Back in September, the couple put down a $1,500 deposit at a local reception hall with the agreement that they would pay the remaining $8,500 by Oct. 31, three days before their scheduled nuptials. But the couple had the money together by mid-October, so they paid the balance in full 19 days before their wedding.
Little did they know then that Hurricane Sandy would be popping in for a visit.
“We paid the balance 19 days before our reception was to take place,” the bride tells the Newark Star-Ledger’s Bamboozled column. “We did not have to pay until three days beforehand, but I didn’t want to deal with the stress of it in the week leading up to the wedding. You have no idea how much I regret paying in advance now.”
The hurricane came through the area and like many other local businesses, the reception hall was without power. And on Nov. 1, with fewer than 48 hours to go until the couple was supposed to wed, the hall called to give them the bad news.
Says the bride, “I was then told that even if they did get power back, they would not be able to get the food or staff in time to hold my wedding.”
With relatives and friends coming from all over the country, they had no choice but to continue with the wedding. The church where they had the ceremony saved the day by offering up the gym at its sister school for their reception.
But when the couple contacted the reception hall about getting back their money, they were told no. The contract they signed had a clause stating that money will not be refunded if services are canceled because of “an act of God (e.g., flood, power, etc.) or other unforeseen events or circumstances.”
However, if the couple had canceled the service, they could get a 2/3 refund. So by paying so far in advance — before the storm was even a dot on the radar screen — and by waiting to see if the reception hall weathered the storm, the newlyweds were out $10,000. Even if they had still made the early payment, but canceled before the hall could cancel for them, they could argue they are owed more than $6,600.
The bride says she called the hall and a general manager promised to speak with the owners about a refund amount, but when she contacted the manager again, he denied ever saying such a thing.
She was also confused why she was being told that part of the reason no refund could be offered is that all of her food for the reception had been ruined by the storm. The storm had hit the area on Oct. 29, so presumably all this ruined food had been purchased before that date; yet her wedding wasn’t until Nov. 3.
“That means that [the hall] had all my food at least a week in advance,” she points out.
The owner of the hall eventually offered to use the funds for a one-year anniversary party, but the newlyweds just want their money back.
“What teacher that you know has $10,000 to spend on a ‘really amazing’ first year anniversary party?” the bride, a special education teacher, asks. “None that I know.”
When contacted by Bamboozled, the hall’s banquet manager said that all the other receptions ruined by the power outage were rescheduled and that, “In all my years of doing this, I’ve never heard of someone going someplace else to have a wedding when they already paid us.”
As for the food that was apparently ordered a week in advance and ruined by the outage, the manager says he doesn’t know when the hall took delivery of the food. He also said that insurance will cover the cost of the food, which of course only brings up the question of why the bride and groom should have to pay for ruined food.
“I told her if she wants, take us to court and we’ll let the judge and the jury decide,” said the manager.