Need Your Wedding Deposit Back? What You Need To Know About Frustration of Contract

aaron@aaronmilleryourlawyer.com ** The contents of this blog are in no way indicative of a lawyer-client relationship and are not intended to provide legal advice. All contents of this blog are the direct property of Aaron Miller, Barrister & Solicitor.


Recently, several clients have been asking me about something that many of you might be aware about: What happens when I already paid my wedding deposit and the wedding venue/band/photographer is refusing to give it back after I was forced to cancel/postpone my wedding due to COVID-19? As a business lawyer, as well as an employment lawyer, this is an area of the law that I have a lot of experience in. In short, there is no one answer, but if a wedding-related contract is not drafted properly, it could easily excuse a customer from the contract, and entitle her/him to her/his deposit back.

 

According to Ontario law, when you enter a wedding-related contract, you are expecting the wedding venue/band/photographer to perform. Basically, performance roughly means that the party you contracted with, needs to hold their part of the bargain - whether this is hosting your wedding party, providing high-quality photographs, or playing great music that you would expect from such an important day in your life. Many times, both sides to the contract perform (i.e. the wedding couple pays and the wedding venue/band/photographer does their job to provide a memorable occasion). However, here's the curveball: COVID-19.

All of a sudden, weddings are being cancelled or postponed. On top of that, deposits have already been paid. Wedding venues/bands/photographers are scrambling to keep their deposits because they've been hit by the economic crisis of COVID-19; they need all the money they can get. In this circumstance, not all sides are performing. When you pay money for a service, the law provides that you are entitled to performance of a service in return.



Does this mean that people who have paid their wedding deposits are entitled to their money back? Not necessarily. The best defence for a company in the wedding industry is this: a Force Majeure clause. Roughly, Force Majeure clauses excuse performance on the part of wedding-related companies. Due to "Acts of God" or scenarios that are rare, but that no party to the contract had any responsibility for, performance can be excused. Even better for companies in a wedding-related contract is a Pandemic clause. Although rarer than a Force Majeure clause, in the case of COVID-19, a Pandemic clause calls out COVID-19 for what it really is: A pandemic. Due to the pandemic, performance can also be excused.

However, if there is no Force Majeure clause or Pandemic clause, this could be the equivalent as if there was never a contract to begin with. In that case, the person paying for the wedding venue/band/photographer would likely be entitled to their deposit back. Have you been in a situation like this? There's likely more you can do about it than you think!


Aaron Miller is a Toronto-based lawyer who is the proud owner of Aaron Miller, Barrister & Solicitor, as well as Legal Counsel to Executive Furniture Rentals in Toronto. Aaron has a passion for all matters related to Business and Employment law, and can be reached at 416-659-6665, and aaron@aaronmilleryourlawyer.com.


  



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