Gross McGinley LLP

gross-headerimg-1
Blog Disclaimer

Blog Disclaimer

This Blog is intended for educational and informational purposes and intended to only provide you with a general understanding of the law, not to provide any legal advice, including on the subject of the Blog. Laws that may pertain to this Blog will vary by jurisdiction, and the information on this blog may not apply to you. The content within this Blog is not intended, and should not be construed, in any way to be legal advice and thus you should not rely on any information provided in the Blog as legal advice. You should consult with appropriate legal counsel concerning any issues for which legal advice may be needed. Your review or use of the Blog and the content therein is not intended to create, and does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Please contact us if you have any questions about a Blog or would like more information, but, by contacting us, no attorney-client relationship is formed between you and Gross McGinley, LLP, including the Blog author. Do not send any confidential information to Gross McGinley, LLP or the authors of the Blog without first speaking to one of our lawyers and receiving our permission to provide confidential information. Unsolicited confidential information sent to us may not be subject to an attorney-client privilege and may not be treated as confidential. This Blog is not published for advertising or solicitation purposes. Gross McGinley, LLP disclaims all liability to all persons for any claim, loss, liability or any damages that may arise in connection with the Blog and any content or information contained in the Blog. Even though we strive to create our Blog content based on our current understanding of the law, we cannot and do not guarantee that the content and information in the Blog is current, accurate, or complete. Gross McGinley, LLP owns the copyright in the Blog, which is protected by federal and state laws, including copyright laws. The Blog cannot be altered or modified in any way. A copy of the Blog may be used and printed only for personal, educational, informational and noncommercial purposes. The Blog cannot be used for any other purpose without the express permission of Gross McGinley, LLP.

Pennsylvania Wedding Law

Written by: on March 14, 2019 | Category: Blog | Tags:

The (I) Dos and Don’ts of Pennsylvania Wedding Law

There are few periods of a romantic relationship as hectic as wedding planning. From the time she (or he) says yes, until you finally say “I do”, you and your significant other will contractually commit to anything from a wedding venue to an ice sculpture, and everything in between. Wedding planning is meant to be a time when lifelong dreams are made into realities and knowing what to look for in your wedding agreements can help those best laid plans from turning into nightmare fuel.

While your significant other may beg to differ, there is nothing particularly special about the contracts you sign leading up to your wedding: to be enforceable they must comply with Pennsylvania contract law. What makes the wedding contract unique is what surrounds it – the pressure to get the perfect venue, the must-have photographer, or that florist you’ve been following on Pinterest for 5 years – and wedding vendors/venues can use this emotion to their advantage to get you to agree to terms to which you wouldn’t under any other circumstances.

Following these simple principles of contract law can help you know when to say “I do” or “I don’t”:

  • Don’t get stuck with an Adhesion Contract – An “adhesion contract” is one that you sign without the value of a bargain, and often under duress. So what does that mean? If a vendor or a venue says that you have to sign a contract as it is written, take-it-or-leave-it, without giving you the ability to negotiate terms that are clearly written to benefit them, it may be an adhesion contract. Take an adhesion contract and combine it with the stress of the first-come-first-serve reality of wedding planning, and those one-sided contract provisions maybe unenforceable.
  • Gone with the windfall – For more than a century in Pennsylvania, it’s been the law that a contract cannot be worth more cancelled than if completed. By way of example, a venue cannot arbitrarily charge you a penalty for cancelling your wedding just to deter you from cancelling. In Pennsylvania, if you cancel your wedding, the wedding venue would only be entitled to the profit they could have reasonable expected to make on your event. Under no circumstances can a wedding venue or vendor make more money from your cancellation than they would have if you fulfilled the contract. This means that contracts cannot contain arbitrary damage penalties, and a venue/vendor cannot collect damages on your cancelled event, and then re-book your date and make double the profit (more on this later). Also, Pennsylvania courts have held that it is venue/vendor’s duty, not yours, to prove their damages clauses are reasonable.
  • Not so Non-Refundable Deposits – A rose by any other name may still smell as sweet, but a penalty by any other name is just as unenforceable. “Non-refundable deposits” are a great example of terms found in adhesion contracts and are often penalties masquerading as damages clauses. Few wedding vendors/venues will let you book the date without putting money down. But just because you put money down doesn’t mean you can’t get it back. If that “non-refundable” deposit isn’t reasonably calculated to anticipate the vendor’s damages, it could be an unenforceable provision and you may be able to get it back.
  • If they don’t mitigate you can litigate. Regardless of whether it’s written into your wedding contracts or not, if you cancel on a vendor/venue they have a duty to take reasonable steps to “mitigate” their damages. This often means that they have to make some attempt to re-book the date. Unlike damage provisions, the pressure is on you to show that they haven’t attempted to mitigate their damages. The concept of mitigation works to protect you in several ways: Firstly, if they re-book the date and make the same amount of profit, you could be off the hook. Secondly, if they re-book the date but make less profit than they would have if you hadn’t cancelled, it could reduce what you owe.
  • Know what you’re worth. While the language of a contract can be confusing, it’s important to read it thoroughly to understand your obligations. In Pennsylvania, contracts are limited to the words on the page. So just because you talked about using the venue’s in-house catering service, doesn’t necessarily mean your contract obligates you to do so or that the venue can reasonably expect the same when determining its damages.

It’s easy to get lost in the sea of legal jargon that makes up a typical wedding contract. That’s why it’s important to consult an attorney to help you navigate the storm. Often an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and a relatively small amount of money spent having an attorney experienced in Pennsylvania wedding law review your wedding contracts prior to signing could save you thousands on the back end.

After all, who wants to bargain for the cancellation provision in your wedding contracts in front of your fiance? Have a lawyer do it for you. And, if  unthinkable happens or plans just change, often the difference between getting back that “non-refundable” money and fending off unreasonable damages comes down to your understanding of the law. So unless you’re like my wife and you were lucky enough to marry an attorney, before you let a vendor/venue push you around, add a lawyer to your wedding party.


Attorney Nicholas Sandercock is an experienced attorney and litigator. He works with individuals and wedding industry professionals to ensure they understand their risks and obligations, including representing them in court actions.

Next Previous
View All Attorneys
View All Practice Areas
View Blog