Legal Question in Consumer Law in Virginia

I just got married 2 weeks ago and have some very serious issues with the venue/caterer. I will try to be as brief as possible but my main question is what are my legal options regarding this situation?

We rented the venue for $3300. It was supposed to be for 3 days, Fri, Sat and Sun including 2 barns and all of the grounds. One barn has an apartment upstairs that was to be used for the girls to get ready the day of and the honeymoon suite that Sat. night. I signed a rental agreement for the property for that weekend which I have a copy of.

We also used them for our catering. The venue wanted to buy all of the wedding stuff I had so the owner said she would give us a good deal on the catering and we could trade. The contract reads the price for 125 people is $3000 tax and tips are included. It then states Both Parties have agreed upon the price of $1500 with trading of table cloths, overlays, and other items used in the wedding not being kept by the Bride as keepsakes. I have a copy of this contract as well.

Here is the information from the website pertaining to our package:

NRA3: Complete Week-end Wedding and Reception – Set-up of reception hall in the new facility Friday, Rehearsal Friday Night and After Rehearsal Dinner held in our now current Lodge downstairs, Saturday coming back to get ready and take pictures upstairs in our current Lodge, wedding to be outside or upstairs in the new facitily, Reception in the new facility as late as the Bride and Groom wish, then the New couple may spend the night in our Suite where she got ready for the wedding. Your wedding may be held outside in one of our beautiful locations, but additional chairs will have to be rented at a cost of $1.25 per chair. Chair covers may be used for free (up to 150); ties may be purchased for $1.00 each by us in your color with 2 months advanced notice. We will be happy to supply you with a catering quote that will more than meet your needs and won’t break your pocket book. We will set-up your reception for you, keep up and clean up afterwards. $3300. This does not include the actual catering price as that will depend on time of day, your menu and how many people you wish to have.

Deposit for this package is 1/3 to book, 1/3 in 90 days and balance as dated on the contract. (If booked over a year away).

Here are the problems we encountered:

- the owner did not set anything up like was promised and we had to do it ourselves

-the owner told us on one occasion that she had purchased more tables and then told us later she ran out of money and did not buy any so we had to rent extra tables ourselves

-the owner told us she was getting extra chairs and later said she wasn't (the day before the wedding)

-The night of the rehearsal the owner let her 3 large dogs out and one of them scratched the ring bearer down the face right under his eye

-After setting up the reception area on Fri night until 2 am we returned to the other barn to lock up and found the owner's son and his girlfriend in the apartment drinking and smoking. Their demeanor made me so nervous I packed up my wedding dress and some of our more expensive items and brought them back home

-On Sat in the apartment where the girls were supposed to be able to get ready the owner's workers were up there cooking the food and the son repeatedly came up the stairs and had to be asked to leave

-The owner's dogs were out again on Sat and almost knocked over the girl that was setting up the wedding cakes and even climbed into her car where the cakes were located. The venue had to be asked multiple times to put the dogs away.

-The venue did not follow the menu listed on the contract and there were less than 80 people that ate dinner and the food ran out.

-The items that we had brought for decoration that we did not have time to set up on Fri night were left in the reception area to be set up the next morning but upon arrival we found that the venue had moved the boxes and some were not located until Sun.

-One of the tables and several chairs they had provided for us to use were broken and some people got cuts and splinters from them

-2 children fell down the stairs from the apartment because there was no railing and the stairs are not level

-The owner turned the water off to the venue on Fri night and we had no running water to use the bathroom while we were setting up

I only left the tablecloths and overlays at the venue and nothing else because the contract states "other items used in the wedding not being kept by the Bride as keepsakes". Since the wedding the owner of the venue has contacted my husband and I in private messages on facebook and on my facebook page. I have taken screenshots as well as copied and pasted all of the communication between us. I also have pictures of the ring bearer's face and the food that was served at the reception. The owner is threatening to sue us for slander and loss of business because my husband posted on facebook that "the lady at the venue screwed us and we had to set everything up ourselves".

I would like to get a complete refund for both the venue and the catering because I don't think she held up her end of the contracts. I also want back all of my tablecloths/overlays. She completely ruined my wedding day and now I have nothing but bad memories. I filed a complaint with the BBB 2 weeks ago and she has yet to respond.

Do I have grounds for a lawsuit? Should I take this to small claims court or hire a lawyer and sue for more than just a refund?

Asked on 5/20/13, 7:23 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Michael E. Hendrickson Attorney & Counsellor at Law
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5/21/13, 8:29 am

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