What to do if a bride won’t pay for her custom wedding dress and won’t return it?

UPDATED: May 30, 2012

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What to do if a bride won’t pay for her custom wedding dress and won’t return it?

I made a wedding gown for a bride. We drew up a contract, and she made a non-refundable materials deposit of $300. I completed the dress and she picked it up. During the whole process, she didn’t ever voice any problems or concerns with the dress, and neither did she at the time she picked it up. She now refuses pay for the dress, saying there are “workmanship issues,” but won’t explain what they are or let me fix them. She has now had the dress for 90 days,and refuses to pay me or return the dress. I have put over 60 hours of labor into this dress.

Asked on May 30, 2012 under Business Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Contracts are enforceable: if you performed your obligations under it, then the bride has to perform hers (i.e. she has to pay). The fact that she kept the dress--that she accepted it--significantly undercuts, possibly fatally, any argument she may make that the dress was nonconforming or defective; had she rejected the dress, you might not have been able to get her to pay for it, but by accepting the dress, she ratified your performance and has to pay for it. (Also, if she can keep the dress without paying, she would be "unjustly enriched," which the courts tend to not let happen.)

Therefore, from what you write, you appear to have an enforceable contract; if the bride does not pay, you could sue her for the money you are due under it. Dending on how much is at stake, it may make more sense to sue her in small claims court, acting as your own attorney, then to hire a lawyer.

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