I don’t have to tell you that wedding planning is stressful in a good year, let alone in 2020. What I am here to tell you is what to consider if you’re trying to decide whether or not to postpone. And if you’ve already made the decision to postpone your wedding because of COVID, then I can give you some next steps for how to do so.
Please note that I’m located in NYC and it’s very possible that my guidance feels overly cautious. Ultimately, your own feelings should guide you through this process, but it can be helpful to hear someone else’s perspective.
As you’ve seen, over the last 2 months, guidance for how to handle your upcoming wedding plans has been changing rapidly. I can’t tell you exactly what to do, but I hope that my insight, as a wedding vendor dealing with this too, can help you with your decision.
The main things to consider are when your original date is planned for, and how much tolerance you have for changing of your original plans.
If your original date is within the next month or two, you will probably not be able to have anything resembling your original wedding plans. Knowing that you have deposits down for your venue and other vendors, your best bet here is to postpone your original “wedding”. Skip down to the next section for next steps.
Now what if your wedding day is in the fall or winter of 2020? If you’re hoping that your wedding day looks 100% exactly like you’d been envisioning it, then you will likely need to postpone. Postpone to when, you ask? Well, we don’t know for sure. According to Dr. Dhruv Khullar, h/t CNBC, “Only a vaccine, ubiquitous testing or vastly improved treatment will accelerate the pace of large gatherings without strict social distancing. So, basically, we are waiting for one of those things to happen. There are vaccines that look promising, but I’d be way out of line to try to predict how things will progress. Most experts say that we won’t see a vaccine until at least 2021. In my experience with my couples recently, who have weddings planned for fall/winter 2020, most are choosing to postpone to a full year from their original date.
There is obviously an unknown here. The unknown is if they can really get a vaccine figured out by this fall, or if they improve testing that much by then. In those cases, I think we could have weddings as planned. It’s just impossible to say.
No one asked for my opinion but here it is: it were me in that position, and I had a planned wedding for the fall of 2020, I would postpone to 2021. My mental state could not handle the stress of worrying constantly about postponing or not.
If you are willing to change up your plans quite a bit, you’ve got options. These will depend greatly on your state and/or county’s restrictions and social distancing guidelines. At this point, all I can do is recommend that you look those over. If your locality has a phased plan, please read over that plan. Some states are allowing gatherings if you stay 6 ft apart, wear masks, reduce occupancy to 50% of the max size of a venue, etc. Some states aren’t allowing receptions but are allowing ceremonies. You’ll have to do some research here.
The easiest option, that’s most likely allowed everywhere even now, is to “elope.” I wrote another blog post about this which basically says that you shouldn’t think of an elopement as running away and getting hitched in secret; it’s just when the two of you get married by yourselves. Or, maybe with 1-2 family members and/or friends.
Your original wedding date meant something to you, I bet. You can still commemorate that by having a wedding ceremony and getting legally married on that day.
Like I said, depending on your local restrictions, you may even be able to get married in a church or at your venue, with fewer guests. You may not be able to have a normal “reception”, but you may be able to have an intimate dinner reception. There are a few options here, all depending on what’s allowed in your area at the time of your planned event.
So, the real reason you’re probably here. What steps do you need to take after choosing to postpone your wedding?
Your venue was probably your biggest investment, and therefore the deposit that you most don’t want to lose. If you cancel your wedding, or postpone to a date they don’t have available, most have non-refundable deposit policies that will result in you losing that money.
So, contact them first and see what their protocol is. Most venues will allow you to postpone to any of their open 2021 dates. Some will charge a fee for that. Some will not. See what your options are with your venue first.
Note: Some venues are not letting couples reschedule yet, if their wedding is in the fall. These venues, I assume, are hoping they can mitigate the amount of money lost for 2020. It bears mentioning that wedding vendors, especially venues, are at risk of needing to shut their doors because of loss of income from all these postponed weddings. This situation becomes especially tough. If they lose too much income and need to close, you won’t be able to have your wedding there in 2021 anyway. The best advice I have for this scenario is to get someone on the phone. See if you can get a current list of their 2021 availability and if you’d be able to place a “soft hold” on a date. That would at least enable you to move onto the next steps.
Once you get the list of available dates from your venue, cross check availability with the family members and friends that you need at your wedding. There could be other plans in their lives for 2021, and you want to make sure that you don’t pick a new date and then find out that it doesn’t work for your sister.
If your vendors haven’t reached out to you yet, then reach out to them to see what their rescheduling policies are. Don’t assume that the original contract holds true to what they are doing in the time of COVID. Many vendors are not charging rescheduling fees in these circumstances, even if their contract says they are.
When you contact them, ask them what their policy for rescheduling is, and ask for a list of open dates for 2021. Let them know that you’ve gotten a list of availability from your venue and friends and that you’re now in the final stages of choosing a new date.
If you don’t think you’ll be ready to commit to a new date in a short period of time, say, within a week or two, then ask what their policy is on placing a “soft hold.” A soft hold is when they reserve the date for you, but if another couple reaches out for that date, they are not obligated to continue holding it for you. In my case, I always alert the placers of the “soft hold” that someone else is interested in the date, and at that point you’d either need to sign a contract for the new date or place a new retainer to “hard” hold the date.
Here’s an example of an email that you can send to these vendors. Please customize based on what you know of the vendor’s policies already:
Given the current state of things, [your partner’s name] and I decided to postpone our wedding. We wanted to make a decision that was best and safest for us, our guests, and for you as our vendor.
We’ve received the list of available dates from our venue and have narrowed it down to the following options: [dates here]
Do you have availability for any of those dates? Additionally, what is your current policy for rescheduling a wedding?
Some vendors are charging fees for rescheduling to 2021. Some are waiving that fee if you reschedule to a Friday or a Sunday rather than a Saturday. Some are not charging any fee (like me). As you can tell, the situation is being handled differently on a case-by-case basis. Each person’s business is different and some need the fee to alleviate the lost income from this year’s postponements, or they would not be able to stay in business. I hope that your vendors can understand your situation and treat you with empathy and understanding, and I hope that you can do the same for them. In other words, this sucks for everyone.
Once you have a new date firmly decided, reach back out to all those vendors and let them know. You will likely need to sign some contract addendums or new contracts. Get this all squared away as soon as you can, so that you know your new date is confirmed for all your vendors.
I know you’re probably anxious about this step. I know you probably spent all that money on save the date cards that now feel useless. Here’s the first and most important thing to remember: the people that you invited love you and want to see you happy. They don’t care about the save the dates or the invitations, and they will understand that the situation dictated a change in your plans.
If you have firmly decided to postpone but don’t have a new date yet, let your guests know that. It is a courtesy to inform people of this so that they can cancel their travel plans, if applicable, and release the date from their calendars.
If you do have the new date decided on, then let your guests know. In my opinion, it’s not necessary to spend money on new save the dates. You can if you want! But don’t feel forced. (Truth be told, my opinion is always that you shouldn’t feel forced to do any of the typical wedding stuff. But I digress).
You can let them know through email, text, Facebook messages, an Instagram story, snail mail, whatever you want. Just make sure that whatever method you choose will reach all your guests, the way your original form of notification did.
Update your wedding website if you have one that people were already using to stay up to date.
If you’d already sent out save the dates or invitations, one way to save money (and the earth!) on the next round is to send them electronically. One option that I’ve seen couples use before is Paperless Post.
See the section “What are the options for still getting married this year?” above. Elopements and intimate weddings can be SO FUN, low stress, and all around a good time.
So that’s all I’ve got for you for now. Above else, I hope you’re staying sane through all of this. It’s ok to be upset. It’s ok to grieve. Your feelings are 100% valid.
My door is always open if you need to vent, if you need to bounce ideas off someone, or if you want to chat about elopements / alternative options.