Bill makes wedding venues return money for cancellations (Opinion)
Ever since the pandemic began couples have been scrambling over ruined wedding plans. They had the date, no one got cold feet, but they were forced to postpone or cancel weddings through no fault of their own. Executive orders shut down venues and when they finally opened back up their capacities and protocols were extremely limited.
If you postponed, you might be forced into an undesirable day of the week like a Tuesday. If you canceled, many venues told couples for a year now that they can’t have a penny of their money back. Some would give only partial refunds even though the venue provided nothing.
Now there’s legislation that addresses this and would force venues to return all money to a party that canceled a wedding, bar mitzvah, sweet 16 party, etc., due to the pandemic. It would also not allow exorbitant charges tied to postponements.
Indeed this happens. We took calls on this topic Tuesday and one gentleman spoke of his son being told by a venue he had to postpone his wedding and accept a Wednesday, plus pay thousands of dollars more for this inferior availability.
State Sen. Vin Gopal is a sponsor of the senate version of the bill (there’s a companion bill in the Assembly) and says, “It’s only fair that people who paid fees or made deposits and then were forced through no fault of their own to cancel plans should be able to claim a refund, based on extraordinary circumstance.”
The calls we took on this matter were frustrating. One couple was out $9,000 when they were told they had to postpone but couldn’t. He is in the armed forces and would be deployed overseas in a dangerous situation. He didn’t want her left without benefits if something happened to him. So postponement was not an option. They had a small backyard wedding and the venue did nothing yet kept $9,000 from them.
Another woman called in who had planned a sweet 16 party for her daughter in April of last year then couldn’t have it. The venue kept her money and made her postpone until July. July came and it was still a no-go. They still wouldn’t refund her money and she had to ultimately postpone until July of 2021, well over a year after her daughter’s 16th birthday rendering the party rather pointless. She half-joked that if the venue was going to play this game she was considering rounding up every homeless person she could find and throwing them the party with some well-deserved good food and see how the venue liked it.
I’m not normally one to like government telling private business how to operate. However, between a venue and a young couple it’s pretty obvious who can usually absorb the financial blow more. And for all the lost business of last year the industry is now overbooked and doing two years’ worth of business in one this year. That’s where those off nights like Tuesdays and Wednesdays are coming from. So how fair is it that these venues which already charge a ridiculous amount are the ones not suffering the loss? A couple that was provided no service should not have to lose money. Especially when the wedding industry increases its prices every year greater than the rate of inflation. The average New Jersey wedding now costs $36,943, second highest of all fifty states.
This bill needs to become law.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski. Any opinions expressed are Jeff Deminski's own.