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Couples are often told to prepare for anything when it comes to their wedding, but a global pandemic isn’t typically something to consider.
Now that most Americans have been ordered to stay at home and avoid nonessential travel to slow the spread of the coronavirus, many couples — including those who were only days or weeks away from getting married — have had to abruptly postpone their special day, while many others are in limbo, unsure of how to proceed.
"Postponing our wedding has opened up an entire different category of stress that I didn’t know was possible," says Allison Hayes, a newly unemployed hairstylist in Ohio who delayed her May wedding.
The scale of postponements is also unprecedented for vendors and planners.
"We’ve never seen such major sweeping postponements in the wedding industry," says Renée Dalo, owner and lead wedding planner of Moxie Bright Events in Los Angeles. Dalo has already rescheduled six weddings and expects that number to grow.
"It was a lot of stress in a really short amount of time," says Elliott San, a Los Angeles-based screenwriter who moved his March wedding to November. "It felt like 48 hours of crisis management response."
In addition to the logistical headache of moving a tightly coordinated event at the eleventh hour, there are also potential financial implications for couples. Some may lose deposits with vendors; others are suddenly without jobs and are juggling wedding payments with other bills.
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you and your partner are in a similar predicament.
Look for ways to pare back
If the pandemic has had an impact on your wages, the wedding will likely need to take a back seat to more pressing needs.
The hair salon where Hayes works has been shuttered temporarily, so she is also feeling anxiety about paying for the wedding.
"My partner and I had been budgeting and saving our money to pay for a significant portion of our wedding costs, but we just lost the weekly payments my income was putting into our wedding account," she says.
If your job has been affected, take steps to get control of your finances in the short-term. Look into expanded unemployment benefits as a way to help cover things like rent or groceries. Your bills should take priority over wedding plans. If money is an issue, Dalo suggests contacting vendors directly to see if you can split up payments moving forward.
"If a client came to me asking to make smaller, more spread out payments, I would be 100% on board with that," she says. "We’re all doing what we can to stay afloat and navigate the crisis together."
Regardless of your current job situation, it’s a good time to reevaluate wedding costs that haven’t already been paid and see where you could scale back, if necessary.
Hayes now plans to cut back on decorations. She had been holding off on purchasing them and has decided to have fewer since she’ll have less time to decorate on her new date.
"I was financially confident at the beginning of wedding planning, but I work in freelance and have lost a lot of opportunities," says Katy Colloton, an actress and screenwriter in Los Angeles. Colloton says she was originally planning to "go all-out" with things like table favors, bridal party gifts and welcome bags, but will adjust her approach if the job market continues to decline.
Contact your venue
Vendors, planners and couples all agree that if you’re in the process of postponing, your first call or email should be to the venue.
"Get in contact with the venue first since that is the biggest investment, then get in touch with vendors to see how everything aligns," says Laura Yap, who runs a floral business in Austin, Texas.
Dalo echoes this advice, but notes that venues may have different approaches depending on their contract and schedule.
"One private club is switching the wedding to another Saturday with no fees, while another venue has asked for a $7,000 surcharge to keep it on a Saturday," she says. "It really depends on the venue."
San says his Palm Springs venue was understanding and accommodating, while Hayes laments that hers had only two days open for the rest of 2020 — and one was the day after Christmas.
Start those conversations with your venue as soon as possible and try to be realistic. If you’re set on not paying any more than you already have, you may have to make some trade-offs.
"Some venues can’t give you another Saturday, but they’ll give you a Friday or Sunday," Dalo says. "I think that’s a good compromise."
Start prioritizing vendors
While many vendors are trying to be flexible, the reality is that they may not all be available on your new date, especially as more weddings are rescheduled for fall and winter.
"We have paid nonrefundable deposits for all of our vendors, and the most stressful part is trying to either line all of them up or choose which ones to take a loss with and potentially hire someone else," Hayes says.
Delia Turner, a criminal attorney in Missouri, wasn’t able to keep her photographer and hair and makeup artist. "The photographer is a good friend of mine, but she wasn’t available. She will subcontract someone for me. I also lost a $100 deposit on a hair and makeup artist."
As you begin the postponement process, prioritize the vendors that matter the most to you as you work with your venue to find a new date. Cost could be a factor — replacing a videographer will likely be more expensive than finding a new hair and makeup artist — but also keep in mind that your vendors are dealing with personal and professional upheaval now, too.
"Remember that everyone is human. Small-business owners have already invested so much work, and half of that work is administrative," says Yap, who is temporarily pivoting to weekly flower deliveries to maintain a positive cash flow. "Spring is my largest season. I had ramped up with staffing and invested time into planning, so I’m figuring out how to make that all work."
Check out wedding insurance
"Our biggest regret is not purchasing wedding insurance," says Crystal Ramirez, whose New Orleans wedding was postponed a week before she and her fiancé lost their jobs. (She was an industrial insulator and he worked at an oil refinery.)
If your wedding is several weeks or months away, you may have time to get wedding insurance. There are two main types of coverage, liability insurance and cancellation or postponement coverage, and you can get one or both. Some venues already require liability insurance, but Dalo recommends taking the extra step of getting cancellation insurance as well.
However, be sure to read the fine print and consult your insurance provider. Whether cancellation coverage will reimburse events postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak may depend on city and state restrictions.
"One of my client’s cancellation coverage kicked in once the shelter-in-place order became mandatory. A recommendation from the local government wouldn't cover it, but a mandate did," she says.
Continue to keep an eye on restrictions in the location where you're getting married and contact your insurance providers directly with any questions.
Keep things in perspective
It's upsetting to have to reschedule an event you’ve been planning for months or even years, but make sure you’re giving yourself mental space to concentrate on your day-to-day needs.
For San, that means shifting focus to his fiancée Emily, who is returning to her job as a nurse after taking some time off for their now-delayed wedding.
"Once the dust settled and we rescheduled, we pivoted to being more concerned about her going back to the hospital. I have something new to worry about besides this wedding," he says.
Ultimately, it also helps to maintain some perspective and know you’re not alone. Some couples are finding comfort in realizing they have a lot to be thankful for.
"Remember what’s important: your health and your family and friends’ health," Colloton says. "A wedding is a special day, but it’s one day and one party. This seems so small compared to what is happening in the world."