Back in May, we were already seeing cases of couples who spent a year or more planning their weddings, only to have those plans dashed by the pandemic. Some of them learned that the tens of thousands of dollars they had paid in advance would not be refunded. Those first instances in the news took place in Chicago, but it was easy to see that the same thing would be taking place elsewhere. This week we learn of some similar situations taking place in Texas, and these may be shaping up into a class-action lawsuit. (CBS Dallas-Fort Worth)
A wedding company is facing a class action lawsuit after asserting it would not reschedule events set for the summer.
Brianna Connaughton and Rex Simmons filed the lawsuit after they were unable to secure a $12,000 refund from Walters Wedding Estates, which declined to postpone their July 18 wedding to another day.
Now, the pair said they want to help other customers who may be in the same situation.
Walters Wedding Estates operates Chapel at Ana Villa in The Colony, where the Plano couple was planning to get married in front of 120 guests.
This certainly sounds like a frustrating and heartbreaking experience for the young couple and I hope they find a way to resolve the matter. But with that said, it’s worth noting that what we’re seeing here is quite different than the situation in Chicago. In the Windy City situations, the couples had paid significant amounts of money upfront to rent banquet facilities that were ordered closed by the government. There was no option for the business to accommodate them and the cause was beyond the control of the customer. A refund under such a situation would definitely seem appropriate.
For this couple in Texas, virtually none of the same conditions apply. Texas has already reopened for such activities and the owners claim that they are ready and raring to go. They will be all set up to provide the contracted goods and services. The decision to call things off is being made entirely by the couple, even though the contract they signed with the provider doesn’t assure refunds when it’s the customer doing the canceling.
As for the bride, Brianna Connaughton, she’s saying that she doesn’t want to “risk the health of anyone, including my family.” It’s an understandable sentiment and very considerate of her, but Mr. Walters can supposedly prove that he’s in compliance with all state and local orders for social distancing, sterilization and the rest of the COVID-19 protocols required to safely conduct business. If the only thing stopping the couple from going forward is their “concerns” over the health of their guests under these conditions, it’s difficult to see how the operator is at fault or obligated to provide a refund.
As I discussed when writing about similar cases in Chicago, the experiences of these couples are a stark reminder to everyone else to very carefully review the contracts you are signing, particularly when you’re putting up such a significant amount of money up front. And as Mr. Walters points out, he strongly suggests to every customer in their contracts that they consider buying wedding insurance against the possibility that the event might be canceled for some reason beyond their control. Of course, since the bride is the only impediment to the marriage taking place, I’m not even sure if the insurance company would honor the claim at this point.