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Love in the Time of Coronavirus: How COVID-19 Affects Your Wedding Day
As concerns about COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, spread across the globe, Wisconsinites are being encouraged to stay at home and 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. Wisconsin Bride asked local wedding experts how they're responding, whether you should postpone your wedding and how to stay safe.
How are you working with your couples to make this decision about whether or not to postpone their weddings?
"These weeks have been difficult as we navigate our way through multiple postponed weddings. There is so much uncertainty, the news is constantly changing and we have to keep revisiting tough conversations and next steps with our clients and industry peers. So many of our clients are home and wondering what may be... Should I postpone? Should I reimagine my wedding? Should I call all of my vendors? While it might seem as if things are completely unraveling, I want our clients to know that we are here for you and ready to help and support in whatever way possible. Please don't lose hope. With all of my heart I believe that your wedding and your love story is powerful and worthy of celebration. As information arrives, we will continue to monitor, take it step-by-step, and be there to guide you. "—Allison Eberhardt, Et Voila Events
“It is so important to have clear communication at this time. If couples are worried about their wedding date, they should be made to feel that they are being heard and listened to by their vendors. As an industry all about creating an experience, we need to help couples through thinking what is important to them in this process and what the best course of action is for them in particular.”—Audrey Koehler, Hart and Fig Photography
“I reached out to my couples with weddings planned for March, April, May and early June to see how I could help. I wanted them to know I’m here to listen and strategize when they are ready. Some weddings were a no brainer if they would need to reschedule, if their date fell within the state mandated 'no gatherings over 50 ppl for eight weeks' timeframe, everyone in that window had to find a new date.”—Sally Vander Wyst, Milwaukee Flower Co.
“COVID-19 has dramatically disrupted daily life around the world and there is no clear answer about the future. We are closely monitoring the CDC and World Health Organization for ongoing updates and will continue to adjust and advance our practices as recommended. We understand the impact this is having across the event industry and we are committed to working with our clients during this difficult time. We are encouraging our couples to postpone to later in the summer and not to cancel their events. In this time, we are using the technology to communicate with our current clients and accepting new clients by setting virtual meetings and conference calls, emails, etc."—Oscar Sanchez, Ambrosia Events
“Supporting our March, April and May 2020 couples and their vendor teams is my top priority at the moment. We called each of our couples and had open and honest conversations about next steps and guided them through this stressful process. Once a new date is selected, we are working to effectively update the entire vendor team and send out change of date stationary.”—Allison Eberhardt, Et Voila Events
“Every hour things are changing and as a vendor in the hospitality industry, I can assure you we all are working around-the-clock to consult with clients and other vendors. If you have an event in the next few months, contact all your vendors as soon as possible. Explore your options, understand any new regulations that may be put into place and understand how your big day may be impacted. Review contracts and create a back-up plan. Ultimately, the decision is up to the clients but also be aware of the CDC recommendations. Right now, the CDC recommends postponing events with 50 or more guests within the next eight weeks.”—Katy Cook, Glen Erin Golf Club
“At the moment, we are having couples make the first move on postponing. We're trying to plan as best as we can. At the same time, we realize that planning for the unknown definitely has its limitations.”—David Porto, Blue Plate Catering
“We personally reached out to all brides and grooms getting married in the next eight weeks in regard to all going on. We did inform them of a change to their contract for our cancellation policy/reschedules. We have had numerous phone call conversations letting them know about the eight-week plan we are currently working with to make sure they are in the loop."—Karla Hanson, River Valley Catering
Should couples postpone for the time being? Or should they reschedule and pick a new date?
“I think couples with weddings any time before the end of June should look into rescheduling for later in 2020; the sooner you do this the better options for dates. I loved what David Beahm (an event designer in NYC) said, ‘Perhaps Wednesday weddings are going to be the new thing for a while, and there's nothing wrong with that.’"—Sally Vander Wyst, Milwaukee Flower Co.
“Depending on the initial wedding date, in these unprecedented time, we are encouraging our couples to postpone and reschedule.”—Allison Eberhardt, Et Voila Events
“Please consider postponing versus cancelling; The hospitality industry is on your side and will do whatever we can to help our clients and make this a smooth transition!”—Katy Cook, Glen Erin Golf Club
“If a couple is postponing, I think it is prudent to pick a new date. As the virus continues into the start of the wedding season, open dates will start to fill up.”—David Porto, Blue Plate Catering
“Traditional terms, conditions and policies have to be flexible. In these tough times, we must be transparent and take each event one at a time. Our consultants will be open, honest and flexible throughout the entire process. Sit down with your intended first, and then anyone else that needs to be included in that conversation (parents, for example). Decide what a second best-case scenario looks like. Make a decision sooner than later and let all guests know promptly. Maybe your stationer [can make] an image with a note to send to all your guests. Guests don’t need to have a new date in order to let them know that the wedding has been postponed.”—Oscar Sanchez, Ambrosia Events
“We have been encouraging for all weddings within the eight-week time frame to reschedule for another date. We are more than happy to work with them for a future wedding date because the health of them, their loved ones and our staff is very important.”—Karla Hanson, River Valley Catering
“This depends heavily on their wedding date and what their vision is for their day. If it is important that family members who are flying in are able to make it, I would consider postponing.”—Audrey Koehler, Hart and Fig Photography
How are you supporting your clients if they choose to reschedule or postpone?
“Generally speaking, we are trying to handle all the situations with a whole lot of grace and compassion. It's not really the couple's fault that the wedding date has to change. At the same time, it's not anybody's.”—David Porto, Blue Plate Catering
Porto has had several weddings reschedule for later in the summer, and they have allowed those couples to use their deposit for a later date.
“I am allowing all my clients to rebook their date, pending I am still available, without a change fee. If I am unavailable, I am helping them find an alternative solution. We are all in this together and ultimately I want to make the couples I have invested my heart in, have a wedding they dreamed of.”—Audrey Koehler, Hart and Fig Photography
“We have allowed the transfer of the deposit when a client has rescheduled and confirmed a new event date. During this pandemic we are also offering a 10% discount on event rentals that are booked before July 31st.”—Oscar Sanchez, Ambrosia Events
“We have been very encouraging of reschedules. We have asked for them to get a few different dates from their venue and give us the opportunity to look at our calendar to see what date we can work with them. We are doing everything in our power to be as accommodating as possible during this unforeseen time.”—Karla Hanson, River Valley Catering
“We are supporting our clients anyway we can. Working with vendors on paperwork associated with changes, addendums, etc. These are all such unique waters we are in right now, but from personal experience, every wedding professional I've had the privilege of speaking with these past weeks has been able to accommodate the newly selected dates and have responded with kindness and grace. I truly believe that this experience will make our event community stronger than ever!"—Allison Eberhardt, Et Voila Events
“We are happy to apply their deposits to a new date in 2020. I’ve asked to be a part of choosing a date so we can make sure we are available and our clients don't lose their deposit and design plan. We've worked so hard on creating a vision and a plan for their wedding flowers, whenever they reschedule, we will be ready with blooms.”—Sally Vander Wyst, Milwaukee Flower Co.
If couples choose to cancel and instead elope or head to the courthouse, what kind of penalties do they face with contracts?
Because this is a rapidly changing situation, companies continue to evolve on how they must approach this question. These were their responses at this snapshot in time.
“Unfortunately, for any weddings that chose to cancel instead of reschedule, you do not get a refund. For anyone wishing to reschedule, however, there is no penalty and all fees that have been paid will transfer to their new date so long as an updated contract is signed.”—Karla Hanson, River Valley Catering
“At Glen Erin Golf Club, if you have an event that falls in this time period and are looking to postpone your event, there are no penalty fees. Contracts will stay as is, and we will simply adjust the date for you. If you choose to cancel your event, you will lose your non-refundable deposit.”—Katy Cook, Glen Erin Golf Club
“We are allowing couples to use any money paid towards any catered event with Blue Plate through the end of April 2021.”—David Porto, Blue Plate Catering
“We will work with each couple on a case by case basis to determine what options are available for them.”—Oscar Sanchez, Ambrosia Events
What advice would you give couples faced with this decision?
“You are not alone. With all of my heart I believe that your wedding and your love story is powerful and worthy of celebration. As information arrives, we will continue to monitor, take it step-by-step, and be there to guide you.”—Allison Eberhardt, Et Voila Events
“During this pandemic, we have seen the event industry support each other and their clients. As the crisis situation changes daily, communicating with the decision makers involved in the wedding and your vendors will be paramount. Explore all the options presented and make the best decision for the safety and security of your wedding guests. A wedding is about love, commitment and celebrating together.”—Oscar Sanchez, Ambrosia Events
“Lean on your vendors in this time of uncertainty; we all want the best for you and your fiancé. Reschedule your wedding for later in 2020 instead of 2021, your vendors will be grateful. If you do not have a planner, now may be a great time to hire one to help you navigate.”—Sally Vander Wyst, Milwaukee Flower Co.
“First thing is first….breathe. You are not alone in this uncharted territory! If you make the decision to reschedule, keep in mind all other events during this timeframe are in the same boat so my advice is to move quickly and lock in a new date. Be sure to get in touch with your guests if you choose to postpone your event so that they can cancel any travel arrangements they may have booked already. It is okay to feel overwhelmed right now! We are here to help you decide what is best for your event.”—Katy Cook, Glen Erin Golf Club
“We're so sorry this is happening. Wedding planning is usually stressful enough as it is. However, there is hope: everything is temporary. With a whole lot of patience, understanding, and grace, we can get through it.”—David Porto, Blue Plate Catering
“With everything going on, we just ask that people are patient and understanding with us at this time. It seems as though there are new updates, restrictions and rules changing for our industry each and every day. So, we don't have all of the answers for them at this time. We just let them know that we are willing to work with them the best that we can and are doing our best to keep them in the loop. We are all in this together.”—Karla Hanson, River Valley Catering
“Ultimately the decision is yours. I think the first step in deciding is understanding what is important to you. Are you willing to sacrifice a few things to be married sooner? Or would you rather wait and have the wedding you dreamed of? I think it is important to remember what the purpose of your wedding day is and that no wedding is ever perfect, and that is the beauty of life and love. Some of the most beautiful weddings I have photographed have been what some would consider a catastrophe! Once I had a bride turn down to walk down the aisle, and as she did it down-poured; they laughed, we laughed and they had some of the best ceremony photos I have ever created.”—Audrey Koehler, Hart and Fig Photography