Oftentimes the biggest concern that our couples have about the potential for disruption to their wedding plans is if it will rain on their wedding day. But as a destination wedding travel planner, I’m concerned about a whole host of issues – rain, humidity, extreme heat, heavy winds, hurricanes, tropical storms, media hysteria over the headlines of the particular day, flight delays, delays in wedding rental orders, (and you can now add pandemics to this list!), and so much more, that could potentially affect our couples on their big day.
I often say that my job is to think of all the terrible things that can go wrong on your event day and create a plan to minimize that risk as much as possible. It’s the not so fun part of event and travel planning, but it’s so very necessary!
Since we’re currently in what I’ve now dubbed “Coronavirus season”, I think it’s an ideal time to discuss what happens if you need to postpone or cancel your destination wedding.
Before we dive in, let’s look at the things you must do in advance of your wedding to prepare for the possibility of a cancellation or postponement. (YES! You must prepare for these things even if you don’t think it will happen to you.) Then we’ll review what you can do in the actual event that you have a situation that causes you to postpone or cancel your wedding.
Side note – If you’re currently in the “Oh S**t” situation of having to postpone or cancel your wedding, click here to zoom to that section of this post.
*Please scroll through or click the links below to take you to that particular section.
- Travel Insurance VS Event/Wedding Insurance
- Prepare Your Back up Plans in Advance
- Consider Plan B Travel Plans
- Have a Complete Guest List of all Attendees
- Make Copies of All Contracts
- Make Copies of all Your Personal Documents
- Okay, you’ve done all those things to prepare in advance and now you’re here. You’ve made the decision to postpone or cancel your destination wedding due to the coronavirus. What now?
ALWAYS buy Travel insurance and Event insurance! Insurance is made for the “just in case” scenarios. And even though they happen to a very small number of couples, they still happen. And you need to be able to protect the financial investment you’ve made in your wedding. It’s such a small investment in relation to the overall cost of your destination wedding.
Purchase each as soon as you get started since there are typically time limits on when certain insurances (like travel insurance) can be added to your travel component purchase. Travel insurance should be purchased at the time of booking your travel or very soon thereafter (typically 14-21 days from date of booking) and wedding insurance should be purchased once you start signing contracts and paying deposits.
Travel insurance and wedding insurance are not the same and cover totally different things. Travel insurance covers travel-related items – canceled or delayed flights, missing or lost luggage, illnesses and injuries that occur on-site, and more. You can even get travel insurance that will allow you to cancel your entire trip (flights, room, and more) for any reason and get a 100% refund.
Event insurance covers the event itself. It could cover things like the cost of the event in the case of cancellation or postponement, sickness or illness that befalls the bride(s) or groom(s) or key wedding party members, vendor no shows, losses or damages of wedding-related items – photos, the dress, the gifts, etc – due to theft, fire, and more. Depending on your policy it can cover a lot more or a lot less. If you’re having a destination wedding, you must make sure your policy specifically covers you in an international destination.
As with all insurances, it’s very very important that you fully understand what you are paying for and what you are covered for, in the event something happens, and you do need to file a claim. Take the time to fully read the documents and ask as many questions as you need to have a full understanding of the policy you’re purchasing.
Now, let’s talk about this coronavirus situation – travel insurance may have helped you (or it might not have) depending on which type of policy you purchased for your travel.
There are a ton on policies types – Cancel For Any Reason (known as CFAR) policies that cover as much as 100% of travel or as low as 50% of your travel, policies that cover only your health-related situations, policies that have no health components and only cover actual travel or flight cancellations and delays – you name it.
Some policies cover epidemics and/or pandemics; some don’t. Some policies will only cover you if you purchased the policy BEFORE an epidemic or a pandemic is declared.
Again, we can not stress enough to you that you must always read through all the printed words to make sure you are covered for the things you want to be covered for. One important note – fear of a thing (travel, bugs, snakes, coronavirus, tornado, whatever) is typically not a covered cancellation reason unless you have a strong CFAR policy.
As a destination travel planner, I’m going to give you some advice that may seem odd – Don’t rely on your destination travel planner, wedding planner, travel agent, etc to tell you what is in your policy and what it covers. They are not licensed insurance agents, in most cases, so they should not be the ones talking you through the finer points of your policy. You need to email, call, or otherwise contact the actual insurer to make sure you have the correct information.
Once you’ve decided on a resort or venue, think through your Plan B and your Plan C and sometimes your Plan D. You get the point – be prepared with more than one Plan B because with a destination wedding you might need more options.
You might move your ceremony from the beach to the ballroom of your resort if there’s rain but what would happen if there is a tropical storm or a hurricane that causes the cancellation of flights for you and all your guests? What would you do if your hotel has a fire? Um, let’s see, or there’s a coronavirus situation!!??
With a destination wedding, there are many more scenarios to consider. It’s okay to think through all these things and ask all the questions now when heads are level and calm. You can make better decisions and be in a better place to embrace these alternate plans if the need arises.
I always tell our couples to fall in love with your Plan B. Spend as much time as you need to create an awesome Plan B that you’re truly happy with. That way if you end up with Plan B you’ll still be able to happily embrace it on your wedding day.
Most people think about their wedding venue or resort being the issue that could cause the wedding to be postponed or canceled, but most often the cancellation will be due to things beyond your control – loss of a job, poor weather in the area or en route, a medical situation with the bride(s), the groom(s), or a close family member, like the mother or father of the bride(s) or groom(s). Or, ahem, the coronavirus.
It’s a good idea to think through what might happen IF you miss a flight, for example. In this scenario, you might consider booking your flight and stay to arrive on-site a couple of days or more before your wedding instead of arriving the day before your wedding.
If your flight was canceled the day before your wedding, you’ll be rushed to make it and have a crazy stressful wedding day but if you’re scheduled to arrive a few days in advance and you have a flight cancellation you’re not going to feel like you’re in such a pickle.
What happens if your mom or dad or grandparent becomes ill? Will you continue with the wedding? Or postpone or cancel? None of these situations are enjoyable to think through but they are necessary and will help you better be in a position to face them calmly if the need arises.
We encourage our couples to have a complete contact list of all their guests. This would include their name, who they’re rooming with at the hotel or resort, their phone number, and email. As a destination wedding travel planner, we normally create this “rooming list” for our clients based on who is booked in their room block, but if you don’t have a planner this is something you should do before you travel. It will make it so much easier to contact your guests in the event of a change, cancellation, or postponement.
All our couples have complimentary access to our texting service, Wedtexts.com, but if you’re not working with us you can purchase for this service on your own. It’s an excellent way to communicate easily with all your guests at once. You can use this service to remind your guests what time the welcome party starts when the shuttle arrives, or if the rehearsal dinner location has changed, or if there is a major disruption to the entire event.
You should have both a printed copy and a saved electronic copy of all your vendor contracts. Take the physical printed copy with you when you leave home and scan all your documents before you leave, into something like Google docs, where you can easily access them anywhere.
You never know when you’ll need to prove what you agreed to with a vendor and having those documents at your disposal can really help you when there’s a dispute. Or, in the case of the coronavirus, you’ll want all these documents in one place so you can easily access all your vendor’s postponement and cancellation policies, so you can make decisions quickly.
In a wedding earlier this year a vendor did not deliver some items they had been contracted to deliver and install and they weren’t inclined to refund the money that was paid for these items until we were able to show the resort the signed and paid contract. After this, the refund was quickly processed.
You should have both a printed copy and a saved electronic copy of all your personal documents – ID’s, passports, the front and back of any credit cards you plan on traveling with, birth certificates, marriage licenses and/or divorce decrees, and any other important documents.
Take a printed copy with you in your carry-on bag and place it in your safe at the hotel or resort. Keep access available to an electronic scanned copy as well. If you lose your passport or get your purse stolen with your credit cards in it, you’ll have the information you need to cancel your credit cards right away and/or go to the Embassy and get emergency replacement passports.
Also, since some resorts offer honeymoon perks, you’ll need to show proof of your recent marriage to receive these benefits.
Now you’ve done all the things you can think to do to properly prepare yourself for a weather situation! Good for you! In the vast majority of weddings, rain is about the most significant issue you may face. But if you happen to sadly fall into that itsy bitsy teeny tiny little percent of weddings that must deal with a hurricane or natural disaster (or the coronavirus), here’s what you need to do –
1.) First and foremost, Get Help right away! A wedding has so many components and if you are personally affected with the coronavirus crisis or even a significant weather-related scenario (like we had here in Texas last year where the bride’s homes AND their wedding venues were underwater) you will need to enlist supportive help.
Ideally, get the help of someone that is not in the same situation as you – if you have a destination wedding planner or a destination wedding travel planner (like us here at Yellow Umbrella Events), this is your person! It’s most likely that we (you and our staff) have been following the current situation closely (maybe even obsessively) and have already put some preliminary plans into place.
If you are not one of our clients, connect with a friend or family member outside of the affected area and have them jump in to help you make decisions and start emailing and/or making calls. There are probably going to be tears. You need your very best “Kleenex friends” during this time.
During the hurricane in Texas in the Summer of 2018, our team helped local event planners by taking on some of their client calls and reaching out to venues that were affected that had upcoming weddings. Even event vendors need a helping hand sometimes. It’s okay to ask for help!
2.) Read those contracts. All your contracts should have information about canceling, rescheduling, or postponing your wedding. So, pull them out and know what you agreed to and be prepared before calling your vendors.
I’m going to make a broad generalization here – you are almost always going to end up in a better financial situation if you postpone your wedding than if you cancel your wedding. The financial repercussions will vary, depending on how close you are to your wedding date, how big your wedding is, where it’s going to be held, and a number of other factors – the contract you signed, being one of them.
With the current coronavirus situation, we are hearing more about postponements than cancellations – from both the venues/vendors and couples. Postponements will likely give you a much better chance of recouping most, if not all, of your wedding deposits and payments. Vendors and venues are also much more willing to work with you on a postponement, which is why this is always out first course of discussion, when a couple considers canceling their destination wedding.
One thing to be aware of when considering a postponement – if your wedding is 30 days or less before the wedding date, you may incur some additional costs. For example, if you are postponing a wedding that is happening in 2 weeks, your florist, catering, rental company, etc, has already bought perishable flowers and food and has already ordered and paid for any special-order items you’ve requested. They will likely ask you to cover those losses.
3.) Immediately contact your resort or venue. Your destination wedding resort or venue is the basis of your entire wedding. Without it, you don’t have an event, so they need to be your first contact. You will want to work out a plan with them for what you’re going to do moving forward. Maybe you can move your wedding to the night before or the next day, in case of a weather situation, or to the Fall (when we’ll hopefully be past all of this!), in the case of coronavirus. If not, you’ll need to choose a new wedding date at this time.
It’s super important to try to get this new date immediately as lots of other weddings are in the same situation as you and the next open dates at your resort may fill up quickly.
The sad reality is that a date change may cause some of your guests not to be able to attend your destination wedding. Remember that most of your guests took time off work for your wedding and may not be able to change these dates. This is one huge reason that every destination wedding guest should be encouraged to purchase travel insurance to protect their financial investment is this wedding vacation.
Side note – in the event of a cancellation not all is lost! If it’s feasible, why not get married anyway? Go ahead with your ceremony, even if it’s a justice of the peace or friend/family member officiant (if you’re down with it and your conscience/religion allows). You probably already have the marriage license!
Then you can have the full reception on the reschedule date. There’s nothing you can do about the current coronavirus situation at this time, but you can certainly stay flexible and open and have a positive attitude about everything you’re dealing with.
4.) Once you have a plan of attack, email ALL your vendors and make them aware of the situation and include your new potential wedding date/date options. It’s easiest to email the entire group of vendors at once with a blanket statement about what is happening and then all vendors can be in the loop. Then you can follow up with a phone call to each one to discuss further. I think an email as soon as possible is very important because it gives all the pertinent details, shows your intentions moving forward, and gives the vendors a written notification of your plans (which means more legally than a phone call).
Most vendors are being very understanding when it comes to the coronavirus situation, since this is all out of your (and their) control and will tend to be as accommodating as they can, depending on the situation. The resort or venue will likely offer you some options, ranging from moving the wedding indoors (in case of weather) or moving forward with your plans to a complete reschedule of your wedding date (in the case of coronavirus) – again, depending on varying factors. If you do decide to reschedule, they will likely work quickly to rebook your date on a first available basis.
The resort and venue reschedule and cancellation policies are typically listed in their contracts, and each contract varies, so it’s best to go into this conversation armed with all the info. Most cancellation policies will be quite strict and most resorts and venues are not offering a refund of deposits and payments at this time. Again, your most likely, and usually least costly solution, if going to be a reschedule.
5.) Contact your guests! This is one of the most time-consuming steps and where you may need to enlist the help of some of your family and friends. The “traditional” (Southern) way of postponing or canceling a wedding would require you to personally call each guest and update them on the situation.
Emily Post will likely not approve of what I’m about to say, but times they are a changing, so you can ignore Ms. Emily for now. I would advise that you use a texting service, like wedtexts.com, for this, so you can reach all your guests at once. It’s an awesome service and will help you significantly with this task. (We don’t receive any compensation from wedtexts.com. We just think they’re awesome and think you should know about this great tool.)
If not using the texting service (or as a follow up to your text), start by including as many guests as you have emails for on an email with information regarding the postponement or cancellation of your wedding and give them a contact person to reach out to, in case they need further assistance. This contact person may or may not be you.
Remember that you might be in the middle of working through a thousand little wedding details all at once and you may not have the mental and emotional capacity to handle travel changes and cancellations, a possible wedding move and/or cancellation, AND 120ish guests calling you all at once. I’ll say it again – it’s okay to ask for help and put someone else in charge of guest notification and communication.
Give each of your helpers a list of names and numbers and ask them to follow up with every guest by phone as well. (There you go, Emily Post – I didn’t forget about you.) You don’t want someone to miss an email and already be en route to your wedding that is postponed or canceled, so all traveling guests should be notified first and immediately!
Social media is your friend in a postponement or cancellation scenario and you can always post on Facebook to let guests know what’s happening, or even start a private Facebook group where you add all your guests, and maybe even your vendors, with the details of the cancellation and the reschedule date and details.
6.) Take a breath! By this point, you’re likely frazzled and feel very overwhelmed. The most important part is that you are well and safe and that all your guests are well and safe. Stop, breathe deeply and calmly, and focus on yourself and your partner and the fact that you are both together and can handle this situation as a couple. Pray together, hold hands, hug, cry, laugh – all of these, and more, are perfectly acceptable responses to the situation. This too, shall pass.
I’m going to leave you with this – It’s obvious that I am not a medical doctor or an infectious disease expert, so please don’t construe anything in this post as actual medical advice. I am, on the other hand, a human person that is a big fan of common sense, real true information related to the situation, and not a fan mass hysteria, so please refer to a legitimate reliable source for the Coronavirus and medical-related information – I like the CDC website and John Hopkins.