Oftentimes the biggest weather concern that our couples have is if it will rain on their wedding day. But as destination wedding travel planners we are concerned about a whole host of issues – rain, humidity, extreme heat, heavy winds, hurricanes, tropical storms, and more. 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 events and travel, but it’s so very necessary!
Since we’re currently in hurricane season, and this year is predicted to be a record one, we think it’s an ideal time to discuss the effects of inclement weather on 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 weather issue. Then we’ll review what you can do in the actual event that severe weather causes you to make changes to your wedding.
Always buy travel insurance and Event insurance! Insurance is made for those 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. Travel insurance should be purchased at the time of booking your travel or very soon thereafter 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 significant 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 couple 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 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.
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? 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 the 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 weather in the area or en route, or due to a medical situation with the couple or a close family member, like the mother or father or grandparent of the couple. 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 1 or 2 days 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 a grandparent becomes ill? Will you continue with the wedding? Or postpone? 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. We normally create this for our clients based on who is booked in their room block, but if you don’t have a destination wedding travel agent 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.
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 home 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. 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 or wallet 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, here’s what you need to do –
With events, we start considering the effects of weather early in the planning process. Remember that you always need a Plan B and often a Plan C and a Plan D! If you get to the point in your wedding where a cancellation is imminent, here is what you should do –
A wedding has so many components and if you are also personally affected with the crisis of a weather-related scenario 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 wedding planner or a destination wedding travel agent (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 weather situation closely 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. 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!
All your contracts should have information about rescheduling your wedding. So, pull them out and know what you agreed to and be prepared before calling your vendors.
Your resort 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 or a new location at the resort. If the situation is significant, you may need to choose a new wedding date at that time. It’s important to try to get this new date immediately as other weddings will likely be in the same situation as you and the next open dates may fill up quickly.
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 guest should be encouraged to purchase travel insurance to protect their financial investment in this wedding vacation.
Side note – in the event of a postponement 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 ceremony and reception on the reschedule date. There’s nothing you can do about the weather, but you can certainly stay flexible and open and have a positive attitude about everything you’re dealing with.
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 very understanding when it comes to a significant weather-related situation that is out of your (and their) control and will be very accommodating. The venue or resort will normally offer you several options ranging from moving the wedding indoors and moving forward with your plans to a complete reschedule of your wedding date, depending on the severity of the weather and its effects. If you do decide to reschedule, they will likely work quickly to rebook your date on a first available basis. Their reschedule and cancellation policies are typically listed in their contracts.
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. You can also use a wedding texting service, like wedtexts.com, for this. 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, start by including as many guests as you have emails for on an email with information regarding the 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 120 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. You don’t want someone to miss an email and already be en route to your wedding that is now postponed, so all traveling guests should be notified immediately!
Social media is your friend in a weather-related cancellation 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 of your guests, and even vendors, with the details of the cancellation and the reschedule date and details.
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, breath 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.