When Celina Aguirre and Alan Cuthbert canceled their wedding in early 2021, They had already rebooked their celebration on May 30, 2020 for September 11 of this year. About 50 of their guests would have traveled from Mexico, including Aguirre’s mother.
The couple had already paid for their venue, a function room in northern Toronto, with a $ 7,400 deposit for a $ 22,000 wedding that was attended by 110 guests. But to cancel, the venue said the couple would have to pay 60 percent of the total contract amount, or $ 13,200 on top of a $ 2,500 cancellation fee.
The couple were frustrated, but Aguirre found a solution – they decided to sell their wedding date.
She recalled seeing posts on a local Facebook wedding group where people offered to repay other couples their deposits for the venue in order to take on the allotted date.
Aguirre’s venue agreed to carry the bride and groom’s date to another couple – if they could sell it by February 28 of this year.
Aguirre and Cuthbert are one of many couples in Toronto whose wedding plans have been affected by COVID-19 shutdowns and restrictions on guests at events. With thousands of dollars in deposits on the line, some couples resort to selling their data, others at a substantial discount to recoup their costs.
“Last year people were much more optimistic about moving the dates to 2021,” explains wedding planner Grace Arhin. “But for everything that’s happened this year, three of my couples have asked if I knew of newly engaged couples they could sell their dates to.”
Buying a wedding date from another couple can save you money on an already costly event. Venue prices are rising every year, so a newly engaged couple who purchase a contract signed in 2019 or 2018 will pay previous years’ prices that could save hundreds or thousands of dollars. Ahrin also says that most people are open to selling deposits at a discount. “One of my couples has made a down payment of $ 22,000 and is ready to sell it for half price,” she said.
Britney Bempong and Deji Faseyi are Ahrin’s customers. They had planned a two-day wedding for 500 people for August 2020, which would include an African ceremony reflecting the couple’s roots in Ghana and Nigeria, as well as a Western wedding the following day.
As with Aguirre and Cuthbert, the majority of Bempong and Faseyi’s guests would be overseas. They paid about $ 24,000 in deposits for their two wedding venues. Arhin advised Bempong and Faseyi to wait until the pandemic subsided in order to book a new appointment. “The solution for everyone is to postpone things, but there is no specific date on which you can say, ‘Yes, it is safe to continue,” said Bempong.
Although their grand wedding plans were in the air, Faseyi and Bempong still wanted to get married. “Our eight-year anniversary together was on December 6th, 2020. Deji thought it was a great idea to make it even more symbolic and get married on that day,” explains Bempong. The couple and their pastor had “mini-money” from only 10 guests in a church. The day before, an African ceremony took place at Bempong’s parents’ home.
After several cancellations and rescheduling, Bempong is eager to leave her wedding plans behind. “I would really appreciate it if we could get our deposits back and forget the nightmare we had,” she says. Including the additional deposits for other providers such as photographers, videographers, DJs, flower arrangements, decoration services and their two venues, they paid nearly $ 40,000.
It was Ahrin who suggested that Bempong find a buyer for her data. “Last year some of my cousins got engaged,” says Bempong. “Grace put the idea in a nutshell, ‘Why don’t you connect with your cousins and see if they’d like to use the venue for next year?'” Bempong approached her cousins and was ready to partially to pay. “But because everything is so uncertain, nobody wants to invest so much money in something that may not happen.”
Neither Aguirre nor Bempong have yet been able to find buyers for their data. Aguirre has received some inquiries from couples about their venue, hoping to use their deposit for another date. She offered her $ 7,400 contract for $ 6,000. However, with the Aguirre venue realizing their date is set for September 11th, 2021, this has limited options for potential buyers.
Should Aguirre and Bempong be unable to sell their data, the Small Claims Court could be their only hope to try to recoup paid deposits. And that’s not even a guarantee.
Corporate and trade attorney Mark G. Baker said he made several calls, mostly from parents of brides, asking how they can reimburse wedding venues and caterers costs.
“These contracts were drafted before the pandemic,” explains Baker. “You should deal with situations where a bride may step back from wedding plans or change her mind about the venue. They do not contain any clauses intended to deal with a pandemic. “
Most contract languages protect the supplier from expenses such as buying ingredients for a meal or the missed opportunity to sell their services to another customer on a busy day. “Nobody thought there would be a situation where even the venue couldn’t have people in their hall,” says Baker. “There is an interruption here because the provisions in the contract don’t really work.”
Should a couple take their sellers to a small claims court, it would be for the courts to determine whether deposits owed to the couple or whether the seller is entitled to keep them. Venues that have offered to move or rebook could be showing goodwill. However, couples with large guest lists like Bempong and Faseyi’s 500-person wedding might argue that events of this magnitude cannot happen anytime soon.
Baker encourages couples to negotiate with their vendors, as does Lucas L. Margulis, a wedding vendor who runs a mobile cannabis bar and an entertainment and audiovisual company. As the pandemic hit, Margulis gave its clients the option to transfer their contracts to another couple or event. In late December, Margulis started a Facebook group called Take Over My Event Contract.
“I help connect event planners and venues with people who want to transfer their data,” explains Margulis. He specifically referred to his group as being for events in general, not just weddings. “You don’t have to resell your wedding event to another wedding customer,” he says. “It could be bought by a corporate client or someone throwing a kids’ party.”
Florists, photographers, and A / V providers like Margulis are often small business owners who suffer huge losses during the pandemic. He encourages both vendors and customers to work together to find a solution. “I think providers are willing to negotiate and are open to transferring their contracts, even if this was not originally included in their contracts,” says Margulis. “I think everyone flies it at this point.”
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