There’s no arguing it, we are dealing with troubled times across the world. COVID-19, or the Coronavirus, has put us into a state of emergency, with all industries being affected. The bridal industry is not exempt.
So, if you have an upcoming wedding, what happens now? Alana Klein, owner and lead event planner at Swoon Events is here to explain it all.
What should couples take into consideration when deciding whether or not to postpone or cancel?
The current situation is generally new for everyone in the events industry – no one has been through a pandemic of this magnitude before. Each day there have been evolving guidelines and restrictions imposed from the city and our government, so rules are changing rapidly day by day. Venues and vendors have had to quickly put plans in place, and it is becoming apparent that weddings taking place over the next two months are looking to postpone. No one wants to put their wedding day on hold, but with growing concern throughout the community, we are better safe than sorry. This is a decision being made for many couples, as many venues over the last few days have shut down for the next month. The health and safety of our communities must be the top priority for all venues and vendors alike.
- Couples need to consider municipal, provincial and federal restrictions that are in place regarding bans on events and travel. If the couple had international guests attending, those guests will not be able to attend due to travel bans.
- Couples should consider the ages of guests in attendance – if you were planning to have a lot of children or elderly at your wedding, it may be safest to postpone.
- Couples need to consider rules of postponement from the venue and their vendors. Many venues and vendors are providing similar options to upcoming clients’ weddings or are proceeding on a case-by-case basis.
- Couples need to consider the date of their postponement, as many venues have already previously booked prime dates up until the end of this year (i.e. as Saturdays, Fridays and Sundays). We are seeing a lot of weekday options being considered such as Thursdays and Mondays of long weekends.
- Couples need to consider their wedding flowers and how far in advance they are cancelling their event. Most florists require at least 30 to 60 days to be able to cancel any flower orders placed, so couples may face having to pay for certain materials or costs that have already been acquired by their florist.
Wedding gowns and bridesmaid dresses are a consideration as well. Since many are produced in China and Europe, Toronto stores are currently experiencing a delay in receiving these items on time. If couples want to go ahead with their wedding, the bride may be forced to buy off the rack in order to have a dress in time. Same goes for bridesmaid dresses.
What is the first step if a couple decides to postpone their wedding?
The first step any couple should take when considering postponement is to read the fine print in your contracts, but also reach out to your venue and vendors right away. Many venues are waiving cancellation or postponement terms on their contracts, and allowing couples to postpone their wedding to later in the year. Speak to your venue to understand all the options available to you and the parameters of each option, whether that be postponing or cancelling.
Most venues are currently allowing March and April couples to postpone, while others are even allowing some May couples to postpone. Couples should also be reaching out to their vendors to check each vendor’s policy in terms of postponement, as many are doing their best to be flexible beyond the terms of their contract.
What can clients expect in regards to monetary compensation (if any)? What are vendors doing to help? Do they have an action plan in place?
I have witnessed an overwhelming amount of support amongst vendors in this industry who want to stand by their clients who need to make these difficult decisions. Many venues are allowing clients to postpone to a new date – all deposits and payments can be transferred to the new date chosen. Clients should consider possible administrative fees associated with making these adjustments. Some vendors are allowing clients to transfer deposits and payments to a new date within a 12–18 month period within the original wedding date. However, if the new date is on a weekend, there is a chance the client’s entire vendor team may not be available for this newly scheduled date – be prepared for the possibility of having to replace a vendor or two.
In circumstances where a vendor is not available for the new date, each client must address this issue directly with their individual vendors, as some are willing to make exemptions to their contract terms and policies. It’s important to remember that vendors have many costs associated with booking each client – administrative work, employees pay, rent, overhead like utilities and bills – so a client should not always expect a full refund of deposits in terms of cancellation or postponement.
Couples also need to understand that if the cancellation has taken place within a very short timeframe, for example within 2 weeks time or less of the wedding date, they may face penalties for items that have been ordered and paid for by their vendors. Many florists need to confirm their flower orders 4–6 weeks before the wedding date, and once that order is placed – they are committed to paying for these materials.
Couples need to keep in mind that most businesses in the wedding industry are small businesses. We are all working diligently to help couples in any way possible. Bookings made and deposits collected for future events, means that vendors have held that date and those materials and inventory for that particular client/date. Administrative duties began at the time of a client’s initial contact to a vendor. No venue or vendor in this industry wants for couples to be affected over the decision of the postponement or cancellation of their wedding, but most unfortunately this is a new reality for all of us that we’re going to have to face together.
How can couples work together with their planners and vendors?
Everyone needs to keep in mind that this is a rapidly evolving situation that venues and vendors have had little to no time to prepare for. Many venues and vendors in the industry have come together to share information and resources, ensuring clients are being treated fairly. Due to the amount of weddings postponements, couples need to be flexible in their expectations – they might not get their first choice of date, some of their vendor team might not be available for the rescheduled date, etc. A couple’s willingness to compromise will be a great help to their planner and vendors alike. If the couple is willing to change their wedding to a weekday, i.e.Thursday, there is a good chance all their vendors will be available to work with them on this new date. Thursday is the new Saturday!
What I have experienced personally in terms of postponements.
At the moment, all of my March and April weddings and events have been postponed, as well as one in early May. I know this was an incredibly difficult decision for all my couples, but we need to ensure everyone’s health and safety is our first priority. Working together to flatten the curve of this pandemic, is of the utmost importance. Emotions are running high and as their planner, it is my job to help in any way I can. This has meant contacting venues and vendors to find out rules for postponement, as well as offering advice on the best ways to proceed, plus being a sounding board to them with so much uncertainty. Although the advice we give is not legal advice, we do the best we can to achieve the best possible outcome for everyone involved.
It has been challenging to navigate as each day there are new rules implemented and things are changing and evolving, but I have seen a lot of wedding vendors come together to support each other, inform each other and keep open communication that is going to best help our clients. I am observing a lot of positivity and community within our industry and we are supporting each other through this difficult time.
How far in advance should couples postpone. For example, if they have an August wedding, should they consider postponing now?
We are currently seeing the majority of venues allowing March, April and May clients to postpone their wedding dates. At the moment, we don’t believe summer couples need to be concerned with postponing or cancelling. Some venues have stated that they will re-evaluate summer weddings towards the end of April. It is too early to tell how summer weddings will be affected at this current moment.
We are advising couples not to panic, but to remain calm and understand that the entire industry is working together to best assist our couples. No one could have predicted this, and this situation isn’t the fault of anyone. This is something we are all facing together, and together, we will find solutions and create new plans.