With the COVID-19 pandemic setting in it’s an incredibly surreal and tough time at the moment for everyone. With a large percentage of us having never experienced anything like this before it’s unnerving and worrying, but especially if you had a wedding planned for this year.
If you were hanging on, hoping that you could simply ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’, then sadly this is no longer the case – especially as weddings, along with gatherings of more than two people are currently banned – you could easily be forgiven for going into a blind panic about what to do.
As a luxury wedding planner in London, I’ve been in the event’s industry for over ten years now, so have worked through a number of difficult times, and while a pandemic is certainly unchartered waters, I’m hoping that my experience can help to bring some comfort and advice as to what to do now.
As the government’s updates to this situation are changing and moving so swiftly, this post was based on the information we have from today (24th March).
1.I’m devastated – everything was planned and ready to go
I quite understand how you must be feeling, you’ve spent months and months planning the biggest day of your life and have considered every tiny detail, only to have to up-end everything. While it may seem really unsettling, in reality it is still possible to have pretty much the same wedding, it’s just the date which is different.
2. How far back should I postpone to?
We’re advising all our clients who have events from now until June to postpone until the Autumn or even until next summer. For clients who have events in July, August and even September, we’re looking at back up options and liaising with all suppliers and venues involved to discuss contingency plans, we’re then monitoring the situation on a daily basis.
We would encourage couples to postpone, rather than cancel to avoid losing deposits. We would also advise keeping to the same year if possible as pushing things back too far would lose momentum. It’s also worth bearing in mind that if the majority of weddings were to move to next year, then your chosen planner and venue/suppliers may not be available and/or able to provide as high standard as they would normally due to the larger number of events taking place.
3. How do I go about postponing?
- It’s important to speak to your venue to see what alternative dates they currently have available and ask them if they’d be willing to put a tentative hold on your preferred option. Please be aware that dates are filling up quickly so make sure you speak to them as soon as possible. If they don’t have a workable date then find out if they’d be able to refund any deposits paid.
- Check if your chosen church, Celebrant or Registrar are available. If you are having a civil ceremony, then be aware you’ll have to give notice for a second time. If you’re having a church wedding then you’ll need to check if the reading of the banns need to be done again if the date changes.
- Call your suppliers to discuss the situation and see what their availability is like – our suppliers and most people in the industry are being incredibly accommodating.
- Before confirming your new date, it sounds obvious but make sure you speak to your key wedding guests to check they’re available too.
- Once you have a new date confirmed, contact your guests to make them aware. For speed, I would suggest notifying them via email or phone, rather than having new invitations printed or alternatively you could have simply postponement cards printed instead.
- Check with your insurance company that your policy will still be valid if you change the date.
It goes almost without saying, that if you have a Wedding Planner then they will be handling all of this on your behalf.
4. What happens if one of my suppliers isn’t available on the new date?
It may well be that not all of them are, so check your contract to see what their cancellation terms are and speak to them to see if they’re able to offer a refund, but be aware that a cancellation fee might apply. If you do lose your deposit, while you may naturally feel frustrated, do feel empathy for that supplier as the whole of the events industry is really suffering right now with huge losses of revenue over the next few months.
On a positive note, perhaps one particular supplier you really wanted wasn’t available for your original date but you may find that they are now which would be the silver lining.
5. How will the change of date/time of year affect my event?
If your wedding was originally in the summer and you’ve pushed it back to later in the year, then you may wish to alter the design to something more seasonal, along with changing the choice of menu. Your planner or florist/caterer can work with you to do this, or alternatively you can have fun on Instagram and Pinterest finding new ideas. Alternatively, if you’re set on the look you had previously then keep in mind that you may need to substitute some flowers as they won’t be available, or you could consider using some good quality silk flowers instead, mixed in with the real ones.
6. Will my guests still want to come to our wedding and how can we re-assure them?
If you push your wedding back to the Autumn then I sincerely hope that the situation will be under control by then, however it may be that we continue to have various processes in place to ensure good hygiene etc. to help re-assure people. This includes but isn’t limited to regular hand washing and/or using hand sanitiser, catering staff wearing food gloves for food prep and all staff’s travel plans being thoroughly vetted.
Re-booking flights and travel plans is currently an unknown situation and those guests travelling from abroad will be nervous about re-booking (and actually may not be able to anyway at present), so their RSVP might need to wait until closer to the time. Worse case scenario you could use the power of technology and a live feed to make them feel as part of it as possible.
7. What should I do next?
If you’ve safely re-arranged the date then I would confirm any key suppliers you were in the process of liaising with as their diaries are going to get busy, but ensure your insurance policy covers you if they were to go out of business. I would then continue to plan as couples will be competing for dates. Speak to suppliers and see if they would be happy to perhaps offer more flexible payment terms – maybe have 3 separate payments instead of 2, to provide you with more peace of mind. Make sure you read contracts very carefully too to ensure you understand the terms and conditions. Then take time out to do what you need to do to stay healthy and look after your family, enjoy a slower pace and if you need to re-evaluate the design aesthetics then enjoy doing so.
Things will get back on an even keel, we just have to hang on in there until they do…
Article written by Founder and Director of Cranberry Blue – Melanie Helen. If you are in the media and would like a quote on the coronavirus relating to the wedding industry please contact Melanie at firstname.lastname@example.org
Header image by Barker Evans.