Ryan Jones and Jazmine Ross were excited for their November nuptials. They planned to hold the reception at the Vinings Club, where they got a great wedding package and guests could enjoy a fantastic city view. But on June 30, after 27 years in business, the Vinings Club closed its doors.
The bride and groom were in a state of shock. When the refund check for their $5,000 down payment was returned due to insufficient funds, Jones was apoplectic. “I was in disbelief and immediately took action from there,” says Jones, 34, who enlisted help from local media. They got their money back, and with assistance from a wedding planner friend, were able to book a new reception at the Georgian Terrace.
It was a better ending than the one that hundreds of New York couples faced in May when reBar, a popular venue in Brooklyn, suddenly closed. Almost 200 couples who had paid about $15,000 or more to reserve weddings were left hanging. Some recovered with the help of friends and family, while others organized to pursue legal action against the owner who had been arrested and charged with tax fraud and grand larceny.
It isn’t often that wedding venues suddenly shut down and keep the reservation fees, but it does happen, so it makes sense to look out for yourself, says Jamie Miles, editor of TheKnot.com.
Weddings are a big investment with the average affair costing $30,000, so here are some tips to protect yourself:
Consider wedding insurance. Wedding insurance will protect you against everything from a ruined gown to a bankrupt venue, Miles says. General liability insurance covers up to $1 million and costs about $185. “It is definitely worth it to do some research and make sure you are covered when it comes to your wedding,” Miles says. But note, insurance doesn’t cover a wedding that is broken off for personal reasons.
Review your contract. When you are signing a contract with a venue or any other wedding professional, make sure you’ve read the entire document and all the fine print. Pay close attention to the refund policy and to any special clauses, Miles says. Know what type of refund you will receive if they cancel or if you cancel. Know the circumstances in which the venue or company will pay penalties if they do not provide the service they have promised.
Ask the right questions. While you can’t prevent a venue from closing, be sure you ask specific questions upfront. “Know how long the business has been in place. Ask if there have been recent management changes or anything that causes you to raise a red flag,” Miles says. Ask how many weddings they have done and how many they have booked, something Jones says he wishes he had done with the Vinings Club, which did not have many weddings on the calendar when they made their reservations.
Check digital and social media. Look for reviews on Facebook and TheKnot.com. See what people are saying. If you don’t see any chatter, start a conversation on a local message board and see what experiences others have had.
Make a new plan. If you do have to reschedule your venue and do not have the cash in hand, consider holding it at someone’s home or postponing the event, Miles says. Friends of one Brooklyn couple caught in the reBar debacle launched a crowdfunding page to help the couple have the wedding they wanted to have.