The Coronavirus pandemic has caused severe disruption across the globe – and if you have a wedding planned for 2020, whether in the UK or abroad, it can feel unclear how you should proceed.
This is a rapidly changing situation, so it’s impossible to say for sure what will happen in the long term. As of Monday 23rd March the UK is in lockdown. This is far more extensive than the previous advice to minimise social contact. UK citizens have been ordered to stay in their homes apart from for very specific reasons, including:
- Medical need
- Shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible
- Travelling to work, but if possible you should work from home
- One form of exercise per day, alone or with members of your household
Social gatherings have been banned, and that specifically includes weddings.
The lockdown restrictions will be reviewed in three weeks. They could be lessened – but they may also become even stricter. If you have a wedding booked over the next few months, realistically your choice is between cancellation or postponement.
“I would suggest you consider postponing weddings between now and the start of May – it’s possibly too soon to decide what to do with weddings after this date. All we can do is take it day by day,” says Bernadette Chapman of the UK Association of Wedding Planners.
The UK Government also says that if one person in a household has symptoms, everyone living there has to stay at home for 14 days. If you live on your own, you must stay at home for seven days. For more information and updated advice, consult the NHS website.
Difficult as the situation is, there are some steps you can take now to help answer your concerns when it comes to your wedding.
1. Stay up to date
It is important to make sure you’re up to speed with developments, given how quickly advice can change. For the latest updates in the UK, make sure you visit the gov.uk website, and for travel advice, check the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website.
2. Contact your venue and/or planner
Communication is key. If you’re getting married in the UK within the next few months, you need to check your contract and then talk to your venue, or your wedding planner if you have one and they’re organising the day. At the moment, the UK Government has banned social gatherings – and weddings come into that category. Obviously, the safety of you and your guests must come first.
Bear in mind that your venue and planner are here to help you. They may well be dealing with a deluge of queries at the moment, so try to be patient, even though it’s understandable that you want answers.
Options to discuss include whether you can postpone. “Have a date in mind and check they are available,” says Bernadette. “Ask if there are any penalties for changing the date. It might be that provided the change of date happens in this financial year, your venue will change the date for free, but after the tax year there might be an additional charge.”
If you are able to postpone, get every detail of the change confirmed in writing.
If cancellation is the only available option and you feel it would be unwise to go ahead given the UK government’s position, find out what the financial implications are.
If your wedding is in autumn or winter 2020, stay in touch with your venue and/or planner, but remember that their priority at the moment will be helping couples whose weddings are coming up in the next few months. The likelihood is that for weddings later in the year, they’ll be adopting a wait-and-see policy, but try to establish what the deadlines would be for changing your wedding plans if the Coronavirus pandemic severe disruption were to be continuing by then.
READ MORE: 100 best UK wedding venues
The same advice applies if you’ve booked a destination wedding. Currently, many countries have travel restrictions in place, and these are changing on a daily basis. For example, the US has banned travel from Europe, including the UK and the Republic of Ireland, although this doesn’t apply to American citizens, legal permanent residents or their immediate families. The EU has announced it will ban non-essential travel into Europe, although this doesn’t apply to the UK. Some countries are not accepting travellers from the UK unless they are legal residents, and others require a 2-week self-isolation period for all arrivals.
What’s more, the UK Foreign Office is now advising against all but essential travel anywhere outside the UK for at least the next 30 days.
3. Check your wedding insurance
Several major companies are not currently accepting new applications for wedding insurance. If you’re right at the start of your planning process, it may be wise to avoid any significant bookings until you’re able to take out insurance, or until you find a company that is selling new policies.
If you already have a policy and your company isn’t taking new applications, don’t worry, your policy still stands.
However, it’s time to check the fine print carefully, because cancellation cover varies from policy to policy. It’ll also depend on the UK situation at the time you cancel, and what has been officially banned. Remember, this doesn’t apply should you manage to postpone. “If you’re postponing the wedding, and the venue and suppliers agree, in essence there shouldn’t be anything to claim,” says Bernadette.
4. Sort out the ceremony
Whether you’re having a civil or religious ceremony, now is the time to contact your celebrant to discuss options.
If you’re having a civil ceremony and you cancel, postpone or move to a different venue, you will need to give notice again, so talk to your local register office.
READ MORE: The legal requirements for marriage in the UK
5. List and contact your suppliers
Obviously, a wedding involves a lot of different elements. When you’re thinking about changing your wedding date, make a list of every supplier you’ll need to contact such as photographer, videographer, caterer, cake maker, hair and make-up artist, entertainer, DJ etc.
Before you get in touch, check your contract carefully to find out what the situation is with deposits already paid and those that are due. It’s best to approach each conversation as calmly as possible. Your suppliers are also in a very difficult situation, and you want to find a solution that’s mutually beneficial.
“It might be that suppliers will postpone but request you stick to current payment terms,” says Bernadette.
If you’re still in the early stages of planning and haven’t made any firm bookings, ask potential suppliers if they might consider holding the date for you until an agreed deadline, while you wait to see how the situation develops. They may say no, as that isn’t ideal for them financially, but you can always ask.
READ MORE: Wedding photography prices decoded
6. Look at travel information and insurance
This applies to both destination weddings and honeymoons. More and more companies are cancelling flights, so keep checking with your airline. As mentioned, the UK Foreign Office is advising against all but essential travel globally for the next 30 days, and is asking all UK residents currently abroad to return where possible – keep updated at gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Because of this, most (but not all) travel policies should cover you for cancellation. However, these policies will probably only pay out if you got your insurance before the UK Foreign Office list announcement.
As with wedding insurance providers, some companies are currently not offering travel insurance policies to new customers.
7. Update your guests
Keep in contact with guests, and if you are postponing, let them know as soon as possible.
If you’re getting married in 2020 and have already sent the save the dates, it’s worth looking into setting up a wedding website where you can post updates about your plans, rather than having to keep contacting everyone with new information every time something changes.
Don’t be disappointed if your wedding eventually comes around and you have a smaller-than-anticipated guest list. It’s unclear what restrictions will be in place in a few months’ time, but even if we are fortunate enough to have fewer restrictions, some guests, particularly the elderly, simply may not feel comfortable travelling or being in social situations. You could always look into live-streaming the ceremony to anyone who wants to be involved but would prefer to stay in their homes.
8. Don’t forget the hen and stag
If you have a spring or summer hen and stag booked, you’ll be facing the same issues as you are with the wedding – postponement or cancellation is likely. If you’ve booked through a company, check their cancellation policy. If you’ve booked accommodation and/or flights separately, check with the individual providers and with your travel insurance. And let your friends and family know as soon as possible once you’ve decided how to proceed.
9. Check on your wedding dress
Many wedding dresses are made in China, so it’s understandable if you’re concerned about disruption to the supply chain. If you’ve ordered your dress from a boutique, get in touch to find out whether there is likely to be any hold-up. It’s highly unlikely that this is the case, as most designers will have received their orders early, or will have put arrangements in place to ensure orders still meet the deadlines.
Bear in mind that all shops selling non-essential goods have been ordered to close, so you may not be able to get a quick answer.
If you have fittings booked in the summer, you should also talk to your boutique about whether these can go ahead or whether these need to be postponed.
READ MORE: The top 50 bridal boutiques
10. Stay safe – and be kind to yourself
There is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling sad about changing your wedding plans – and it certainly doesn’t mean you’ve lost sight of the bigger picture. Once you’ve managed to put a back-up plan in place, take some time for yourself. Don’t forget that you’re not cancelling for ever – this is a postponement, and one day you will be married to the person you love.
Want to discuss the situation with other brides who are in the same position? Head to the You & Your Wedding forum.