If you’re due to get married this year, it’s understandable if you’re concerned about your plans in light of the Coronavirus pandemic. Whether you’d booked a spring or summer celebration, or have a wedding planned for autumn or winter 2020, the situation is changing so rapidly that it’s impossible to predict what the coming months will bring.
On 23rd March, all gatherings including weddings were banned in the UK. This was extended ‘for at least three weeks’ on 16th April.
As we explain in our guide to what to do if your wedding is during the Coronavirus pandemic, you need to start your Plan B-preparations by talking to your suppliers. In case you’re not sure how to approach these conversations – and let’s face it, who expected to be in a situation like this? – we’ve pulled together the questions you need to ask so you can make a fully informed decision on how to go ahead.
Make a list of all your suppliers, starting with your planner (if having one), venue and ceremony celebrant, then everyone from caterers and photographers to florists and entertainers. Check all your contracts carefully to find out what happens with each one in terms of cancellation or postponement. Once you’ve read our guide to the questions to ask them, start getting in touch
You will get through this.
What to ask your planner and wedding venue
Your wedding planner should be your first port of call; if you don’t have one, you need to go to your venue directly.
If your wedding is within the next couple of months, one option is to cancel outright and pick up planning from scratch when the overall situation is clearer. However, we can’t stress enough how important it is to check your wedding insurance terms and conditions before you go down this route.
Not all policies will cover cancellation due to a government act (in this case, the ban on gatherings including weddings), or the insurance company might claim that the Coronavirus pandemic counts as force majeure. You could stand to lose all the money you’ve paid on deposits, as well as being liable for outstanding future payments.
There’s also no guarantee that any of your suppliers would refund you, depending on what your contracts say.
READ MORE: 100 best UK wedding venues
Should you decide against cancelling, your other option is to try to reschedule with the same venue and as many of the same suppliers as possible.
Be prepared to negotiate and be flexible with your expectations.
“Venues have a lot to consider, such as staff and overheads, so it’s not always a simple date change for them,” says leading wedding planner Andri Benson of Always Andri. “What’s more, many 2021 dates may have been booked already. Where they can, venues are offering mid-week and out-of-season options and trying their best to be flexible.”
But is it worth postponing if you have a wedding booked for later in 2020? We asked one of our favourite country house venues, Holkham Hall, for their take.
“In these unprecedented times, we don’t quite know where we will be in a few weeks’ time, therefore we are currently working around 12 weeks ahead, working with our couples getting married between now and the end of June to find alternative dates for their wedding,” they say.
If you’re getting married after that, monitor government information about the Coronavirus pandemic and keep in touch with your venue.
These are the questions you need to ask in order to postpone:
- What are the financial implications of cancelling our wedding?
- Is it possible to postpone our wedding to a later date?
- Which dates do you have available in autumn/winter 2020 and throughout 2021?
- Is there a fee for postponement?
- If we agree a new date, will the price remain the same?
- If our wedding is moved to a different season, will anything change in terms of the spaces available and the flow of the day?
- How can I stay in touch with you when the venue is closed?
- Once we’ve agreed a new date and terms, can we have a new contract or a written amendment to our current contract?
And don’t forget your marquee hire company if this isn’t being organised through the venue.
What to ask your celebrant
Whether you’re having a civil or religious ceremony, it’s important to find out whether there are any extra steps you’ll need to take if you postpone. For a civil wedding ceremony, if you make any changes to your wedding, from date to venue, you’ll need to give notice again – speak to your local register office.
These are the main questions to ask:
- We have these proposed new dates from our venue. Is there a registrar/celebrant available on these dates?
If your ceremony is different from your reception venue: Is the space also available on any of our proposed new dates?
- When would we need to give notice again?
If you’re having a destination wedding, you may need to resubmit documents or go through the legal process again. Check with your planner – if you don’t have one, now might be the time to hire someone with local knowledge. One option would be to have your legal ceremony in the UK and then have a blessing as part of your wedding abroad.
READ MORE: The legal requirements for getting married in the UK
What to ask your wedding suppliers – general
“Suppliers are largely being really flexible and happy to offer a postponement as they know how difficult a situation it is for couples,” says Andri. “Just be open and honest with them. Let them know you’re worried about the current situation, and ask if postponement is possible and by when they would need to know your new plans.”
If you have some suggested rescheduled dates from your venue, find out whether your suppliers are available.
“Do also check with them if there will be any additional costs – most suppliers won’t charge any extra for a postponement but there may be additional costs they may need to cover, such as money already paid out, ingredients, flowers etc that go up in price next year,” says Andri. “And check how postponement affects their payment terms. If the wedding is soon and you have a payment due, they may ask if you can pay part of it now and then the rest by the new date to help with their cash flow.”
Image | Getty
Make sure you have everything in writing, so both you and the suppliers are clear on what has been agreed.
“As you are in effect just amending the original contract you may not need to sign a new one but do get any new terms – such as additional costs, payments dates etc – in writing,” advises Andri.
READ MORE: Questions to ask your wedding planner
Go into your discussions with an open mind. “We understand that postponing your wedding is a heart-breaking decision for anyone to have to make,” say Holkham Hall. “Try and remember that your suppliers are going through their own difficulties, with many of them facing months of no income. The postponement will be much easier with understanding from both sides and hopefully you will come out of it with an even stronger relationship with your suppliers.”
To summarise, these are the key questions for all your wedding suppliers:
- Are you available on any of these new dates?
- Will there be additional costs if we postpone?
- Do we still have to follow the payment schedule in our current contract if we postpone?
- Can we have the new arrangements in writing?
We’d also suggest checking with each supplier what special health and safety measures they’ll have in place to address Coronavirus concerns.
What to ask your wedding florist
We asked renowned florists Lavender Green for their take.
“For couples holding a date with us, we are more than happy to transfer to a new date if needed,” they tell us. “As we are working with a fresh natural product, we just ask that we are given no less than three weeks’ notice, as this is around the time we are looking at ordering and conditioning flowers, arranging hardware and scheduling staff.”
Image | Wedding Photography at Unsplash
You may have to rethink some aspects of your flower designs – but this doesn’t mean you can’t have the floral look of your dreams.
“The most important thing is that your wedding reflects you as a couple – whether it shows off your personal style, or simply focuses on what matters most to you both – and this can be achieved at any time of year,” say Lavender Green. “It is worth preparing however, for certain flowers that you had previously selected to no longer be available. But rest assured, there is always an equally beautiful seasonal alternative. ‘Sensational’ is not restricted to any one season and it is our job to ensure you are as ecstatically happy with the new flower selection and even, maybe, colour palette or fragrance.”
It may surprise you that if you’re getting married later in the year or in 2021, you don’t have to put your planning on hold – just find out whether your chosen florist is working from home.
“We are still up and running from home, eager to put quotations together for you and would be delighted to have a consultation over the phone, or even via video conference,” say Lavender Green. “Sue, our Founder and Creative Director, is also at hand to hold full video consultations including a sketch of you in your dress and a bespoke designed bridal bouquet. Our mantra at the moment is definitely to advise brides to work with us remotely and avoid the rush that will, of necessity, happen in the autumn.”
This means the key questions to ask are:
- Are you available on any of our proposed new dates?
- If we’ve changed seasons, which flowers will no longer be available, and which alternatives would you suggest?
What to ask your wedding caterer
As anyone who wants to make their wedding day more sustainable knows, it’s not just the flower choices that should be seasonal – it’s also the menu. Once you’ve established whether your caterer is free on your postponed dates, check what impact moving season might have on your wedding breakfast.
Image | Edgar Castrejon at Unsplash
What to ask your wedding photographer
“We are very thankful that our clients have been amazing!” says Nicola of photographers Weddings by Nicola & Glen. “The client and supplier need to try and find a workable compromise. Moving the date to a weekday or Sunday or an out of wedding season month will make this a lot easier for the client and all their suppliers. The main advice I can give couples is to reach out to their photographers as early as possible when thinking about a new date for their wedding.”
The solution you discuss will depend on your 2020 wedding date. “All our couples from now up to mid June have postponed,” says Nicola. “Beyond that date couples are keeping their original date for late summer as their Plan A, but getting a back up date penciled in for next year as a Plan B.”
If you do end up changing seasons, given the change in sunset/sunrise times throughout the year, talk to your wedding photographer about the impact this might have on your photos. You may need extra lighting indoors, for example, to capture the speeches and wedding breakfast, as it’ll be getting dark earlier.
Image | Getty Getty
You might also have to rejig your wedding reception timeline, to make sure you have the best natural light for your newlywed portraits. An experienced photographer will be able to advise you on this.
Once you’re through the stress of postponement, remember that even though this may not be the exact celebration you originally planned, it can still be magical. “Your wedding day will be a beautiful celebration of love, whether that’s on a Wednesday in November or a Saturday in August,” say Holkham Hall. “Marriage is marriage, regardless of the season.”
Ready to share your new wedding plans with your friends and family? Check out our edit of the 21 most stylish change the date cards.