Your Wedding & the Coronavirus: FAQ’s
So let’s face it: the world is in complete chaos at the moment. Everyday life has changed dramatically for most of us and toilet paper is still a precious commodity. Daily reports from across the country and world paint a scary picture. And here you are, in the middle of all of this, trying to plan a wedding. How do you continue to plan for both your wedding & the Coronavirus?
As a planner, both in profession and in practice, I have struggled the past few weeks to make decisions on how to guide my engaged clients when the information I have (and that we all have) is incomplete, uncertain, and typically leaves more questions than answers. This is unchartered territory for all of us, and the wedding industry is only a few weeks into learning how to deal with and counsel our clients on a worldwide pandemic.
In the past month, I’ve learned many things from my fellow business professionals and even from my clients. Below is a FAQ about COVID-19 and my best responses.
Should I cancel my wedding because of COVID-19/the coronavirus?
Ok, it’s a lot more complex than that, but in short, no, you don’t have to cancel your wedding. You might not feel like it, but you have so many options besides cancelling your big day. You’ll find those options listed below!
If I cancel my wedding because of coronavirus, can I get my deposits back from my wedding vendors?
Unfortunately, it is very unlikely that you will get your deposits back from wedding vendors. Nearly all wedding professionals have force majeure clauses in their contracts that protect them from a wide variety of situations that are outside of their (and your) control that can cause your event to be cancelled. That means even though it isn’t your fault if you want to cancel your wedding because of COVID-19, your vendors still aren’t obligated to return any money previously paid for services.
Look through each contract carefully, but likely you won’t find many circumstances where your deposit will be refundable.
If I don’t cancel my wedding, but don’t want to host it on my schedule date, what are my other options?
- Reschedule your wedding! That’s right, your first option is to pick a new date and start moving things over to the new date. (There are steps on how to do that below.)
- Elope! If your heart is set on your current wedding date, you can still make that happen. Each county will be different, but check with your local Clerk & Recorder’s office to see what their new guidelines are. Here in Mesa County, where I’m located, you can still receive a marriage license by filling out their paperwork online, where they also give you a detailed breakdown of the new process. If you want your photographer and a few of your closest family & friends available to witness, check national, state, and local guidelines to see what is allowed at the time of your desired date. You can share a small, intimate ceremony on your favorite date, then reschedule the party for a later time in the year.
- Change the scope of your big day. If your original guest count was 150-200 or more guests, maybe one of your best options is to look at changing the size of your big day. If you are worried that CDC guidelines for your wedding day might not allow such large gatherings, decreasing your day to your closest family & friends is a way to find some peace. You can still possibly keep your date, keep your design and venue, and continue with the people you love.
How do I reschedule my wedding because of COVID-19?
So far, I’ve moved multiple weddings to later this year, and even to 2021. Here are the steps I’ve taken to make sure that all wedding businesses were able to move with the bride and groom:
- Create a spreadsheet with all of your vendors (which are just the wedding businesses who are helping you). Don’t forget to include:
- Alcohol provider
- Hair & makeup
- Photo booth
- Portable restrooms
- Anyone else helping in a major way with the big day!
- Create a list of a few alternative dates you are willing to consider. If you are hosting your wedding at a wedding venue, call them first and ask for a list of alternative dates that are available later in the year. Even if you are hosting your event at a private location, instead of choosing just one date, if you pick a few possible dates you’ll likely have more success moving your wedding team.
Keep in mind, that Fridays & Sundays are a great option! If you are getting married in the spring or early summer of 2020, it’s very likely that most or all late summer and fall Saturday dates are already booked. So, go into this process with an open mind to a day of the week other than just Saturday.
- After you have your list of business and your possible dates, it’s time to craft a group email. COMMUNICATION IS KEY! Reach out to everyone who you’ve booked so far and let them know that you are interested in rescheduling your date because of COVID-19. Let them know that you are considering multiple alternative dates, and ask them to please respond to each date with a yes or a no.
- Track those responses! As your team emails you back saying that they are or aren’t available on each date, track those responses on your spreadsheet. I like to use green for a yes and red for a no. That way I have a great visual on what dates work best.
- Assess the responses you got from your team. Is there a date that works for everyone? If so, that just might be your new date! If there isn’t one clear winner, weigh the dates that look the best. You might have to switch out a vendor or two, but find the compromise that feels best for both of you.
- Confirm the change. After you’ve done all of this and decided on which date works best for you and your wedding team, pull that group email back up and let everyone know what you’ve decided. Be very straightforward and clear, tell them the new confirmed date and ask them to please change your date. Ask for any contract updates that you need to sign, and confirm any additional fees for this date change.
- Update your guests! Now that you’ve done the tough part, it’s time to let your family & guests know. If you have a wedding website, change the date. If you’ve already sent out invitations, you might need to send a second round, letting your guests know the new date. You can also start a closed Facebook group where you add everyone who is invited. That gives you a quick place to get information out.
- Tie up any loose ends. Finally, make sure you move any hotel room blocks, move the rentals for the groom’s & groomsmen’s suits, rehearsal dinner plans, and any other small pieces of the wedding you’ve planned.
What if my wedding vendors/team want to charge me to move my wedding date?
Even though this can seem unfair, technically it is well within the details of most wedding vendor’s contracts to charge to change a wedding date, even with the current Coronavirus circumstances. However, I’ve seen that most wedding vendors are waiving date change fees if you reschedule your wedding for another date in 2020.
If some of your wedding vendors are charging a date change fee, take that into account before deciding to move your date.
If you are moving your wedding to 2021, especially a Saturday in 2021, it is far more likely that your vendors will charge you an additional fee. Why? Because by moving your wedding from a Saturday in 2020, do a new prime Saturday date in 2021, you are taking away a chance for that wedding business to book another wedding on that date. On top of that, depending on the vendor, moving your date out a full year could mean additional hours spent working on your project that were not covered in the original contract. Finally, many businesses change their rates year to year, so it’s likely that from 2020 to 2021 their prices are going up and they can’t guarantee a 2020 price for a 2021 project.
Again, make sure you look at your contracts and have open discussions with your vendors so you can get all of the information before making any decisions.
My wedding is in fall 2020, what should I do?
Unfortunately, I cannot answer this question for you. At this time, the wedding industry in general isn’t seeing many weddings postponed from this fall. My best advice is to wait things out a bit. Plans regarding Coronavirus have changed dramatically each day, so the world might look much different in May than it does now in early April. You likely can wait another month or 6 weeks without any repercussions to you or your wedding guests.
Those are the most common questions I’ve heard from clients and other wedding pros and those responses are what has worked best for me so far. No one has the answers at this time and we’re all just doing our best. Communication is important. Start reaching out to your vendors and let them know how you’re feeling. Ask them the questions that are keeping you up at night! You aren’t in this alone, we’re all in it together and your wedding team wants to help you out however they can.