Tips for Rescheduling or Cancelling Your Wedding
Updated: Sep 8, 2020
No one wants to do it, but it's a necessity for many these days.
With social distancing guidelines stretching out longer than many first anticipated, more and more couples are facing the choice:
"Do we reschedule our celebration, or just outright cancel it?"
(for some of my thoughts on the decision, see my earlier post about wedding planning in the time of coronavirus)
Whatever you're feeling, it's ok. Be that stress, excitement, fear or any other of the 300 emotions I have each day. Whether you ultimately postpone or cancel will be up to what you feel is best for you, here are some tips for:
1. Don't Wait
Like throwing out old leftovers, the longer you wait, the worse it is for everyone. If making changes to your planned date seems inevitable, start planning a backup now. Even if you're not ready to pull the trigger now, start coordinating with your vendors so that at the very least you have some potential dates figured out when the time comes. Many vendors will be willing to put a "soft hold" on a date and let you know if anyone else reaches out about it.
2. Talk to Your Wedding Planner*
If you were lucky enough to snag a great planner, or have room in your budget now to add one, this should be your first stop. Planner's will help you coordinate all your myriad vendors, talk you off a ledge, and guide you toward the decision that will be best for everyone.
*My guess is if you're reading this you may not have one, and that's ok! The rest of these tips are specifically for you.
3. Speak to Vendors in an Order that Makes Sense for You
Obviously your venue will be the most critical in your reschedule - you can't hold a celebration if you don't have a place to hold it. If you're hoping to reschedule sooner rather than later, or are set on a busy time like June 2021, consider looking into Friday and Sunday dates, or even Thursdays and Mondays. While your venue may have one Saturday here or there, keep in mind that coordinating ALL your vendors on a popular date will be near impossible - at least some of them have likely already booked out that date.
Which brings up part 2 of this tip: Consider the vendors that are most important to your celebration. Is it your photographer? Your florist or caterer? Which person or people would you be most upset to lose? While an ideal situation would be finding a date that works for everyone, you may have circumstances that won't allow you to do so. Figuring out whom to prioritize in advance, and writing in down in a ranked list, will help steer you toward the right date more quickly and with less hemming and hawing.
When it comes to money, being straightforward (but understanding) is always best.
4. Dealing with Retainers and Deposits
We're in unprecedented times, and, as such, vendors are much more willing to be flexible than they would normally. Every company will have their own policy based on how they run their business - many vendors will have costs associated with preparing for your wedding and may not be able to be as accommodating as others, but when it comes to money, being straightforward (but understanding) is always best.
Start by reading your contract carefully. What does it say about rescheduling?
Many companies will waive or reduce rescheduling fees if you ask.
Offer to make payments on your originally scheduled dates, if you can afford to. This will help companies stay in business (so they can still be around for your date), and generate goodwill on your behalf.
Always coordinate a reschedule with your vendors before securing a new date - if you don't contact a vendor until you have a new date already set, they may be unavailable and you risk losing your retainer or deposit.
5. Keep an Open Mind
This may seem the hardest one, but may bring you the very best results. Be open to a Thursday, or to splitting up your wedding day and reception - having a private ceremony now and a big reception when things re-open, or even an elopement. I've even seen great zoom weddings. It may not be what you first imagined, but may end up being a truly special event you'll remember forever.
If you absolutely have to cancel your wedding: first, I'm sorry to hear that. No one wants to have to make that call. While there's no easy way to go about it, here are some things to consider to help make the process easier and less stressful.
1. Tell your vendors ASAP
The more notice you give them the more accommodating they're likely to be, and the more opportunity they have to rebook your date and recoup their losses (which may be a prerequisite for returning your retainer!).
2. Deposits and Retainers
Speaking of retainers: nothing is business as usual. Every company will have their own policy based on how they run their business - some vendors may not be able to be as accommodating as others based on upfront costs they have in preparing for you wedding like: scheduling staff they still have on payroll, planning sessions they've had with you, tastings, venue visits and tours, the list goes on. Another thing you may not like, but needs to be kept in mind: for many smaller companies that have turned down other business to hold your date for you, your cancellation means outright loss of income, whereas another couple may have rescheduled and allowed them to recoup some of that loss. You've been put in a terrible situation, but try to remember your vendors are suffering too - their entire industry has just been put on hold for an unknown amount of time. When it comes to money, being straightforward (but understanding) is always best.
As always, start by reading your contract carefully - what does it say about cancellations?
Legally (depending on the state), companies can keep a retainer, but - in most cases - can not keep the full amount of the contract if you cancel altogether and they have not provided services.
Ask about transferring your balance - vendors may allow you to use the deposit you've paid toward a friend or relative's wedding. You might even reach out to a local wedding group and see if anyone will buy it from you.
Be honest. Vendors are speaking to lots of couples making changes right now and they won't know what's going on with your unique situation if you don't tell them. At the same time, they can tell when people are exaggerating for sympathy, so don't try to win points by making things sound worse than they are.
3. Consider holding an alternative event in the future
It's true that you may not be able to hold the wedding you were planning, and you may not want to go through all the trouble of rescheduling now, but if you're going to lose deposits anyway, consider throwing a family reunion, group vacation, end-of-coronavirus party or other shindig when things open up. You can plan something fun and casual and use the vendors you're still on the hook for. Have a great spread, delicious drinks, a photo booth and a commemorative video made! They still get some business, and you don't lose the deposit. They will be happy to hold off scheduling while they're still struggling to make the numbers work with all their other couples, and will thank you for your consideration when you look to schedule a stress-free celebration once everyone has a clearer picture of the future.
Whatever you end up doing, we're all going to get through this together. Stay happy, healthy, and most importantly, hopeful.
Your socially distant wedding filmmaker,