Coronavirus has really tested us all over the last few weeks, but what if you have a wedding booked this summer? Should you cancel? We're here to help offer a friendly hand, let's face it, none of us had a global pandemic on our list of things to worry about this year!
So, you're planning a wedding and it's pretty imminent? Usually I'd be the first to say 'How exciting! Have you got everything sorted? Time to kick back and relax now?' but instead I'm here writing a blog about the dreaded COVID19 virus that putting a stopper in all our grand plans for the spring and summer season ahead. If you're wondering what you should be doing then read on...
Contact your insurer as soon as possible
As you might be aware, the Church of England have limited the number of people that can attend a wedding to a maximum of 5 people. This includes the wedding couple, the priest and two witnesses legally required. This means, therefore, that no actual guests can go to a wedding in church for the foreseeable. Registrars have also imposed the same restrictions which means that weddings cannot not be cancelled as such, unless your wedding venue for any reason has to close its doors.
When it comes to your insurer, they might be able to help with costs. But, more than likely most couples might be disappointed. Make sure you provide evidence of what you've spent and evidence of financial commitments for anything you're due to pay. Give evidence of the disruption caused to you such as emails from the venue, airline, Foreign and Commonwealth office web announcement.
If you have to cancel due to medical reasons and an important member of the wedding party is unable to attend, you'll need to produce medical evidence at some point. However, your insurer will not pay out if you're able to recover the costs elsewhere (from your airline, credit card provider, tour operator). Remember though, all policies are different so getting in touch with them as soon as is super important.
You won't be covered if you cancel or postpone by choice
There needs to be an insured reason for disruption to be able to claim on your wedding insurance. If you decided to take matters into your own hands and cancel without any legitimate insured reason, it's highly likely your insurer will not pay out.
What are my rights if I choose to cancel due to Coronavirus?
Weddings have not been banned by the Government or by churches so a decision you make to cancel is your own choice and therefore venues, caterers, etc will have to go ahead unless they fall into the category of venues that have been forced to close following the Government's recent outlines. If this is the case, then you should be eligible for a full refund. Check the small print of your contracts and contact your venue as soon as possible to discuss your options. They may be able to transfer your wedding to another date later in the year, subject to availability or next year. Far from ideal but it means your money hasn't gone 'poof' into thin air.
If I have insurance, is this covered?
In short, hopefully! It really does depend on the policy you have. Check your documents for a 'Force Majeure' clause - this allows cancellation because of unforeseen circumstances by a 'superior event' or acts of God. If your policy was taken out before COVID19 became a recognised 'issue' then you could still be covered.
What are my rights when speaking with my caterers, cake maker, florist etc about cancelling or postponing?
Most wedding suppliers will have no doubt have given you a contract at the point of booking which includes all their T&Cs. This is a legal document and in usual circumstances, if you were to postpone or cancel your wedding, this document would favour the business over the consumer. But, don't fret. In my opinion, many business and certainly any worth their salt understand that Coronavirus has full on reared its ugly head and we're all in the same boat. Any sensible business will look at a postponement without any quibble or charge.
If you can, make any further payments on a credit card to get enhanced consumer protection. The Consumer Credit Act 1974, Section 75 where if a business goes under the credit card company should refund.
If you wish to cancel altogether, you may well lose your deposit however unless you have insurance as above.
Before postponing your wedding, do be sure to check availability for your new date with all of your suppliers before commiting to a new date. If they aren't available, again, you could forfeit your deposit as it would be deemed as a cancellation.
What happens if I have guests travelling from overseas and they have to cancel or postpone their flights?
The usual rule of thumb is that if a flight is cancelled by the airline, the passenger will receive a full refund. Here in the UK, if the FCO have recommended not to travel to certain destinations then flights will usually get cancelled. Check their current advice here. However, if a flight hasn't been cancelled, this is where travel insurance should kick in. Again, as with your wedding insurance, it all depends on the policy so tell your guests to get in touch with them ASAP.
If you're still planning to go head with your wedding, come hell or high water then make the following changes:
We all know about the whole social distancing thing now, hand washing and all the other precautions we should be taking in our daily lives but how can we translate this into a wedding situation?
For ceremonies, only 5 people are able to be present - the bare necessity to conduct a legal ceremony, a priest or registrar, the wedding couple and two witnesses. This is until further notice. If you're set on still tying the knot, then consider having your videographer set up a static camera before leaving the building to capture the big moment so you can share it with friends and family. Or why not set up a live feed so everyone can watch?
If you decide to postpone the reception until we're all allowed to gather in large social groups again then why not ask your priest or a celebrant to conduct a non-legal blessing or ceremony to mark the celebrations? Or you could play back your video for all your guests attending the reception?
If you decide to go ahead, contact any vulnerable guests and prepare for a smaller guest list
If your venue is still able to go ahead with your reception then be sure to advise any guests than are especially vulnerable - the elderly, pregnant women or anyone else who falls under the vulnerable category. Boris Johnson has advised against any social gatherings and his words should be taken into consideration, especially if your wedding is in the coming months.
If you decide to crack on then don't forget to check your numbers. They will no doubt be lower than you'd initially expected. If space allows, try to seat your guests with plenty of space around them and seat households together. Have hand sanitiser available and as difficult as it might be for such a happy celebration, stipulate no hand shaking, hugging or kissing!
Get wedding insurance, before you get symptoms!
If you've not yet got wedding insurance or have only just started planning your wedding, my advice is get it now before you get symptoms. Coronavirus isn't going anywhere fast and will have already been written into clauses throughout the land of insurance. Weddings for 2021 and 2022 could still be impacted, no one really knows how long this will all last. Like they say, better safe than sorry.
Get your insurance sorted now before you display any symptoms and check it covers you for the two biggies - either your venue is quarantined or one of the wedding couple or close family member fall ill with COVID-19.
Insurance will cover you for varying amounts so needn't cost the earth. Be sure you read and understand the small print and remember, it won't cover you in the event of travel failure/flight delays or travel cancellations. You can't claim for something that has already happened either, so don't wait until you get flu type symptoms or a fever!
Try not to panic
Easier said than done, I know. Remember, we're all in this together and we can only go by the advice we're given from authorities. Take each day as it comes. If your wedding is for the summer months this year then continue with your plans as normal until you're told otherwise. If you hang fire, things will mount up and become overwhelming right before the wedding.
Speak with your suppliers. They will help to guide you on when it's appropriate (or not!) to start to think about rearranging plans and will prompt you as and when they need information from you such as numbers of guests, confirmation and final balances to be paid. If you're unsure then just get in touch with them - you're paying them to provide a service and that includes the run up to the wedding too!
Don't make any rash decisions without speaking with all your suppliers first and if you think you need to postpone, make sure to check with all your suppliers that they have availability for your new date.
What about Plan B?
Do you have one? If not, it's time to think about it. Even if Coronavirus wasn't a 'thing', it's always advisable to have back up plan if things were to go 'Pete Tong'. There are plenty of natural elements that are out of your control and that's why it's so important to get insurance but also a professional accredited full-service wedding or events planner.
Full-service events planners aren't just there on the big day but there to help every step of the way. They have a full network of venues and vendors who can provide you with the same level of service you're expecting from Plan A and the knowledge and foresight to plan ahead for every eventuality. AKA - they've got your back and have thought of Plan B, C and D through to Z.
Don't let Coronavirus get your knickers in a twist
Hopefully we've helped and not driven you into a crazed frenzy. What's key to remember is that having the appropriate insurance could be key to claiming refunds. Remember suppliers are there to help, not hinder your plans! And if in true British spirit you plan to soldier on, please, please take the necessary precautions to keep your guests safe.
To my couples that have late spring and summer weddings booked... Please do not panic, so long as I have availability to transfer your booking, I will move heaven and earth to make sure your wedding is as stress free as it can be given the current situation. If you're worried, need a pep talk or just a friendly non-COVID19 chat, please do get in touch and let me know how I can help!