A Guide for Postponing Destination Weddings in Europe and Beyond, Local Weddings and Events Amidst the Coronavirus
If your wedding date falls amid social distancing restrictions, this guide is for you. We’re all in this together! That’s the current mantra amongst the wedding community during these strange times. No matter where in the world you might be planning your wedding, you’re probably feeling uncertainty, denial and above all stress with the new developments each day brings. We want to extend our deepest support to you during this time and encourage you with the efforts of solidarity and incredible empathy we’ve seen across the wedding vendor community. It can be tough to determine the right course of action for you and your loved ones if your wedding date is fast approaching, but like we said from the get-go, we’re all in this together. And today we’re mustering up all the advice we can think of, with some tips from destination wedding vendors too, to aid you in this season. So stick with us, and by the time you’re done reading this post, we hope you’ll have a renewed sense of calm, clarity and community.
In light of the latest recommendations from the WHO and CDC, we reached out to some of our Ruffled members to see what sound advice they would offer couples amidst this season of uncertainty and stress. The good news? The wedding community is strong and everyone is working together to find the silver lining and do what’s best for every single couple whose wedding is affected by the events surrounding the coronavirus.
COVID-19 x Your Wedding: Resources we’re watching
- Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and their Myth Busters page regarding the coronavirus
- World Health Organization (WHO)
- Coronavirus + Travel Implications
- Regularly updated timeline of how it spread and where it’s spreading
- Current guidelines for evens + mass gatherings
- Resources for Workers and Employers
So if your wedding was scheduled in the next few months, here are some recommendations to guide you through a course of action…
Remember your WHY
The best advice we can offer is to think long term. Don’t forget why you’re having this blessed celebration in the first place! You’re going to have the rest of your lives to be happily wed together, and one day, this will all be part of the story you tell. You could keep 10 different tabs open (or stress over the contradictory stats floating around social media) over the next couple weeks OR you could breathe through the stress and meditate on the love you have for your significant other. Let love be the fuel that guides you through your new course of action, if such course is even required. Leave fear and anxiety at the door. Those emotions cannot and will not serve you! So first and foremost, avoid attention deficit through drowning in the drama, focus on your why and own your outcome.
That being said, be sure to follow the important news updates, as well as local + national guidelines. As of March 15th, 2020, the CDC has recommended against gatherings of 50 or more people over the next 8 weeks (read on here), as well as the cancellation of nonessential travel to China, the UK, Ireland, Iran, Japan, South Korea and most European countries. These are crucial pieces of information for both local and destination weddings, especially those that have guests traveling to and from all over the world. COVID-19 and your wedding plans will be affected but staying informed is key to adapt swiftly.
No one knows when the dust is going to settle, and guidelines are being adapted often. So be sure to follow a qualified source, like the CDC directly, for their up-to-date recommendations so you are not putting yourself or any loved ones at risk.
Review your insurance policy
We always recommend that couples secure wedding insurance as early as you can in the planning process, and left-field scenarios like this one are the prime example why. If you do have a policy, make sure you reach out to your company to triple check everything you’re covered for before you jump the gun and start any cancellation or postponement conversation with vendors. In either case, you should anticipate some additional costs from some or all of your vendors (more on that further down!), so your policy may be cover you for some of these extra costs.
Double check your contracts
Now that you’ve explored your insurance coverage, read the fine print on all the contracts with your booked wedding vendors – particularly their cancellation or change of date clauses. This pandemic is so unprecedented that vendors across the board have been exceptionally understanding, and they will absolutely work with you in whatever way serves you best! It’s important that couples are equally understanding with vendors, not only because they are likely having this conversation with multiple couples at the same time and trying to do what’s best for everyone, but also because they are small businesses fighting to survive themselves. Standard cancellation and change of date clauses will differ from vendor to vendor, so it’s important to go into any conversation with them understanding their normal protocol… which was determined based on factors like hard costs, seasonality, lost bookings, etc. in the first place. Even though COVID-19 is unprecedented, these considerations must still be made on their side.
You’ve got a contingency plan for a rainy day wedding. Now it’s time to plan for a Plan B on the wedding date altogether. Yes, even in the beginning stages of mere consideration for postponing! Venues are heavily inundated at the moment with requests for change of date, and being as far into the year as we are already, availability is going to be limited as it is. Gaby of Mexico based destination wedding planning company, Marweddings, recommends about a five month buffer period from where we’re at now stating “my recommendation would be to reprogram starting in August to be safe.“
It definitely doesn’t hurt to get a jump on assessing all the options by emailing all of your vendors expressing your concerns and gauging their availability for alternative dates you’ve pre-verified with your venue + planner that they still have open. This can be an easy, breezy bcc email you send to everyone in one fell swoop, so no need to overthink this step!
Have an open conversation with your vendors
It’s worth repeating. Your wedding vendors are on your side! They understand the struggles you’re facing mentally, emotionally, financially, and they want to do everything they can to support you in the way that’s going to benefit you, the couple, as well as your loved ones best. Approach the conversation with heartfelt sincerity, and they will 100% do the same. Trust me, they are feeling a major impact in their lives + businesses regarding this global pandemic as well.
Gaby of Marweddings encourages couples to be flexible noting that “suppliers are losing not only your event, but many others. For them, this pandemic will be a very big strike to their business, if in fact they do survive it at all. Many are being forced to close their businesses, but they still need to pay all expenses, i.e. employees, rent, electricity, etc.“
This is important to think about if you are thinking of cancelling altogether. If you take this approach, your vendors likely won’t be able to issue back your non-refundable retainer fee and you might be looking at additional costs so close in, depending on their contract and individual cancellation policy. On the other hand, if you postpone, they will have a bit more flexibility on how they can serve you knowing their cash flow is still in tact. Remember, their small business is a victim of this too, and they are suffering significant damages.
All that being said, your wedding vendors are there to guide you through these times, so look to them for support, be understanding, have flexibility and express gratitude to them often. I promise, it will go such a long way!
Should I cancel or postpone my wedding due to Coronavirus?
Now that you’ve discussed amongst yourselves, double-checked your insurance policy, read the fine print in your contracts, had open conversations with your vendors (beginning with your venue, planner and photographer) and checked in with your country’s latest guidelines, you should be able to make an educated decision to postpone, to cancel + maybe elope or to do neither.
Be sure to double check with your families, bridal party and other VIPs on their availability for the new date options – as well as the availability your vendors came back with too. If a vendor happens to be unavailable for your preferred date, have grace and remember that this situation is out of their control too.
It’s also important to consider things like seasonality if your heart is set on certain design elements that suit a certain time of year better than another. Depending on your must-haves, it may be worth pushing the date to this time next year.
Charleston and London based wedding planners, Willow & Oak Events, adds: “Another key consideration here is that venues can book up between 8 and 18 months out depending on the destination, so we’d encourage you to be flexible on days of the week since Saturdays during peak seasons will be the first to go. If Fridays or Sundays are unavailable as well, it may be worth accepting a day in the middle of the week, though we’d anticipate a smaller guest count in this case since less guests will be able to travel or take off work mid-week. Then again, many guests will piggyback full vacations on either side of a destination wedding, so if you’re already having a multi-day celebration abroad, you might not see as much of a dip. One way you can add value to a mid-week event is to invite your guests to partake in group experiences if they’d like. Say your wedding is in Provence – have a couple buffer days before the big parties to go hot air ballooning with your guests, take a cooking class together, paint pottery with a local artist, rent vintage cars for drives through the countryside, have a day of antiquing in the famous local flea markets… You get the gist!”
Anticipate additional costs
As much as your vendors want to offer you a postponed date without any additional costs, their hard expenses or increased scope of work may demand it. Willow & Oak Events shares, “The rate we quote is bespoke to each client, calculated specifically based on their wedding scope and variable considerations (guest size, travel/accommodation rates, peak vs off-peak, # of staff required, etc). While we factor in these expenses from the get go, along with the number of hours we estimate dedicating to the wedding based on all the variables, a change of date will absolutely result in additional planning hours, meetings, emails, phone calls and maybe even site visits. And that’s assuming the destination/venue stays the same! The scope becomes much greater if the location changes altogether since many modifications must be made at that point. We’re more than happy to do it! It just means that in some cases, we have to start from (almost) scratch.”
Same can be said for your floral designer or caterer who may have ordered perishable product already. So it’s just something to be mindful when considering a postponement or cancellation. As service providers, it can be easy to assume that this is an easy exchange. Though when the scope of work increases and significant changes are made, not to mention they’ve now lost a date in the future they could have booked new clients for, they should be compensated for their time and expenses as any other product-based business would.
It sucks. Let’s be honest. No one wants to make any changes after these months and in some cases, years, of planning! But a big factor in everything from floral design to bridal fashion to wedding favors is shipping. And if your items aren’t being sourced locally, you might be looking at a significant delay in shipping times or restrictions between borders altogether.
This is part of having that open conversation with your planner, florist, etc! Ask them what elements of the day might need to be revisited considering the new date, new season, etc. Floral varieties may need to change, a bespoke gown may need to be ordered asap (or a new one altogether may need to be sourced more locally) and a menu might need to change depending on seasonal ingredients for starters.
Gaby of Marweddings reassures that even if additional costs are incurred and modifications need to be made, your planner will always find a way! She says, “Just talk to your wedding planner. You may reconsider adjusting the bar package option, the floral selection, changing décor accessories, changing furniture selection, etc. These difficult times should remind all of us that your loved ones are far more important than the look!” So now’s the time to put your problem solving cap on and tackle a backup plan!
COVID-19 and Your Wedding Guests: How to tell them about changing your wedding date
Even if you haven’t finalized a new date for your wedding yet or confirmed a postponement at all, it’s best to be proactive and let your guests know that you’re aware of the pandemic and are keeping them in mind. You can shoot them a bcc email or make some personal calls in addition to crafting a message on your wedding website with any notices of changes or general acknowledgment that you’ll keep them in the loop.
We’d recommend some sort of notification alert in addition to this website blurb just because they might not actively be checking in for updates, so this is a better way of ensuring they actually see your message. You can link to helpful articles from the CDC directly if you want to go the extra mile and give them a reference point for travel updates in real time.
If you want to send out new save-the-dates or invitations, there’s no set rule here! It’s understandable if the budget doesn’t allow for an unanticipated paper goods expense like this, and there are alternatives aplenty! Sites like Evite and Paperless Post and wedding websites through Minted and Zola, for example, give couples the opportunity to update their guests on any wedding changes in an aesthetically pleasing way that goes straight to their inbox.
Don’t forget to update your actual wedding website once any changes are official!
Send updates to your bridal party
Aside from getting their moral support (you know they’re gonna love on you hard during this time), it’s a good idea to think about where your bridesmaid dresses are being sourced. If they’re coming from China, you could see a delay double the typical processing and shipping time… I’m talking 24 weeks for delivery at this point. That number can come as quite the shock, especially if you weren’t thinking of miscellaneous factors like wedding fashion. If this is a no-go with your timeline, consider inviting them to choose gowns of their own choice, from their own sources for a pretty mismatched look (with some guidance of course!) Here’s a post we shared recently about achieving that perfect mismatched bridesmaid style, so give it a quick read!
Honeymoon x Coronavirus
If your travel plans have been thwarted for either a destination wedding or honeymoon plans, take another look at the cancellation policies in place. Many companies are waiving their typical policies in lieu of all this, so approach them the same way you do with your vendors (from the heart!) and have an open conversation about what can be done.
This is also a good time to look into CFAR insurance (Cancel for any Reason), an upgrade which will offer more comprehensive coverage should anything like this happen again in the future (typically 50-75% of your entire prepaid, insured trip).
Take care of you!
Willow & Oak Events advises, “It’s easy find yourself buried beneath the information, the news updates, the stress and general fear during this time, so we implore you to keep your health at the forefront! Mentally, exercise a tremendous about of self-care. Take breaks from social media, meditate daily (the Calm app is a lifesaver!), practice gratitude, journal, breathe deeply… Physically, eat well, stretch for 20 minutes each day and exercise! Even though your gym might be closed, there are TONS of apps out there offering virtual workouts – a fave just might be Jillian Michaels’ app! And when in doubt, Youtube.”
It goes without saying that you should abide by recommended hygiene practices every day, but especially now. That means washing your hands with soap for 20 minutes, and doing it often. It also means covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze and staying 6 feet apart from other people.
For newly engaged brides just getting started or couples with wedding dates from May 2020 and beyond…
First of all, congratulations! Don’t let these recent events scare you. Have patience, understanding and most of all, faith. There are still a lot of unknowns in this uncharted territory, and you still have plenty of time before your big day. With the current state of things, wedding vendors are forced to play Tetris with their open dates as they reschedule their March, April and even some summer destination weddings. So if you do have a bit more time until your wedding date, we encourage you to not make any rash decisions that will bring more stress upon yourselves and your vendors!
That being said, anticipate that availabilities are going to be slim across the board as dates are quickly filling up for 2020 and 2021. The best thing you can do is wait until we know more, until the dust settles so that you can have a much better chance at booking the venue you love, as well as the dream vendor team who will make your wedding truly exceptional. With dates a little more spread out, you might have a better shot with rental company inventory too 😉
In the meantime, peruse the Ruffled Vendor Guide for some dreamy inspiration and top level experts in the field so you can have a game plan of who to reach out to when it’s time! Truth be told, if this global event isn’t a prime example of why you need a wedding planner, we don’t know what it is!
Know that we are here for every single one of you, so ask questions in the comments, share your own stories + advice and join us in solidarity as we commit to nipping this virus in the bud. We are strong and love will always overcome!