of the contract, the contract is voidable by the affected party(-ies). For instance, you may void the contract on grounds that you provably planned to have more guests than the venue now is able to host.

can they withhold a deposit if we wish to cancel due to their not being able to provide any certainty?

The matter of your deposit is somewhat unclear. On the one hand, the aforementioned rationale is applicable. On the other hand, the company might be entitled to retain at least a portion of the deposit if the company proves that it already incurred expenses/losses. Also the clause(s) in your contract might provide some guidance on how the parties agreed to allocate risks.

until the very day before, they could argue "the rules may change so we are not cancelling yet".

You mean "the day before the reception"? That would be unconscionable on their end because a reasonable person knows that this type of events requires anticipation. For instance, most guests will not keep checking for the latest update on the night before the reception. Guests typically need several days of anticipation so they can plan accordingly or even decide whether they will attend reception.

Can they require that we pay them additional monies while they are unable to confirm with any reasonable certainty that the event will go ahead?

You are not specifying on what grounds the company is requiring additional money, or how that fits in the payments schedule you two initially agreed. However, your continued compliance with the company's new requirements would reinforce an inference that you agree to proceed with the contract and/or its amendment(s).

Further, they say that there will be an increase in price for 2021.

Not only that is a poor tactic, but it also is likely to backfire.

First, it is premature and/or naive for a company to pretend it will be in a position to increase prices the next year. Quite the contrary, most likely the aftermath of the pandemia is that many companies will go bankrupt or disappear by year 2021 (the oversupply of wedding/reception planners renders them "strong candidates" to that fate). And second, the company's announcement adds merit to your arguments should you prefer to rescind or void the contract.

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  • Thank you for your detailed response! Let me just explain the extra monies part (which I failed to do in the OP). The company has a "Deposit and Payment Schedule": there is an original deposit, then they take final payment 4kws in advance with everything ordered/arranged. I guess that doesn't matter so much, as if we postpone this "4wks in advance" moves to Summer 2021. Also, I agree about the price: economy is clearly going to contract; people will be poorer, so not looking to splash out on weddings so much. – mathematician-in-the-making Jun 11 at 21:05
  • There is a force majeur clause, which includes, "Either party may cancel this Agreement without liability to the other party by reason of events or occurrences beyond its reasonable control, such as, but not limited to, ... government regulation or advisory ... or a similar intervening cause making it ... unsafe for a least 25% of the attendees to travel to or attend the Event, or for the Hotel to provide the facilities or services booked for the Event." The question is, How long would we have to wait for that to be enforceable? -- that's not made clear... – mathematician-in-the-making Jun 11 at 21:06
  • You answer "can they withhold a deposit" with "[this] is somewhat unclear". We haven't really done anything, other than reserve the room. (We were going to do a menu-tasting, but it didn't happen before the lockdown. Otherwise they could surely include that as a cost.) It's difficult to see how reserving the main Bistro/dining room causes them loss, but I'm not exactly sure what they could claim... – mathematician-in-the-making Jun 11 at 21:06
  • @mathematician-in-the-making "How long would we have to wait for that to be enforceable?" You don't have to wait for that to be enforceable. In fact, the sooner you enforce it, the better. Otherwise, your delay will signal the company that you intend to move forward with the reception, and thus give it grounds for retaining your deposit as well as billing you for other expenses it incurs in the meantime. – Iñaki Viggers Jun 11 at 21:27
  • Thanks for your quick response. Maybe I did not explain well. I meant that it's not clear what the situation will be in three months' time. Is it reasonable to at the moment try to invoke the force majeure clause? I feel they would probably be within their rights to say "at this time it is not clear that there will be any problems" (although they have already said "your day will look slightly different to what you envisioned"). Perhaps we should inform them now that we may want to, so that silence can't be construed as implicit acceptance that we are moving forward... – mathematician-in-the-making Jun 11 at 21:28
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Read the contract

You need to read and understand the terms of the contract and how it allocates risk. If it has a clause about pandemics and/or changes to government regulation then that would be ideal.

If it doesn't then since none of the three legal systems in the UK inherently contain the concept of force majeure then everyone is still required to perform their obligations under the contract or be in breach. See What effect does an event like the current Covid-19 pandemic have on contractural obligations?

Can my reception venue without a deposit when they cannot confirm with any remote certainty that the event will go ahead?

As it stands, it appears that the venue stands willing and ready to perform their obligations - whether they will be able to is not something that anyone can hazard a guess at right now. As such, they are not in breach of their contract and while they might be in breach latter it does not rise to the level of anticipatory breach. You have no right to withdraw from the contract and must continue to fulfil your obligations - if that includes making payments then you must make the payments.

To what extent is the reception venue required to provide the service we discussed? Eg, their room is no longer large enough to hold the requisite number of people while adhering to 2 metre physical distancing?

If they cannot provide this, do they have any legal grounds for keep hold of the deposit? (My thought being that they are the one not providing the service)

They must provide the service they are contracted to provide. Whether that is what you "discussed" or not depends on what is actually in the contract. If they are obliged to provide room X for N people and, due to government regulations, room X cannot hold N people then they will either have to provide room Y that can hold N people or provide the services to M < N people in room X - you would be entitled to damages for their breach either way.

Depending on the particulars, if this "radically changes the party's principal purpose for entering into the contract" then the contract may be frustrated. The losses are to be apportioned in a manner the court considers equitable - this would probably mean you get most if not all of your money back depending on what non-recoverable expenses the venue had incurred.

Can they require that we pay them additional monies while they are unable to confirm with any reasonable certainty that the event will go ahead? Similarly, can they withhold a deposit if we wish to cancel due to their not being able to provide any certainty?

Yes, if the contract obliges you to make payments you must make them. Yes, if the contract entitled them to retain the deposit if you cancel they can retain the deposit if you cancel.

If we are not happy with an increase in price, can the without the deposit if we want to cancel as a result of this?

This arrangement is outside the scope of your current contract and you are essentially negotiating the cancellation of this contract and the creation of another one. If you agree to terms then what you agree is what you agree. If you can't then this is irrelevant.

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  • Thanks for your answer, +1. Can you provide some more explanations for some of your points which run counter to what Iñaki Viggers has said? :) -- in particular, your answer "Yes. Yes." Thanks :) – mathematician-in-the-making Jun 12 at 8:39
  • I see that you have provided additional information in comments to his answer. I am ignoring those and answering the question you asked. I invite you to ask a new question with that additional info. – Dale M Jun 12 at 22:44
  • No need to reply to stuff in the comments section of a different answer :) -- just I feel that "Yes. Yes." is not a suitable response. Ideally references should be given, but I appreciate that that is difficult in this case, so at the very least explanation for your beliefs. I don't necessarily see everything the same way that Iñaki does, but he has explained his point of view and justified his claims. Are you happy to justify yours? :) – mathematician-in-the-making Jun 13 at 10:20

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