Veteran Asheville Wedding Photographer and Industry Expert weighs in on Wedding Planning in the time of COVID-19; Navigating Postponements and Re-scheduling with your Wedding Vendors.
As I sit here (at 4am) unable to sleep for the third night in a row, I’m asking myself: Where do I even start with this (my head is still spinning too)? How do I approach this topic? How do I talk to my Brides about it? How can I help them? What do they need from me right now? What industry wisdom, insight or advice do I have to share with them to make this process less painful and stressful for everyone?
The first part of this blog post is for the Bride who has or is considering postponing her Wedding Date.
And, the second part of this blog post is for the Bride who is newly Engaged and in the beginning stages of planning her wedding while watching as all of this chaos unfolds on the world stage.
PART I: To the Bride who has or is considering postponing her Wedding Date
Sweet Girl, I know that you are SO Disappointed, Sad, Anxious and Stressed the F out over all of this. This must feel like a total nightmare for you right now after months of planning and preparation and anticipation and I am so, so sorry that this is happening but the first thing that I want you to know is that: I am here to help you. Always.
Whenever I’ve experienced profound disappointments, losses or setbacks in my life (and there have been a few), I always give myself a day or two to fall apart, to ride the hot mess express, to be sad, to be angry, to cry and to just get it all out. Then, I pick myself up by those leopard print bootie straps, put my game face on (fi’ya hair and makeup & outfit on point, so I look better than I actually feel inside.) and then I keep it move’n, navigating the path forward like the brave, bad ass, boss bitch that I am and you are too, so let’s do this together, okay!?
Should I Postpone or Cancel my Wedding?
Per the CDC advisories on gatherings of more than 10 people, for the next 15 days in the United States and with total lockdowns in California, Europe, The United Kingdom and throughout Asia and beyond – wedding industry experts are insisting that weddings planned for March, April, and potentially May be postponed. The reality is that we don’t know what we don’t know, and what we don’t know for sure is when we’re going to be able to have weddings again but I do believe that the end of this year is going to be extremely busy.
The key, it seems, is to focus on postponements and rescheduling, rather than cancellations to avoid losing those deposits. I have been really encouraging my clients to postpone, because we’re all in this together. I normally only shoot a maximum of about 45 weddings per year, and just this past week alone, I’ve had five couples postpone their weddings for what was left of my 2020 fall dates. I expect that my May & June Brides aren’t far behind in these decisions. Those couples will probably be looking at winter dates or they may wait a full calendar year and look into spring/summer 2021. None are cancelled—and that’s the way to go, because their retainers will apply for their future events.
What does this mean for the Newly Engaged Bride hoping to plan her Wedding for 2021? It means that you need to kick it into high gear right now to book that venue and that photographer, you also need to go ahead and book the day of coordinator, florist, baker & DJ/Band pretty soon thereafter because unfortunately, you are now in a race for available 2021 dates with all of these 2020 couples who are now forced to reschedule. This is an unfortunate reality of COVID-19 fall out. There are only so many available weekend dates in any given month and now double the amount of couples vying to fill them. You can do the math on that.
So far, the majority of couples who were planning to marry in the next two to three months are postponing their wedding dates and choosing dates in September through December when rescheduling. The problem with this is that September – November (especially in regions that have a “Fall Foliage Season” ) is that those months are PEAK Wedding Season. Which means those are the busiest months of the year in the Wedding industry and that most Wedding Vendors book up for those months well in advance, as I am sure you’re aware. This creates a logistics headache with trying to find dates that are available and align with your venue/s and with your key vendors and guests.
The solutions to all of your rescheduling problems: Remember how over the last several weeks in this email series, you’ve heard me tell you (a bunch of times) to “Think Outside the Box”, to “Go your own way”, and “Don’t Fall into the trap of doing ‘what everyone else does’ or what’s ‘expected’ of you? Listen up, because I’m about to blow your little lid way off:
You don’t HAVE to get Married on a Saturday.
Because guess what: couples get married all over the world, every single day, on days other than Saturday! (Remember my Planning an Eco-Conscious Wedding blog a couple weeks ago!?) There are 115,000 Weddings EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Across the globe. They can’t all be on Saturday! 😉 The real way to guarantee that you’re still going to have your dream wedding is to move away from a weekend date. Let go of that hang up. It’s not a deal breaker. It really isn’t. Be flexible and be willing to host an event midweek, on off-peak dates, like Monday through Thursday and this will alleviate SO MUCH of your re-scheduling stress!
BONUS: Fridays, Sundays or Weekday Dates are often CHEAPER at Wedding Venues. Be flexible, Save yourself some money and re-coupe some of what you’ve lost and look at a Friday, Sunday or Weekday for your re-schedule date! 🙂 #mindblown
BUT WHAT ABOUT MY GUESTS: This is not “business as usual” anymore ladies. We’re all going to have to be flexible, adjust, roll with it and give a little. Also, chances are they’re probably taking a day or two off anyway to recover from your wedding bash! It’s going to be fine. Give them enough notice and explain the incredible circumstances that brought you to this rock & a hard place that you were in and they’ll make it work. I promise. Plus, who doesn’t love a rage’r on a Thursday!? I know I do. LOL 😉
As for those June through August Weddings, you should really watch how things progress in the coming weeks and weigh your options wisely. If you are planning an event after the month of May, use this time to have conversations and check-ins with your planner and your team of vendors, particularly with your key players and venue as soon as possible. Your main goal right now is to practice social distancing, limit exposure, stay healthy, keep yourselves and your guests safe, and minimize loss and risk.
If you’re even considering postponing, speak with your venue and your vendors now, just to check on who would be available on any of the new dates your venue has available. Key considerations are the vendors that can only be in one place at one time: your band, photographer, officiant, etc. Line it all up and prepare so that you can get first dibs on those new dates!
Ask any luxury wedding professional worth their salt, and they’ll tell you that it pays to keep your wedding date within the year when rescheduling. There’s really no downside in staying the course—as long as you have a backup plan, which is Fridays, Sundays, and other weekdays. Unfortunately, this pandemic has shaken the Travel, Hospitality, and Wedding/Event Industries to the core—it has the potential to leave them decimated. If you’re looking to support these industries and the vendors that you hired because you love them, if you want to do something positive, to help them in this very scary and uncertain time: postpone to a date later this year.
Choosing a weekend in 2021 could leave a venue or vendor’s business unable to support your event come next year.
While wedding planning is emotional, individualized, and personal, it is unfortunately unrealistic for clients to think that any small business could survive refunding everyone or scheduling two events for the price of one. What do I mean by two events for the price of one? For example: when you booked your April 25th Wedding, your vendors likely said ‘no’ to anyone else who requested your date. Now, because of this coronavirus pandemic forcing 2-3 months of weddings (approximately 12) couples are now looking to fill the remaining 2020 dates and into the 2021 season. Obviously your vendors will give those couples postponing previously booked weddings priority for the rest of their 2020 dates and 2021 dates and that also means that they won’t be able to book another wedding for 4.24.2021 (when under normal circumstances, they should have been able to book that date with a new wedding, to contribute to their 2021 income)…. So not only are they loosing significant income in 2020 but they’re also loosing out in 2021 as well because they won’t be able to book another event because they’ll be working your event that was suppose to happen in 2020. So, hear me again: you are not alone in your disappointment, sadness, anger and frustration with this impossible situation. We are ALL in together.
Hot Pro Tip: If you’re getting married July – December 2020, go ahead and contact travel companies, like Embark Beyond, about providing travel insurance for your guests later in the season and give your guests some options for travel insurance. This way, should you need to postpone as well, they’re protected in advance. You can probably disburse that information to them via your Wedding website’s travel info section.
How do I postpone my Wedding?
If your invitations have already gone out, postponing warrants a phone call. Etiquette would also suggest that you also postpone formally, with something in the mail but in an unprecedented time like this, a phone call to each guest should be a priority and it reduces anxiety on everyone’s part.
As for invitations going out in the coming months, it may be best to include a note about a possible postponement or hold off on sending them out for a few weeks. We have an end-of-May bride that’s putting a note in the invitation going out this week that advises guests that the date may have to change—which I think is a great idea.
The best thing that you could possibly do, since you have all the time in the world during this period of social isolation, would be to write handwritten notes to your guests. Maybe it would take you two hours a day, for a week, but wouldn’t it be nice for them to really feel loved and understand why you wanted them there? It’s an exercise in gratitude and grace. It will make people even happier to be there on a Wednesday or Thursday, knowing that you reached out to them personally during this time in a really elegant, thoughtful way.
Definitely don’t be so obsessed with rebranding all your signage and paper goods with new dates, and you don’t have to print new invitations. That’s not important and it’s a waste of money. You can call your guests or even email them, but let them know sooner rather than later that things are being rescheduled.
Can I get my Deposits Back?
Remember when I said, we’re all in this together? I know that you are totally overwhelmed and maybe a little panicked and in your head about this right now. But, please try to take like 30 seconds to consider the position that your vendors are in right now as well. They’re loosing significant 2020 income that was expected in the next few months, suddenly and without warning and they’re facing loosing even more income with giving up their remaining available 2020 dates (and even some 2021 dates) that they had hoped to book with other weddings/more work, in order to accommodate your reschedule date, which means they’re loosing even more money this year and next year. Please try to be mindful of this when speaking with your vendors. Most likely, your vendors have contracts in place that outline this explicitly but, you should not expect to receive deposits or retainers back as those are meant to secure your date and time and in some cases, meant that your vendor turned away other work because they were committed to you. And they still are. You should also be wary of using the word cancel when speaking to your vendors; instead, opt for postponements (ideally within the same year) to repurpose the investments you’ve already made in your event.
The way you behave in this situation has to simply be human. Every person you’ve hired for your event is a small business, who have each hired countless freelancers. Everyone involved has declined other work as a result of being booked. Nobody is taking your deposit and using it to buy a Jaguar. Those funds are used to keep companies and contractors afloat as they work towards our—and your—common goal.
We’re in unchartered territory when it comes to business and ethics and contracts right now, I think it’s all about sitting down and having an honest, level-headed conversation with your vendors and realizing that they are a business owners who are human beings, going through this crisis as well and that they have families to support and businesses to save in the midst of all this chaos. Accept that you have asked them to hold one date, and now you are now asking them to hold another. They’re now dealing with two commitments to you for the price of one—and sadly, it isn’t fair to anyone.
One way to make sure that you get your dream team back on board for your wedding? Choose a weekday if you have to and keep your wedding within the 2020 calendar year if you can! You chose 2020 to be your year—and it still can be! 🙂
How do I Move Forward?
The most important thing that everybody can commit to right now is hunkering down at home or on a trail somewhere (if you’re like me) to stay healthy, with the mindset on keeping their wedding dates in the summer, fall and December 2020. Get your ass on that yoga mat, meditate or take a bath. Approach this with a level head. A wedding is a high-stress, emotional process anyway—throw all this stress into the middle of it, and everything is going to spin twice as fast. Find a moment in your day to stop and breath deeply.
And as you prioritize your health, wellness, and self-care, don’t sit idly. Use your upcoming time at home finish the planning & to look toward the future! Your Wedding Vendors are all going to be insanely busy at the same time once the season picks up in the late summer/fall. Let’s go ahead and schedule those pre-wedding consultations now to talk through your timelines and chat about what’s going on with you! You can also use this time to plan other things like your music, which is so much harder than you think. Think about how many people are giving speeches, have those guest experience conversations, review mood boards for décor, have all of those time-intensive conversations. Schedule calls—video calls if possible. Right now, vendors are looking to give you tons of customer service, so take advantage of it and let’s work together, we’re on the same team, YOURS! 😉 xo
PART II: To the Bride who is Newly Engaged and in the beginning stages of Planning her Dream Wedding
First, Congratulations to you both on your Engagement!!! What an incredibly exciting moment in your lives! I am so happy for you, that your hearts found one another & that you’ve chosen to spend your lives together! Please try to remember in the midst of all of this chaos, that your Engagement IS important and special and deserves to be celebrated! Honey, you deserve this moment in the sun and I’m so sorry for the clouds…
I bet you’re feeling a little shell shocked right about now, as you’re watching all of this madness unfold in the world.. I mean, just a week ago, you were flying high on cloud nine in that newly engaged bliss and now this pandemic comes in and steals your shine… First, I want you to know that: I am here to help you. Always.
Second, take a deep breath and refocus. This is not forever. This will end. Life will return to normal again and we WILL be celebrating you guys at your Wedding, sooner than you think! The good news is: you’ve got quite a lot of work to do during this down time to keep you busy! 🙂
Be sure to sign up for my mailing list if you haven’t already! I have a Wedding Planning Email Series that walks you through the entire Planning Process including: tons of Wedding Industry Insider Knowledge, Pro Tips & Tricks, Planning Checklists, Posing Guides, Style Guides, DIY, Decor Hacks, How to Plan an Eco friendly wedding and lots of ideas on how to take care of yourself during this season, with plenty more to come! You can sign up for that here: Asheville Wedding Photo Exclusive Email Series
I hope you read Part I because this next part needs to be priority numero uno for you right now! In Part I, I discussed what the logistics of this means in terms of all of the postponements and reschedules happening for the March – June Brides.
What does this mean for us?
Unfortunately, this means that you’re going to need to kick it into high gear and get focused on securing your venue and your photographer like yesterday!! If you’re hoping to get married in late 2020 or 2021, all of these couples who are being forced to postpone their weddings and reschedule are looking at fall/winter dates (which for many vendors are already booked) and that will leave a pretty big portion of these couples also looking to book our 2021 dates. So, if you want your Dream Venue or your Dream Photographer, you really need to get moving on that ASAP in order to ensure their availability for your chosen date! You don’t wanna be stuck with the B-Team.
What can we learn from this as we plan our Wedding?
- Wedding Cancellation Insurance – Ask any Bride & Groom who were planning to be Married in March, April or May 2020 — No one could have ever imagined or predicted a global pandemic to hit right before their Wedding. That’s like the stuff you read about in sci-fi novels, that’s not real! Ohhhh, but it is and that’s exactly what insurance is for! To protect you when the unexpected happens. I would look into getting some ASAP. I just did a quick search for companies that provide Wedding Cancellation Insurance and there are several. Here’s a link to one of them: Wedsure
- Travel Insurance for your Guests – I feel like this seems like standard procedure for anyone investing money to travel a significant distance in order to attend a wedding but we’ve gotten so comfortable as a society and we’re reliant on things usually going according to plan, so people don’t always opt to spend the extra cash on the travel insurance. I would encourage your guests to look into purchasing travel insurance, particularly if your wedding is in summer or late 2020 or early 2021. But really, anytime, forever, always! Lots of couples remind their guests to purchase trip insurance on their wedding website, in the travel details section!
- When you choose the right vendors, they’re going to be on your team, no matter what. They’re going to be the people that you turn to for help when the shit hits the fan and we’re going to be here for you. always. We family now. 😉
If you want to talk with me about your late 2020, 2021 or 2022 Wedding,
Please use this link to my calendar to schedule a video call & album viewing with me next week!
I’ll be here. In the house. With a 3yr old. For the foreseeable future. 😉 (too soon!?) HAHA!
Talk soon Mrs!
Take a DEEP BREATH, Everything is going to be PERFECT. I PROMISE.