Stage 4 restrictions in Victoria have confined many Victorians within the four walls of their home. Many birthdays, holidays and other events have been cancelled or postponed or otherwise held online. Weddings, as we have seen, are no different. Under Stage 4 restrictions, however, weddings are banned. This means that for brides and grooms who were still preparing for their socially distanced wedding, they are not allowed to even progress with those plans. This article summarises key points in our previous article regarding weddings, however considers changes under Stage 4 restrictions.
As at 5 August 2020, the following rules apply to weddings in Victoria;
You cannot book or hold a wedding inside metropolitan Melbourne. This applies to weddings that were previously booked;
You cannot travel to a wedding outside metropolitan Melbourne;
You may be able to hold your wedding on compassionate grounds (e.g. you or your partner are receiving end of life care) however only five people can still attend your wedding if being held on compassionate grounds (e.g. you, your partner, celebrant and two witnesses).
So you may be wondering what happens now that weddings are banned? Can you get a full refund or are you obliged to postpone your wedding and allow the venue to hold your deposit?
The answer to this question is ultimately based on your contract with your wedding venue and suppliers. In order to assess your ability to request a full refund, or whether you are obliged to postpone your wedding and allow the venue to hold your deposit will depend on your contract and whether it includes a force majeure clause or whether the doctrine of frustration will apply.
Below we outline the components of a force majeure clause as well as when the doctrine of frustration may apply.
What is a force majeure clause?
A force majeure clause generally has the following features:
A description of a force majeure event. This may be a general description that will trigger a force majeure event such as “an unreasonably foreseeable event” or an “event not anticipated by the parties at the time of signing”;
The clause may list events that trigger a force majeure event (e.g. adverse weather, pandemics etc.);
The clause requires one party to give notice to the other, that such a force majeure event has occurred, or will occur; and
The clause allows for the termination of the Parties’ obligations under the contract as a result of the force majeure event.
If you are unsure whether or not your contract contains a force majeure clause, we encourage you to contact our office.
What is the doctrine of frustration?
A contract is considered to be frustrated if it is impossible to perform the contract due to events beyond the parties’ control. The phrase “beyond the parties’ control” is key to the doctrine of frustration. It is likely that COVID-19 would be considered an event “beyond the parties’ control, particularly with the implementation of Stage 4 restrictions and bans on weddings. As this is likely the case, the contract may be frustrated.
There are however circumstances in which frustration will not apply. If your contract or agreement with your suppliers contains a clause to deal with unforeseen events which relate to the current pandemic and subsequent government restrictions, frustration will not apply.
What if I am still unsure of my rights?
We note the above circumstances may not relate to each and every scenario, or you may be confused whether the above relates to you. Although your options will largely depend on the terms of your contract with your wedding venue and suppliers, we recommend that you seek legal advice before declaring frustration or force majeure. Should you need assistance, please do not hesitate to contact our Miss Bronte Strong on (03) 9304 9500.
Given the rapidly evolving circumstances surrounding COVID-19, additional information may affect this article. To see whether this information relates to you, we ask that you ring our office on (03) 9304 9500.
This article is intended only to provide a summary of the subject matter covered. It does not purport to be comprehensive or to render legal advice. No reader should act on the basis of any matter contained in this article without first obtaining specific professional advice.
DISCLAIMER: We accept no responsibility for any action taken after reading this article. It is intended as a guide only and is not a substitute for the expert legal advice you can get from De Marco Lawyers and other relevant experts.