Mom pays for wedding but doesn’t sign contract- Can she get refund?

Question (from anonymous in New York):

“In Nassau county, long island, ny, carles place to be exact, my daughter wedding was cancelled 3 times since 2007 due to special: circumstances and death of her dad. The wedding hall is considering a refund. I am the one who paid and proved it and they have a copy of the cert check with my name and theirs. Do they need my daughters permission to return this money to me because my name is not on wedding contract? Only bride and groom and vendor names and they won’t send me a copy. I paid for this whole wedding, have proven it and they say they made the contract with daughter. They are checking now and will let me know. Does not sound right to me. I paid, I should get the refund otherwise every cancelled wedding the money would go to bride and groom and that is ridiculous. They have the check. My bank, my name, all that. Please advise. I can’t afford atty now. estranged from daughter as you might imagine.”

Response (from Attorney Rob):

I’m sorry to hear about the cancelled wedding and her father’s death. I can imagine this has been a particularly difficult time, and dealing with these types of contractual issues is not how most people want to spend their time.

If there is a written contract between the venue and your daughter, then the venue’s obligations will be spelled out in that document. Having not reviewed the contract, I can only speculate on its contents, and your possibilities.

More than likely, any provision directing the venue to refund the money will be to the actual parties that signed the contract (here, the bride/groom), not directly to the source of the monies (you). This is the case whether or not you actually paid on behalf of your daughter, and even though you showed the venue the check/bank/name/etc to prove it. In other words, the contract will not account for where the money is coming from, only that the bride/groom, by signing on the dotted line, are obligated to pay for it any way they can.

As you are not a party to the contract, the venue will have no obligation to provide you the refund, just the same as you will have no obligation to pay the venue the rest of the fees had the wedding actually taken place. It would be up to the bride/groom to coordinate the remaining payments, and the venue would NOT be able to come after you if they didn’t.

From the point of view of the law (and perhaps this venue), there could be several instances in which, though you provided the money for the deposit, you would not be entitled to the return (e.g. repayment of a debt, gift to your daughter, etc). In fact, providing you (a non-party to the contract) with the refund would most certainly open up the venue to liability should your daughter disapprove.

At the end of the day, this is going to be something that you need to work out with your daughter. Either tell her to authorize the venue to direct the refund to you, or have her request the refund herself and then she can pay you back.

Good Luck!

Moral of the Story: In short, whether a wedding business professional is obligated to a non-party can be tricky. When a parent signs the contract on behalf of a bride/groom, this creates what the law refers to as a “Third Party Beneficiary” situation between the wedding business professional and the bride/groom. More on this to come in the future.