Hello, i am a solicitor with 20 years experience. I will try to answer this.
In the small claims court you can be ordered to pay the other party's expenses but this does no include legal costs. So you will lnto be hit with a hefty bill for legal costs.
Their defence is the non refundable contract that we signed. we didn't change our minds regarding the venue, we just lost confidence. How binding is a contract of this nature in law.
The position on this really is whether the service they were providing to you was so bad as to justify our breaching the contract. This would need to be very poor service I think. Once you have agreed to use their venue and paid the deposit there is a binding contract between you and the venue and you can only treat the contract as null and void if they have acted in such a way that you could have no faith in their ability to deliver on the substance of the contract. Even if you lose in the small claims court the court cannot order that you pay the other side's legal costs.
What type of things can they claim as expenses and can the small claims judge decide to award a value below the £1000 that we are disputing.
Travel costs , court fees that sort of thing. Yes he could award a figure lower than the amount you are claiming if he thinks you are mostly but not completely in the right.