Small claims court for ‘wedding plans gone seriously wrong’

The 17-page decision reads like a suspense thriller for anyone who has ever planned their own wedding

(Canadian Press)

(Canadian Press)

The claimants were the bride and groom.

The defendant was the rental company, set to supply three tents, tables, chairs, linens, dishes, cutlery, a dance floor and other items to a rural property an hour outside of Halifax.

The contract was for about $10,000.

“This is a case of wedding plans gone seriously wrong,” says Nova Scotia small claims court adjudicator Michael O’Hara.

In a written decision released Tuesday, he ordered MacFarlands Limited to pay the newlyweds $5,419.

Although the 17-page decision reads like a suspense thriller for anyone who has ever planned their own wedding, the adjudicator said that “at its core” it’s a contract case.

O’Hara said the contract called for delivery and set-up of the rental items to take place on a Wednesday last September, yet it was not completed until Friday evening.

“That is not what the contract called for,” he said.

“It seems to me that however one views this, MacFarlands has breached the terms of its contract.”

Ryan and Kristen Johnstone began planning their nuptials nearly a year in advance, with the bride seeking quotes from MacFarlands for a number of wedding accoutrements to accommodate roughly 200 guests.

Delivery of the rental items was initially set for the day before the wedding on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017.

A month before getting hitched, the bride called and requested to change the delivery date to Thursday — two days before the wedding.

The delivery date was changed again to Wednesday after a storm was forecasted — perhaps a foreshadowing of things to come.

While MacFarlands delivered and set up some items on the Wednesday, the company did not complete setting up until late Friday — leaving the couple’s 20 or so friends and family who had volunteered to help set up scrambling late into the night to finish up.

The bride and groom alleged that the company “was late in delivering and completing the setup of the tents and this caused the timing of the wedding preparations to be significantly delayed the day before the wedding, virtual cancellation of the rehearsal dinner, and many of the guests, close friends, and relations of the couple to have to stay up late and into the morning of Saturday,” the decision said.

“This significantly affected the enjoyment of the wedding and the post-wedding reception which if not ruined, was significantly altered in a negative fashion.”

In the end, the groom indicated his bride-to-be got two hours of sleep the night before their marriage and “there were a lot of tired and stressed out people,” the decision said.

The groom’s parents organized a post-rehearsal lobster party for Friday night, but the father said guests were too busy setting up to attend.

“We read the riot act and made them come up and eat,” he told the court.

A witness for the claimants — the bride’s best friend and co-maid of honour — told the court that “it was a mess.”

She described the rehearsal dinner as a “go get it and high-tail it back” type of affair, as wedding guests worked well into the night.

Another witness — the groom’s brother-in-law, who referred to what he did as “muscle” more than anything else — said the dance floor was not serviceable and required a sub-floor to be constructed.

However, Michael Thompson, general manager for MacFarlands, said the issue with the dance floor was due to the claimants choosing a poor location with a slope.

He indicated that most of the three tents were set up on Wednesday, with only some walls left to go up, and the tables delivered on Thursday.

However, it was unclear who would set up the tables, or whether the tables could be set up before the tent walls were in place.

The bride and groom said their volunteers were unable to set up the tables because the side walls to the main tent were not in place — something MacFarlands disputed.

The company suggested the wedding party should have started setting up the venue much earlier and that they misjudged how much work was involved.

“The picture that is painted is not one of the volunteers blithely standing around with their hands in their pockets waiting for something to do,” O’Hara said in the decision.

“I do not think that is a reasonable inference to make in these circumstances.”

However, the adjudicator also dismissed one of the groom’s main complaints, which was the lack of a project co-ordinator for on site issues.

O’Hara pointed out that MacFarlands is a rental company — not a wedding planner.

Still, he added that the terms and conditions of MacFarlands’ contract “are neither comprehensive nor accurate.”

“A clearly itemized list of who is responsible for what would go a long way to ensuring what happened here does not happen again.”

The Canadian Press

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