Advice and Etiquette Tips on How to Postpone a Wedding, From Experts
The outbreak of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 currently has major cities advising citizens to stay inside and practice social distancing. Healthcare experts and government officials are hoping to “flatten the curve” of infections by shutting down schools, closing non-essential businesses and discouraging large gatherings.
In the face of a worldwide pandemic, many couples with upcoming weddings are wondering how to navigate their pending celebrations and commitments. With business closures, shelter-in-place orders, and safety recommendations of social distancing and limiting crowds to 10 people or fewer, couples are postponing, cancelling and freaking out at record speed.
The good news is that cancelling your wedding completely isn’t a necessary step for most couples. Whether you decide to postpone, elope or livestream an intimate backyard wedding ceremony to your nearest and dearest, you can still find ways to enjoy this confusing and frustrating time. We talked with pro wedding planners and brides-to-be to bring you the best advice and etiquette tips for moving forward.
Cancelling vs. Postponing Your Wedding
“Reschedule, don’t cancel,” advises Merida Alexander, wedding planner and owner of Events by Merida, based in Philadelphia, PA. “Even if you postpone indefinitely, do not cancel.”
The risk of canceling comes with a loss of deposits, especially if you didn’t have any form of wedding insurance in place before the pandemic hit. Wedding pros recommend doing a thorough read-through of your contracts and then contacting vendors as soon as possible to see what your options are.
“Reach out immediately to your venue and each of your vendors and discuss your concerns and what their policy will be in this instance,” says Ranu Coleman, CMO of bridal company Azazie. “Find out what other dates are available and see if you can find one that works for you.
“None of us saw a global pandemic coming down the pipeline,” says Alexander. “A lot of vendors are relaxing their rescheduling policies.”
If your vendors are willing to reschedule, the experts advise choosing another date, even if the future of the pandemic is still uncertain. You may have to reschedule again if cases of COVID-19 don’t clear up before your new date, but finding available dates will be harder the more time goes on and the more weddings need to be rescheduled.
“If you’re feeling overwhelmed, consider hiring a wedding planner to help manage the workload,” says Mathew Lahey, event producer at Kehoe Designs in Chicago, IL.
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If you have the budget, bringing a wedding planner into your rescheduling efforts can help speed up the process and ease your burden—emotionally and possibly even financially. If you have a planner reaching out on your behalf to renegotiate vendors and venues, they may be able to reach deals you wouldn’t have thanks to insider knowledge and existing business connections. Wedding companies hoping to be referred by your planner in the future might also be more willing to waive cancellation fees.
“People want to keep planners happy,” says Alexander.
Get Married Now, Celebrate Later
Another option is to go ahead with a small ceremony—just you, your beloved and officiant in some cases—and celebrate later. This advice is especially practical for couples who were relying on an upcoming marriage to secure timely needs, like health insurance or military housing.
If you already have a marriage license and a willing officiant, you can have an intimate at-home wedding with a few select guests and a photographer (as long as you stay within current healthcare recommendations). Tech-savvy couples can even livestream the at-home nuptials to friends and family on social media. If you don’t have your marriage license in hand and your local courts are closed, you can still have a sweet and meaningful shelter-in-place ceremony on your chosen date and make it official later.
“In my case, we have decided to go with a pseudo-elopement on our chosen date with just a friend marrying us followed by a formal ceremony and party later in the summer,” says New York, NY bride Caitlin Teahan, 30. Teahan originally had a May wedding planned in Italy.
“We know that either way, our original attendees will not all make it as we have had to select a new location—and country—but we felt this was the safest way to celebrate.”
Another option, if your venue is willing, is to still marry now in a private ceremony and move the reception to a later date, celebrating with friends and family then.
“If you are locked into a contract, get creative,” suggests Lahey. Some vendors might be less flexible than others. If your caterer isn’t willing to change dates, for example, use the budget you had allocated for food in a slightly different way. “In lieu of a sit-down dinner, see if the caterer will shift to delivering boxed dinners or treats [to former guests].”
Reach Out to Guests
Whichever way you decide to handle your upcoming wedding, it’s important to let guests know as soon as possible. Wedding cancellation and postponement etiquette dictates that you let the wedding party, guests of honor and those planning to travel know as soon as possible. Put together a list of those most emotionally and financially invested in your upcoming wedding and call them personally to let them know what your plans are.
Next, update your wedding website if you have one. Post your wedding postponement or cancellation letter somewhere on the website that guests can easily navigate to, preferably the front page. The wedding postponement wording should indicate to guests that you’re prioritizing your and their safety above all.
“Definitely mention that we want to have everyone there, and we want everyone to be safe and healthy,” says Alexander.
Lastly, send your guests a formal cancellation, postponement or change of date notice in the mail. Wedding stationery websites like Minted are currently offering a selection of stylized announcements to keep guests in the loop.
“It’s a nice way to let people know,” says Alexander. “Especially because everybody is trapped in their house right now, it’s nice to get a little letter. Don’t lick the envelope.”
Cancelling Your Honeymoon
After you’ve handled your ceremony and reception, reach out to travel agencies, airlines, resorts and other resources you’ve used and work on getting your honeymoon cancelled.
Many airlines and hospitality businesses are being more accommodating than usual in the wake of COVID-19 illnesses. Whether you cancel completely or move to a later date, avoiding travel is paramount.
If you’ll be stuck indoors with your loved one when you planned to be honeymooning, check out these tips for having a romantic time at home during quarantine.
“It is okay to be selfish and prioritize you and your S.O. now more than ever,” says Teahan. “This is a turbulent time and, ultimately, the postponement or cancellation of a wedding will be quite emotional. If you need time to disconnect from family and friends dispensing advice or even words of encouragement, it is totally okay. Take the time to focus on you two and make the decision that feels right.”
It’s okay to grieve the loss of the wedding you imagined—but don’t dwell on it. Ultimately, your wedding is only a small part of the overall picture of your life and future marriage. What’s most important during this time is staying safe and nurturing your relationship with your partner in the face of overwhelming change and uncertainty.
“It’s great practice for ‘in sickness and in health’,” says Alexander.
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