Updated: May 11, 2020
As a 2020 bride and a wedding vendor, this was hard to write, I'm not going to lie. My heart is breaking for everybody impacted by this - the couples, the families, the vendors. Literally nobody wins in this situation. This post is meant to help anyone planning on getting married between now and the end of this coming summer. I realize that (hopefully) COVID-19 is only impacting mostly March, April, and May weddings, but I have seen so many couples getting married July-October expressing concern and uncertainty as well. So, this is for all of you - for anyone who is concerned about how coronavirus will impact their wedding.
This post is not meant to be used as legal counsel or medical advice. I am not a legal professional nor am I a medical expert. I live in Washington State, so some of the recommendations I give might not be applicable to where you live. For the best, most accurate advice and information, please see official documentation on the CDC website and your local and federal government websites.
I’m going to do the best I can to help and give you peace and clarity. My goal for this post is to be helpful and a resource for people going through this difficult time right now. Some of these recommendations might not resonate with you or be applicable to your situation, which is totally fine. I’m simply doing the best that I can using the knowledge of the industry, my perspective of both being a bride and a vendor impacted by this issue, and the research I’ve done to provide some helpful advice for everyone.
This post was written on April 2nd at 6pm PT, so if things have changed since then and some of the info in this post isn’t correct, that’s why!
Here are the steps I recommend taking if you’re concerned about how COVID-19 is impacting your wedding day.
Easier said, than done, right? As a bride and a vendor, I can empathize with how difficult it is to remain calm during this time. Even as I’m typing this, I can feel the panic rising in my chest. Personally, I find making plans and gaining as much control over a very chaotic situation is what calms me the most. I actually recently started going to therapy again (shout out to BetterHelp!) to equip me with tools to deal with some of this suffocating anxiety. What makes you feel less stressed might be different, but I recommend finding out what it is and going after it.
At the end of the day, you’re marrying your favorite person in the whole wide world. No matter what the actual date is or if everything looks exactly as you always imagined it, nothing can change the fact that you’re marrying your person. That is what we can all focus on and control. Try to focus on that North star throughout all the chaos.
Check your wedding insurance.
All insurance carriers are different, so it’s hard for me to give a generalized sense of what is covered or not when it comes to your insurance and COVID-19. I highly recommend checking your policy just in case to see what is and isn’t covered. If you purchased a policy before the threat of coronavirus was widely known, you might be able to find a way to recoup some of your losses. I can’t guarantee this and haven’t heard many stories of people successfully utilizing their insurance for this case, but it’s worth at least checking.
Read your contracts. Read your contracts. Read your contracts.
Can you tell I cannot emphasize this point enough? It is so important for you to understand what you’ve legally signed so you can have an informed conversation moving forward.
Here are some things to look out for in those contracts:
Non-refundable Retainer. Time is money. Your vendors spend lots of time communicating with you, researching, and preparing for your big day. Once they book your date, they also forfeit any other business they could have landed for that date. If they give you a full refund, they’re literally bleeding money. You signed a legally-binding contract - you have to abide by that, regardless of whether or not you think it’s “fair.”
Change Fees, Cancellation Fees, Admin Fees. This is a way you might end up losing some money, unfortunately. Some wedding vendors charge administrative fees for changing your date. Double check you’re not going to be slapped with any additional fees and if you are, verify the correct amount. Some vendors might be waiving these fees in light of the current global situation.
Come up with a few alternative dates.
I use the plural here because you’ll want to come up with a list of multiple options here. There’s going to be high demand for vendors this fall and winter as couples scramble to reschedule to later in the year. If you’re rescheduling, you’ll want to make sure all of the vendors you initially signed can make your new date.
Contact your vendors.
Here’s the thing: nobody really knows what’s going on right now. It’s critically important you communicate with your vendors right now - even if you don’t know what you’re doing about your wedding yet. Establishing a good relationship with them now, updating them as your plans shift, and asking for their availability early on will help solidify a good relationship with them. When push comes to shove, and you’re asking them to be flexible or make compromises, having this foundation will be important.
Here’s an EMAIL TEMPLATE for reaching out to your vendors right now.
You are receiving this email because you are a vendor for [YOUR NAMES] wedding on [YOUR DATE] at [YOUR LOCATION].
We wanted to send a little note to all of our vendors to let them know that as of today, we are not planning on canceling or postponing our wedding. We are SO excited for our big day (and for you to play such a huge role), we want to keep our date as long as we're legally allowed to [YOUR DATE]!
We have decided that if come [30-60 days before your date], things still look uncertain, we'd like to create a contingency plan and potentially start conversations about postponing to the fall (preferably [DATE RANGE]). However, we want to proceed as-is until around that time.
We have a few questions for you, however!
1. Are you still planning on keeping your commitment to our [YOUR DATE] date so long as we are legally allowed to hold the gathering?
2. If you are not sure, when will you notify us of your decision?
3. If you cancel on us due to COVID-19, but we are not canceling/postponing our wedding, what is your refund policy?
4. If we do decide to postpone, how soon would you need to be notified? What is your rescheduling policy?
5. If we do decide to postpone, are you available any of the following dates: [INSERT A FEW ALTERNATIVE DATES]?
Depending on what we decide, I'm sure we will have a TON more questions, but we're just trying to gather as much info as possible now so we can be prepared.
Stay safe, and stay healthy!
Postpone to a later date rather than cancel.
If you’ve read through your contracts, you’ll probably notice there are different policies for full cancellations as opposed to rescheduling. If you choose to cancel your wedding rather than reschedule, you need to understand and accept that you will likely lose a good chunk of money. Many vendors have non-refundable retainers and some have clauses about keeping the money paid at time of cancellation.
Again, if you’re canceling, you need to be prepared to hear “no” when you ask for a full refund. Your vendors are small businesses and a canceled wedding is a loss of income for them. Keep this in mind when communicating. I know it’s a very emotional and difficult time, but it’s hard on literally everyone. Like I said in the beginning of this post, nobody wins right now.
Now, if you reschedule, most vendors will honor your retainer and just apply that to your new date. This is because the vendor isn’t losing money in this transaction. They will still get the remainder of your payment when you do eventually have your wedding.
Get as many of your vendors on board for the new date.
Once you’ve heard back from all of your vendors about their availability, pick a tentative date for your rescheduled event. Even if you haven’t made the decision yet, just let your vendors know that’s the date you’re considering. Your vendors are human, and most will hold the date for you until they get an inquiry from another client - regardless of if it’s “official” or not yet.
Put an update on your wedding website.
Although you should definitely do this if you’ve decided to reschedule or cancel, this is also a great option if you haven’t made a decision yet. You’ve most likely already had a friend or family member reach out and ask the dreaded, “So, is your wedding still happening?” Instead of explaining yourself over and over, now you can just say, “Nope! I put an update on my website if you want more info.”
Here’s what I personally put on the FAQ section of our wedding website before we had decided to postpone:
Zola also has these awesome pre-built announcements you can just click and add to your site. If you built your wedding website on a different platform, I recommend just checking in with them, as they might offer something similar.
Contact your guests.
Although your wedding might be several months out, this is likely on your guests’ minds. Get ahead of the questions by reaching out to people directly once you’ve made a decision about your wedding. Personally, I’d recommend waiting to contact people directly like this until you know for sure you’re rescheduling.
Send an email or e-vite
Use direct mail. Places like Zola have super cute “Change our date” stationery designs!
Do an old-school phone chain. Have your mom call all of the people on her side of the family and your mother-in-law contact all the people on your partner’s side. Divide and conquer wherever you can and enlist the help of family or friends to spread the word.
Here are some great example emails from Zola:
Alternative Wedding Options
If you do end up rescheduling your main wedding, you might still be able to get married on your original date if you follow all of the guidelines from the government (elope, courthouse, etc.)
Just because your wedding day is going to look different than you originally pictured doesn’t make it bad. I know it’s disappointing, but it actually might end up being super special. I’ve heard many stories of couples eloping during this period and just postponing their reception for when it’s safe. Although not everyone you value and cherish will be able to be there when you “actually” get married, everyone will understand and be happy for you. You can even livestream the official elopement if you want everyone to be as involved as possible!
The bottom line: You’re not alone!
The landscape of this issue is changing constantly. It is my professional recommendation to wait as long as possible to make a decision about your day. Remember to be proactive, but also patient. Start the conversations now, make contingency plans, be as informed as possible, but do not make concrete decisions until you absolutely have to. We have no idea how this will look in one day, one week, or one month from now.
Take comfort in knowing that you’re not alone in this. There are thousands of couples going through this same struggle. And always remember to focus on the thing that matters most: you’re marrying your best friend - no matter what/where/when/how.
Everyone is just doing the best that we can. I understand the emotions behind this. You might be feeling grief, rage, sadness, hopelessness, or just completely overwhelmed. It’s okay to not be okay. It is, however, not okay to be unkind. I urge everyone to have patience and compassion for each other. We are all just doing the best that we can. We are all in this together. We got this.
Stay safe. Be well. I am here for you. Please feel free to reach out to me directly if you have questions!