You've looked forward to your wedding day for months or more. You've waited for it your entire life. And now, through circumstances far beyond your control or anyone else's, you're being forced to reschedule your special day.
What do you do? How do you handle this real loss of your expectations and plans?
First, take a moment to acknowledge that you are experiencing a true loss. Allow yourself a brief period to grieve the end of those plans. Yes, some people are experiencing greater losses right now, but your emotions are yours, and they are real and valid. It's okay to be sad.
And then turn to these helpful, all-inclusive tips for rescheduling your wedding and recapturing what will still be a beautiful day.
Think First About Safety and Health As You Look at Dates
The first question to ask yourself is whether you should reschedule at all. That decision rests largely on two factors: (a) Where you live; and (b) When your wedding is scheduled to take place.
The coronavirus crisis isn't affecting all portions of the country evenly, and estimates about how fast it will spread are just that: estimates. If you live in Washington or New York, where the virus hit early, and your wedding is scheduled for August or September, you may not have to reschedule at all. But if you're in a state where gatherings of people have been temporarily banned, and your wedding is in late April or early May, you should start the rescheduling process right away.
If you have a late summer wedding scheduled, your best bet is to start thinking about rescheduling without actually changing your plans yet. States that have few coronavirus cases at the moment may be hit harder during the summer — but the bottom line is that no one really knows what to expect.
It's hard to make the decision to reschedule, but imagine how you'd feel if you knew your wedding was responsible for spreading COVID-19 to the friends and family you care for most. When in doubt, lean toward rescheduling.
Talk Things Over Honestly With Your Spouse-to-Be
Now is the time to have a long talk about what truly matters to you. Do you want to get married on your scheduled date anyway, regardless of what that means for the ceremony or reception? Would it be too painful to hold your wedding if your grandmother or your best friend from high school weren't able to be there?
The decision to reschedule a wedding is a very personal one. While of course you may want to consult with family members for their opinions and preferences, no one can make this decision but you and your spouse-to-be.
Be honest with each other. It's okay to say that you've always dreamed of walking down the aisle with your 15-foot train trailing behind you, and that you don't want to give that moment up. It's also just fine to say that you don't need any of the trappings that surround modern weddings, and that you'll just cancel everything and elope. What matters most is that you're open to what matters to each other and that you make the decision that's right for you.
Be Flexible About Your New Date (and New Location?)
Finding a new date for your rescheduled wedding may be more complicated than you expect. After all, brides and grooms have already been scheduling weddings well into 2021. And other couples are already pushing their weddings ahead to new dates. You may find that the location you've always dreamed of is now booked solid for months into the future.
Be willing to be flexible, either in terms of your location or your date. Your elaborate destination wedding may turn into an event closer to home (perhaps with a honeymoon at your chosen destination). Or you may choose to push your wedding up to a year into the future to maintain the vision of the perfect wedding you've always longed for.
Start rescheduling with your venue. You can always choose another florist or another photographer if you find your current choice isn't available on your new date, but finding a new venue could prove more difficult.
You may have a lot of special events scheduled around your wedding, such as a rehearsal dinner or a morning-after wedding brunch. If you've arranged these to occur at the same venue as the wedding (for instance, a popular resort hotel), consider canceling them altogether or moving them to other locations. Many other brides-to-be will be looking for new venues and dates. If you free up your reservation for your wedding brunch, opening it as a wedding slot, you could make some other couple very happy indeed.
Talk to Your Vendors Right Away
Most wedding vendors are in crisis mode. Not only are they losing income drastically at the moment, but if they reschedule your wedding for, say, March 2021, they'll only earn one fee for what amounts to two bookings, since they won't be able to take another customer for that new date.
The national stimulus package may provide the small business loans that are needed to help some vendors survive. Other vendors are reading the fine print in their insurance policies to see if they're covered.
And you should take a look at your contract with each of those vendors as well, to see whether pandemics are covered as a reason for cancellation. If they're not, or if your vendors go out of business during the shutdown, you could lose your deposits. Your contract may allow you to make changes up to a certain date, or it may offer only partial refunds if you cancel or reschedule. Some of your deposits may be non-refundable, and vendors who have already made purchases (of food or flowers, for instance) on your behalf will likely not refund those costs. If you still have payments due, ask your vendors if they're willing to extend the payment timeline if necessary.
Gather all that information before you make any final decisions about postponement to see what you'll be able to afford once you reschedule. If you're working with a wedding planner, ask them to step in and handle all cancellation and rescheduling discussions on your behalf.
Negotiate With Your Vendors
Given that non-essential businesses are increasingly closed, you shouldn't have any trouble reaching your florists, photographers, caterers, and other vendors. As you talk with them, keep in mind that for many of them, the coronavirus crisis is one that could end their businesses altogether. Many bakeries, caterers, and wedding dress salons are sole proprietors who have little in the way of a safety net.
In some cases, your vendors will be able to deliver your purchases, though perhaps with some delays. Wedding salons that source their dresses from China, for instance, may experience some delays. You can continue with many vendors unchanged. For example, if you're still searching for your wedding rings, you can complete that purchase — in some cases, you may be able to take advantage of discounts.
You'll find it much easier to reschedule your vendors if you've already locked in a new date with your venue, so get that settled before you start calling vendors. You may want to make a priority list of vendors before you call. For instance, if having the perfect wedding cake is more important to you than what flowers you have, put your baker on the top of your to-call list. Go over that priority list with your spouse-to-be to make sure you agree on what matters most.
If you're able to make final payments now for weddings that will be postponed, you could help keep your local florist in business. If you do have to ask for deposits to be returned, be as gracious as possible in extending the timeline. And be aware that you may have to negotiate for a partial refund rather than a full one.
Check Your Wedding Insurance Policy
Relatively few engaged couples invest in a wedding insurance policy. If you're one of the foresighted couples who thought of this, now's the time to check what it covers. Understand as much as you can about what your policy will reimburse you for before you make any firm new plans, and submit claims for reimbursements wherever possible.
Communicate Clearly With Your Guests
Once you've gathered all the information you need, let your guests know what you've decided. You should definitely email them with all the information they need: the new wedding date, news about travel refunds, and anything else important. If you have a wedding website, post all the information on the landing page to keep everyone up to date.
After you've sent out the initial emails, start making phone calls. You and your spouse-to-be should divide your list, calling all family members, your wedding party, and anyone who was traveling to your wedding so you can talk in person.
Don't feel you have to apologize for what's happened. Everyone should understand that you're responding to a public health emergency, and they're likely to be grateful that you were considerate enough to put their health and safety foremost in your plans.
While you're the ones who will be most affected by your change in plans, keep in mind that your wedding party and guests also have a lot to deal with. Some of your friends and family may have already spent money they can't afford to lose booking airline tickets and hotel rooms to attend your wedding. If you booked a block of hotel rooms (for instance, for a destination wedding), handle the negotiations for partial or full refunds yourself, rather than asking your guests to do it piecemeal.
Consider Holding the Wedding Anyway — via Zoom
A wedding is a one-day (or one-weekend) celebration of a much more important reality: your marriage, which will last more than just one day. Maybe it's not possible to hold the wedding you had planned, but you don't want to delay the start of your marriage.
In that case, consider inviting guests to a virtual wedding. You and your betrothed can still get married, but the witnesses are present via Zoom, checking in from their computers. Encourage your guests to dress up and bring a glass of wine or champagne to their computer screens to toast your wedding — and then plan on a major celebration once all quarantines are lifted and it's safe to bring together large groups.
Postponing a wedding can be a traumatic experience for any reason. It's important to grant yourself some grace and practice self-care during this time. Some brides-to-be may find themselves leaping into action to deal with all the logistics of the postponement, then experiencing a delayed reaction as all the emotions hit them.
Staying connected with others can help. If you have friends who are also rescheduling their weddings, stay in close touch. You may be able to share practical suggestions, and you'll certainly know that you're talking to someone who understands what you're going through. Some rescheduling brides are even connecting on social media to compare notes and commiserate with each other. Having someone who can deliver both good advice and comfort is important.
You can also reach out to wedding experts for advice and comfort. The wedding-related websites WeddingWire and The Knot have set up a 24/7 helpline that you can call to get advice from people who plan weddings for a living. If you're feeling overwhelmed, and you have no idea what decision you should make, these experts can help you work through your options and tell you what brides and grooms are doing all across the country.
Celebrate on Your Wedding Day
Even if you postpone your wedding, your wedding day is still a date you've looked forward to for a while. Share a special moment with your spouse-to-be, even if you have to do it remotely. Open a bottle of wine or champagne, share it together, and look forward to the day when you can hold your wedding in the future.
Remember: A Wedding is a Day. A Marriage is For Life.
As you and your spouse-to-be come through this crisis, you will have endured a difficult test that makes your upcoming marriage even stronger. Keep in mind that you are still going to marry the love of your life, and focus on all the reasons to celebrate that fact. Your wedding may not happen on the day you'd planned, and the details may look a little different than you expected, but your marriage can still get off to a wonderful start, rescheduled or not.