This story takes place in Chicago, but I’d be willing to bet that there are many more similar stories unfolding all across the country. As we’ve previously noted, the lockdowns being put in place all across America have severely impacted the plans of couples who were scheduled to be married this spring. When the government bans gatherings of more than ten people and shuts down all the restaurants where your reception might have been held, that makes it pretty difficult to pull off the traditional nuptial traditions. And as a result, many couples have had to cancel.

Sadly, at least for two couples in the Windy City, that wasn’t the end of the bad news. After finding out their long-planned festivities were no longer possible and canceling the arrangements, they were informed that they would not be getting a refund, despite having paid all of the costs in advance. That added up to tens of thousands of dollars for each of them and they don’t know if there will be a way of getting the money back. (CBS Chicago)

Cancellations are taking a toll on the wedding industry, but what about couples who prepaid – only to be told they won’t be getting a single penny back?

In some cases, they used their life savings.

Despite contracts requiring refunds in situations like the coronavirus pandemic, they still got stiffed. So where do they go for help? There’s no federal bailout for them.

The details of the situation both of these couples are facing are just as bad as the headlines make them sound. Iris Grossman and Brendan Minot pre-paid $22,000 to hold their reception at the Pazzo’s Three-Eleven restaurant. They made the final payment on March 13th, two days before the Governor ordered all the restaurants closed. The day after they shut down, the funds were taken from their bank account. After initially saying that they would refund the money, the management at the restaurant did an about-face and said there would be no refund.

The same thing happened to Shane Soto and Kelly Lynch who had booked their reception at The Estate by Gene & Georgetti in Rosemont. They are now out more than $21 thousand and have been told that they will also not be getting a penny of it back. According to the couple, this amounted to the majority of their life savings.

This is a seriously crappy story, but it’s unclear if it was caused by any specific government policy. True, when the government bans large gatherings and shuts down all the restaurants it has the de facto effect of canceling your wedding. But this is still a matter that exists entirely within the private sector. In once case, CBS investigated and found that the contract the couple signed did have a provision for refunds if the event was canceled due to an “act of God.” They should be able to go to court to get their money back as I read this, but CBS also found out that the owner was already in serious financial trouble and may soon be in bankruptcy. In that case, the woman and her fiance may be chasing an empty pocket.

The second couple signed a contract that supposedly contained no provisions for a refund. Tragic though it may be, that’s just not a smart move. If you’re being asked to pre-pay for something of this magnitude, you need to be looking over all of the contracts and documentation closely. Better yet, have a lawyer look them over for you. If you can afford the cost of an event like that you can probably pay the legal fees associated with a simple contract review.

In the end, while sad to hear about, this is just one more example of the unintended side-effects of suddenly slamming the brakes on the entire country’s economy. Many normal activities we’ve always taken for granted are simply not possible without our communal infrastructure in place. I suppose we might suggest having “online weddings” the same way that many churches have taken their sermons online. But somehow I can’t imagine most brides being very happy with that type of plan. And in the case of the couples featured in this story, it doesn’t do anything about all of the money they’ve just lost.