Tui booked our wedding in Croatia where same-sex marriage is illegal: We want our deposit back

My partner and I got engaged last year. We wanted to get married abroad, so in November we visited our local Tui store to book the wedding.

We were given a list of locations and decided on Croatia – a beautiful country, and not too far for our friends and family to travel. We booked for May 2022, paying £1,500 for the holiday and £999 for the wedding, and started making plans for the big day.

But shortly after we discovered that same-sex marriages are not legal in Croatia. There was a referendum a few years ago, and the country voted not to allow it. We are a same-sex male couple, so we obviously felt we had no option but to cancel.

When we approached Tui, it asked us to prove it, so we showed them the relevant page on the UK Government website. But then Tui claimed we had only booked a civil partnership – which is legal in Croatia – and not a wedding.

Wedding bells: Our reader and his fiance visited a Tui store to book a marriage abroad

That was not the case. We were very specific that we wanted to be legally married, and were given the impression that would be possible in all the locations offered to us. 

By this time, Tui said it was too late to switch the wedding to a different country. As we’d already paid for it, we decided to go on the holiday to Croatia, but cancel the civil partnership ceremony and get married in the UK.

There was a £200 fee, but the store staff were apologetic and said they would try and get it written off. The next thing we knew, we got confirmation from Tui’s weddings team that our civil partnership ceremony had been booked, which pushed the cancellation fee up to £400. We objected to this and it knocked off £100.

I don’t think that’s enough. We want the £300 to be returned, and an apology for Tui’s mistake. We feel the firm has mishandled the whole situation and treated us badly at a time which should have been very special for us. S.T, Cheshire

Helen Crane of This is Money replies: I agree that Tui has behaved badly here. You were hoping for wedding bells, but instead found yourself in cancellation hell.

Planning a wedding is stressful at the best of times, and you were upset to discover that your special day was not what you proposed.

If a male-female couple had accidentally been booked in for a civil partnership, I’m sure there would have been no suggestion of it going ahead regardless – and your wedding shouldn’t have been treated any differently.


Our weekly column sees This is Money consumer expert Helen Crane tackle reader problems and shine the light on companies doing both good and bad.

Want her to investigate a problem, or do you want to praise a firm for going that extra mile? Get in touch:

Someone whose job it is to book weddings should have been aware of the rules in Croatia, a popular destination. 

But you don’t want to criticise the Tui store staff, who you say were very apologetic and tried their best to get the cancellation fee written off.

The refusal to refund you appears to have come from the top.

When I approached Tui, it initially said it wouldn’t refund your cancellation fee because you could have gone ahead with the civil partnership, and instead ‘chose’ to cancel. 

It said you could have applied to get this converted into a legal marriage in the UK.

That’s not really the point – you asked for a legally binding marriage, and that wasn’t what Tui booked. And even if you did want to do that, the legal documents and second ceremony would come at an additional cost. 

Understandably, you also felt uncomfortable about having a same-sex ceremony in a country where the majority of voters didn’t want two men to be able to get married, feeling that this might create issues with the wedding planners there.

Big day in the Balkans: S.T and his partner hoped to have a wedding in Croatia, but Tui didn't mention that same-sex marriages weren't allowed

Big day in the Balkans: S.T and his partner hoped to have a wedding in Croatia, but Tui didn’t mention that same-sex marriages weren’t allowed

So I went back to Tui again, reiterating that you didn’t get the wedding you asked for and felt you weren’t treated the same as an opposite-sex couple.

I’m pleased to say it changed its mind, and will now refund you the remaining £300.

It said it was ‘very sorry for the confusion’ and confirmed that it would be ‘providing training to retail colleagues to ensure that the correct information is being advised to customers’.

You have since got married in the UK, and I wish you and your husband all the best for your life together.

Hit and miss: This week’s naughty and nice list 

Every week, I look at the companies who have fallen short when it comes to customer service, and those who have gone above and beyond.

Hit: Those taking a well-earned break this summer have seen their holidays descend into chaos following widespread flight cancellations, reportedly as a result of staff shortages at some of the big airlines.

And in many cases the pain continues well after their suntan has faded, as they are faced with a battle to get the refunds and compensation they are entitled to.

So I was pleased to hear that at least one company in the industry is doing right by its customers when things don’t go to plan.

Reader S.J unfortunately had her British Airways flight cancelled, and had to postpone her trip at the eleventh hour.

Failure to launch: S.J had her BA flight cancelled at the last minute, but luggage service The Baggageman quickly and easily rearranged her pick-up

Failure to launch: S.J had her BA flight cancelled at the last minute, but luggage service The Baggageman quickly and easily rearranged her pick-up

She emailed to tell me about how helpful she found The Baggageman, the luggage service she had booked to take her bags to her destination.

‘I contacted the Baggageman and they will just transfer my booking and payment to the new travel dates when I have them,’ she said.

‘This was all done at about 9:30pm after the cancellation email had arrived from BA.’

Lost luggage has become a huge problem at airports this summer, due to both last-minute flight cancellations and baggage handler strikes – so paying a third party to deliver your suitcase safely seems a good way to take a load off your mind.

And S.J’s story shows that the firm has bags of customer service nous.

Miss: After two years of cancelled shows, music lovers – including myself – are excited to once again buy tickets to see their favourite bands.

But some of us are a bit out of practice, as reader Chris found when booking tickets online recently.

He originally had two tickets to see Elvis Costello, but the concert was cancelled. He didn’t ask for a refund, instead being issued with a credit on his account with the booking company, ATG Tickets.

Chris decided to then buy two tickets to see Squeeze – but shortly after discovered that his wife had already bought them tickets to the same show.

Singer Chris Difford from the band Squeeze: Chris booked tickets to see the group, but discovered that his wife had already bought some

Singer Chris Difford from the band Squeeze: Chris booked tickets to see the group, but discovered that his wife had already bought some 

He contacted ATG within a day of the second booking and asked if he could return the tickets and have the credit added back to his account.

The company said it didn’t offer refunds, even when he pointed out that he was a regular customer.

‘The response was simply “No – look at our terms and conditions,”‘ he said. ‘They take fees and service charges, but offer no service!’

It’s always disappointing to see the cost of your tickets bumped up by booking and handling fees, so I understand Chris’s frustration.

When I contacted ATG, though, it agreed that because the the time between Chris booking and realising his mistake was so short, it would refund the credit as a goodwill gesture. That was music to my ears.

A spokesperson said: ‘We apologise for any inconvenience and can confirm that they’ve received a full credit note.’

The tickets cost £111, so with the money back in your account you hopefully won’t be feeling so Squeezed.