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‘In Sickness and in Health’ — 4 Tips for Changing Your Wedding Plans Because of Covid-19

Teddy Nykiel  |  May 13, 2020

Need to cancel or postpone your wedding? Here are ways to do it without losing much money — and possibly even cutting costs.

Less than a week before their scheduled wedding ceremony and reception, Rori McPhilliamy and Will Porter postponed their event due to coronavirus concerns.

The Phoenix-based couple planned to get married in Tucson, Arizona on March 21 — a mere six days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended cancelling events with 50 or more people. 

“We were more just worried about the safety of our loved ones,” McPhilliamy says. “It felt like a little bit of a relief once it was postponed.”

McPhilliamy and Porter are among hundreds of thousands of couples scrambling to adjust their wedding plans amid the coronavirus pandemic. According to data from The Knot, approximately 20,000 to 30,000 weddings take place every weekend in the U.S., and more than 550,000 are planned for April, May and June of 2020.

With the average wedding ceremony and reception costing $28,000 in 2019, according to The Knot, changing plans is more than a major emotional disappointment — it’s also potentially costly. But there are ways to minimize the financial fallout of rescheduling your nuptials.

1. Postpone instead of cancelling

According to a late April survey of more than 2,000 U.S. couples by The Knot, among couples whose weddings are impacted by the spread of COVID-19, 93% are postponing and only 7% are cancelling outright.

The financial upside of postponing is that the payments you’ve already made can likely be applied toward your rescheduled event. If you cancel, you risk never getting your deposit money back.

Many wedding vendors are working with couples to find a new event date and waiving rescheduling fees, says Kevin M. Dennis, president of the Wedding International Professionals Association. However, check with each of your vendors about your options for rescheduling and ask about any fees you may incur.

McPhilliamy and Porter were able to quickly reschedule their event for February 2021 with the same vendors. Because of that, McPhilliamy estimates they lost less than $1,000, which was for flowers their florist had already ordered. “I feel like our situation is the best-case scenario,” she says.

2. Read your contracts carefully

Wedding vendor contracts often include a “force majeure” (or “act of God”) clause that excuses one or both parties — the vendor and/or the couple — from fulfilling contractual obligations in certain extraordinary situations. Allowable circumstances vary across contracts, but often include epidemics, according to a recent blog post from Akerman LLP, a U.S. law firm.

In some cases the clause means you’re not required to pay for the services you originally signed up for. On the flip side, a vendor may not be required to perform their services. “It kind of protects [couples] and protects [vendors],” Dennis says.

Since all contracts are different, read yours carefully and ask your vendors about anything you’re unsure of.

3. Be proactive and flexible about rescheduling

McPhilliamy says finding a new date that was available for all of her vendors was the most difficult part of rescheduling.

If possible, approach your vendors with several potential new dates. Dennis, who also owns an event business that provides DJ, lighting, videography and photo booth services out of Livermore, California, says many couples are using Doodle, an online scheduling tool, to identify workable dates for all parties. The Knot also offers a similar rescheduling tool Once you identify a day that (ideally) works for all of your vendors, move quickly to lock it in.

As dates fill up, consider choosing a less-traditional day of the week. According to The Knot’s research, 12% of couples whose weddings are affected by COVID-19 are doing so. Among them, the most popular days are Friday (40%), Sunday (33%) and Thursday (8%). 

If you’re considering moving your wedding to a non-Saturday date, here’s a money saving tip: Ask your vendors if you can get a lower rate. Vendors often have different pricing for less-popular dates.

4: Celebrate on your original wedding day

If you have to reschedule your wedding, “It’s OK to mourn your [original] wedding date,” says Esther Lee, senior news editor at The Knot. But couples can still acknowledge their original date with a smaller-scale celebration, or a “mini-mony,” as Lee calls it. 

Despite their postponed event, McPhilliamy and Porter (pictured above) had a small backyard ceremony in Phoenix on their original March 21 wedding date. They were married in front of a small group of family members by a friend of McPhilliamy’s uncle, who is a judge. 

“We still wanted the day to be special,” McPhilliamy says. “My heart goes out to all the other people who had to cancel. I definitely feel like we’re fortunate.”

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