If you're anything like the hundreds (if not thousands) of couples across Australia who have had their wedding day affected by the pandemic so far, it's normal to feel sad, anxious, and even a little angry. You planned SO much in advance, you paid your vendors on time, you did your research, you worked so hard - all to have that come crashing down and be put in jeopardy.
All the hard work, waiting, planning, surely it's not going to go to waste, right? As Sydney couples now (like those in Melbourne only a few weeks back) go back to the drawing board, I thought it would be good to ask the question: "So... what now?"
Acknowledge this is not what you planned
First things first, "DON'T PANIC!" I cannot stress this enough!
Wait. Bad phrasing...
I cannot emphasise this enough! That's better! :)
Like anything in life, disappointment hits the hardest at moment zero and you absolutely SHOULD feel through the emotions together as a couple and (by extension) with your family and friends. Take a moment to comprehend the situation and what this means for you both.
Here's 3 questions you should immediately ask yourself and each other:
1. "Are we going to be ok?"
Simple answer for you: A resounding YES! You will, I promise! You are still together, you love one another, your family and friends are here to rally around you, you will get through this!
2. "Do we want the kind of wedding we planned before?"
A hard question, for sure, but important and one that is unsurprisingly common right now. The truth is that weddings are expensive (well, they can be, certainly) and, for that reason, it might seem appealing to simply nix the whole operation in favour of a cheaper, simpler one instead. This is especially important if you are unfortunate enough to be down the hole considerably due to lost vendor payments.
No matter how much or how little you may have financially lost from the impact of the pandemic, this does NOT mean you have reduce the way the wedding is going to FEEL just because the amount of money you will end up throwing at it. Cheaper weddings are renowned for being intimate, less stressful, and undoubtedly leave a lot more money in the piggy bank for post-wedding activities, such as the honeymoon or setting up your forever home.
3. "How much are we covered for right now?"
According to Emerald Bridal, only about 1% of Aussie couples between 2018-2020 dished out for wedding insurance. Even then, it is unlikely existing wedding insurance policies will cover wedding cancellations due to COVID. Sigh...
This means that virtually everyone is in the same boat as you are: at the mercy of your wedding vendors' individual cancellation policies. I'll get into that more below.
So... what now?
Ok! So after a healthy dose of self-reflection, it's time to get to business. This wedding ain't gonna fix itself on its own, after all!
Give your phone and email a workout!
Put on the kettle because it's time to hit the phones and emails! While some of your vendors may be proactive and reach out, it is fair to say that unless you communicate with them and ask for their availabilities, their cancellation policies etc. you might miss a critical window to book in current vendors.
In the event that they are already booked by the time you get to them, do yourself a favour and go back to the top of this page. What does it say?
** "DON'T PANIC!" **
If there is one thing I can promise you, there are a LOT of vendors in the wedding industry. You are bound to find someone eventually.
If you're struggling, I highly recommend hitting up many of the public Facebook wedding groups. Put your call out there and I guarantee in an hour you'll have a flurry of recommendations from brides, grooms, and vendors alike. I myself have helped a number of despairing brides find the vendor they are looking in a pinch (some even found me!). Some of the best and most active pages you should definitely be a part of are:
There are many more out there, a number of them tailored to specific regions around the country. The most important piece of advice here is:
"Ask and Ye Shall Receive!"
Weddings are an incredibly important part of people's lives and you may honestly be surprised how far vendors and members of the public are willing to go to make sure you have the wedding you deserve.
Re-couping vendor costs
When it comes to cancellations, getting back booking deposits is generally quite difficult because most vendors don't guarantee the deposit back, COVID or not. Even on the rare occasion they are willing to return it, for all of your vendors at a very minimum you'll need to pay them out of pocket for the services they've already rendered (e.g. an engagement shoot that was included in your photography package that you and your partner have already done).
However, you are not liable for any contracts that haven't been fulfilled. In the extreme and unfortunate case you cannot afford to pay the vendors, (due to other impacts of the pandemic in your life), you may be able to negotiate a lower cost with them for your new date.
Vendors are not keen on losing your business outright and will often do as much as they can to accommodate you. While there are certainly examples of "bad eggs" who haven't been as accommodating (a quick Google search will bring up plenty, like this example), it is important to keep in mind that the very industry which is committed to making your special day the most amazing it can be is still just as committed to supporting you through this, perhaps even more so now.
Remember, as wedding vendors and service operators this a good portion of our livelihood (perhaps even the only thing), and the vast majority are in it for the right reasons. Having a candid, firm, but understanding conversation with each of them will ensure you and your vendors get the best value out of what is a very tricky time for all of us.
Nevertheless, it is always good practice to be armed with the latest consumer rights and laws information so you know exactly what you can and can't expect from your vendors and what YOU are responsible for as well. The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission has recently updated their "COVID-19 Information for Consumers", which includes weddings: https://www.accc.gov.au/consumers/consumer-rights-guarantees/covid-19-coronavirus-information-for-consumers
Yea, about postponing...
Don't be afraid to set a date that is a little longer out than you may have expected or wanted. I believe it is all about your priorities in the end. For example, if dancing and lots of interactive entertainment is important to you at your wedding, then risking grabbing the earliest next available date possible may result in you facing the same if not harsher restrictions for indoor functions.
If, however, you decide to downsize your wedding and costs and don't mind a more intimate wedding (or perhaps even a micro wedding) then grabbing the next date and locking down your partner ASAP might be the better way to go ;)
Long story short - quicker isn't always better, go with what works and feels best for you as a couple.
In the meantime...
Just because you can't have your wedding on the date you planned is no excuse to not make your original day special! This date meant something and to simply see it come and go with sadness will only add to the lingering stress and disappointment you may be feeling (dealing with COVID in our lives is enough!).
Here are some things you can do to commemorate the day: Just because the COVID blocked your wedding date doesn't mean you can't create a special date for it!
Plan a celebration with friends and family (safely) - This can be done either in person or online, depending on local restrictions, and could be a fun party where everyone comes together to celebrate you and your partner's love. Any excuse for a party, I say! But seriously, commemorating the day like this makes your actual wedding day so much more worth it because you now have an even bigger party to look forward to. You both also don't get that feeling that says "well... this could have been our day... :(..."
Have a romantic photoshoot - Dress up the way you would have on your wedding day and take a few romantic photos together. This will provide a good closure and who doesn't like a good ol' bit of dress-up fun (just me? surely not!)
Date Night - Don't let a little COVID spoil the romance of a good date night. I know, easier said than done but seriously! Order in your favourite meal, Netflix, board games, extra-curricular activities... whatever takes your fancy, just make it count! ;)
Use this time to grow your relationship
Remember, you are always going to have been in a relationship before being in a marriage together. No matter at what stage in life you are at in your relationship or how much time you have known each other using this time to strengthen the love you have for one another is always going to be a good thing.
Marriage and the commitment it represents is a whole other part of life (albeit, a beautiful one, for sure). It's crucial for you both to live in the moment and continue living the fullest within your relationship. Keep doing what you love doing together, have fun together - that's what life is all about, after all!
See? Not so bad after all! But seriously...
Don't take my casual tone for lack of care or sensitivity - the fact you are reading this means you (or perhaps someone close to you) have been affected by our current crisis and your wedding was spack bang in the middle of it.
In the end, while the world still continues to figure its way through this pandemic, I want to reassure you that your wedding WILL happen, one way or another.
Why? Because YOU want it to. AND an entire industry also affected by it wants it to as well. We love what we do and seeing you through to the wedding of your dreams is something no pandemic will ever stop, one way or another.
I realise there is SO much more I could cover here. In fact, I would love to hear from anyone who has had experience going through the cancellation of their wedding due to the pandemic. Any tips, tricks, stories, and support would be very welcome! Even if didn't, I still would love to hear your thoughts below :)
Oh, and if you or anyone you know has been affected by cancellations and need help finding vendors, reach out to me via email at email@example.com or comment below. You never know who I know!
Nathan Cassar, Master of Ceremonies
Based in Sydney, Australia, Nathan is a live entertainer and Master of Ceremonies with 10+ years on the microphone and 1000s of lasting memories with audiences around the world. He is a keen traveler and splits his spare time between playing the piano, paintball, or the latest game on Xbox (sorry, PS fans!).