What Does “Going Green” Mean for My Wedding Contract?
In late March, we discussed how Pennsylvania law might apply to contracts impacted by the pandemic. For better or worse (pun intended), the wedding industry has proven to be one of the hardest hit by COVID-19 and the associated governmental restrictions. Now, as Pennsylvania enters the “Green” phase of its pandemic plan, many brides and grooms are left wondering how this impacts their forthcoming nuptials and wedding contract.
Green does not mean “go”
Put simply, green does not mean normal. Accordingly, just because the county your venue is in has moved to green, does not necessarily mean that your wedding can go on as planned. It is important to give honest consideration as to how Green restrictions will impact your wedding and if your wedding contract are enforceable at all, even in the Green Phase.
Read on to learn about several legal concepts that may be valuable in these uncertain times. However, careful review of the each individual contract and situation is paramount.
What is Impracticability or Frustration of Purpose?
Pennsylvania law recognizes the doctrine of frustration of contractual purpose or “impracticability of performance” as a valid defense to performance under a contract. Performance can become impractical when it becomes significantly difficult or extreme due to an unforeseen event. However, a simple change in the degree of difficulty or expense is not enough to invoke the doctrine of impracticability.
Impracticability also comes into play when the law directly intervenes to make performance impracticable or impossible. A good example of this is the current governmental coronavirus restrictions limiting and prohibiting certain types of activities like group gatherings. While these mandates have been put in place to protect public health, they may make performance of certain contracts impossible.
The doctrine of frustration is slightly different and may be available if a change in unforeseen circumstances or event destroys the value of the contract’s purpose. The doctrine of frustration is only applicable if the event is both substantial and beyond a party’s control. It is not simply enough that the transaction has become less profitable or even that the party will sustain a loss.
Evaluating a “Green” Phase Wedding and Wedding Contract in PA
With these two doctrines in mind, here are some of the Green phase restrictions and other COVID-19 related considerations to consider when evaluating the feasibility of your wedding and therefore the enforceability of your contract:
- All PA wedding venues with food service located in counties designated as being in the Green Phase are permitted to conduct dine-in service in both indoor and outdoor seating areas, so long as they adhere to the occupancy limitations.
- During the Green Phase, no more than 50% of total maximum occupancy for businesses that were not allowed to conduct in-person operations during the red or yellow phase is allowed.
- If they were conducting operations in red or yellow, no more than 75%.
- However, social distancing of six feet is still required in Green phase, so this may lower the occupancy even below 50%.
- Gatherings are limited to 250 people in the Green phase.
- The max occupancy is everything for a wedding. If you have a large group, it will be much harder to put on the wedding you planned; however, small groups may be able to conduct a normal wedding at certain venues with appropriate social distancing measures.
- The wedding venue can and most likely will require all attendees to wear masks. If in violation of the venue’s rules per the contract, they have the right to remove violators as they see fit!
- However, individuals who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition (which includes children under the age of 2 years per CDC guidance) may enter the venue and are not required to provide documentation or proof of such medical condition.
- This is an odd loophole, because how would the venue ever know who has to wear a mask and who doesn’t?
- Do not be surprised when your dinner tables are six feet apart and can’t have more than 10 people at each table.
- Brides and grooms should also be aware that they may be exempt from a lot of these restrictions if they get married in a church. Although the reception venue is a different story, churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples are specifically excluded from the limitations established by COVID-19 guidance. While social distancing is encouraged in these places, they remain exempt.
- Just because a venue is in a Green county in Pennsylvania does not mean that guest won’t be subjected to other complications, as many states still have heightened restrictions which can impact guests’ ability to attend.
- High risk guests such as the elderly, the very young and those will compromised immune systems may still be unable to attend do to the risk prevented by the virus.
Every Situation is Unique
It cannot be overstated that each person’s individual situation needs be evaluated in order to determine whether any of these defenses are useful. Just as the circumstances surrounding each contract differ, how the current circumstance and governmental restrictions impact the enforceability of contracts also varies.
Accordingly, as the current COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve and governmental response seems to change daily, early identification of contracts that may be impacted by the current situation is imperative to create an
appropriate plan of action to protect your interests.
If the restrictions above limit you from having the wedding you planned and paid for, please consider reviewing your wedding contract to explore your options.