Coronavirus: Bride 'refused £16k deposit for cancelled wedding'

Image source, Alisha Rehman
Image caption,
Alisha Rehman married her husband in a small ceremony earlier this year

A bride whose dream wedding plans were derailed by Covid-19 has said she is being denied her £16,000 deposit.

Alisha Rehman, 25, from Birmingham, was due to get married at Excellency Midlands' venue in Telford in July in a 500-person ceremony.

Official rules say couples affected by government restrictions have a right to refunds, but getting money back has proved difficult.

Excellency Midlands said the whole sector had been left "on hold".

Mrs Rehman cancelled her booking when restrictions were brought in and got married in a small ceremony in her mother-in-law's garden.

She said the pandemic meant it was not certain when a large-scale event could be held.

Excellency Midlands hit the headlines last month when police found 120 guests at a post-wedding party at its venue.

It was fined £10,000 and banned from hosting weddings during government measures.

Image source, Google
Image caption,
Currently only 15 people can attend weddings in England, but Excellency Midlands was fined after it hosted a party for 120 people last month

Couples up and down the country have faced similar decisions to Mrs Rehman - whether or not to cancel. Official figures suggest 73,600 weddings and civil partnership ceremonies have been affected by restrictions.

"My wedding was initially booked for July, then because of the pandemic, clearly nothing can go ahead," she said. "We've given them £16,000 and they are not giving us a penny back."

Mrs Rehman said the package included "the food, photography, the car, the whole thing".

'Lifetime's savings'

According to the Competitions and Markets Authority, refunds should be given for weddings that could not take place as planned due to coronavirus.

Mrs Rehman and her husband drove to Telford to meet the venue owners to discuss the refund, but she said nobody turned up. They scheduled another meeting and "still nothing".

"It's taken my whole life to save that and they're not even giving us a penny," Mrs Rehman said. "It stresses me out... it's just a joke."

She said the firm had instead offered a new date in March 2021. Despite approaches from her solicitor, she said the venue had failed to respond.

Competition and Markets Authority guidance:

Image source, PA Media
  • Where lockdown laws prevent or prevented a wedding from going ahead on the agreed date as planned, the starting point under the law is that the consumer should be offered a full refund, under section 1(2) of the Law Reform (Frustrated Contracts) Act 1943.
  • Consumers would be entitled to refunds even where they have paid what the business says are "non-refundable" deposits or other advance payments.
  • The wedding business may, however, be able to withhold certain limited amounts for services already provided, like meal tasting, but it needs to provide a breakdown of costs.

In a statement to BBC News on Thursday, Excellency Midlands said the wedding industry had been badly affected by the pandemic and the whole hospitality sector was "on hold".

It blamed the government for a lack of "any directions, help or guidance as to how we are looking to open in the near future" which meant it was "impossible" to provide any clear information to clients.

"We completely understand the difficulty couples, hoping to get married, are in, and want to let them know that we will be supporting them fully, once the industry is back," a spokesman said.

"As soon as the government provides a pathway to opening the industry back, we will be contacting all of our loyal customers and making sure they receive the urgent attention we know they deserve."

The BBC understands the CMA cannot comment on individual cases.

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