The year of 2020, it was supposed to be the best year ever, right? Many brides made a conscious decision to wait a year just to have 2020 in their wedding date. Some saved for years in anticipation.
Just 45 days ago I stood on a stage at Ford Field speaking to hundreds of brides about "The Money Talk" and insider tips and tricks. (Here is the PDF if you’re interested). The one thing I didn’t have in there… prepare for a pandemic.
After 18 years in this industry, there are very few things that I haven’t come across or don’t have an educated answer for in regard to anything wedding. But this? This life altering virus?? Never in a million years did I think we would see something so microscopic change the very nature of the way we do weddings.
Did we see an industry shift happening? Oh yes! We’ve been seeing brides asking for out of the box options, hence our entire pop-up weddings model we unveiled over the last few months. But cancelling an entire industry overnight? Yeah, no…. didn’t see this one coming. Wedding vendors have always joked, we’re the recession proof industry! Maybe we are, but we’re clearly not virus proof.
This pandemic has left many of you in a complete standstill on how to make educated and confident decisions. Last week I wrote about the reopening of America and how that will affect your wedding. If you haven’t read that, I encourage you to. It will help with this stage of your decision making. (Click HERE)
I wanted to give you the guided process that we use when trying to determine if a client should cancel or postpone their wedding. This is a process that should be carefully assessed and look at with a very critical eye. Emotions can cloud the right choice in similar situations, so if you feel that you and your fiancée are going to struggle to look at this with a clear head, find a friend or family member that you trust and respect to help guide you.
THE DISCOVERY PROCESS
Pull Your Contracts
Pull and look at every contract that you have signed and/or put a deposit down. Make a spreadsheet that has the following details:
1. Vendor Name
2. Deposit Amount
3. Payment Schedule
4. Cancel Parameters
5. Additional Cost to Postpone
6. Total Loss Amount to Cancel
Weigh Your Options
Take the numbers from your spreadsheet and look at what your true costs are. For those that are within six to eight months of your wedding, most times it makes the most sense financially to postpone. For those that just signed contracts, it might be financially feasible to cancel and take a loss on deposits. Things to think about when making your cancel vs postponement decision.
Think Bigger Than Just Your Venue:
A lot of brides will get wrapped up in available dates for their venue, but not think about their additional vendors and make a quick decision to jump dates, only to realize all of their other vendors are no longer available on that date and therefore lose MORE in deposits than if they had looked for an alternate location.
Create A Spreadsheet:
List available dates and send to all of your vendors requesting them to complete available dates. We love google sheets so that everybody can edit in real time.
Look At Availability:
Match availability to the financial feasibility listed above. Where is the happy place? The date that you can save the most money and continue with the majority of your desired vendors.
If none exist or the options aren’t desirable, move to cancellation options.
When To Cancel
I know my fellow vendors are going to dislike me for this entire section, but at the end of the day, it’s about you. Your job isn’t to sacrifice your financial future because of a feeling of responsibility to your vendors. We are in business knowing that we take this financial risk. While the timing feels like garbage and that we are losing our entire companies, that is OUR burden to bear, not our clients. We know that you want to work with us, but in the end, many of you have situations outside of your control and we need to honor and respect that. So, let’s explore cancellation reasons:
Unable to Perform Services:
This one should be fairly obvious. The government mandate has made this clear. If stay at home orders are in place, your vendors cannot legally host you or perform services for you in many cases. Therefore, you are entitled to a refund. Please check with your lawyers to confirm for specifics in your state. But in most cases, force majeure comes into play and due to the mandate, the vendors cannot offer the service, therefore you are entitled to a refund.
Mandated Guest Count:
with the Federal government releasing the phased strategy, you will see a period of opening that is slow and dependent on each state. This is the worst-case scenario for most bridal couples. Technically, your venue CAN host you, and your vendors CAN perform their services, it will just look very different. I’m finding most bridal couples in the summer and early fall are in this position. They are unsure what the allowable gathering numbers will look like. You could very well be on the hook for all vendor costs including food minimums with a guest count of 25 when your original numbers, particularly catering, were based on 250. In many of these cases, it’s smarter to cancel and lose money on the deposits than be paying thousands per head on a few guests.
Guests Can’t Make it:
For bridal couples who have out of town weddings, destination weddings or family and friends flying in from all over the world, it might not be a feasible option for most to attend. This one is hard. It almost seems like you’re being robbed of your event because of others unwillingness to travel. But I caution anybody with that thought process. Travel may be much more dangerous for those in your life. Be conscious of that. Always err on the side of safety and get a guest count NOW on who would be able to attend. Look at the numbers, if they don’t make sense, you might want to cancel or postpone.
Job Loss/Financial Instability:
Many of you have lost your jobs. As of today, 22 million people have filed for unemployment. That puts a real issue on many bridal couples’ ability to save for their upcoming weddings. Take a good hard look at your financial state. Many of you were planning on using your savings to pay for your wedding and now you may need to live on that for an indefinite amount of time. While you may not want to cancel your wedding, it might be smart to preserve that money pot and protect your future. For some of you, you might still have your job but be aware that you can lose it at any point. Always look at the situation as a potential job loss. While not ideal, it’s the current state of affairs.
So, you’ve look at the numbers, you’ve taken a hard look at your options…. And you decide to cancel. I know how hard this decision can be for you. I’ve been working with Brides for weeks that have to make this call. It’s not easy, it’s emotionally taxing because for most, but once the decision is made from a financial standpoint, most begin to feel relief. So how do you do this respectfully?
THE CANCELLATION PROCESS
Always come from a place of understanding. For many of you, your vendors do this as their livelihood. For some it’s a side hustle or hobby, but for many of us, this is our full-time job. COVID has been devastating, we are battered and bruised, we don’t see light at the end of the tunnel, all that to say, you may not get a warm and loving response to a cancel. You may get a sterile response. This was a person that you thought was your “Friend” and now they are acting like you are the enemy. Well, here’s the thing, you’re a client and while people are friendly in good times, when things go badly, it can be hard to maintain that same level of friendly. So, give them grace. Know that they are scared. But also know, they know deep in their soul, whether they want to admit it or not, that it’s the best decision for YOU. And if you’re being a great business owner, you will always respect what’s best for your client and not what’s personally best. Even when it hurts.
Formally communicate with each vendor:
Please don’t send texts, ghost your vendors or get into yelling matches. I always suggest formal communication via e-mail or certified letter that states your intent. Make sure you check your contract for each vendor and see if they have specific requirements for cancellation process. Follow those to the letter of the law.
Be firm but polite:
Like I said before, you may not get the warm fuzzies from your vendors response. That’s ok. If your vendors push back or give you any hassle, be firm with your decision and polite with your responses. Don’t threaten negative reviews or legal action unless absolutely necessary.
Be confident in your decision:
Know that you have made the right choice. You have weighed your options. You didn’t hastily respond to this crisis but rather critically looked at the numbers and made the decision that was best for you and your fiancée. Knowing that will keep your confidence high. That doesn’t mean you won’t grieve. It’s going to be a hard thing to pass your wedding date and not have it happen. But know it was the RIGHT decision. Along that line of thinking. Do something special for that original date. For many, you’ll still choose to get legally married in a micro style wedding. If you choose not to, then have a nice dinner, celebrate the two of you. Dance to your favorite song and just spend the day being in the moment with each other.
I applaud each of you on the tough decisions that you will have to make over the next few months. Don’t wait till it’s too late to make them. I’m personally seeing a lot of brides “holding on for dear life” to their original dates. This may prove to be a costly move. Be ahead of it. Be smart and be confident.
For those of you that need support or have questions, feel free to join our free bridal community where I answer your questions and give you support. www.facebook.com/groups/masterbrides
Until next time….
Amy Grace Collins is a nationally recognized and award-winning wedding planner that's been in the events industry for almost 20 years. She's currently bringing to the US one of the biggest trends to shake up the wedding industry, Pop-Up weddings.