By Sarah Baumann Rogers and Lara M. Burnap
As concerns about COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, spread across the globe, the Centers for Disease Control recommends people avoid crowded places and maintain distance from others. While it’s far from the biggest COVID-related concern, this pandemic affects couples with upcoming nuptials. Nebraska Wedding Day asked local wedding experts how they’re responding, whether you should postpone your wedding and how to stay safe.
How are you working with you couples to make this decision about whether or not to postpone their weddings?
“We are taking this one day at a time with each of our clients. As of today, we are working on a Plan B for the majority of our May couples and opening the conversation with our June weddings. All April events have been secured with new plans—most of which are having a small ceremony on their original date.” —Rachel Wortmann, Rachel J. Events
“I have had some reach out with backup dates later in the summer, but for the most part my weddings aren’t until later this summer. (Phew!) But I of course would be more than willing to work with whatever they decide to do.” —Emily Jessen, Emily Jessen Photography
“I reached out to all of my early spring and summer brides, just to be transparent and let them know I’ve been thinking about them, because disruptions are inevitable. Starting the conversation early is important. Mainly, I wanted to let them know that I would offer any assistance within my power, and be their sounding board if they needed one.” —M. Julie Borer, M. Julie Photo
“I’m encouraging couples to do what’s best for their situation and go with their gut. It’s impossible to predict what the future will hold, but the more informed and prepared you can be, the better.” —Samantha Areman, Sam Areman Photo
“We are working with each couple on a case by case basis to walk through this decision. We’ve presented several options at this point and taken the responsibility on our end to stay informed on where they can still make a decision, versus where they need to change their plans to fit current regulations. I think recognizing that each wedding has been impacted a little bit differently has been key in helping our couples feel seen and heard during this time.” —Natalie Wallace, The Living Room
Should couples postpone for the time being? Or should they reschedule and pick a new date?
“Most of our couples have selected a new date. Some are braver than others and are rescheduling close to their original date in hopes things will clear, while others are taking the safe route and rescheduling further out. I recommend for any vendor that can only support one event in a day (venue, photographer, etc.) to get an alternate date on the calendar sooner rather than later.” —Natalie Wallace, The Living Room
“I’m trying really hard to let couples come to that conclusion on their own. It’s a case-by-case situation, and a very personal decision that no vendor can make for them. It’s best to discuss with family and loved ones you trust and have your best interest at heart. A few of my couples are postponing until later into the year, others are splitting ceremonies and receptions. Those couples decided to keep their original date for a tiny ceremony, and celebrating later in the year with anyone that was not able to make it due to guest count restrictions. One couple in particular is just going to make the best of it, keeping their original date, having a small ceremony with only close family present, and no reception. It’s not at all what they had envisioned, but I admire that kind of flexibility in a time when everything is uncertain!” —M. Julie Borer, M. Julie Photo
“I think if your wedding is in the next couple months (April, May and early June) it’s good to come up with a back-up date just in case. I wouldn’t make any concrete decisions until four weeks out, since everything is changing so quickly. If your date is really significant to you, keep it and have an intimate vow exchange! You can always have the party later.” —Emily Jessen, Emily Jessen Photography
“We are encouraging all April and May clients to keep their original date and postpone their party. Our June/July clients are planning to hang out until more information is available—something we suggest all couples that fall in or after these months do.” —Rachel Wortmann, Rachel J. Events
“We are definitely encouraging couple to postpone to a later date. We strongly feel like this will be past us in a few months and still want couples to be able to celebrate their big day.” —Kaylin Wilken, Attitude on Food
“If your wedding is in the next month or so, you may not have an option and will have to postpone regardless. Unless you decide to elope with a very small crowd—but keep in mind you may lose out on the money if you cancel with vendors, instead of rescheduling. My recommendation is if your wedding is in the next couple months, start reaching out to your vendors and seeing 1) what’s their reschedule/cancellation policy, 2) what back-up dates everyone has open, and 3) can your vendors pencil you in for a back-up date to give you some time to decide?
“I’m allowing brides to pencil in back-up dates and wait until their wedding date gets a little closer to make a final decision. You should try to make a firm decision either way at least one month out. Keep in mind, many brides may be in the same situation as you, so time is of the essence. Also, if you need to reschedule and a certain vendor isn’t available on the new date—double check that there won’t be any penalties upon cancellation before you book someone else!” —Samantha Areman, Sam Areman Photo
How are you supporting your clients if they choose to reschedule or postpone?
“I’m continuing to support and be their photographer (as long as their new date works with my other booked weddings) and offer any help I can. Whether that is reaching out to vendors or brainstorming ways they can keep their original vision with all of the crazy going on. I think just being there and being flexible is the best thing we can do right now.” —Emily Jessen, Emily Jessen Photography
“We are letting couples move to a new date free of charge, and just trying to provide a lot of support/positivity that their big day will still happen—just on a different date.” —Kaylin Wilken, Attitude on Food
“Currently we are prioritizing date selection for those weddings that have to move due to social gathering limitations, while we are taking preferred dates for weddings in the next couple of months that may be in need of postponing. If they are shifting onto a date that may have previously been more expensive, we are sticking to their original pricing.” —Natalie Wallace, The Living Room
“When I’ve been approached about a reschedule date, I’ve provided them with all of my available 2020 dates and will be transferring their deposit to the new date. If I am not available on their newly chosen date, I am working on finding an associate that can accommodate them and make sure they’re taken care of. It took them a high level of trust to hire me in the first place, so I want to make sure they don’t end up with just anyone. However, I am urging couples to work with their photographer and other vendors as much as possible. Most vendors have already put so much time and effort into a wedding day before it even rolls around, and that’s no small thing.” —M. Julie Borer, M. Julie Photo
“We launched a new elopement package to support clients and other couples going through this that have decided to go the elopement route: ‘Keep the Date, Celebrate Later!’ We created an all-inclusive private ceremony followed by a luxury dining experience for up to 8 people to help them celebrate their original wedding date without having to plan any of the details! For the general public, we have created a page on our website full of free resources and planning tools to alleviate some of the additional stress of a re-plan. This is a collection of: tips for postponing, email templates for vendors, template responses for guests asking about your wedding plans, a few organizational tools to coordinate vendor availability and a link to the growing Facebook group that was created just for couples going through this.” —Rachel Wortmann, Rachel J. Events
If couples choose to cancel and instead elope or head to the courthouse, what kind of penalties do they face with contracts?
“It definitely depends on the vendor and what your respective contract with them entails. I’d recommend consulting a lawyer if you are in this situation. Typically, a ‘Force Majeure’ clause is only in effect when it becomes impossible for both parties to uphold their ends of the contract (removes each party of their contractual obligations due to a pandemic or “act of god”). If you decide to elope, then technically the Force Majeure clause would not apply; instead, you would be canceling their services and would most likely not receive a refund. Vendors may offer some grace in this situation, so I would recommend checking with everyone to see what their policies are.” —Samantha Areman, Sam Areman Photo
“None! If they are in the time period where the requirements or guidelines would impact their event, they will face no penalties.” —Natalie Wallace, The Living Room
“I would personally give them their money back after talking through other options with them (with the exception if engagement pictures were already taken, then down deposit would be kept). This is a really hard time for everyone, no reason to make it any worse due to a circumstance out of everyone’s control.” —Emily Jessen, Emily Jessen Photography
“As with the majority of vendors, clients who decide to cancel will forfeit all monies paid. We are working closely with all clients to find a way to postpone without penalties and looking at cancelling as a last resort. At the moment, we haven’t had any clients completely cancel.” —Rachel Wortmann, Rachel J. Events
“As a photographer, there’s no reason I can’t meet them where they are, be it at home, a courthouse, a park, etc. Now more than ever, it’s important to document their story so that they have a way of sharing it with loved ones who weren’t able to support them in person. However, in instances where they forego my services entirely, I will fall back on my contract, which was written to protect my small business exactly for situations like this.” —M. Julie Borer, M. Julie Photo
“Right now, [if cancelling] they would just lose their deposit. Nearly all of our couples are choosing to postpone though, so that’s been great. Especially since we are a small, local business trying hard to get through this.” —Kaylin Wilken, Attitude on Food
What advice would you give couples faced with this decision?
“The same advice I would give them when planning in the first place: this day is about you and no one else. Wedding planning is a stressful process where you’re hearing everyone’s opinion and feel the need to please others. While this is a scary time, you should decide what is important to you and your fiancé. If that means having an awesome party with everyone, then postpone. But if you just want to be married and can live with the celebration later, then go ahead and scale it back to an intimate ceremony. At the end of the day this is your wedding and no one else’s.” —Emily Jessen, Emily Jessen Photography
“It’s all going to be ok and your big day will still happen! We are honored to work with such great couples and we’re here to help however we can.” —Kaylin Wilken, Attitude on Food
“It’s not easy, I understand, but try to be flexible and open-minded about what a wedding can look like. Not every wedding fits a mold, and especially in these times, it’s important to be mindful of this. But most importantly, remember the reason you’re doing this in the first place… it’s not for the party, it’s not for the dream venue, it’s really because you love each other, and that’s more than enough.” —M. Julie Borer, M. Julie Photo
“Take a breath. You are still getting married. Consider a small ceremony with just family to do the important part: becoming a married couple. And then when you can, celebrate with family in friends in a big way later.” —Natalie Wallace, The Living Room
“At the end of the day, you will still be marrying the love of your life, whether it be in a month, six months, or over a year out. Stay calm and try not to stress over all the logistics. It will all come together and be a perfectly imperfect day.” —Samantha Areman, Sam Areman Photo
“Keep your focus dialed in on the most important part of your wedding day: you and your fiancé. At the end of the day, you will be married to the love of your life. This is the moment you have been waiting for. While your wedding day may take on a different shape than you envisioned, we promise that your day will be incredible, emotion-filled and a celebration of what matters most.” —Rachel Wortmann, Rachel J. Events