We’ve been dealing with COVID-19 for about a month now and no one could have anticipated the pain this would cause. I remember when I first heard about Coronavirus. I was grabbing lunch with my mom, a luxury I didn’t appreciate at the time. She asked if I had heard anything about the new virus out of China. I hadn’t and quickly brushed it off as no big deal. A week passed and it was slowly becoming a big deal. Seattle was affected and everyone started to get a bit worried. I still never imagined the world would look like this only a short month later.
Shit got real for me when I heard from my March 28th bride. Her husband was stationed at a military base and wouldn’t be allowed to leave until May. She called me in a panic because the wedding was off. I was shocked that this would happen, but still in disbelieve that it would potentially affect my entire wedding season. I felt so badly for her and I felt for all the military families.
It wasn’t even a week later when all hell broke loose. The state mandated gatherings of more than 50 be cancelled until mid-May. This would affect six out of eight of my weddings in the upcoming months. I began making the hard phone calls. We talked backup plans and pretty much all of my couples were optimistic. I wrote a blog post about options (which is now out of date) and several of my couples decided to do a small ceremony.
A week later, the world changed once again and no one could have anticipated the consequences this virus would have on the entire wedding industry. Even couples outside of the mandatory window began rescheduling because the marriage license offices were closed and no one knew when they would open up. The entire states of Kansas and Missouri began a mandatory stay at home order, which said photography was a non-essential business. This meant it was now illegal to have sessions of any kind, even if we were practicing social distancing.
I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around everything and be positive, but it still really sucks. We don’t know when life will get better. All we can do is hope that this will fade away in time for June weddings. There’s no way to know if 2020 weddings will exist at all. We don’t know if 2021 will be either completely dead since no one is wedding planning now or it will be insane because everyone is postpone. We just don’t know anything and that’s hard.
Since we don’t know anything, I thought it was time to write a post about 3 steps to quickly rescheduling your wedding for all 2020 brides. This could extend until the Fall, so it’s important for everyone to know how to go about it.
I mentioned this in my last post, but I wanted to reiterate that this is not the time to cancel your wedding. The wedding industry is struggling really hard right now. We aren’t getting new bookings and our time is occupied with trying to work with existing brides. For me personally, all my clients so far have rescheduled but that isn’t without consequences. I’ve had to contract out a couple of my weddings because I was booked on the only day that worked for them. Thankfully, I have an amazing team of associate photographers and a husband with an essential job to keep us afloat during this difficult time. I really appreciate all my clients so much in their flexibility in dealing with this difficult time. A lot of other event professionals are worse off, so please be sure to keep everyone’s unique situations in mind as you decide what to do.
Now, without further ado, let’s discuss 3 ways to quickly reschedule your wedding if you are postponing due to Coronavirus.
PS – I’m stuffing this post with happy pictures that I miss being able to capture so much!
1. Reach out to your venue!
The first step in rescheduling is to reach out to your venue and get a list of all 2020 dates they still have available. I know you might have your heart set on having a Saturday wedding, but you will have an easier time rescheduling to a Friday or a Sunday. If you are worried about people still attending your wedding on a Friday or Sunday, don’t worry. People will come! I’ve had dozens of Friday and Sunday weddings and never notice a difference in attendance. The couples always still have a great time and your guests will be there to celebrate you regardless of date.
2. Reach out to your family, wedding party, and other vendors!
After you have a list of dates from your venue, make sure that date works with every important person in your life. For the most part, your family and wedding party will be flexible, but you want to make sure they don’t have a conflicting wedding or event to attend.
Vendors are going to be a little trickier. Make sure you talk to your “important” vendors first. Important vendors could mean whatever you want it to be. Your important vendors could be the ones you can’t imagine your wedding without or the vendors who won’t be able to return your deposit. If you’ve been dreaming of the way your photographer will document your day the most or that amazing meal or your DJ who will light up the dance floor, then make sure those vendors are the first ones you share possible dates with. After you reach out to your “important” vendors, talk to the vendors you can live without. Ideally, all your vendors will be available, but sometimes we have to make sacrifices. It’s unlikely any of your vendors will return your deposit, but it is worth asking about their cancellation policy if you are unsure you can make it work with them.
What if one of my vendors isn’t available on any of my possible dates? If a vendor isn’t available at all, you have a couple options. The best option would be to ask if they have an associate program. A lot of photographers, myself included, are contracting out dates they can’t do. This means you still work with the same company but will have someone else show up on the day. I trust my associates to shoot the wedding as I would, so my couples won’t be sacrificing much (other than my dazzling personality ?). Other vendors might have this option as well, but aren’t sure it’s an option to mention. If you love the company you are working with, they will do their best to make sure you have an amazing day with or without them.
What will happen if I have to cancel a vendor? Every vendor is so different in their cancellation policies and I please ask that you explore all options before cancelling. If worse comes to worse and you have to cancel, expect to not get your deposit back. You can also expect them to be sad about it. We pour our heart into every client, so it’s really hard whenever we get the dreaded “what is your cancellation policy” email. I’ve answered several of these emails and it sucks every time. As I said above, we’re all making sacrifices so if you’ve tried everything to make it work and can’t, they’ll be sad but understanding. We all want what’s best for you even if we’re not going to be part of it.
Why won’t I get my deposit back if I have to cancel a vendor? Everyone’s policies are different, but I wanted to take a second to explain why you probably won’t get your deposit back since I’ve seen so many upset brides on different groups wondering why when the wedding hasn’t happened yet. Here are three reasons why most vendors are still making your deposit non-refundable.
- Your deposit holds your date. Once we take your deposit, we block it off from other couples. Maybe the other couples who inquired for your date wouldn’t have cancelled or maybe the other couple would have changed to an open date. There’s no way to know, but either way we look at it, we’re losing a lot of money by refunding.
- Your deposit covers the work we already put in. It’s very rare for a vendor to only show up on the day of. We email you back and forth constantly. We put together your timeline. We have engagement sessions. We have meetings. We think about your wedding for hours. There are countless hours that go into your wedding before we show up and most of us aren’t getting paid hardly anything for the time we put in. Think about this, does your work expect you to put in hours of work without getting paid or show up to a meeting for free? Your salary most likely covers this and our deposits help pay our salary.
- We’re losing money too. When we don’t refund your deposit, we are still losing 50-75% of what we were expecting to make for your wedding. I’ll make the math easy. If you booked a photographer for $2000 and they have a 25% retainer fee, you are losing $500 but they are losing $1500. That’s $1500 they won’t be able to rebook this year. We’re all losing something and it sucks, so it’s best to just be flexible and understand all vendors have their policies in place for a reason.
3. Inform your guests!
Depending on how far along you are in the process, you might have sent out invites already. If you have, contact the company you used and ask if they are doing discounts for reprints. I know companies like Minted are doing discounts for everyone affected. Start simple by posting on social media. Let everyone know that you’ve had to change your date and they’ll be receiving a new invite shortly. They’ll be understanding and this won’t come as a surprise to anyone. Chances are, they’re waiting to hear from you and expect a new date to come, especially if you are getting married before June. After you make the post, send out new invitations, post on your wedding website, give all your non-social media friends a call. Make sure to go through your entire guest list and inform everyone who received or will receive an invite. This is the easiest step of the process because they’re already worried about traveling and attending a large gathering at this point.
How soon is too soon to reschedule? This is a difficult question because we don’t know when this will end. If you are planning a wedding before August, it’s worth considering your options and brainstorming possible dates. Send your vendors a “just in case” email to see what your next steps should be. It’s never a bad idea to have a backup plan. A lot of this is personal preference as well. Are you set on getting married in June? If you are, wait it out a couple weeks. We should know more by the end of April. If this whole situation is driving you insane, it might be worth it for your mental health to reschedule now. I know if I was getting married now, I would be too stressed to even think about planning a wedding and want to reschedule as soon as possible. Everyone is different and you need to do what is best for you! If you’re getting married in September or later, definitely wait it out. There’s a good chance this will all pass by then so it’s not worth overloading your vendors with one more reschedule situation at the moment.
To summarize, get a list of dates and do what is best for you and all the important people in your life. This too shall pass…there’s just know way to know when and what life will look like on the other side. Stay safe everyone and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any other questions!