Deep breaths, everyone. It’s been a tough couple of weeks and we’re in for some more. As wedding planners, we are here to deal with all of this and to help you process your options. If your wedding is taking place in the coming months, we understand the anxiety and pain you are feeling.
Our contract says that we will “be prepared to meet any emergency situation that may arise” on your wedding day, but we don’t think that a grounded, comprehensive emergency response is limited to just the wedding day. As planners, our role is to provide realistic, expert advice and to advocate for our couples under any and all circumstances.
Several of our couples have been rocked by the developments over these past days. Many events have cancelled. By cancelling, thankfully, we mostly mean postponed. However, postponement offers its own challenges. We’re working with our couples on choosing new dates and would like to share the same advice with you that we have been sharing with them.
Is This Covered?
Wondering about insurance? There are two types of wedding insurance: general liability coverage and cancellation coverage. Liability insurance is more common and this is what is required by venues when they require you to get insurance. If you did get cancellation coverage, you need to read the exact phrasing for what is covered and what the limits are. Find out as well about what the process is for documenting your claims and when you can expect reimbursement. The least stressful and most prudent course of action is to work with your vendors to minimize costs and choose a suitable new date.
Changing your date? Map out a game plan.
Consider the timing: We don’t know what the future will hold for the coming months, which means that many May and some June couples are also postponing. If rescheduling for summer is an option, consider what might happen if your new date ends up needing to be postponed.
Keep in mind that many popular dates—especially Saturdays—are already taken. Be flexible with your expectations and remember that your guests will understand if you pick a Friday or a Sunday. Hey, let’s make Thursday weddings a thing if we need to. It’s not the most convenient but none of this is, so let’s make it work.
Talk to your vendors: Even before you delve into the language in the contracts, connect with your vendors for a conversation about your options and their available dates. You might find that many vendors are more flexible with you than what their contract requires. This is an unprecedented situation that we’re working through as a team. Once you do talk with your vendors, email to confirm what was discussed.
Communicate compassionately: We’re all in this together. Nobody wanted a pandemic. Just as you have been placed in a difficult position, so have your vendors. In general, we have seen most vendors be as flexible as they can while remaining solvent. The unfortunate reality is that vendors are mostly small businesses that have had these events booked for a long time and were counting on full payment for these dates. Their future income for some events remains uncertain because they are not sure whether they will be available on the rescheduled date, and even if they are, they will be doing a lot more work for the same amount of money. For many vendors, taking a rebooked date means that they are now holding two event dates for the price of one.
On the flip side, wedding vendors got into this industry because they love their couples and they understand how meaningful a wedding day is. We have seen most vendors do everything they can to keep rebooking costs down for clients and to be flexible with their contract terms.
We would like to offer particular thanks to several vendors we have seen go above and beyond the call of duty with their compassion toward our couples: Paramount Events, Chicago History Museum, Florist and Hound Design, XO Design Co, Renaissance Chicago Downtown, Fairlie, Erickson Design and Amy Beck Cake Design have been absolutely amazing in the care they have shown toward our couples.
Talk to your guests: Unfortunately, you may end up losing some guests for your new date. Work with the most essential people to find out what they can manage and go from there. You may find a silver lining in that some people who couldn’t make it to your original date are now able to attend.
Be frank with your guests that this is a difficult time for you and you would like to limit communication on the matter for the time being, but that you will keep them apprised of any news. You have probably had many people reaching out and asking what they think are harmless questions, but this can be very stressful. Post a message on your wedding website and send a message to guests to let them know where things stand. If your planner is willing and able, direct guests to them for any questions. We have been doing this for our couples and it has been a huge help.
Take time to process: This is a loss, and you can deal with it as such. Your sights were set on your wedding day for so long and now things have changed in the blink of an eye. It’s an emotional time and everyone understands that, even if they don’t know exactly what you’re going through. You may feel isolated right now but know that you are not alone. Grieve, process, and keep taking it one day at a time.
This is going to have far-reaching effects on the wedding industry, both short- and long-term. Here is what we predict will happen.
Typical wedding days will change: Hellloooooo non-Saturday weddings! Fridays and Sundays are about to become very popular. We're going to start seeing Thursday weddings too.
Late 2020 and early 2021 will be VERY busy: Nearly every wedding that has needed to postpone has found an alternative date later in 2020 or early in 2021. In Chicago, fall is already the busiest time of year; even in regular circumstances, vendors are already pushed to the limit with bookings. Now that several months’ worth of weddings are shifting into this time frame, it’s going to be tough on your vendors. Know that they may need longer response times while they get this all figured out and try to stay sane while still providing a quality service.
Contracts will change: Everyone who didn't previously have a clause regarding Acts of God is sure to now. Read contracts carefully to make sure you understand your obligations and risks before you enter into a binding agreement. Now that this pandemic has happened, the expectations for what to do under these circumstances could shift. We're in constant contact with couples and vendors regarding what this means.
Insurance will change: This has already happened. Some wedding insurance providers are no longer offering any cancellation coverage. The ones that are have—as far as we have seen—all removed their coverage for pandemics. We expect that people may be a little shell-shocked for a while, leading to the next point.
A shift toward intimate events: With the impact COVID-19 has had on large gatherings, we expect to see more couples planning intimate events with low guest counts. We’ll still be planning celebrations of all sizes but based on our conversations with some of our couples who are early in the planning stages, this is on peoples’ minds.
Where We Go From Here
First of all, rest assured that we’re not going anywhere. We are here for our couples no matter what the circumstances bring. We are doing everything we can to make the transition to new dates seamless. While we’re quarantined, we are working from home and still getting things done. We’re also trying to support our fellow vendors who are struggling more than we are.
If you want to keep the momentum going during these next few weeks, here are some planning checklist items you can accomplish while quarantined.
Do a budget consultation with us over the phone.
Start really narrowing down your design vision.
Order save the dates and invitations. If you want to see and touch sample paper, this can be mailed.
Set up phone or video consultations with vendors.
If you’ve been delaying on booking certain vendors, now is the time to take care of that. Review and sign the contract and pay the deposit.
Daydream about how fabulous your honeymoon is going to be once you can travel again!
Hang in there, baby. We're in this as a community and will come out stronger on the other side.