As coronavirus forces wedding cancellations, how much do couples, vendors stand to lose?

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Many wedding ceremonies are in limbo, just before the peak of wedding season. Brides and grooms scrambling to make new arrangements, while there is still so much uncertainty as to when large crowds can even gather again.

Jamei Ross contacted the I-Team about her dispute with one of her wedding vendors.

"We have been planning this wedding for two years now," Ross said.

Ross and her fiancé were hoping July 3 would be their big day, with 140 family and friends gathering to see them tie the knot.

"This is the day that I have always dreamed of, and you see it happening a certain way, but now with everything going on it can't happen the way you would have liked it to happen," she said.

According to her contract, Ross paid Concorde Banquets in Kildeer a 70 percent deposit of $7,600 to host the reception.

"I would like for them to give us a refund, and they have offered us to reschedule our wedding date, but a wedding is not like a vacation," Ross said.

Ross had to cancel her wedding, and wants her full deposit back. She said she doesn't even know when it will be safe to reschedule and is concerned about date availabilities.

Concorde Banquets shared an email that a representative sent to Ross, saying other customers have rebooked their events for later dates.

"We stand ready to honor our contract with you and are sympathetic to the pressures and stress you are feeling due to the unpredictability of what the world will look like in July," the email says.

The email also says that they are doing what's appropriate to avoid loss of customers.

"It's not their fault, it's not my fault," an upset Ross told the I-Team.

The I-Team asked the Wedding International Professionals Association, or WIPA, how vendors are handling situations like this.

"I think it should be case-by- case; I think most vendors definitely want to still work with their clients and I don't think anyone's out to be a monster," said Ashley Barber, a representative from WIPA's Chicago chapter. "I think that we're all just navigating this as best as we can. Most vendors that I have talked to are offering to let the clients cancel or be totally okay with clients postponing their date to maybe a later time when it's a little safer to have it."

Barber said vendors should follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and state stay-at-home orders; however, in most cases that can be accomplished by offering a flexible rebooking, free of charge.
"I think that we're all just trying to figure out what the middle ground is to make sure that we're able to stay in business but we're also able to serve our clients, right, because at the end of the day vendors are small businesses that need help as well," Barber said.

She said customers should hire a lawyer if they feel as though they should be refunded.

The Illinois Attorney General said even if there is a contract you can file a complaint and investigators will take a look and potentially mediate because of the unique times we're in. They said you should check to see if your contract has a clause which "may address what happens if the event cannot occur as scheduled/contracted" also known as a section that addresses "force majeure" or acts of God.

Ross's contract states deposits are non-refundable "regardless of whether or not the reason for cancelation is foreseeable." However there is still some question as to whether large groups should or could gather on July 3.

"There is still no guarantee and I am paying for a summer wedding and that's what I would like," said Ross. "We would like to get married this year and live our life."

Ross says she'll most likely still get married the same day as planned, just not with the large crowd of family and friends like she hoped.

The Attorney General's Office says you should always review cancellation policies before signing contracts.
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