Your Dream Wedding Turned into a Nightmare: Can you Sue in Small Claims?

Your Dream Wedding Turned into a Nightmare: Can you Sue in Small Claims?

by Monica Sanders, December 2009

After years of waiting and months of planning, your wedding day finally arrives. However, the photographer does not. Or, perhaps it was the bartender who did not show up. Your plans for a perfect day are lost. Is your deposit lost as well? The answer is "not necessarily." If one of your wedding vendors does not show up or otherwise neglects to follow through on their duties, you can sue them in small claims court.

The first thing to realize is that you cannot sue any vendor for anything. For example, you cannot sue your photographer for negative or even for the photos themselves in some cases. These items are considered the intellectual property of the person who took the photos, the photographer.

Also, travel related issues are sometimes off-limits. When you make your honeymoon travel plans with the airline, hotel, etc., you entered into a contract. If you cancel for any reason, you forfeit your deposit in most cases. Normally, the only exceptions are Acts of God or natural disasters beyond anyone's control. In both these instances, it will save time and trouble if you fully understand the terms of your agreement before you pay anything.

What you can sue for, and how.

If letters, phone calls and in-person conversations have not succeeded in resolving your dispute, small claims court is a viable option. There are many wedding planning issues for which you can sue: deposits, dissatisfaction, and desertion.

If a vendor cancels at the last minute or does not show up, you can sue for the return of your deposit and any other payments. This is the same for instances where the vendor did not deliver the product it promised or performed below standard.

For example, if the banquet hall you book for your reception gives you a smaller space than you paid for or becomes unavailable, you can sue for your deposit. You can even get a deposit back on an improperly tailored wedding dress or tuxedo. A Louisiana court awarded a judgment to a couple whose justice of the peace failed to show at their wedding. All of these issues can be decided in small claims courts.

Small claims courts are meant to help individuals resolve disputes without the time and expense associated with a traditional trial situation. No attorneys are involved. Normally, there is a plaintiff, defendant and judge. Depending on which state you live in, the amount in dispute can be as high as $5,000. Any disputes involving larger amounts of money than small claims allows typically must go through traditional civil court.

Visuals are good, writing is better.

Once you get to court, you need to bring in any evidence you can gather to prove your point. If you had a contract with the vendor, this is the best option. It is difficult to argue against the written terms of an agreement. If you did not have a written contract, bring witnesses to an oral agreement you made. If you have photos or receipts, those will help. Essentially, you need any writing or physical proof you can find to help prove your case.

The bottom line is that you need to show the judge exactly how the vendor ruined your big day.