'Forcing our hand to get married': Alberta and B.C. couples told to modify weddings or lose deposits
CALGARY -- Choose a physical-distancing wedding or lose thousands – those are the options a B.C. wedding venue has given couples awaiting their big days.
CTV News spoke with five couples who say they are being forced to make this tough decision by the same company.
Cherry Creek Estate sent a letter April 23 to the brides and grooms-to-be stating staff "will help plan a wedding that is in accordance with health recommendations."
The business adds if couples don't want to go ahead with the plan or want to postpone to when COVID-19 is over, "their deposit will be forfeited."
Ashleigh and Scott
(Photo/Ash Maclean Photography)
Ashleigh Ure and Scott Symon, of Airdrie, said they have paid $6,000 to secure Cherry Creek Estate in Ta Ta Creek, B.C., for their August 15 wedding.
When the pandemic hit, they asked to move the event to 2021.
"We’re not saying, 'Hey give us our money back,' we just want a date for next year," said Ure.
"We’re not looking for a prime Saturday, we’re just looking for a date that works," added Symon. "They’re basically forcing our hand to get married on our scheduled date this August."
The couple wanted to wait until they could host their "dream wedding" with 150 guests travelling from Canada, the United States and Australia. But venue staff told them they would lose their deposit if they did not proceed with a wedding on their scheduled date.
The modified event would include a fewer guests, everyone eating in their separate hotel rooms and an understanding that there would be at least two metres of spacing between partiers.
"They’re saying there’s going to be taped lines on ground. Obviously, things like the father-daughter dance are ruled out," said Symon.
"It’s insulting and disappointing," said Ure.
B.C. Health guidelines limit gatherings to 50 people during the pandemic, but those people still need to remain physically distant.
The venue offered couples weddings with five staff and 45 guests, which it would charge no matter how few guests actually attended.
"I don’t even know who would come at this point," said Ure, adding their biggest concern about proceeding was safety.
"I don’t want to put anyone at risk."
Health and safety 'a priority,' venue says
The business provided a statement to CTV News saying it is working with its clients during the pandemic.
"A variety of different solutions are being explored with each client (depending on the specific details of their event) and during this process the health and safety of staff and clients remains the utmost priority," wrote Dave Clarke, Cherry Creek Estate's general manager.
CTV News is waiting for a response from the facility about whether refunds are an option.
Courtney and Steven
(Photo: Bethany Loates @b.gracecreatives)
Courtney Killips and Steven Gross, of Edmonton, have the same concern as Ashleigh and Scott.
"It’s not safe," said Gross, explaining it would put their guests, the venue’s staff and the nearby communities of Cranbrook and Kimberley, B.C. at risk.
"That’s a massive health risk to a small community."
Killips and Gross said they paid $6,000 to book July 4 for their wedding at Cherry Creek Estate. Since they would not be able to host the 120-person gathering, they asked to cancel and get their money back but said the venue refused.
Meanwhile the couple says other vendors in the Cranbook area they dealt with have been more than accommodating given the situation.
"Our wedding photographer, the florists, the hotels, our DJ – they’ve been incredible," said Gross. "Cherry Creek is definitely acting as the exception not the rule."
The couple said their lawyer sent a letter to Cherry Creek Estate on April 24 requesting action in one week or they would proceed with a lawsuit, stating, "we have a copy of the contract and there is no question that the deposit is refundable to Steven and Courtney."
Killips and Gross allege the company is not acting within the terms of the original contract.
"We don’t want revenge or to see another business damaged," said Gross. "We just want them to do the right thing."
Paige and Brandon
(Photo: Vincent Photography, Cranbrook, B.C.)
They aren't the only ones considering a lawsuit against the venue.
Brandon Casselman and Paige Mortimer of Sparwood, B.C. said they consulted a lawyer and sent a letter to Cherry Creek Estate on April 29, demanding their deposit.
The couple planned to wed with a guest list of 90 people at the venue on July 11, but when it became clear that would not be possible during the pandemic they wanted to postpone to 2021.
"A lot of our vendors are small businesses so they could at least keep the deposit," said Mortimer.
So far, she said Cherry Creek has been unwilling to come to an agreement with them. Because of this, Mortimer and her fiancé no longer want to get married there even after the pandemic.
"It seems like our money is more important to them than our friends' and family's lives," she said.
A copy of the venue's contract, provided to CTV News, includes a clause specifically regarding cancellation policies.
"In the event of a national emergency or an act of God, cancellation policies will be null and void and the Lessor hereby agrees to refund the Lessee of all deposits including the initial non-refundable deposit and other monies paid."
To date no lawsuits have been filed. None of the allegations have been tested in court.