When the Corona Virus Plagues Your Wedding, Here's How You Handle It!
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Sunday, March 15, 2020
By Kelly L. Sherlock
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New Orleans has always been a city at risk of last-minute changes and hurricane scares.  We talk through hurricane policies and what it might look like if we have to evacuate.  Being in the Hospitality and Event industry, we are consistently preparing and contracting for brewing storms and sudden up-rooting.  But now, we are looking at an entirely different situation – enter the Corona Virus.

 I know, from my perspective as a planner, this has been heart-breaking for my clients that had to make tough decisions at the end of last week.  As of Sunday night, more restrictions and precautions have been placed on events of over fifty people and social distancing is the new norm and expectation, no matter what part of the country you live in.  This will affect everyone in every industry across America.  Children are out of school, businesses are closed, incomes have stopped for many of us and the fear of not knowing how long this will continue is palpable.  But in my industry and here, in New Orleans, with so many clients (and their guests) coming from out of town, we are banning together to figure out a way to move forward and do the best we can to navigate through rescheduling our weddings and events while trying to keep our clients calm and educated.  But what happens when you do not have a planner or a professional guiding you through next steps?  Let me help you out with that.

  1.      Curb your attitude – I have been blessed to have clients that are so respectful and genially want to follow my lead in where we go from here.  It is up to me to guide them and help them to make the best decisions for them.  But other vendors and venues have not been so lucky.  Threatening your vendors and your venue is not a good look.  The reality is, none of us are winning with this Corona situation. We are losing money and you are worried that you will lose money and a whole lot more, I am sure.  But guess what?  There is a compromise and we can get there together, but acting like we did something to hurt you and ruin your event is not going to get anyone anywhere.  And stop threatening law suits!  We are not trying to screw you over so please stop trying to screw us.  During this time, we are all heightened.  Every person is going through something, not just you guys that are getting married and not just us in the wedding industry.  It is a scary time and although we understand that having your wedding postponed is not ideal, taking it out on the very people that are trying to help you recover in the best way possible will not help you one bit and it makes it really hard for us to want to go out of our way to find solutions for you and with you.  We want to work with you on this, not against you, so please stop coming at us as if we owe you something for ruining your big day.  Trust me, we would rather your event go on as previously scheduled so let’s all stay calm and respect each other while we work through this.
  2.      Get the information and educate yourself – the reality of the situation is that you only have two options.  You can reschedule or you can cancel.  The best thing that you can do is call your venue first and foremost and get their policy.  Find out what they are willing to do and how they are planning to move forward.  In MOST cases, they will offer a rescheduling date.  TAKE IT!  Typically, guidelines will be set for the rescheduling date.  Most of the time it will be within six months of the cancelation or within the summer months, since that is off season.  Once you know what available dates your venue has to offer as a rescheduling date, then email all of your vendors, find out their policies and what they are willing to do, and again, if rescheduling is an option, let them know the available dates that the venue has open.  Once all of your vendors get back with you, you will have a full guide to what dates are options for you – pick one of those dates and relax knowing that now you are back on track!     If you are considering the option to cancel, which I will advise against ALL DAY, EVERYDAY, you will want to get the fees associated with canceling (and the fees associates with rescheduling for that matter).  No matter what, and I do not have to know anything about where you live, where your event is, etc.  rescheduling is always the answer!  It will be most cost effective and, in the end, you are still getting to have the wedding that you want so why wouldn’t you.  Although I know that pushing your wedding back sucks, it makes the most sense!
  1.      STOP ASKING FOR REFUNDS – please understand that some of us are in fact emotionally invested. To me, especially, my clients are not just a number and a pay check.  I truly have been emotionally invested in my clients rescheduling and what that looks like.  With that being said, I cannot give everyone their money back.  If we were not allowed to be on the street at all and we literally could not drive our vehicles, I would not be reimbursed for my car payments.  It is truly, again, that simple.  IF you cancel, YOU are choosing to cancel.  The Corona virus is making you reschedule – and, yes, I know that sucks.  But you can choose another date and your vendors and venue (in most cases) will just put the money that you have paid towards the new date.  Most of our contracts will have a strict NO Refund policy.  It is there for a reason and the reason is because any client at any time (even without the virus) can decide to cancel their wedding so we would have done all of this work for no payment because we would be expected to give you a refund.  It cannot work that way for us.
  2.      Continue to pay your vendors – If you are getting married on a date after mid-May (meaning a date that is further out where we know nothing of what life will be at that time) still send your invitations out and continue planning as usual.  Without knowing what life is like day to day, we cannot possibly know what life will be like by the time your wedding date comes so rather than staying at a standstill, continue as you would.  And the most important part of that is PAYING YOUR VENDORS.  Just because we are in a place of uncertainty does not mean that you can withhold money from vendors.  Please know that they have the right to cancel your contract if they are not paid on time.  Some even have penalty fees associated with late payments.  Implementing these portions of their contracts are not meant to be heartless, but we all still have to move forward, business as usual, until we cannot and when you find out that you cannot, we will reschedule just like everyone before you.  Fear is not covered under wedding insurance, so there is no reason not to continue the planning and paying of your vendors as we move forward to navigate through this.
  3.      Understanding our rescheduling dates – please know that, while it might seem unfair to you, we can not give you a year or more to reschedule and we can not give you our key dates.  I know you wanted a Spring wedding since your wedding is in fact scheduled to happen in the spring, but getting married (especially here in New Orleans) no matter when you get married is truly the most important thing.  And your guests know that you did not pick the summer on purpose.  They are aware and they will rise to the occasion – I promise.  Understanding where we are coming from though, would be really helpful.  We have these dates booked on our calendar, typically, at least a year in advance.  If we are expected to just transfer your money over to your new date, then we are essentially missing money for that new date that you have picked.  Demanding a “wedding season” date (a date in October November and December) is not the most realistic request for those rescheduling.  The number one thing to do is find a date that works for all of your vendors and finding that date in the Fall will be highly unlikely as those are the first dates to book up so finding availability is tough.  Summer is a time that is typically our slow season so it is a win/ win for all of us.  While we are truly compassionate to your situation, for florists and rental companies (just as an example) that do multiple events in a day, they might have all events reschedule over the next eight weeks which could be 30 events.  So now, they would be filling 30 events into the height of our wedding season rather than moving them to a time that would not impede other event dates. What that would mean for them is that their entire Fall wedding season would be bound by rescheduled clients so it would be as if they only worked half of the year.  Financially, you can understand how that would cause further strain and that explains why guidelines are put in place for rescheduling dates.

While we all understand how emotionally disruptive this pandemic has been for everyone, we, in this industry in New Orleans in particular, feel particularly saddened for our clients and anyone who had planned to be married this Spring.  We are truly talking daily to continue educating ourselves on methods to get through this and navigate together.  We are here for all of you, but please understand that this is not an opportunity to jump in and take advantage or find a scapegoat.

More than anything, remember that everyone is in the same boat – You are not alone in feeling sad, stressed or disappointed.  But keeping in mind that you and your fiancé love each other and are postponing the wedding because of something that is a nation-wide problem is a hell of a lot better reason to postpone that being uncertain about who you are marrying.  You can still get married on your scheduled wedding date perhaps in a private ceremony if you’d like (and I’m sure any of your vendors would be happy to facilitate that) so please know that you have options and that everything will work out if we stay calm and communicate appropriately.  You were set to get married in New Orleans, after all, and there is nothing better than a party in this city on the tail end of tragic event!  This too shall pass and we will be here to party with you when it does!  


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Leave a comment:
Kelly Sherlock - And that's why we all love you so much!! Seriously, you are so right. This is just a hard time for everyone and we want everyone to get the wedding that they paid for and the wedding that they dreamed of... it just might not happen in the month that you thought it would! I know that's not ideal, but you're still marrying the love of your life in the best city EVER! Either way, it will be amazing!!! Finger's crossed for you, my girl!! But we got you, no matter what!
Maria Taguines - Amen to this!
As someone who is spending their very own, hard earned money on their wedding, I understand the fear of uncertainty, stress of spending, and postponing a very important life event. There’s not a lot that we can do at this point, but wait to see what happens and to stay positive. The few things that we CAN do, is to stop getting angry or frustrated because it’s no one’s fault. I’ve learned to roll with the punches, expect the worst and hope for the best. I hope those involved in the wedding industry take a second to breathe too as this is a stressful time for all
Kelly Sherlock - I'm so sorry that this is happening to you guys, but YOU'RE GETTING MARRIED!!! That's the most important thing. The party will happen, it just might happen a little later than expected! Stay positive and stay safe!!!!
Jimmy Darby - What great timing to read this article. Fiancé and I hope to get married on our original date but postpone the reception. May have to pay vendors twice but will see how this works out. So many decisions but we must do the right thing for all concerned.