The big thing to remember during this complicated time is to understand that nobody is alone and we all need to help each other get through this. With that in mind, we’ve seen overwhelming movement amongst vendors in the wedding community to work through new standards, procedures, and ideas to support couples as they navigate this unknown territory of planning weddings during Coronavirus. You’re probably wondering how and when to postpone your wedding and what to expect throughout the process. We’re here for you and want to help in any way we can. Based on our own experience and talking with our colleagues, we’ve put together this expert guide for planning your wedding during the Coronavirus.
As the COVID-19 pandemic sets in, states start to go into lockdown, and advisements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continue to stress social distancing in attempts to flatten the curve, weddings have become a source of stress and worry, rather than a time of celebration. As we all come together in this time of isolation, couples and families all over the world are facing the social, economic, and logistical challenges of rescheduling and replanning their weddings.
Is your wedding within 8 weeks?
As of March 15, 2020, the CDC has officially recommended the cancellation of weddings for eight weeks in the United States due to Coronavirus (read more here). If you find yourselves in this situation—we’re here for you!!—know that you do have options, and your vendor team will be there to guide you through the process of, hopefully, postponing your event. In the meantime, we have some tips below for dealing with the unfortunate circumstance of having to postpone your wedding.
Consult a Professional for Tailored Advice
Being forced to change your wedding date at the last minute would be hard on ANYBODY, so we understand that stress and emotions are probably running high. As you begin to make decisions on how you’re going to navigate this situation, what rescheduling is going to look like, et cetera, we recommend finding yourself a nonpartisan sounding board to bounce ideas off and help make levelheaded decisions. If you have a planner, we recommend this be the first person you talk to about the next steps for postponement. If you don’t have a planner, speak with your venue or photographer.
Understand the Financials
An important thing to consider with a change of dates and plans is the likelihood of variations in costs, including losses on pre-paid fees like retainers and non-refundable goods or services. To get a better sense of the financial burden that comes with rescheduling, try to take the following measures.
1. Go over your contracts
The first thing you should do is reread all contracts you have with vendors
- What is the vendor’s cancellation policy? You might see if they’ve missed something that allows you to receive the money you paid back outside of what’s refundable.
- Is there a Force Majeure Clause? Many vendors have “act of God” clauses (or force majeure) in their contracts (I know we do), but exactly what that clause covers—in the case of coronavirus, for instance—really depends on the wording of the contract.
So if you have questions about any of your contracts, definitely check with a lawyer.
2. Expect and Plan For Additional Costs
While many vendors are doing their best to work with couples changing their plans due to coronavirus, it’s not always possible to do that at the same cost. From a vendor’s point of view, they’ve likely allocated the resources, hired staff, held the date, and possibly turned other dates away for your wedding. Now, if you’re moving it to another quarter or year, the payment might not be the same depending on the vendor.
We’re personally being as flexible as we can without couples as we all get through these difficult challenges together. To do our part, we’re allowing our couples to reschedule free of charge as long as it’s within a year. For couples who are unfortunately canceling, or we don’t have their rescheduled date available, we’re allowing them to repurpose their retainer for a three-hour photo session once the pandemic slows down. This is us doing our part, and we know many other vendors are happily doing the same, but it’s important to consider the impact that changes in dates have on your vendors’ businesses and to understand where changes in costs might be coming from.
In general, you should have a solid financial picture of how much your wedding is costing you, where funding is coming from (whether it’s savings, a separate wedding account, family, etc.), and how those funds are exactly being allocated. Having this already mapped out can help immensely as you begin discussing with vendors because you’ll know how much buffer room you have for replacing vendors or absorbing additional costs related to changing the date. If you don’t have this mapped out yet, we have a google sheets template that can help get you started.
Check Your Wedding Insurance Policy
If you have insurance, your first step should be calling them to explore what your policy covers and what it means for your vendor relationships. This should certainly be done before reaching out to your vendors. It likely won’t cover all the wedding costs related to rescheduling due to Coronavirus, but it could help mitigate many of the losses and costs from vendors. If you don’t already have insurance, it’s not the best time to go out and get it. That would kind of be like trying to get health insurance after you already broke your arm, but definitely get it for your new wedding date! If you’re not sure where to get started, The Balance has a great article comparing wedding insurance policies. From our couples personally, we’ve heard the most positive reviews about WEDSURE.
Talk Dates With Your Venue
The very first vendor you should speak to, besides your planner, is your venue; start by asking for three-four open dates. We recommend trying to find a date between September and the end of the year. Many vendors have already started booking for the 2021 season before the Coronavirus put us all into this situation, so it might be easier to find a suitable replacement date later this year during the off-season. If your venue’s next availability is in 2021, consider asking if they have a sister property that could accommodate your wedding.
Regardless, it’s also important to keep an open mind when considering available dates given the volatility of the industry at the moment. We wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a trend of people getting married on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Mondays, which could be challenging for guests. Based on what we’ve been hearing from other industry experts and our fellow colleagues, these dates have become more common these last couple weeks.
Can You Get Your Deposits Back?
We’ve talked with many local vendors and the likely answer is no, BUT that’s not the full story.
You can most likely expect that your payments coming up will be postponed until your wedding is rescheduled and a new date is put on the calendar. This is also why you should be careful about using the word “cancel” with your vendors. As long as you are rescheduling the event, you’ll typically be able to repurpose the investments you’ve already made towards the new event. If you do intend on fully canceling the event, then we recommend communicating with your wedding insurance to find out your best options for mitigating any losses.
Refunding deposits aren’t an industry-standard because all parties need to consider the amount of work that’s being done up to that point, ensuring resources have been allocated and reserved to execute the job at hand on the specific date. In these complex situations, we have to remember that everyone is human. Everyone is losing in these unforeseen circumstances. Every person you’ve hired for your event is a small business, who have each hired countless freelancers. Everyone involved has declined other work as a result of being booked. Nobody is taking this money to screw each other. Those funds are used to keep our local businesses afloat as we work towards a common goal.
Remember that as your vendors work with you to reschedule for a new date, they are again giving up the potential to book another wedding on that date – sadly this situation isn’t fair for anyone. All we can do is as a community continues to be transparent with one another and make compromises to get through this together.
As for travel-related wedding expenses that you may have prepaid or booked in advance, many companies are temporarily changing their policies to accommodate people during the Coronavirus. Most airlines are allowing FREE rebooking and date changes. You can see a master list of the updated airline policies here. We’ve also seen most hotels are also allowing free date changes. The master list of those policies is here. Some Airbnb’s will even give a full refund at this time, allowing you to book another place later with the new dates. If you were really attached to the Airbnb’s you had reserved, check with your host, because they would more than likely allow the date change versus a refund as well!
For weddings after May
If your wedding isn’t within the next two months, it’s technically still alright to plan for your wedding to go on as is. All things considered though, it’s important to stay informed and make educated decisions as additional *trustworthy* news becomes available. We wouldn’t be surprised if weddings continue to be impacted due to coronavirus for several months. It’s best to plan smartly in a time of such uncertainty, so go ahead and have an open and honest conversation with your vendors (and guests!) and follow some of our below suggestions as your wedding date gets closer.
Reach Out To Your Vendors:
Everyone knows what’s going on and we have seen an OVERWHELMING outreach from so many people in order to help others. People are coming together to help one another and get through this unprecedented time of uncertainty as a collective. Your wedding vendors are no different, so remember that they want you to feel as comfortable as possible through this difficult time.
It’s important that all vendors and engaged couples collaborate and communicate with transparency, now more than ever, because we’re all facing the same incredible challenges. Never before in most of our careers have we seen something hit the wedding industry like it is right now. A staggering number of couples are faced with the unfair and complicated decision of rescheduling or canceling their weddings. Wedding vendors in all facets are logistically figuring out how to navigate these rescheduled weddings while still receiving bookings for 2021 and trying to maintain the cash flow to stay in business through several months worth of lost income.
Given that everyone is facing difficulties, our biggest recommendation if you have a wedding within the next 4 months is to hop on a virtual call with as many of your wedding vendors as possible and talk through what their plans are for handling this situation. You should have a transparent and honest conversation about your anxieties with all of the vendors on the topics of health and hygiene, the implications of rescheduling if it comes to that, and how your wedding vendors can work together in the event of a rescheduled wedding.
Here’s an email template that can get you started with reaching out to your vendors:
[your partner’s name] and I have been monitoring the current Coronavirus situation and determining the best decisions to make regarding our upcoming wedding. With the health of our guests and all of our vendors of paramount importance, we’ve made the difficult choice of postponing our wedding date.
After reviewing your contract, we understand your rescheduling policy is [summarize their rescheduling policy]. We understand that our retainer and other payments have reserved our date for us and you may have turned away other weddings as a result, but due to such unique circumstances, we were wondering if you have any flexibility in your policies?
We would love to discuss possible solutions, as well as dates for rescheduling our postponed wedding day. The specific dates we have as options are [list a couple of options of dates that could work for you and your partner]. Do you have any time this week to hop on a brief call and discuss everything?
Update Your Guests:
To avoid having to constantly field questions from family members and wedding guests when you’re probably already stressed, we recommend adding a section to your wedding website, using a text-based updating system like WedTexts, or sending out an email blast acknowledging the coronavirus and letting your guests know that you’ll be keeping them up-to-date in the event of any changes. This is a good time to include some important COVID resources like the CDC website and this COVID tracker to keep your loved ones in the know.
If you do have to reschedule your event you’re going to have to start thinking about new dates. Once you have a few, possibly based on your favorite vendor’s availability, you’ll want to run these by your key wedding guests as well. It’s also important to let the rest of your guests know that the wedding has been postponed, date TBD. Ideally, you’d have a new date, but it may take a week or two to set a new date and that’s two weeks they’re in the dark, traveling, renting a dress, et cetera.
Follow CDC Guidelines:
If you have your date and venue set, pay attention to what the experts (CDC) are saying and follow their advice. Make sure you understand what venues are currently allowed to do and how your venue and vendors will be making sure all guests are safe. Hygiene is more important than ever right now, so check your venue’s protocol and verify everything meets the CDC’s recommendations. Also, if you or your future spouse present symptoms of COVID-19, we recommend rescheduling your wedding despite the unfortunate ramifications, in the interest of the health of your loved ones and the community. It’s also a great idea to communicate this with your vendors and ask what their contingencies are in the event they are presenting symptoms at the time of your wedding.
Prepare for a Smaller Guest Count
Even if your wedding will take place more than eight weeks from today, you still may see a smaller number of guests in attendance, especially as the COVID-19 virus continues to spread. Unfortunately, information on the real number of positive cases and spread of the virus is inaccurate due to a lack of testing, which puts people in uncomfortable positions and encourages them not to travel or be in gatherings. Out-of-town guests may choose not to fly or could have their flights canceled as airlines work to trim expenses and meet lowered demand, and local guests may decide to continue to skip events with such a large group of strangers. Honestly, these widespread effects could continue for many months, even after quarantines pass and the curve begins to flatten out.
In the event you do get significantly fewer RSVPs than you were expecting, your planner can help adjust things like floor plans, décor, and timelines to prepare for the new scenario. With key people possibly not making it, you can even look into having your loved ones join the event virtually or ask your photographer/videographers if it’s possible to set up a live stream. Working with your vendors and trusting them to help come up with a strategic Plan B will help you feel less uncertain and stressed.
For Late 2020 and 2021 Weddings
If you’re in the process of booking your wedding for later this year or 2021, we recommend staying on top of your favorite vendors’ availability. With many couples rescheduling, our fall months and 2021 weekends have been booking up much faster than normal, so there’s less availability, and we’ve seen this across much of the industry based on talking with other vendors. We’re not saying to jump into anything or make any rash decisions, but you should certainly keep tabs on those popular vendors you’ve got your eye on.
It’s also worth asking your vendors about payment plans! If putting the industry-standard payments of 50% down and then 50% later is TOO MUCH of a commitment for you right now, many wedding vendors are being more flexible with payment plans given the current economy. We know that money might be tight, it feels anxious to think about spending money, and making a commitment during wild uncertainty feels crazy, so we’ve been working closely with our couples’ financial capabilities in terms of customizing payment plans.
We’ve also included a bunch of advice on communicating with your vendors, rescheduling, assessing budgets, and other currently relevant wedding challenges throughout the rest of this article. If you’re searching for something in particular, click “ctrl-f” on your keyboard and try searching for it. Also, if you have any specific questions that we didn’t tackle here, feel free to reach out to us for help!
If you have any questions or are interested in working with us, we would love to set up a time to chat! Reach out to us below!