The reception venue just went belly up. Now what?

Money, Relationships

San Francisco couple Mary and Nick were shocked to learn that the restaurant they’d booked for their wedding reception permanently closed just 30 days before the big event. They immediately contacted a lawyer to help.

Consulting with an attorney is absolutely the right way to go in a situation like this, where one party has breached a contract. But, concerned that litigation would take too long, Mary and Nick reached out to professional wedding planner Joyce Scardina Becker.

Becker demanded that the original owners refund in full the $25,000 the couple paid, as well as money to cover the cost differences at the replacement venue, along with printing and mailing costs for notifying guests of the location change. The original owners agreed, and Mary and Nick celebrated their wedding at a new (“much nicer”) venue.

But not everyone has access to an influential wedding planner. Fortunately, there are some things you can do up front to make sure your contracts are honored and your wedding reception doesn’t become homeless.

Do your homework

“Well-established venues, such as brand hotels, government buildings, and historical landmarks are sure bets for a secure wedding venue,” advises Becker. “It’s the individually owned venues that present a bigger potential risk.”

Becker encourages couples to explore venues online via sites like The Knot or Wedding Wire, looking for “venues that have invested in a professional, up-to-date website.” Check online reviews on Yelp and the Better Business Bureau. “Learn as much as possible about a potential wedding venue before doing a site inspection and making any commitments,” says Becker.

Visit the venues on your short list. “Get up close and personal before making a decision and signing a contract,” says Becker. “Do your due diligence and ask the right questions.”

Questions to ask the venue:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • Are you permitted to do weddings? (Properties must be zoned to do so.)
  • Will you provide copies of permits, business license, and insurance?
  • When was the property last renovated, and are there current plans for construction on the property?

You should also ask for a list of recent wedding clients, industry professionals, and preferred vendors with whom the venue works.

And, given the volatility in the ownership among wedding venues recently, it’s a good practice to include a “change of ownership” clause in the contracts. “Such a clause can allow the wedding couple the option of canceling the wedding without any financial obligations if the venue changes owners,” explains Becker.

Protect yourself further by paying with a credit card. “The Fair Credit Billing Act allows consumers to file a dispute for a product or service purchased that was not delivered as agreed,” says Becker. And get wedding insurance. “It’s the best protection if your venue goes out of business.”

Wedding insurance can also protect you against no-show or bankrupt vendors, damage to wedding attire or gifts, and even non-recoverable purchases and deposits that result should you cancel or postpone your own event.