Are you and/or your future spouse in a dispute with your wedding vendor about finding alternatives to, or cancelling, your wedding event that had been scheduled to take place between 8 May 2021 and 30 September 2021? If so, you may find this article especially relevant.
That’s because the Singapore Ministry of Law (MinLaw) is providing free mediation under the MinLaw COVID-19 (Wedding) Mediation Programme (MCMP) for wedding couples and vendors who have had to adjust their wedding event recently due to COVID-19 regulations.
Mediation can be an effective method for resolving your conflict amicably and/or getting back as much of your money as possible, so we recommend giving it a try if you find yourself getting nowhere.
This article will discuss:
What is the MinLaw COVID-19 (Wedding) Mediation Programme?
To be able to participate in MCMP, all of the following must be applicable:
- Both parties (i.e. the wedding couple and vendor) must be in a contract for the sale of goods or services in relation to a wedding event
- The scheduled wedding event date must have been between 8 May 2021 and 30 September 2021 (both dates inclusive)
- You must submit the request for mediation by 31 October 2021
- Both parties must agree to mediate
If your wedding vendor does not agree to mediate at the outset, you may still submit your mediation request form. MinLaw will then invite the vendor to respond on whether it agrees or disagrees to mediation. It is only if the vendor agrees that the mediation will proceed.
If the vendor disagrees to take part in the mediation, you can consider other forms of dispute resolution, such as continued negotiation or formal court proceedings.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is an interactive form of dispute resolution where a neutral mediator facilitates parties’ negotiations to help them reach a solution that both sides agree to. The benefits of mediation are that:
- Parties have complete control over the outcome as a settlement agreement will be reached only if both parties agree to it
- Mediation will help to preserve parties’ relationship as the outcome will not result in a “winning” or “losing” party
- Mediation is usually a much faster and cheaper process than bringing the matter to court
- Mediation is completely confidential
If you reach an agreement during mediation, it will override any prior agreements and will be binding on both parties.
How to Apply For the MinLaw COVID-19 (Wedding) Mediation Programme
The procedure for the MCMP is as follows:
- You send a Request for Mediation and a copy of the wedding contract to MinLaw and copy the vendor
- MinLaw will send parties an Agreement to Mediate. Both parties must sign and return the Agreement to Mediate
- It will typically take 2 weeks for a mediation session to be scheduled after MinLaw receives the signed Agreement to Mediate. You may expedite the process by obtaining the vendor’s Agreement to Mediate before submitting the Request for Mediation
- Parties submit and exchange confidential and without prejudice Case Statements that summarise their situation and desired outcome before the mediation session, upon MinLaw’s request.
- The mediator and parties attend a 2-hour mediation session via an online video call. Parties are not allowed to be accompanied by any other person, or be represented by a lawyer
- If parties reach a settlement agreement during the mediation, they will both sign a settlement agreement. If not, the original contract between the parties will prevail
Do be reminded that before the mediation takes place, you will have to continue to comply with your contractual obligations to the vendor. Failing to do so might result in a breach of contract for which the vendor can take legal action against you.
Alternatively, you may seek agreement from the vendor to temporarily suspend your/both parties’ contractual obligations pending your mediation session, which would allow you to temporarily stop fulfilling your contractual obligations without breaching the contract.
Even if your wedding is held before the mediation session, you will still qualify for the MCMP and may still resolve any outstanding disputes during your mediation session.
What Will Happen If We Do Not Reach an Agreement During Mediation?
If you cannot come to an agreement with your vendor during the mediation, the original contract between parties will still stand. To resolve your dispute, you can consider other forms of dispute resolution such as continued negotiation or formal court proceedings.
Alternatively, a further mediation may be arranged if the mediator thinks it would be beneficial for parties.
What is the Effect of a Settlement Agreement Reached During Mediation and Some Examples of Such Agreements?
As mentioned above, a settlement agreement reached during mediation is binding on both parties and can be enforced in court by either party.
Some possible mediation outcomes include:
- Postponement of the wedding
- Downsizing of the wedding, with adjustments to the contract price
- Cancellation of the wedding, with any unutilised deposit to be converted to credit that can be used for other goods and services, or transferred to third-parties
- Cancellation of the wedding, with a partial refund of any deposit paid
If either party realises that they cannot or do not want to abide by the settlement agreement, they may request for a subsequent mediation session if both parties agree to engage in mediation again. However, if no agreement is reached at the second mediation, then the prevailing settlement agreement will stand.
Mediation under the MCMP may provide a fast and free solution for couples who have had to cancel or postpone their wedding plans due to Singapore’s COVID-19 regulations.
If you require a lawyer to give you legal advice on your dispute, you may consider engaging a business disputes lawyer to go through your wedding contract, highlight the weaknesses and strengths of your position, and advise you on your best course of action.
However, do note that even if you obtain legal advice from a lawyer, he or she will not be able to represent you during the mediation itself.