Love in the Time of Coronavirus: How COVID-19 Affects Your Wedding Day
As concerns about COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, spread across the globe, the Centers for Disease Control recommends people avoid crowded places and maintain distance from others. While it's far from the biggest COVID-related concern, this pandemic will affect couples with upcoming nuptials. Seattle Bride asked local wedding experts how they're responding, whether you should postpone your wedding and other words of industry wisdom they have to share during these uncertain times.
What actions are you recommending engaged couples take now, regardless of their wedding date?
“Create a plan early and have action steps which are clearly communicated or created alongside their planning team and vendors. Waiting to make important decisions, and hoping it all works out, is not suggested. Being proactive can help save money, as well as help secure a couple’s ideal rescheduled date with their desired vendor team.” —Erica Leigh, Owner of Leigh and Mitchell
“We are working from a proactive standpoint, trying to reschedule our affected events as quickly as possible so we can start the process of transitioning plans and vendors to a new date. Once the new date is locked in, we can go back to a state of normalcy with planning. We really want to give our clients a sense of calm as quickly as possible to help restrict the negative emotional impact of the virus as much as we can.” —Hannah Mitchell, Owner of Elite Events
“So far, I have not had any cancelations, but have had some couples downsize their weddings to embrace a more intimate wedding or elopement. Many are opting to keep many of their vendors, but just on a smaller scale, and have only immediate family and/or close friends.” —Melissa Pack, Owner of Anthera Floral
How are you working with your couples to make the decision to postpone or reschedule their wedding?
“We are recommending to all of our clients getting married through the end of May to postpone and reschedule their date. The final decision lies on them, but COVID-19 doesn't seem like it is going away in the near future. For those later in the summer, through August, we are creating back-up plans, but most are hunkering down and waiting a bit before pulling the trigger. With so many displaced weddings, there is going to be a shortage of venue and vendor availability. So, having a contingency plan is very important!” —Nora Sheils, Owner of Bridal Bliss
“I've been trying to advise my couples to not postpone anything if their weddings are in June and beyond, unless a lot of their relatives have to travel from other countries. We aren't sure what's going to happen as we move forward, but I absolutely understand the need to be sure about things. For myself, if a couple has already confirmed with their venue and caterer that they can move forward, I've also let them move their wedding to a new date without a rescheduling fee, or offered to coordinate an elopement on the day with a celebration moved to a later date.” —Genevieve de la Cruz, Owner of Infinity Weddings and Events by Gen
“We are trying to talk to every couple on the phone and listen to their unique situation. From there, make changes based on their unique needs. Almost every couple in the 8-week span that is now not permitted to have an event take place based on Governor Inslee’s announcement have chosen to move to another date in 2020, which we’ve made penalty free, keeping steady with the same plans they’ve previously put in place.” —Alyssa Ostenrude, Lodging and Event Director at Roche Harbor Resort
How are you supporting your clients if they choose to reschedule or postpone?
“Our team is allowing couples to reschedule their event at no charge. We are also working with them to find new dates that suit all (or most) of their vendors so they can keep as many of their deposits as they can. We are advocating for them as much as possible. Thankfully all the vendors and venues have been very gracious in allowing us to make these changes happen seamlessly for our clients. Everyone has been very receptive to the "we are all in this together" mentality, and we are so grateful to be part of such an amazing community of vendors.” —Hannah Mitchell, Owner of Elite Events
“We are reaching out to each vendor team, checking availability and rescheduling. Guests are being notified via snail mail, phone, email or text depending on how imminent the wedding is. Beyond that, we are sending virtual hugs and supporting in any way we can.” —Nora Sheils, Owner of Bridal Bliss
“I don't charge any rescheduling fees, and I've been helping my couples review all their vendor contracts to see if there is verbiage that allows them to reschedule their other vendors. Some have expressed wanting to book a 2021 date or elope, so I've been helping them figure out what that looks like logistically. So far, we have had a pretty positive experience and are just hoping this uncertainty ends soon.” —Genevieve de la Cruz, Owner of Infinity Weddings and Events by Gen
“Helping them through the process on the phone has allowed us to be super supportive of their specific needs. If they have an early spring date and would like to move to an open peak summer date, we’ll move it for them and keep all the same plans they currently had in place, without any penalty or additional feel. This is out of our hands and out of theirs, so trying to accommodate their unique needs and be as flexible as possible is in all of our best interest. It’s so important to us that they continue to enjoy this experience and the wedding planning process.” —Alyssa Ostenrude, Lodging and Event Director at Roche Harbor Resort
“With so many variables and uncertainty, I am focusing on supporting my couples in two different ways. One, connecting with them emotionally and letting them know they are not alone in this. Second, focusing on flexibility by offering event date flexibility and the ability to postpone events up to one year. If they cancel and instead elope or head to the courthouse, I would support my clients in that transition. I would simply adjust my package cost to complement the event and apply the deposit towards the new date and event.” —Matt Rommel, Owner of Matt Rommel Photography
What advice would you give couples faced with this decision?
“Remain calm and remember that we are all in this together. It might also mean being a bit flexible at times. The important thing for every couple to know is that all of their vendors want their wedding to be as much of a success as they do. We are all heartbroken for the couples who are facing this challenge and we will do everything we can to make sure their event is still just as wonderful as they imagined -- it might just need to be on a different date. Your event might be a little bit different than you initially envisioned it (maybe now featuring hand sanitizing stations, or changing from family style service to a plated meal), but it will still be just as meaningful and special.” —Hannah Mitchell, Owner of Elite Events
“My advice for navigating wedding planning during this unprecedented situation is to take a beat, don't make any hasty decisions, and really think about what you value most for your wedding. If you're under time constraints or anxious to get married, forgo the big wedding and do a mini wedding or elopement using the same venders, just on a smaller scale. If it's really important for certain people to be there who are vulnerable to the health crisis or coming from out of town, then postpone and try to reschedule with as many venders as you can. If having a big wedding celebration is really your jam, then it's totally okay to postpone. Whatever option you choose, you may lose some deposit money, but hopefully you have quality venders who empathize with your situation and are willing to work to find the best solution for you.” —Melissa Pack, Owner of Anthera Floral
“I really feel for our couples. What should have been a time of excitement and bliss has turned into one of sadness, uncertainty and fear. My best advice is to try to remain calm, keep yourselves educated and stay positive. Lock in a back-up plan, but otherwise continue planning. Support your local community during this crazy time!” —Nora Sheils, Bridal Bliss
“Talk to your vendors! Try to connect with them personally and see what mutually agreeable conclusion you can both come to together. We’re all in this together and things are changing day to day so try to keep your head up and know that you’re still going to have a spectacular wedding day, whichever date that may fall on.” —Alyssa Ostenrude, Lodging and Event Director at Roche Harbor Resort
If couples choose to cancel and instead elope or head to the courthouse, what kind of penalties do they face with contracts?
“You could lose your deposit or even be liable for the whole amount. I've seen that with larger accounts, like the venue or catering. For smaller accounts like a photographer, photobooth, or a planner like myself, it's much easier to be able to transfer that amount to a future event. Definitely listen to the CDC guidelines for how many people can congregate together, confirm that your contracts with vendors have a Force Majeure clause that specifically calls out pandemics, and try to work with your vendors on rescheduling.” —Genevieve de la Cruz, Owner of Infinity Weddings and Events by Gen
“We are waiving all rescheduling fees. However, if a client chooses to make other plans and cancel, they will forfeit their retainer (this is standard). There may be other charges depending on the package a client has or how far they are into the process. For example, if we have already done a good amount of their contracted work, unfortunately we would need to be compensated. The client would then be responsible for that amount. Because of this, we are urging clients to really consider rescheduling instead of canceling. We are also suggesting couples elope or go to the courthouse on their planned date, and do the big party next year with family and friends.” —Erica Leigh, Owner of Leigh and Mitchell
“Penalties for breaking a contract depend on each specific wedding professional. Most retainers are non-refundable and final payments are due if you fall within a certain time frame before the event. Double check contracts, as it should be all laid out for you. Most wedding professionals are being flexible through this uncertain time, but are definitely suggesting rescheduling rather than cancelling, even if it is on a smaller scale.” —Nora Sheils, Owner of Bridal Bliss
Any other words of wisdom for engaged couples or couples looking for alternative options?
“Clear communication. Transparency. Understanding the weight of this crisis for everyone and offer support for one another. The most important factor right now is taking care of yourselves and your well-being. Stay calm and have faith that vendors will work with you. There are too many uncertainties, and we are all learning to handle the situation for the best interests of our businesses and our clients. We are all in this together.” —Matt Rommel, Matt Rommel Photography
“Another option [for couples] is to book The Mini Wedding Series, which is happening April 26th and 27th in Pioneer Square at a beautiful and secluded venue, The Banana Stand. This series is a great alternative to a big wedding or elopement, and great for couples who are really hoping for a Spring wedding despite the health situation. You get all the typical wedding venders and unique design/decor already planned out for you, as well as day of coordination. And, you can have up to 8 guests join you.”—Melissa Pack, Owner of Anthera Floral
In addition, many wedding retailers, such as dress shops, have chosen to (although have not been mandated to) close down for in-store appointments for the time being. In order to keep stylists employed and paid, The Dress Theory, located in Wallingford, has launched phone consultations and online shopping for brides. For scheduled phone call appointments, one of The Dress Theory team members will talk wedding details, personal styles, worries or concerns, or simply wedding day excitement with clients. They’ll also walk brides through specific designers and fabrics and fit for specific gowns they may be interested in trying. Following the consult, each bride will receive a private Pinterest board, curated just for them. They can use this to inspire without in-person shopping, and be even more prepared to buy their gown when they do find it in store. To book a phone consultation, brides can email email@example.com with their desired date and time.
Brides can also shop The Dress Theory online. “This site was created by our gracious owner with the sweetest goodies! Tees, totes, mugs, you name it. The best part? 100 percent of the sales are going to our stylists. All items are shipped directly to the buyer, so we think it could be an amazing thing to send to a friend who needs some extra love right now.” —Rileigh Keipert, Store Manager at The Dress Theory