If you’ve never planned a wedding, the process can be challenging to navigate. But in the midst of COVID-19, couples are facing challenges they never could have anticipated, including having to postpone their weddings.
A wedding planner can go a long way in helping you navigate those challenges and get your wedding planning back on track. But if you don’t have a wedding planner, you might not even know where to begin.
No need to worry; we got you covered. We talked to two wedding planners—Cathy Ballone of Cathy’s Elegant Events and Dora Manuel or Viva Bella Events—to get answers to your most pressing questions about weddings and coronavirus. Here’s what they had to say.
I had to postpone my wedding. Where do I even begin replanning?
If you have to postpone your wedding, the thought of restarting the planning process can feel completely overwhelming. Before you run with that feeling, stop and take a deep breath. There’s probably less to do than you think. “Remember, you aren't throwing your plans out the window—and you are by no means starting from scratch,” says Ballone. “Your planning, so far, is still in place, you are just switching dates.”
The most pressing task of replanning your wedding—and the best place to begin—is finding a new date “Start by reaching out to all of your vendor partners… to find a commonly available date,” says Manuel.
The first vendor you’ll want to reach out to is your wedding venue. Once you’ve confirmed potential future dates they have available, you can start reaching out to your other vendors (like your wedding photographer, caterer, and band or DJ) to figure which date works best for everyone involved.
How should I talk to my vendors? What do I say?
You might be feeling a little nervous to talk to your vendors about postponing your wedding. But the fact that you’re changing your wedding date isn’t going to come as a shock. “All of your vendors are in the throes of this, too, and won’t be surprised that you are reaching out to discuss options,” says Manuel.
When talking to your vendors, be as honest and open as possible. Explain the situation, let them know the new wedding date you’re aiming for, and see how you can work together to transfer your contract to the new date.
If your wedding is in the immediate future, your vendors will probably be willing to work with you to push the date immediately. However, if your wedding is later in 2020, they might want to hold off on rescheduling. “If your wedding is in May or June, vendors will likely graciously postpone your contract and cooperate as much as they can to assist you to postpone your date,” says Manuel. “If your wedding is in October or November, they may prefer to take a wait and see approach if you are open to it.”
How do I make sure what we talk about actually happens?
The key to navigating the conversation with your vendors is to be kind and compassionate. Remember, your vendors are probably facing a huge volume of cancellations (and the corresponding loss of income), so try to see things from their perspective and work together until you find a solution that works for you both.
Then, once you’ve come to an agreement, make sure to get everything in writing. “Be sure you have confirmed, in writing, the new date [and any contract changes] with all of your vendors,” says Ballone. “Even if that is just an email, you want to be sure you have it documented.”
Having all the details in writing will ensure that your vendors follow through on said changes—and that you don’t face any unexpected (or expensive) surprises when your new wedding date rolls around.
Pro Tip: It’s important to be proactive and discuss how you’ll both handle the situation if COVID-19 forces you to postpone your wedding a second time. “Don’t hesitate to ask for a written clause detailing what happens if you would have to postpone a second time due to the pandemic,” says Manuel.
My backup date isn’t available. What do I do?
With so many wedding cancellations, venues are booking up fast—and you might find that your ideal backup date is no longer available.
The best thing you can do in this situation? Be flexible. “I am encouraging all of my couples not to take the approach of having a [single] backup date,” says Ballone. “Instead, we are selecting a variety of dates which would work for them.”
If your heart is set on your current wedding venue, having flexibility around your backup date (whether that’s pushing your wedding further out, hosting a weekday wedding, or getting married during the off-season) can help open up possibilities if the venue’s dates are filling up for the rest of 2020 and 2021.
Everyone says “have a backup plan," but what does that even mean? What should my backup plan include?
A “backup plan” means different things for different couples.
It could mean changing the size and scope of your wedding. For example, “if your chosen wedding date held significant meaning for you or you just can’t wait any longer to marry your sweetie, would you rather still put your wedding gown on and have a small ceremony with just a few (or no) guests—and have the reception at a later date?” says Manuel.
A backup plan can also mean putting a “soft hold” on a future wedding date in case you have to postpone (or postpone again).
What’s a soft hold?
“By 'soft hold,' that means we’re asking their vendors to note on their calendar our backup date and simply contact us if someone else inquires about that date,” says Ballone. “Then, we can make a decision more rapidly if needed about switching dates.”
For example, “We had a wedding this June who's venue only had one date left for 2020, at the end of July,” says Ballone. “We initially had a soft hold on that date. When it became apparent we had to move [the wedding date from June to July], we then switched to that date and put a soft hold on another date in 2021, just in case we need to move it again. So now all the vendors know we moved to July and also all have a soft hold on our June 2021 date—so if we need to move again, we know we have a secure date in our back pockets.”
Whatever you’re planning for your wedding, having a plan B (or even a plan C!) will ensure that if things don’t pan out exactly as you’d hoped, you know the steps to take to keep your wedding planning moving forward.
I’m worried about how my guests will react. How often should I update them?
It makes sense that you’re concerned about telling your guests that you’re postponing your wedding. But the truth is, they’re probably concerned about you not postponing your wedding.
“We are all in this together,” says Ballone. “Everyone is concerned about health and safety, so your guests will completely understand if you are changing your date.”
There’s no need to stress about telling your guests you’re postponing your wedding. But you do want to keep them in the loop so they can plan accordingly.
How should I update everyone?
“Update your wedding website with the latest information and email or call your guests to let them know that you are following the evolving situation closely and will update them as soon as your decision is made,” says Manuel. “If you have already sent invitations and need to postpone, mail a change the date card informing guests of the new date with a new rsvp card or directions to email or call you to confirm attendance.”
In terms of how often to update them, it depends. You’ll want to loop them in any time you have new information to share (like when you confirm a new wedding date or have information on a new hotel block)—but you also don’t want to inundate them with unnecessary updates. “I would not recommend updating them until there is something to actually update them about,” says Ballone.
Is it my responsibility to contact hotels and secure refunds for my guests? What about travel refunds?
If you have a hotel block, you should plan to treat them like any other vendor—and reach out to figure out what can be done for your guests who already have reservations.
“If you contracted a hotel room block for your guests and reservations have already been made, it is your responsibility to find out how the hotel will handle those bookings,” says Manuel. “Ideally, any deposits made and all reservations would transfer to the new date. You should inform your guests if this is the case, so that they are in the loop and know that their reservation has been changed.”
If you have any guests who have already booked flights, let them know they should get in touch with their airlines. Many major airlines are waiving change and cancellation fees and offering flight credits, so they may be able to get a credit or transfer their flight to your postponed wedding date.
You should also let your guests know to do what they can to cover their bases and protect their travel purchases in case you need to postpone your wedding further. “I am encouraging my couples to reach out to any of their guests who have or will need to purchase flights...to get travel insurance if they haven't already,” says Ballone.
I feel lost. How are other couples working around this and coping? What other options are there for my wedding if I want to keep the date?
It makes sense that you’d feel lost. Weighing whether to postpone your wedding is a really challenging and confusing decision!
That being said, postponing your wedding isn’t your only option. “An alternative option is to host a very small ceremony with just you and your fiancé on your original date (or a few important guests if restrictions allow!) and postpone the reception only,” says Manuel.
And the good news? Even if you keep your ceremony small, there are still ways to get all your original guests involved. “Livestream your ceremony via social media on your original date if you want family and friends to participate,” says Manuel.
My wedding is a little later this year. Is it possible to keep planning remotely? How?
“It is often not necessary to see any vendors in person before the wedding; when I have couples planning from out of the region where their wedding is taking place I only plan 1-2 visits in total throughout the planning process,” says Ballone. “Most of [the wedding planning process] can be done virtually.”
Technology makes it easy to manage most of your wedding planning process remotely. For example, you can schedule a Zoom call with your florist to look at bouquet options, approve your venue layout over email, and have your DJ send you playlists.
What if I need an in-person meeting?
For vendors that traditionally require an in-person meeting, try to find ways to work around it. So, for example, you may not be able to do a hair and makeup trial right now—but you can dig deep into portfolios to find a stylist/artist that could be a fit. You may not be able to do an in-person tasting with your caterer—but if they’re local, you can see if they’d be able to do a takeout order so you can do the tasting with your partner at home.
The point is, COVID-19 and social distancing might change the way you plan your late-2020 wedding—but it certainly doesn’t have to stop the wedding planning process!
I’m feeling really sad about all of this. Is that weird? Should I get over it?
If you’re feeling sad or overwhelmed right now, be compassionate with yourself.
“Your wedding is one of the most important days of your life that you have surely dreamed about and planned for a long time,” says Manuel. “It is completely normal to feel mourning for your original wedding date if you had to postpone or trepidation that your wedding may be different than you originally planned.”
With everything happening in the world, being upset about postponing your wedding might feel trivial, and you might be tempted to tell yourself to “shake it off” or “get over it.” But it’s not trivial, and telling yourself to “get over it” isn’t going to get you very far.
The key to working through your feelings of sadness is to allow yourself to feel them. “Honor those feelings and work through them before your big day—so that when it does come time to walk down the aisle and celebrate, you can fully be in-the-moment and enjoy every second of the day,” says Manuel.