COVID-19, also referred to as Coronavirus, is sweeping our planet in a way that hasn’t been experienced for generations. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your families as we all go through this together. Our hope is that we can all do everything in our power to keep the most vulnerable from getting sick.
So, you have a wedding or portrait session coming up. What should you do?
There are lots of considerations to keep in mind. Of course, everyone’s health and safety are always our first priority. That and taking amazing photos of you!
What do I do about COVID-19 impacting my wedding?
You have been planning this day for months, maybe even years. So many pieces that you’ve spent time and money putting into place. Everything has finally come together and now COVID-19 is here. What should you do?
The first step, don’t panic. We know it’s hard not to, but things will work out one way or another. The second, contact your venue and see if any posted restrictions are going to affect your wedding. From there you and your partner can begin to make an informed decision about what to do. You can start having conversations with all of your vendors to see how they are handling this situation. Discuss with your families how you should best move forward because there are many options.
What options do I have?
Move forward with the wedding
In some cases, you may decide to move forward with the wedding. Unfortunately some of your guests may not be able to be there due to illness, travel restrictions, or other reasons. If your state, city, and venue still permit you to have the wedding, moving forward may be the easiest option. Ask your venue and caterer if they can put more space between tables. Provide sanitizing stations for your guests to easily access. Potentially shorten dancing. Refrain from hugging everyone or giving handshakes and practice social distancing as best you can. You may ask older guests not to come or to leave after the ceremony for their own protection. Consider having someone live stream your wedding so your guests who can’t make it can still witness the celebration of your marriage.
Postpone the wedding
Postponing your wedding may be the best option. It allows you to take a step back from this uncertain time and hit the pause button. This is where you need to involve all of your vendors for the best possible outcome. While most of us have contracts with you and there are set terms and conditions, many of us are willing to work with you and waive reschedule fees. The big thing to keep in mind is what your contracts say regarding cancellations. If you choose a date that one of your vendors isn’t available, you may be at risk of losing any retainers or non-refundable deposits you’ve made. It’s so important to include your vendors in the possible date selection process to ensure you get to keep working with the vendors you spent so much time selecting. If your contracts had reschedule fees, certainly ask that those be waived.
You don’t necessarily have to pick a new date right away. Ask your vendors how long they will allow you to wait to reschedule and in what time frame. We personally think that most people should be able to reschedule within 6-12 months. We’d certainly handle requests outside of that on a case by case basis.
Cancelling the wedding
While it shouldn’t come to this, in extreme situations it very well might. A destination wedding, for example, has extra moving pieces and there may not be travel restrictions to other countries in place. Most airlines are offering refunds and many resorts are offering full refunds as well. Cancelling a wedding outright due to COVID-19, without reschedule, is a very extreme decision and certainly puts you at risk of losing any or all retainers or non-refundable deposits you’ve made. While vendors are likely very agreeable to reschedule things with you, cancelling outright is a decision made entirely by you.
When should I make a decision?
If your wedding is happening in the next 30-45 days, reach out to your vendors and express your concern for their health and ask them what their plans are. Also ask what happens if you postpone. It’s important to have the conversation. COVID-19 restrictions are going to fluctuate by the day, week, and month. If your wedding is more than 45 days away you’re not under as much pressure to make any changes. It’s tough to play the waiting game, but that’s what we all have to do.
We are postponing, now what?
We encourage you to speak directly by phone with all of your vendors and then receive in writing how they are handling the situation. If you’ve got a new date picked that works for everyone, great! Now get that agreement in writing through a contract addendum or a new contract that states your previous payments are covered. This protects both you and your vendors. Always get it in writing.
After the legal side is all handled, let your guests know. Contact the hotels you had room blocks with and get those rescheduled. Ask that they waive any reschedule fees for your guests. Contact your photographer and see if they will do a quick 20-30 minute session with you to update some photos for new save the dates and send one out by email, your wedding website, social media or by mail.
Finally, take a deep breath and relax, you’ve earned it!
I have contracts, what should I be aware of?
You should have written contracts with your vendors that will talk about different kinds of fees, how cancelations are handled, etc. COVID-19 is not going to be specifically covered in your contracts. Keep in mind that in some cases, COVID-19 is not going to be considered as something that invokes “Acts of God” or “force majeure” clauses. These clauses in your contracts typically cover things like tornados, earthquakes, and hurricanes. If you have wedding/event insurance, which we always highly recommend, see how your policy covers you in this situation. You can make more informed decisions once you have all of the information.
Many contracts may have reschedule fees. Ask your vendors to waive those if they haven’t already said they would. Make sure you include your vendors’ availability and consider it before making a final decision on a new date. If one of your vendors is not available you may lose your retainer by moving forward with the new date.
I’m rescheduling and I don’t get my money back?
To be honest, quite possibly. This pandemic has put us all into a unique and horrible situation. We know all too well from our own wedding how much planning goes into your big day. We would hate to be out any of our investment because we have to reschedule our wedding. We have talked with many vendors across all areas and we are all on a similar page. We are all willing to help out with rescheduling without adding fees. If you move forward with a date that a vendor is not available, expect to lose your retainer for that vendor though.
We are all feeling the punch in the gut from COVID-19. Our health, our social interaction, sanity, and our finances. Keep in mind that you are one of many brides put in this situation. If a photographer had to refund tens of thousands of dollars due to cancellations it would destroy them. Your vendors are going to work with you, but keep in mind that you need to work with them too. If you reschedule to a date that you know they are not available for you are effectively cancelling and forfeiting money paid.
For all of our non-wedding sessions
We will evaluate each of our sessions on a case by case basis. We already do this in regards to weather. At the moment our studio will be closed for new sessions for a short period, but outdoor sessions can still move forward. It’s easy to keep distant from each other to not put anyone at risk. We will likely do more phone consultations instead of in person at the studio. But again, we’ll handle that on a case by case basis.
Let’s all work together
As in any trying time, we all need to work together. If we don’t, our couples will not get the weddings they dreamed of and our vendors will not be able to continue with their businesses. Both hurt us all in the long run.
As we are photographers we’d love to help you out if you are in need of a photographer. If you’re choosing a date that your photographer isn’t available for, maybe we can work with you and your photographer. Depending on the package you had and how much you already paid, maybe we can deduct the amount you paid the other photographer. It’s all about working together and coming together as a community. We’ll help out as much as we can and our availability is quite a bit more flexible since there are two of us. Please contact us to inquire about your wedding.
We wish you all the best and will keep you all in our thoughts and prayers.