THE INVESTIGATORS: Caterer, client at odds over wedding canceled due to coronavirus pandemic

THE INVESTIGATORS: Caterer, client at odds over deposit as wedding canceled due to COVID-19

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - An area wedding caterer and one of their clients are at odds over how to move forward after a recent wedding ceremony had to be canceled because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

It was supposed to be one of the happiest times of her daughter’s life, but Cassi Schexnayder says their May wedding was crashed by an uninvited guest, COVID-19.

“We had to postpone the wedding because of the COVID, so I called the catering company and I asked them what should we do,” said Schexnayder.

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Schexnayder says she paid an area catering company $5,000 to provide food for the wedding, but when they were told they couldn’t have it because of the virus, that’s when she tells WAFB things took a turn for the worse.

“I asked her if she would mind just keeping our $5,000 and letting us have a wedding with however many people added up to be $5,000 since we weren’t going to be allowed to gather in a large crowd and she didn’t want to do that,” said Schexnayder.

Schexnayder says because of the governor’s guidelines, they could not have all of the 125 guests they wanted, but they still wanted to be able to go ahead with some kind of event. She tells WAFB the caterer did give them back about $3,000, but kept the $1,800 deposit, money she believes they still owe her.

“That’s just not fair. We’re just not going to give you $1,000 for no reason or $1,800,” said Schexnayder. “We’re just very frustrated about that because we gave them money for something that they’re not willing to give us services for and we don’t think that’s fair to do to someone.”

The catering company released the following statement to WAFB:

“This wedding was scheduled for May, and unfortunately, like many events across the country this year, it could not happen. Along with our empathy for this life interruption, we told this bride and her mother the same we told our other brides — we can transfer all payments to an available date of their choosing. However, if they choose to completely cancel with us, they will lose their deposit. Like many, we are a small company doing our best to remain in-business. Nevertheless, it did not sit well with us how unhappy she was, so we put together a food credit worth $1,233.86. We do hate that it’s come to this, but we can do nothing further and wish her well.”

“We are in an ongoing pandemic. If I would have moved it back to June, we would have canceled for the second time. If I would have done it for July, we would have canceled again... August, we would have canceled again. September, we still would have canceled again and we can’t just keep canceling the event,” Schexnayder added.

WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked Glen Petersen, a local attorney not involved in the case, if the bride’s family should get a full refund.

“Our knee jerk reaction is sure,” Petersen said. “I mean, if the caterer cannot provide the services, then she should get her money back, but there are other factors that come into play here.”

Petersen says based on what’s outlined in the contract, it could be hard for the company to set a specific timeline for when the bride could reschedule the wedding because a year may not be enough time given the circumstances.

“Can we reschedule this function for February or March or the spring of 2021? I’d like to think so, but at the same time, we don’t know the answer to that question, so it’s a tough call,” said Petersen.

Because the contract does not specifically mention a pandemic and because there’s nothing that says what would happen if the wedding still couldn’t move ahead next spring, the attorney tells WAFB it’s a hard position to be in for both the bride and the catering company.

WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked the attorney if it’s important that both parties have specific things in writing and have a clear understanding of exactly what happens if they don’t meet certain terms of the contract.

“It’s crucial and this is a perfect example,” Petersen answered.

While the family says they have reached out to an attorney, they tell WAFB at this point it would cost more to take the matter to court than what they say they’re owed. Petersen says both the family and the caterer may want to try to come of some sort of compromise in order for both to walk away with a suitable solution.

“Both of their positions are understandable,” said Petersen. “It poses some difficulties and a lot of times in situations like these, compromise is something that people are going to have to try their best to accomplish and work it out.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: WAFB’s management made the editorial decision not to identify the caterer in this report because, based on all the available information provided, it appears that the catering company has followed the terms as outlined in the contract.

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