We’ve been steering clear of the ‘C’ word at Gettin’ Hitched Rocks HQ. Amid all the uncertainty and concern, we wanted to give couples a Corona-free place to focus on something fun, something to look forward to when the quarantine is lifted.
But Coronavirus has impacted so many couples – and will impact so many more – that we realised the best way to offer advice on planning a stress-free wedding right now is to tackle it head-on: this is our practical guide to postponing your wedding, during lockdown.
When to postpone your wedding
Planning a spring or summer wedding in 2020 feels like playing the worst game of chicken right now – will you or your venue call first, to say things can’t go ahead?
It looks increasingly unlikely that large gatherings will be allowed together again soon. Even for June and July weddings, it might be a good idea to start talking to your venue and wedding suppliers about a contingency plan so, if you need to, you know you can move everything.
As daunting as it is, it will feel better to have a plan in place and a clear idea of what to do than the uncertainty of if things are going ahead or not.
Make sure you mention ‘COVID-19’ or ‘Coronavirus’ by name when you call. Don’t reference ‘the situation right now’ or ‘what’s going on’ – specifically mention the virus, so there can be no doubt you’re not asking to change dates for personal reasons but because you’re being forced to.
Why? Read on…
Force majeure and your wedding supplier contracts
Because the government has issued stay-at-home orders, any contracts you had with your venue or suppliers are considered to be in force majeure – that means something outside your or their control has made it impossible to fulfil the contract, so it’s as if the contract never existed to begin with.
Practically-speaking, this means…
You’re not obligated to pay hefty rearrangement fees
If you were cancelling your wedding or moving it for personal reasons, depending on the contract you signed with your venue or your suppliers, you might forfeit your deposit or have to pay a hefty fee to change things.
This is because they would still be able to hold up their end of the bargain – hosting your wedding, taking photos, or providing you with flowers. They would still able to do that, and maybe even turned away other couples to hold the date you’re changing, so it’s considered fair under the contract that you would pay to change things.
The government putting the country into lockdown is seen as very different to you changing the date. Your suppliers can’t give you a venue or flowers, and you can’t take them.
But postponing your wedding during Coronavirus is the government’s decision – what would normally happen doesn’t apply.
However. A lot of wedding suppliers aren’t huge corporations who’ll be covered by insurance and won’t lose a penny – they’re small business owners or one-man bands. By moving your wedding to next year for free, they would lose both this year’s income, from the couples who would have booked throughout the year, and next year’s income, since they’re supporting their 2020 couples instead of working with new 2021 couples.
While you’re not under any obligation to pay a zillion pounds or hand over your first born child – and it’s important to know that, even if your contract says otherwise – if your photographer or celebrant asks for a reasonable amount you can afford to move your date to next year, we’d recommend paying it.
Consider it a tip for their top notch work, and a good deed, supporting a small business in a hard time.
You’re entitled to get your money back (if you haven’t been given a service yet)
If your supplier can’t work on your new date, you may be able to get your money back.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve paid a deposit, a booking fee, or a holding fee, your contract being in force majeure means you are able to get what would normally be non-refundable deposits back.
If all your supplier has done for your deposit is hold a date, you should be able to get it all. If they’ve done work already – like an engagement photoshoot (even if it was advertised as free with the wedding package, it’s work they did for you in good faith), or moodboards and sketches of what your floral display would look like – they are entitled to keep some of the deposit to cover their time.
There’s no hard and fast rule here. Talk and be fair to each other.
Do try and keep in mind your suppliers are being hurt by the quarantine, too. If you’re working with small business owners and if you can afford to be a bit more forgiving, please do. Maybe your cakemaker can’t deliver a cake on your new wedding day, but rather than ask them to refund you what they’ve already spent on their mortgage, you could ask them to give you a cake subscription box for a few months or deliver some goodies to your friends and family. Maybe your photographer could do a photoshoot for your family reunion, when you’re all out of quarantine.
If there’s no way to work together, you could propose an installment plan, so they don’t have to find a huge chunk of money at once, in a time when they have no way of making income. (And other couples asking for refunds too!) Start it as late as you can afford.
Being kind here doesn’t just get you good karma. Your original suppliers can give you excellent recommendations for their replacements – and may even be able to negotiate mates rates to get you something within your original budget, so everyone’s a winner!
Practical steps to postpone your wedding
Now that you know where you stand, let’s go through what you need to do.
If you have a wedding planner, talk to them first – this is the kind of stress they signed up to take off you! – but, if you don’t…
Get in touch with your venue to see if you can get another date with them next year. Do this by phone, so you can quickly come to an agreement, then pop what you agreed in an email, so you have it in writing.
Specifically mention the words ‘COVID-19’ or ‘Coronavirus’ when you speak with them – it’s important to be entirely clear this isn’t your decision.
If you can, ask them to hold two or three dates for a day, while you co-ordinate with your other suppliers, so you can choose the one that will work for most people.
If that’s not possible, try to pick a day in the far future – like the same date next year – to give you the best chance of not needing to postpone again. It’s a bit riskier aiming for autumn this year – it’s not as far away as it sounds.
Get in touch with the suppliers who are coming on the day – photographer, celebrant, cakemaker, florist, photobooth, DJ – and ask if they can make the new date; if your photographer can make one date and your florist can make another, sit down with your partner to decide who is more important to you.
You’ll be able to find another supplier for the new date – but they might not have the exact style you wanted.
If your supplier can’t make the new date, talk refunds.
Be kind – it’s as hard for them as it is for you. Most wedding suppliers are small businesses – they won’t be making any income in 2021 if they move every 2020 wedding they had booked, and they’ve probably had to spend the deposit already on bills!
If they’ve given you a partial service – like a photographer doing an engagement shoot, a cakemaker doing a tasting and sketching designs for your cake, or a DJ creating a sample playlist – they’re entitled to keep some of the money you paid, to cover that time, even though they haven’t done the full day. Talk and decide what’s fair to both of you.
Ask if they’d be able to recommend a replacement. The wedding industry is a small world – they probably know other photographers whose style is similar to their own, or other local vegan cakemakers.
Leave them a review anyway. They’re a small business. They’re going to struggle. Leave a review of how it was to work with them – it’ll go further than you might think.
Next, talk to the vendors who do their work ahead of time – dressmakers, stationers, jewellers. They most likely will still be able to do the work for you, but it’s still worth sending an email, rather than assuming, as work still needs to be done close to the bone – especially for things like table plans and place settings.
Start planning for your new date!
You don’t need to send out whole new invitations – a wedding website that can inform everyone of the new date will work wonders here – but it might be worth it to make it clear to all your guests that they need to RSVP again.
Your stationer might be able to reuse some of the work they did for you before and so give you a bit of a discount. You can ask – but don’t push it if they say no!
Mark your original date, when it comes. It should have been a big day for you – it shouldn’t feel like any other day in isolation.
And the awkward disclaimer bit
It should go without saying that we’re not lawyers – we make wedding websites and stationery. (Our mums are dead proud.) But this is advice from the perspective of a small business, doing what we can to help couples through Coronavirus.
This also comes from a British perspective – if things work differently in your country, please leave a comment and let us know, to help other couples.
To sum up
Read your contract. Know that this isn’t your fault so you can’t be made to pay through the nose for it. And talk to your vendors – they’re nice people, and they’ll do their best for you.
Good luck. And remember, whenever your day is, it will be wonderful.
Your wedding’s not cancelled. Your love isn’t cancelled. You’re just changing the date of the party, so more people can be there.