First and foremost, reschedule—don't cancel.

By Blythe Copeland
March 25, 2020
Milkos / Getty Images

While no couple ever wants to be forced to postpone their wedding, sometimes you just can't avoid a date change. That's the reality that many brides and grooms who have spent months planning spring and early summer weddings now face due to the the COVID-19 pandemic that's currently sweeping the globe and the restrictions on gatherings and travel that have been put in place to curb the spread. Though this is an undoubtably difficult decision to make, and thought of re-planning the celebration you've already worked so hard on can feel overwhelming, you will get through it. Instead of panicking, it's time to plan. "I think that creating a plan on how to tackle the situation can actually relieve a lot of stress and anxiety," says Piper Hatfield of Piper and Muse in Houston, Texas.

Here, our expert walks you through the process of rescheduling—not canceling—your big day.

Related: Your Guide to Sending Postponement Announcements If Your Wedding Date Changed Due to the Coronavirus Outbreak

Freeze your custom orders.

If you're postponing within ten weeks of your scheduled event, call your stationery designer and florist immediately; ask the designer to put a stop on printing anything with your current wedding date, and request that the florist hold off on placing an order for fresh blooms you won't end up using, says Hatfield.

Next, call your reception venue to find out which future dates they have available. It's important to be open to Fridays, Sundays, and off-peak months. "As this situation has grown, more and more people are looking to reschedule, which means that dates with venues can be competitive, even during the lower season," says Hatfield, who's encouraging clients to look for dates in late summer or early fall (or even later if they're willing to wait). "I really don't want to push too much earlier than that," she says. "The only thing more stressful than rescheduling once because of the coronavirus is rescheduling twice."

If you're planning a destination wedding, you may not want to choose a new date right away, says Hatfield—instead, wait until you have more information about how international travel may be affected over the next few months. "It can be difficult at this time to know how long it will be until people feel safe traveling again," says Hatfield.

Stay flexible.

If you planned to hold your ceremony and reception at two different sites, finding shared availability may not happen. "If there is not a date that works for both, I would recommend considering having the ceremony and reception on two separate dates and inviting a smaller group to the ceremony," says Hatfield. You may also be able to have your ceremony at your reception venue, or combine those options: "Do the real deal in the religious space on Friday, and then a quick spiritual ceremony before the cocktail hour and reception on the wedding day," says Hatfield. "There's really no wrong answer here, and guests will be very understanding considering the circumstances."

Prioritize your vendors.

When you have a new date in mind, touch base with your day-of vendors to confirm their availability—starting with your photographer, suggests Hatfield. "Most clients have an established relationship with their photographer, particularly if you've already done engagement photos together," she says—and since photographers generally only shoot one wedding per weekend, they book up especially quickly. The majority of florists, linen vendors, rental companies, bakeries, and lighting designers can handle multiple events on the same day, so should be able to accommodate your changes, but if there's any one vendor in this group you can't imagine getting married without, call them early.

As for other key vendors that can only take one event per day, if not per weekend, that's your videographer and your band or DJ. Inform these pros of your new date as soon as possible. "If it's possible to hold two dates with a venue, that can be ideal to offer possible dates to vendors and survey availability," says Hatfield, but, "I don't advise pushing past the calendar year to accommodate everyone's schedule."

Related: Four Ways to Let Wedding Guests Know About Last-Minute Changes

Get it in writing.

As you narrow down your new date with your venue and other vendors, confirm the changes in writing. "Immediately ask for a contract addendum or other guarantee in writing that they are at least holding the date for you, if not securing it entirely," says Hatfield. "Some may send over addendums to contracts, but many will not. Make sure you have an email response with them to confirm one way or another. Even in the case that a new date is not scheduled, it is important that every vendor receives an email stating the intention to postpone right away, and make sure to receive written confirmation that the vendor is aware of the pending date change."

Tell your guests

Once you know that you're officially postponing your wedding, you need to get the word out to guests; many may have planned travel or booked hotel rooms. The best thing to do is send a quick email to friends and family to keep them in the loop; once you have a new date confirmed, you can send postponement announcements in the mail. "As couples are experiencing anxiety about this situation, guests are, too," says Hatfield. "If couples can't seem to find a date that works well, or are thinking that they may have to push to 2021, I would recommend contacting their guests ASAP to let them know that they will be postponing and will send out a new date as soon as it is available. This allows guests ample time to cancel travel plans and reservations."

Hatfield also suggests calling the hotel to find out the policy for cancelations within the room block, and doing the same for any airport transportation you recommended. "Relay all of this information to your guests in the email, so that they know that you have done your due diligence and been thoughtful in your postponement," says Hatfield. "Be hospitable even in times like these."

Track down your wedding dress.

If your wedding dress is with your seamstress, let her know you are moving your wedding date and will be postponing your alterations; be prepared for her to ask you to pick up your wedding dress if she's not able to store gowns for a large number of brides who are changing their dates. But don't forget about it, says Hatfield: "Once you have a new date, get back on schedule with your alterations. Make sure to try it back on at about eight weeks out and schedule appointments as needed."

Send your checks.

Postponing your wedding generally means putting off the official due date for your final payments, but Hatfield encourages couples to pay whatever they can according to the original schedule; it's in your best interest to help your vendors stay afloat (instead of having their business go under—with the money you've already paid). "Most florists, rental companies, linen companies, have been forced to furlough all of their employees, but they still have really high overhead costs," she says. "Vendors are having a very difficult time, and we want to make sure that everyone stays in business so that we have vendors to rely on when this passes."

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