In order to give our wedding professional clients some insight as to how to handle upset couples who wonder whether they must cancel their weddings, I came across this article from Carrie Goldberg of HarpersBazaar and thought, "OMG this is perfect and will truly help wedding pros during this time." So, I cut and pasted the entire article here so that HarpersBazaar can get the credit as well as help them with backlinks because it's an awesome article. Read on, my friends....
In these uncertain times, the experts in the industry are rallying to guide you through postponements, problem solving, and planning for social distancing.
Should I Postpone or Cancel My Wedding? Per the CDC advisories on gatherings of more than 10 people for the next 15 days in the United States and the lockdowns in seven counties in California, throughout Europe, in the United Kingdom, and beyond, the industry's experts are insisting that weddings planned for March, April, and May be postponed. "We don’t know what we don't know, and what we don't know for sure is when we're going to be able to have weddings again," BAZAAR Bride top event designer David Beahm says. "But I believe that the end of this year is going to be extremely busy."Beahm, like the rest of his colleagues, is looking ahead—noticing that the majority of couples planning to wed in the next three to four months are choosing dates in September through November when rescheduling.The key, it seems, is to focus on postponements and rescheduling, rather than cancellations to avoid losing deposits. "I have been really encouraging my clients to postpone, because we're all in this together," BAZAAR Bride top photographer Jose Villa tells us. "I normally do 20 weddings per year, and I've had seven postpone within the past three weeks. None are cancelled—and that's the way to go, because their retainers will apply for their future events."
As for events in June through August, most are advising that you watch how things progress in the coming weeks and weigh your options wisely. "If you are planning an event after the month of May, use this time to have conversations and check-ins with your planner and your team of vendors, particularly with your key players and venue as soon as possible," advises Chris Hessney of Hessney & Co. "Your main goal right now is to stay healthy, keep yourselves and your guests safe, and minimize loss and risk."When deciding whether to postpone, consider your planning timeline in addition to the date of your event. Though any wedding on the immediate horizon certainly requires a contingency plan and a new date in the future, expert planners are also flagging events that could be hindered by a loss of time in the planning process, like destination events or multiday events here or abroad from June through August. "For each wedding, there are site inspections, design conversations, and lots of meetings," explains luxury wedding planner Michelle Rago. "We're reaching out to every client and vendor to reassure them and review timelines." If you have a planner, "review what you've ticked off your checklist. If you're a procrastinator, don't be."Should you be a couple whose wedding is this summer or fall, Rago, Beahm, and all their colleagues we consulted all recommend acting fast. "Keep in mind that you are not the only couple adjusting your timeline—other couples and all your vendors are too," says Rago."If you're even considering postponing, speak with your venue and your vendors now, just to check who would be available on any of the new dates your venue has available," says Annie Lee of Daughter of Design. "Key considerations are the vendors that can only be in one place at one time: your band, photographer, officiant, etc. Run any new dates you're entertaining by all your key guests as well, and line up all things that have no penalty, like a room block at a hotel. Place holds on anything you don't have to be on the hook for ASAP. Line it all up and prepare so that you can get first dibs on those new dates.
"How Far Out Should I Postpone My Wedding? Last year and 2018 saw lots of long engagements, with many couples planning on the iconic date of a 2020 wedding. As a result, many of the late-summer and autumn dates this year are booked, but the industry's top planners are still advising those in the unfortunate position of having to postpone to opt for a new date this year, rather than look further ahead to 2021.Experts suggest that you be flexible and consider less popular dates on the calendar. "The concern about pushing to 2021 is losing momentum," Beahm explains. "Perhaps Wednesday weddings are going to be the new thing for a while, and there's nothing wrong with that.""The real way to guarantee your dream wedding is to move away from a weekend date," says luxury and celebrity photographer Christian Oth. "Be willing to host an event midweek, on off-peak dates, like Monday through Thursday," Lee concurs.Ask any luxury event planner or designer worth their salt, and they'll tell you it pays to keep your wedding date within the year when rescheduling. "There's really no downside in staying the course—as long as you have a backup plan, which is Fridays, Sundays, and other weekdays," says Lynn Easton of Easton Events and hospitality firm Easton Porter Group. "Unfortunately, this pandemic has shaken the travel, hospitality, and event industries—it has the potential to leave them decimated. If people are looking to do something positive, what they can do is to postpone to a date this year. Choosing a weekend in 2021 could leave a venue or a planner's business unable to support your event come next year."As for destination weddings taking place in the coming months, "the last thing I want is for my clients to be monitoring a virus while they're planning their wedding—that's not what planning's about," explains Rachel Birthistle of The Lake Como Wedding Planner and her own namesake event planning company, which plans events throughout Italy, France, and Spain. "The final stages of planning are when you have all the key components solidified and you're working on the nice bits. It's the icing on the cake, it's putting all the pretty details in place—tracking this virus should have no part in that."That being said, Northern Italy–based Birthistle understands that the majority of her couples are most concerned about the events they're planning throughout Italy and across Europe. She's as forward thinking as her U.S.–based colleagues about the latter part of this wedding season, should we all do our part. "It has been dramatic here, and it has been scary; we're a few weeks ahead in our experience of coronavirus here in Italy, and the demographics here make it a challenge to compare and contrast with other parts of the world. I think if we all commit to the regulations our various countries have put in place for isolation and social distancing, accept that massive contrast to our day-to-day lives, and use this time for positive thinking, future planning, and self-care, we are going to be looking at a busy summer and autumn 2020."I'm advising all clients between now and early June to postpone. We are also being proactive in comforting our couples planning weddings from June onward, coming up with contingency plans for them and back-up holds on their venue and vendors' calendars that we won't put in place unless and until we need them. If at all possible, we're planning to reschedule 2020 clients within the year so that they can keep their venues, décor, dress, and more in place—and take advantage of the flexibility vendors will be offering once the season picks back up," Birthistle says.As a planner based on Lake Como, she explains that she's able to tap her relationships with vendors on the ground to make rescheduling, renegotiations, and future planning more seamless for her couples.What If I Don't Have a Wedding Planner? Bruce Russell, a luxury event planner based in London and co-creator of media brand Bruce and Tara Live with Dublin-based luxury planner Tara Fay, explains that the process is different based on whether or not you have a planner on board."For couples who don't have a planner and are planning a destination wedding, decisions are difficult to make right now," says Russell. "Pick the vendor you have the best personal relationship with or the one who seems to have most control over your creative team—which is likely your venue manager, your caterer, or your production company. They aren't a planner, but they're your ears on the ground. All you know is what you see on TV, in the media, on Instagram, but ask them what they're seeing, as it may be very different. They can help alleviate stressful thoughts and give you some insight on how to move forward. I'd advise working your wedding postponements around your venue and that key vendor."Fay reassures that even if you don't have a planner on board, the industry on the whole seems prepared to band together to help you reassess. "Every single wedding professional is going to be fighting in your corner through this," she says. "We're all going to be judged based on how we behave during this time, how we respond to this crisis, and how we treat the people we work with. There will never be a better time to pull off a wedding coup." Fay also emphasizes that if there was ever a time to hire a planner, it's now. "You're not paying a planner for when things get rosy, you're paying a planner for when shit hits the fan. It has, and we're ready and here to advocate for our clients and future couples."Luxury wedding planners across the board all mention taking on the challenge of postponing events for their clients' weddings around the world. That includes managing travel issues, finding new dates with your venue, and making sure those new timelines suit your caterer, band, production and design teams, and floral design firms. In speaking with Matthew Robbins and Luis Otoya of Matthew Robbins Design and Robbins Otoya, the planning and design duo spoke of spending the past two weeks in similar fashion to their colleagues: reconfiguring, rescheduling, and renegotiating weekends of events, travel arrangements, and contracts. Their goal, one which seems to echo across the industry is "to be as supportive, understanding, and as flexible as possible." With that said, keep in mind that planning a new wedding in place of your current event—be it in a new destination, new venue, or for a much smaller or larger guest count—might create additional work outside the scope of your existing event, which could result in additional fees."We are trying to be incredibly flexible in supporting our clients, but if there's a scope change to a new location, a new wedding, a new design, that's something that would need to be addressed," explains Easton. "While wedding planning is emotional, individualized, and personal, it's unfortunately unrealistic for clients to think that a business could support planning two events for the price of one."Birthistle expresses that many of her couples are most concerned about travel arrangements for their guests. "We've gone ahead and have begun speaking to travel companies, like Embark Beyond, in hopes of providing travel insurance for our guests later in the season. This way, should any of our couples planning weddings later in the year see the need to postpone as well, they're protected in advance."
How Do I Postpone My Wedding? If your invitations have already gone out, postponing warrants a phone call. Beahm explains that etiquette would also suggest "you also postpone formally, with something in the mail," but agrees a phone call to each guest should be a priority. "I think it's very polite to assure that guests get the message early. It reduces anxiety on everyone's part."As for invitations going out in the coming months, it may be best to include a note about a possible postponement or hold off on sending them out for a few weeks. "We have an end-of-May bride that's putting a note in the invitation going out this week that advises guests that the date may have to change—which I think is a great idea," says Beahm. Russell agrees. "We're postponing sending out invitations for autumn weddings until end of April/early May. We want to be conscious and responsible to make sure we don't send invitations to international weddings while the world is sitting at home and avoiding travel." Russell also notes that guests are likely to respond differently now than they would as things become clearer globally."The best thing that you could possibly do, since you have all the time in the world, would be to write handwritten notes to your guests. Maybe it would take you two hours a day for a week, but wouldn't it be nice for them to really feel loved and understand why you wanted them there? It's an exercise in gratitude and grace. It will make people even happier to be there knowing that you reached out to them during this time in a really elegant, thoughtful way," poses Marcy Blum, BAZAAR Bride best planner and wedding planner to LeBron James, Katie Lee, and many more.Annie Lee has a more relaxed approach on the formal aspects of postponement. "Don't be so obsessed with rebranding all your signage and paper goods with new dates, and you don't have to print new invitations," she says. "You can call your guests or even email them, but let them know sooner rather than later that things are being rescheduled.
"Can I Get My Deposits Back? After speaking with more than 20 luxury wedding vendors, you should not expect to receive deposits or retainers back. Rather, you can expect that your balance will not be charged until the new scope of work is established and the event is rescheduled. You should also be wary of using the word cancel when speaking to your vendors; instead, opt for postponements (ideally within the same year) to repurpose the investments you've already made in your event, or multiple events."Cancellation policies are in place for that one-off, change-of-heart scenario that we hope happens never or very rarely," says Easton. "A balance doesn't only serve to reserve a date. The deposits are in place, because the person you hired has done a solid amount of the work required to date, whereas the balance serves to cover the work that's left to be done and the event itself."
Villa agrees. "Once I've saved the date, my retainer is used to book second shooters and purchase film and possibly travel with a client's event in mind. The retainer is to cover the cost of doing business. I pay my team 50 percent to hold their dates, and then the balance no later than two weeks prior to the event. Should a client cancel, I'd use that retainer to manage the expenses and time already invested in their event.""Refunding deposits aren't industry standard, because all parties need to consider how much work goes into the planning to execute the job at hand," says Blum. "The way you behave in this situation has to simply be human. Every person you've hired for your event is a small business, who have each hired countless freelancers. Everyone involved has declined other work as a result of being booked. Nobody is taking your deposit and using it to buy a Jaguar. Those funds are used to keep companies and contractors afloat as they work towards our—and your—common goal.""We're in unchartered territory when it comes to business and ethics and contracts right now," says Beahm. "I think it's all about sitting down and having a level-headed conversation with your creative partners, and realizing that they are a business, as well as a person. Accept that you have asked them to hold one date, and you are now asking them to hold another. They're now dealing with two commitments to you for the price of one—and sadly, it isn't fair to anyone.
"What Happens If My Venue, Planner, Photographer, Band, Etc. Aren't Available on My New Dates? Have no fear, the wedding industry has your back. "We are in the business of joy," says Easton. "We are the last group of people who would want couples to be unhappy.""Right now, people will show up for you like no other. All vendors are going to be willing to accommodate as best we can," Lee agrees.As does Oth, who says, "Everybody is willing to work with brides right now, we are all in the same boat." Oth's vice president of new business, Makenzie Lynch, adds, "Our policy right now is that we are being flexible with our clients. All of our new bookings and rebookings for 2020 note the flexibility of postponing dates in our contracts."
And should your original vendors not be available for your desired new dates, that could be a blessing in disguise. Was there a photographer you were hoping would be available for your original date who wasn't? A florist you fell in love with on Instagram you doubted would be able to work with your budget or didn't think would ever be available? Just ask."I take on 20 clients per year, and most of my events this year were scheduled between March through the summer," says Villa, who photographed the weddings of Nick and Priyanka Chopra Jonas in 2019, and Justin and Hailey Bieber in 2018. "I now have a totally open September 2020 and a flexible rest of fall. I think that 2021 brides should even consider reaching out to their dream vendors, because odds are, they'll be looking to double up for next year when they'd typically have a set number of events per season."KT Merry, who photographed Lea Michele's and Kate Upton's nuptials, could not agree more. Merry was in a similar boat as Villa, and now has openings from August to November ready for brides to scoop up. Oth, who photographed Allison Williams's and Sean Parker's weddings, echoes the same sentiments. "There certainly is availability," he says. "I have some clients lined up for the end of the summer and the fall, but I have open dates."One way to make sure you get your dream team back on board for your wedding? "Choose a weekday if you have to and keep your wedding within the 2020 calendar year if you can," reiterates Oth and many of his colleagues. "You chose 2020 to be your year—and it still can be."
And rely on your planner to re-book vendors or find new ones. If you're planning solo, ask your trusted vendors who are not available for your new dates for help in the process. "If your vendor/supplier is booked for your new date, they're going to want to see you covered," says Fay."Never be afraid to ask the people you have booked to help find you someone who will offer the same level of service. Given that you cannot expect your original deposit back, consider it a finder's fee to do this legwork for you. The goal is that no vendor loses work, and you don't lose a supplier," advises Lee.
How Do I Move Forward? "The most important thing that everybody can commit to right now is locking down to stay healthy, with the mindset on keeping their wedding dates in the summer and fall," BAZAAR Bride top photographer Greg Finck insists. "The best thing you can do about your June wedding is stay home, read, relax, work, and sit on your couch. The economic containment of this should come second to your health."Beahm agrees. "Get your ass onto a yoga mat, meditate, take a bath. Approach this with a level head. A wedding is a high-stress, emotional process anyway—throw all this into the middle of it, and everything is going to spin twice as fast. Find a moment in your day to stop and reboot."As for brass tacks, Lee and Blum both say this is a time to realize that even in the most emotional business deals, ironclad contracts are essential. This does not only concern force majeure policies, which are in place in the case of unforeseeable circumstances that prevent a client or a vendor from fulfilling a contract.
"With that said, ironclad doesn't mean Draconian," says Blum. "Ironclad means there is an answer for all the what-ifs, and it's very specific. Nobody wants to talk about the horribles, and why would you? This is why so many people don't discuss prenups. But even when you're discussing things as pretty as flowers or as fun as entertainment, you need to make sure that both you as the client and the small businesses you're hiring are properly covered and comfortable should an 'act of God,' or in this case an act of man, take place. This isn't the time to rip apart force majeure clauses. This is the time to be as realistic and graceful as humanly possible."If you don't have a planner and are looking for advice, information, and expertise, head to social media and online for valuable resources. Start with Fay and Russell, who plan to answer questions and offer advice via twice-weekly Instagram Live sessions during happy hour on Wednesdays and Sundays at 7 p.m. GMT (2 p.m. EST/11 a.m. PST). They'll also have frequent industry guests joining them to speak to specific topics.And as you prioritize health, wellness, and self-care, don't sit idly. Use your upcoming time at home to plan ahead. "We're all going to get busy at the same time once the season picks up," Michelle Rago says. "Talk through your timelines, and your music, which is so much harder than you think. Think about how many people are giving speeches, have those guest experience conversations, review mood boards for décor, have all of those time-intensive conversations. Schedule calls—video calls if possible. Right now, vendors are looking to give you tons of customer service."
CARRIE GOLDBERG Weddings & Travel Director. Carrie Goldberg is HarpersBAZAAR.com’s Weddings & Travel Director.
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