Lately my Instagram DMs have been flooded with couples asking me questions related to COVID-19 and how their weddings might be affected. “When should I start thinking about postponing?” “When should we decide to postpone?” “How do I tell my guests and vendors what’s happening?” Planning a wedding in the time of COVID-19 can be tough, confusing and frustrating. For the sake of my couples and the couples who have turned to me for advice, I decided to develop a COVID-19 Wedding Postponement Protocol for Canvas Weddings.
Before we dive in, I want to share a few disclaimers with you. First, this protocol is not “one size fits all.” Every wedding is different, and everyone’s situation may be slightly different, whether it’s due to a majority of guests having to travel from out of town, some important family or guests having some medical complications, or the location where the wedding is happening being close to an outbreak center. Also, different venues and vendors may be responding in different ways to this and setting up specific timelines of their own. So, while I do think the principles of this protocol can work for everyone, know that your situation may look a little different, and that’s OK.
Second, I will be the first to admit that this “protocol” has been very recently developed. Prior to 2020 I did not have a pandemic plan for my couples – and I’m sure other vendors would say the same thing. That said, I developed this protocol and timetable after walking several of my couples this year through the murky waters of COVID postponements.
5 Months Prior the the Wedding – Have a conversation about Plan B
Approximately 5 months prior to your wedding, I want you and your partner to have an honest conversation about what a plan B for your wedding would look like for you. If you’re struggling with how to talk about it, consider these questions:
- Would you still want to have a wedding where everyone on your guest list could come?
- In your ideal Plan B, would you rather have a smaller wedding sooner, and then have a celebration later with more people?
- Is it important to you to have the wedding at the same place, and with the same vendors?
What you’re trying to identify here is what the ideal Plan B looks like for YOU – perhaps you’d rather wait another year until you could have the wedding the way you originally imagined it. Or perhaps you’d rather scale down the size of the wedding so you can get married sooner rather than later. Or perhaps you’re flexible on when with who, but you want to make sure your vendor team can stay in place. Whatever it looks like, determine between the two of you what is most important to you in a Plan B.
3-4 Months Prior to the Wedding – Start Gathering Data from Vendors
Now that you’ve gotten some clarity on what your ideal Plan B scenario would look like, it’s time to collect some data that will help you make your decisions.
First, I want you to check with your wedding venue and wedding vendors on how they are handling COVID-related postponements and cancellations. Many venues and vendors may have some timetables associated with this. For example, your venue may be allowing postponements, but won’t reschedule anything until 8 weeks in advance, or your photographer may be offering a certain set of dates for postponements at no additional cost, but others may come with a rebooking fee.
I recommend starting this conversation with your venue and seeing if they are able to offer any guidance on what back up dates might be available. Having some options from them will give you better framework for gathering information from your other vendors. Here is an email template I’ve put together for you to use when reaching out to your vendors during this stage:
Hey Party People,
We hope you all are staying safe and healthy during this crazy time.
As you know, our wedding is coming up on DATE at VENUE. Given the rapidly changing situation regarding COVID-19, we are exploring our options a bit. We are still hoping to host our wedding as scheduled, but we wanted to check in with you and gather data so we can make the best decisions going forward.
Here is what we’re looking for from all of you:
1. Do you have any flexibility when it comes to your deadlines and payment due dates? Since we’re coming down to the wire with a lot of variables coming our way, if you are able to extend your deadline for final counts or final payment, that would be extremely helpful. Please let us know what updated parameters you would be comfortable with.
2. We are also considering the possibility of postponing the wedding to ALTERNATE DATE(S). If we decide to go that route, how would that look for you? Would we be able to apply our deposits and payments towards the new date? Would there be additional fees to consider? Please let us know if a rescheduled service is possible for you and what that would look like.
Thanks so much for your help! NAMES
As you start getting responses back from your vendors, make a chart of who is available on the new date(s), what parameters exist, any additional feels you’ll be facing, etc.
Next I want you to gather some data from your guests, particularly your VIP guests (family, wedding party, close friends). If you’re going to make some decisions about changing dates, you’ll want to know if the people who are most important to you will be able to attend. Check in with those people regarding the potential postponement dates and be sure to log any conflicts in your data chart.
Now is also a good time to let your guests know that you are closely monitoring the situation. If you have the ability to email all of your guests, take the time to do that. Here is a template to get you started:
Dear Friends + Family,
We hope you are all staying safe + healthy during this crazy time.
We are hopeful that we will be able to celebrate our marriage with you in the not-too-distant future. Given the developing situation regarding COVID-19, we are considering all of our options on how to best and safely host our wedding.
We are actively monitoring the situation, and if the wedding is going to be postponed, we will let you know. Please continue to reference the website for updates [SITE ADDRESS].
Thank you for your support and we hope to see you all soon!
Stay safe, NAMES
1.5-2 Months Prior to the Wedding – Decision Time
Now that you are armed with some good data – I want you to make a decision on whether to move forward with the wedding as-scheduled or to postpone it about 6-8 weeks in advance. If you’re thinking that this window seems too soon to be making a call, there are a few advantages to setting this window as your decision time:
- If you make a decision in this window you’ll likely be doing so before your final counts are due and many of your final payments will come due. This will be different for everyone, so be sure to know what your deadlines are for final counts and payments. That said, if you are able to move to a postponement scenario before putting down all of your balance payments, you may be able to work out different payment structures where you’ll put out money over a longer period of time leading up to the new date.
- You’ll give your guests enough time to make or change their plans. Some guests may have already made their plans, and if you decide to postpone, they’ll need to change flights and hotel rooms. Others may have been holding off making arrangements until you make a decision. If you decide to move forward, you’ll want to give them time to make arrangements.
- You’ll save yourself from down-to-the-wire stress. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to be just three weeks from your wedding and not knowing if it’s going to happen. In my opinion, that seems like too much of a stressful situation to put yourselves through.
One thing I want to acknowledge is that we are all making decisions with incomplete and changing sets of information. No one knows how this situation will develop and what the laws and guidance will be saying at decision time. We can only control the information we collect and make decisions based on what information we have access to. It might be hard to know if you are making the “right” decision when it comes time to make a call one way or the other. But if you’re prepared yourselves for this moment and diligently collected your data, I imagine the “right” decision for you will make itself clear.
Post-Decision Time – Let Everyone Know the Plan
Once you’ve made your decision to move forward or postpone, let your guests and vendors know the plan. If you are choosing to postpone, ask your vendors for postponement contracts/agreements. Email your guests to thank them for their support and let them know the new date (if you have one set) or that the new date is forthcoming.
This completes the Canvas Weddings COVID Postponement Protocol. Are you struggling with how to handle this situation? Get in touch. I would love to connect with you and support you in any way I can.