Coronavirus: Bride ‘battles’ for wedding refund

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image copyrightShantelle Panchal
image captionMitul Patel and Shantelle Panchal were due to marry on 25 April but weddings have been banned by the government

A bride-to-be is locked in a "battle" with a hotel that refuses to give her a refund and has asked her to pay £6,000 towards the cancelled ceremony.

The government has banned weddings during the lockdown but Shantelle Panchal, 24, says she was told by Whittlebury Park Hotel in Northamptonshire to rebook a date.

Consumer rights group Which? said cancelled weddings should be refunded.

The hotel said it was "working hard to offer alternative, acceptable dates".

Miss Panchal, from Coventry, was due to marry Mitul Patel, a community pharmacist, 25, from Leicester, on 25 April but the venue has been closed until 30 April in line with government guidelines announced last month.

When Miss Panchal asked for a refund she was told she would receive credit towards a new date and guests would be given a gift card to be used by the end of year.

She was also told she would have to pay the outstanding balance of £6,130, on top of the £3,000 she had already paid.

'Save my day'

The couple said they had initially tried to rearrange for May 2021, but but were told it had to be within 12 months of the original date.

They said when the hotel did finally offer them that date the "difficult and prolonged responses" meant they had "no confidence" in the venue and asked for a refund.

image copyrightShantelle Panchal
image captionMiss Panchal and Mr Patel wanted to rearranged their wedding for May 2021

Miss Panchal said: "This is supposed to be one of the happiest days of my life."

She said she and her guests "are having a battle to try to obtain a full refund" and she wanted to book another venue to "try to save my special day".

Miss Panchal, an optometrist, also said many guests were NHS workers including junior doctors, hospital staff and pharmacists.

Adam French, Which? consumer rights expert, said: "If your wedding venue has cancelled your big day due to the coronavirus crisis then you are entitled to get everything you've paid to the venue so far back, and can stop payments if there is an outstanding balance."

But he said "you might struggle to get a refund from other suppliers" so encouraged dialogue with them if you can rearrange the wedding and said couples should always check their insurance.

'Postpone don't cancel'

The couple and guests are now trying to obtain refunds through their credit card companies and insurance providers.

In a statement Whittlebury Park Hotel said: "As per our terms and conditions, deposits are non-refundable.

"To prevent financial loss to couples, our committed team members and suppliers are working hard to offer alternative, acceptable dates to couples who have weddings booked during April, May and June."

The statement said guests who had booked rooms for any wedding would be able to rebook for any future date.

The hotel also said: "The wedding industry is united in advising couples to postpone weddings, rather than cancel, not only to prevent personal financial loss and additional distress, but also to protect the suppliers and small businesses that make dream weddings possible."

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