Usually packed venues lay empty. DJs sit at home tinkering with their playlists. Photographers scroll through Instagram, daydreaming about past and future gigs.
As wedding season 2020 rolls around, love is most definitely not in the air.
That's what happens when a pandemic sweeps across the globe, shutting down public gatherings and upending normal operations. Couples planning to marry this year face a once-in-a-lifetime disruption that’s forced weddings to be altered en masse.
How can you navigate the financial challenges that come with a canceled wedding season? Here are some ways to temper your risk without harming those who need your business to survive.
Don't rely on wedding insurance
Wedding insurance typically covers things that can go wrong on the big day. For example, it helps replace a photographer who backs out last minute or book a new venue if the original one closes due to flooding.
Unfortunately, many couples who’ve canceled their plans because of coronavirus have learned a hard lesson: Wedding insurance doesn't cover pandemics. Opens in new window
It still doesn't hurt to file a claim. But unless your policy specifies epidemic or pandemic coverage, expect to leave any refund at the altar.
How to work with vendors
Vermont-based wedding photographer Sarah Porter has been in touch with all the couples she’s booked for 2020. She's working with most of them to reschedule for later this year or in 2021.
She’s also asked them to consider rescheduling to a Friday or Sunday — even if their original date was on a Saturday. This would help her (and other wedding vendors) make up lost revenue by keeping Saturdays open for new couples. "We're trying to fit two wedding seasons,” Porter says, “into a season and a half."
If you have to push your wedding back, ask your vendors about rescheduling to a Friday or Sunday date. (If you want to stick to a Saturday, you might have to pay extra.)
Peak season can mean premium prices
Indianapolis, IN native Larissa Cerbin was due to marry in Hawaii in April, but she moved her event to October — a popular month for weddings. Even though the hotel and venue were accommodating, no weekend dates were available. So, Cerbin had to settle for a Thursday.
Moreover, Cerbin had reserved five homes on Airbnb and Vrbo for her and her family to stay in. But when trying to re-book for October, she saw that some of the rates had almost doubled. Luckily, she contacted the landlords, who agreed to apply the April rates.
If you planned a wedding for an off-peak time like April, understand that you could face higher costs when moving your date. If you reschedule for peak wedding season — August or September — extra fees might be inevitable.
Try not to cancel vendors
Although this pandemic is stressful for everyone, the rules of wedding contracts still apply. If your event was scheduled for May, and you decide on a civil ceremony at the courthouse instead, your vendors might not return fees you've already paid.
That’s because most deposits are nonrefundable — no matter the reason. "You're not going to come across a lot of vendors that will give up the deposit," Porter says.
If you don’t want to reschedule but don’t want to forfeit your money, Porter suggests that you ask to count your deposits as credit for other services. For example, if you hired a photographer, see if they’ll apply your payment toward (eventual) baby pictures or family photos. If you hired a baker, ask if you can use the deposit toward birthday cakes or other treats.
Above all, be respectful and considerate when you postpone or cancel. Understand that no matter which choice you make, vendors are likely to lose huge chunks of their income. If you can work with them to find a solution, everybody can walk away happier.