Wedding Photographer

Weddings in British Columbia: Deposit Refund Denied

A B.C. bride will not receive her wedding photography deposit even though services have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, a civil resolution court member recently ruled.

The bride’s wedding was originally scheduled for October 2020 and she paid a $1,000 deposit to a Vancouver-based wedding photographer, a CRT decision released Monday explained. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the bride moved her wedding date a year later, then finally to a date in 2022.

The court heard that when public health orders limiting gatherings were imposed in 2020, the bride contacted the photographer about the possibility of a postponement.

The photographer responded by saying “given recent events, the $1,000 non-refundable deposit could be transferred to book a new date through the end of 2021 without incurring any penalty charges.” The company has also confirmed that it will honor the original prices.

In early 2021, according to the CRT’s decision, the bride saw a social media post indicating that the photographer was no longer working at larger weddings. She reached out to the company to make sure it wouldn’t affect her booking for this fall or if she rescheduled again for October 2022.

The photographer responded by saying that no current bookings would be affected.

“(They) also confirmed that it would only honor requests for postponements if weddings and gatherings were ‘officially prohibited’ from the date of the wedding,” Gardner wrote.

“However, if weddings of any size were permitted, (the photographer) said the contract cancellation policy would apply.”

In February 2021, the bride decided to postpone her wedding until the following year, saying it seemed likely there would still be restrictions on weddings. Gathering size limits meant she had to limit her wedding to 50 guests, but she wanted to invite 70 or 80.

The bride tried to use her $1,000 deposit in several ways, including an engagement shoot. But the photographer said the only engagement session available was a $2,600 helicopter package.

The bride also requested a regular two-hour engagement photoshoot for $1,000, which is $300 more than the price in 2020 when the service was still offered. As an alternative, she asked for a 50% deposit.

Gardner wrote in her ruling that the bride “provided no legal basis for why she is entitled to a refund of her $1,000 deposit.”

“Essentially, she argues that it was unfair of (the photographer) to only offer to apply the deposit to the expensive engagement and elopement packages she was currently offering in 2021,” she said. .

“I find (the photographer’s) offer to apply the deposit to his currently offered services was a courtesy and not part of his obligations under the parties’ contract.”

Gardner determined that the wedding was postponed “due to the uncertainty that she would be able to have the anticipated number of guests without social distancing requirements.”

“It is undisputed that weddings were permitted in British Columbia when (she) decided to move her wedding date to 2021,” Gardner wrote.

“I find that the contract of the parties did not depend on a certain number of guests attending the wedding…although it may not have been desirable for (the wedding to take place) with fewer guests, I find that this did not render the parties’ contract useless to perform.”

As a result, Gardner ruled that the bride voided the parties’ contract, forfeiting her deposit, and her claim for $1,000 was denied.