A couple whose wedding has been cancelled amid the national coronavirus lockdown have been told they still owed the venue money if they don’t rebook.
Adam Gibbs, 36, and Sarah Summerskill, 33, from Woking, were told their dream day in May was off because of social distancing restrictions which will still be in place.
But the devastated husband and wife-to-be were dealt another blow when they were told they would still have to pay the venue an 80% cancellation charge – although they can rebook for free.
The couple, who were due to get married at Cain Manor in Surrey on May 9, had been planning their £17,000 day for 18 months, the BBC reports.
After the ceremony was cancelled by the venue – which is part of the Bijou Weddings Group – they were told they would need to pay the cancellation fee and were advised to claim it back on their insurance and rebook the ceremony.
But Adam and Sarah were left feeling “lost and hopeless” after their claim was declined on the basis that cancellation of the wedding and closure of the venue arose from a government order.
The pair have already paid £13,000 towards their celebration.
“The venue has still got £13,000 of our money and are still demanding additional payments [to fulfil the cancellation charge] in the next week. It’s not the kind of money you find down the back of the sofa,” Mr Gibbs told the BBC.
“It’s seems nonsensical to us that a venue can cancel on us and then charge us 80% [of the cost] without delivering a service.”
Initially, Bijou Weddings told the couple that they would need to pay the full cancellation charge for the wedding package, which amounts to £13,600 – an extra £600 on top of what they had already shelled out.
But Bijou Weddings has since said it would be willing to rebook their wedding date on another date in 2020 free of charge.
The company says that if customers are able to make insurance claims and get the cancellation fees refunded, then it will offer alternative dates later on this year or in 2021 or 2022 for rebooked weddings, and the new wedding would be charged at 2019 package prices.
They also said it would include a free bar float of £1,000.
For customers who do not have insurance or could not claim on insurance, Bijou Weddings said it will rebook weddings free of charge and on available dates left in 2020, or a Sunday-to-Thursday wedding in 2021 in the same month as their original booking.
But other Bijou Weddings customers have criticised the options they’ve been offered.
Jack Trowsdale, 27, and Claudia Dickens, 25, from West Sussex had already paid £21,000 for their June 12 wedding at Botleys Mansion – another Bijou venue – when it was cancelled.
“We’d saved for so long and hard for it and then not only to find the wedding is cancelled, but to be told they think you owe them money for a wedding that didn’t even happen. It’s beyond belief almost,” Mr Trowsdale told the BBC.
The couple has now been offered an alternative wedding date on a weekday at no extra cost but are seeking a full refund as “the ordeal has shattered” their hopes of a special day.
Sam Cutmore-Scott, managing director of Bijou Weddings said: “In our 25 years delivering weddings, this is the first time our venues have been forced to close. I should point out that Bijou has not voluntarily or arbitrarily cancelled any weddings – it has been forced to close its venues and halt weddings caught in the government’s social distancing restrictions.
“We have thus tried to accommodate the needs of couples who are immediately impacted, while still respecting our commitments to clients who have weddings booked in 2021 and beyond.”
Defended its decision to keep the cancellation charges, he continued: “Cancellation charges protect us from cancellations in an industry where the average engagement and advance booking period is around 23 months.
“Couples protect themselves from unforeseen circumstances by taking out wedding insurance which, in the normal course of events, covers cancellations that are caused by circumstances beyond the couple’s control.
“We sent cancellation charge information to all our impacted couples so that any with insurance could make a claim and make themselves whole again.
“We have not followed up or chased cancellation charges during this crisis period and, for those couples who do not have insurance or whose insurance is shirking their responsibilities, we have offered a broad variety of postponement options with no charge or rearrangement fee.”
Other bride and grooms are having trouble rescheduling weddings cancelled as a result of coronavirus.
A new study by London-based wedding planning app, Bridebook, revealed that coronavirus will directly impact up to 64 per cent of weddings in 2020 either by postponements, cancellations or travel logistics.
Additionally, 36 per cent of all wedding business will be lost and the wedding industry is set to suffer losses of up to £87.5 billion.
Earlier this month it was revealed Princess Beatrice has cancelled her Royal wedding in May as the coronavirus lockdown continues.
The Princess had been due to marry Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi on May 29.
Jenny Maybury, 39, and Michael Bromwich, 36, both from the Midlands, had their wedding moved from a Sunday in May, to a Wednesday in September.
After they discovered only 12 of the 75 guests could make the new date in September, Jenny decided to ask the hotel for a refund of £5,355, the BBC reports.
The venue, Abel’s Harp in Shropshire, told the couple no weekends were available, but Jenny claims they have refused to compensate them for the difference in price, or for a reduction in the number of guests.
Abel’s Harp did not respond when approached by the BBC for comment.