How do you make the best out of a situation you never anticipated? It’s difficult to imagine having to postpone your wedding, a day you’ve been planning for months, or even years. Whether it’s a natural disaster, family emergency, or global pandemic, the impact of these events on your wedding can be devastating.
This is especially relevant in light of the recent coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic impacting millions of people around the world. Due to mandates on social distancing and limitations on group gatherings, postponing or canceling a wedding is becoming more of a reality for engaged couples.
We spoke to several top wedding planners — Katie Lenns of LennsFest Events, Nora Sheils of Bridal Bliss, and Ivy Summer of Voulez Events — and top NYC-based wedding photographer Jocelyn Voo of Everly Studios — to gather their expertise on navigating these difficult times. Using their insights, here is our guide to essential steps to take in the event you have to postpone your wedding.
1. Discuss Your Wedding Options and Review Your Contracts
Sit down with your fiancé to discuss whether it’s best to proceed with your wedding as scheduled or postpone. Depending on the circumstances you’re facing, it’s a big decision that may or may not be in your control.
If you don’t want to wait to get married, you can always livestream your wedding or elope in the short-term. You can then celebrate with loved ones later, as many couples are choosing to do in 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak.
If you decide to postpone the wedding, review your contracts before you pick up the phone or send emails to vendors. “Pull out your contracts, review everything, [and] understand what the expectations are before you contact anyone,” Sheils says.
Pay particular attention to the Force Majeure clause in each contract. It “remove[s] liability for natural and unavoidable catastrophes that interrupt the expected course of events and restrict participants from fulfilling obligations.” By familiarizing yourself with this clause, you’ll be better equipped to navigate vendor conversations, Summer adds.
Tip: Are you working with a wedding planner or consultant? Connect with them to determine your next steps. “If you have a planner, your first call should be to them to strategize your plan. They will also help you handle conversations with the rest of your vendors,” Sheils says.
2. Check-In With Your Venue to Determine Several New Wedding Dates
It can be difficult to determine a new date for your big day, as your preferences may not align with your venue’s availability. Consequently, it’s in your best interest to be as flexible as possible with your expectations.
This could mean determining several new wedding dates, opting for a weekday wedding, or hosting your wedding in an off-season. Reach out to your venue about available dates and select at least a few that will work for you.
When you connect with your venue, also inquire about any event, sound, fire, or parking permits you may have. “Communicate with those points-of-contact and request to apply the permit to a new date, or if it’s possible to postpone until further notice,” Summer explains. If you have a wedding planner, note that they can also coordinate this for you.
3. Connect With Your Wedding Vendors About Their Availability
Once you’ve narrowed down a few wedding dates, it’s time to sync with your vendors to determine their availability. Sheils suggests sending a blanket email by copying all your vendors. Everyone will be on the same page about your plans, and you can try to settle on a date. Other than your venue, these usually include your officiant, photographer, videographer, band/DJ, florist, transportation, and caterer.
Whether these are vendors you’ve hired or just those you’re seriously considering by the time you postpone your wedding, Summer says you should have conversations with all of them.
Tip: Be flexible with your date and patient with your venue and vendors. Depending on the context or severity of the situation, it’s likely that everyone is navigating uncharted territory and other couples may be postposing and trying to find a new date for their wedding, as well.
4. Choose a New Date and Request Updated Vendor Contracts
After connecting with your vendors, you should “go back to your venue and book the new wedding date,” according to Lenns. “Don’t wait too long, because there will certainly be other couples also looking to postpone their wedding.” After booking your new date with the venue, you should also reach out to your vendors one more time to confirm.
As you hear back from vendors, ask for a new contract to reflect the date change and any other changes from the original contract. This is because contracts protect you and ensure your expectations will be met.
Tip: Are any vendors no longer available on your new date? Lenns recommends asking for a refund and if they can recommend alternative vendors to take their place.
5. Share the New Date With Your Wedding Party
Now that you have your new date confirmed, it’s time to share it with your wedding party, as they have played a major role leading up to your big day. If you have a Joy wedding website, you can send a general email message through it to your wedding party and any other VIP family or other guests that should be first to know of your new plans, or you can send a mass text. “Make sure they mark the new date on their calendar, and tell them they can stop any wedding preparations they may have been working on,” Lenns says.
Whatever your reason for postponing your wedding, you should take care in communicating clearly about the new date and alleviating any anxieties your wedding party may be experiencing.
6. Update Your Wedding Website
Have you been using a wedding website in your planning? It’s crucial to update it accordingly to reflect your new wedding date. “Update your wedding website with the decisions you’re making to keep guests well-informed in a timely manner,” Summer says.
If you have a wedding website with Joy, you can also alert guests more prominently using our Announcements feature. Your announcement will appear as a banner at the top of your website. This is where you can write a personal message to all guests noting your new date and reason for postponing.
7. Spread the Word About Your New Date With Your Wedding Guests
After updating your wedding website, share your new date with friends and family ASAP. “Communicate with your guests. This one will take some time, but you want to make sure you reach everyone. The most efficient way is likely via email, and then some phone calls to those whose email addresses you don’t have or guests who aren’t good with technology,” Lenns says.
Another efficient way to share your new date with guests is by using Joy’s general email message feature. You get to select all your guests, personalize a message, and send away. Everyone on your guest list will receive the same message at the same time, minimizing any confusion or discrepancies.
8. Collect RSVPs for Your New Wedding Date
Now that you’ve shared your new wedding date with guests, it’s time to determine who plans on attending. You’ll want to send another set of formal invitations to make it easy for guests to RSVP to your new wedding date. If you’re using Joy’s online RSVP system, you can hide or delete old questions and ask your guests new questions for your new wedding plans.
Tip: Try to be understanding if some formerly-attending guests won’t be able to make it, Voo says.
9. Re-evaluate Your Honeymoon Plans
Depending on where you are in the wedding planning process, your honeymoon plans may also be turned upside down. This is especially true if your getaway was scheduled soon after your original wedding date. If you fall into this category, Summer suggests you “re-evaluate your honeymoon plans in a conversation with your travel agent.”
You may be able to make different travel arrangements that make sense for your new wedding date.
10. Keep Your Spirits Up
Postponing your wedding plans because of an unexpected situation is understandably devastating. And you have every right to feel blue, angry, or frustrated. You’ve poured your heart, time, and money into this process and hoped that everything would run smoothly.
But at the end of the day, it’s important to remember that a postponement doesn’t mean never. It just means that some adjustment is required to make your beautiful wedding day a reality.
Fortunately, we’ve given you a head-start with the above troubleshooting steps. “And in the meantime,” Voo says, “try not to let this get you down too much. It’s 100% okay to be feeling a lot of emotions. This is hard, but it will get better.”