Your Wedding & Coronavirus: What You Need To Know

The sudden spread of coronavirus and a mandatory shutdown across both the UK and abroad has put many couples’ special day in jeopardy. At this difficult and unprecedented time, we spoke to three top planners and insurance experts to get answers to some important questions.

SCENARIO: My wedding is due to happen in the next 12 weeks. What should I be doing first?

“For weddings taking place in the next four weeks, you need to look at postponing – whether you’re planning to get married domestically or abroad. According to the latest government advice, none of us are supposed to be gathering in a large group, at all – you’ll be putting all of your guests at risk. If you’re getting married at some point from June onwards, take it week by week, but take some steps to prepare. Don’t do anything drastic, but be proactive and look for alternatives in terms of key vendors.” – Mandy Lago, founder Alago Events

“Call your provider before cancelling or paying any large advance payments to the venue or other suppliers. The policy requires you to minimise losses and we’d also expect you to maximise any available refunds. So, please contact the venue and suppliers as soon as possible to discuss your options around cancellation, rearrangement and refunding amounts already paid. You should also check the terms of any written agreement you have with the venue and other suppliers to understand what the position is on rearrangement of the date without charge, or a refund on cancellation. We may ask for copies of venue and supplier contracts as well as relevant correspondence with them and may restrict or limit cover if we consider you have not adequately minimised your costs.” – Spokesman for John Lewis Finance

SCENARIO: I took out wedding insurance a year ago. How can I be sure the policy is adequate, will cover events impacted by coronavirus and that I will continue to be covered moving forward?

“A lot of couples take out wedding insurance in case of cancellation, but not often for contagious diseases. Regarding existing policies, re-evaluate the policy to see if there’s a clause for diseases like Covid-19. A lot of policies are taken out on a rolling basis until the wedding is over, so extending coverage shouldn’t be an issue in many cases. If you haven’t got insurance already, several companies are no longer offering coverage – for obvious reasons. And in my experience, insurance companies always look for loopholes. If you are taking out a new policy make sure contagious diseases are covered.” – Mandy Lago

“If the wedding venue is not permitted to hold the wedding due to specific government legal measures, there will be cover under the policy subject to you minimising your costs. For overseas weddings, the position will depend on the legal measures taken by the government in the country where your wedding is due to take place. In all cases, contact the venue and other suppliers as soon as possible to check whether a refund or rearrangement would be available. And contact your provider before making any decisions or cancelling any arrangements.” – John Lewis Finance

SCENARIO: My venue/supplier insists they can still deliver the service we’ve booked. What are my rights in terms of asking for postponement or cancellation?

“If your vendors are telling you they can go ahead, they should at least recognise the fact that no one knows how this situation will develop, or that it will be safe. In short, they should be accommodating requests to postpone. After all, you could report them to the health authority now we are in a mandatory shutdown.” – Mandy Lago 

“The latest government guidelines means venues’ hands have been forced. As it stands, no venue should be going ahead with weddings. When the restrictions change and places open again, if you’re still not comfortable going ahead you will need to speak with your wedding insurance provider to see what they can do. If the government says it’s safe and the venue wants to go ahead, couples are going to have limited recourse. Right now, it’s about trying to move deposits around for another date.” – Rachel Overall, owner Mirabella Weddings

SCENARIO: My venue say they are fully booked for the foreseeable future and can’t commit to a new date. What can I do?

“If the venue can’t find you another date, a rethink might be required. But it’s worth remembering many venues will be upping the number of weddings they do to make sure they don’t lose the business. It is rare venues do seven weddings a week. If this is the case, consider going ahead with your own small ceremony now and celebrating later. It depends what kind of a hurry you’re in to get married.” – Mandy Lago

“Many venues should be opening up more capacity, temporarily. Most are bending over backwards and it’s in their interest to do so. Those that don’t will be left struggling in the long term. Be flexible, though. Midweek weddings aren’t usually a preference, but everybody is going to be so appreciative of being with friends and family once all of this is over. So, whether the date you’re offered is a Wednesday or Saturday, it probably doesn’t matter.” – Rachel Overall

SCENARIO: I’ve managed to get my venue to agree a new date. How can I ensure my suppliers are also on board?

“Get in touch with all your vendors and have a frank conversation – not about cancelling but about a plan B. Ask them what dates are available and how long the new date could be held. Wedding planners will also have a portfolio of vendors on hand, so if someone pulls out they can recommend someone else. Individual couples won’t have as much influence – professional planners have long-term relationships which vendors respect.” – Mandy Lago 

“Suppliers are often booked far in advance, so it might be a case of prioritising the key ones. There are different ways to do this – and a wedding planner can assist with the heavy lifting. If that’s not part of your budget, set up a Doodle planning tool and put in a selection of dates so each party can select what works for them. Go through your contracts so that if you can’t rebook, you know what the cancellation clauses are before finding a replacement. Depending on their T&Cs, some suppliers may be able to give you a partial refund, but check with your insurance policy too as they can often reimburse any moneys paid to date if you have to change suppliers. Meanwhile, new suppliers could offer easier payment terms in the build-up to a new date, as they’ll realise cash flow will probably be an issue for many couples. Be careful if a supplier says they’re having financial difficulties – but support them where you can. Looking after your suppliers often means they will look after you. Continuing with payments also means they will be a viable business by the time your wedding comes around. If the business does fold, it might be possible to claim through insurance.” – Rachel Overall 

“If you rearrange the date of the wedding where cancellation of the original date is unavoidable, and some suppliers are unable to make the new date, we would pay for any additional costs incurred in arranging alternative equivalent services to those originally booked, up to the amount shown in your schedule. We would only pay the costs beyond those that you would have had to pay if the wedding had proceeded as originally planned. Any further cancellation of these services for the alternative date would not be covered.” – John Lewis Finance

SCENARIO: I’m having a dress custom made and it isn’t finished. What can I reasonably expect to happen?

"If you were due to go for final fittings in coming weeks, it’s likely your wedding has now been postponed. Fittings usually run in parallel with the wedding, so it’s not a crucial issue for weddings happening in or after September. If you’ve paid in part, don’t make any further payments until things are back to normal. If you’ve paid in full, you need a guarantee from your dressmaker or a refund – it just depends whether they can continue work on the dress or not. In terms of finding a last-minute alternative, see what local dress shops have in stock which could be customised. As for whether your chosen dressmaker can get back to work on your dress once normality resumes, remember that no one is taking new business right now. Everyone is stood still. So, as soon as the quarantine is lifted, dressmakers should be able to get back to work immediately.” – Mandy Lago 

“Dress alterations should move in the same way, once a new date is confirmed. The only added risk is if you’re waiting for something to be shipped in from overseas as it could be subject to travel bans. For that reason, stay aware of what’s happening in other countries.” – Rachel Overall 

SCENARIO: I was supposed to be getting married abroad. What do I need to know?

“Expect another layer of stress when it comes to destination weddings. For instance, even if venues are open and safe, the borders might not open at the same time. When it comes to foreign weddings, travel bans are the main restriction that matters. That said, China has brought the virus under control in three months, which provides some sort of timeline. It terms of recouping that money, it might be a travel insurance issue rather than something for your wedding insurance provider. So far, as soon as airlines or hotels stop flights or close their doors, we’ve seen couples get their money back. But these decisions are being made week by week, so don’t make drastic decisions too soon.” – Mandy Lago 

“For overseas weddings, the position will depend on legal measures taken by the government in the country where your wedding is due to take place. There is no cover for cancellation where the wedding venue is able to hold your wedding, but the government is advising not to travel. You should contact your travel company and travel insurer instead. You should also contact the venue and other suppliers as soon as possible to check whether a refund or rearrangement without charge would be available. If the venue is unable to hold your wedding due to an outbreak of coronavirus or is closed by the relevant authority, this would be covered subject to you minimising your costs. Remember [wedding insurance] does not cover general travel or accommodation arrangements made for weddings taking place inside or outside the UK.” – John Lewis Finance

“If couples have adequate travel insurance, they can claim for any planned honeymoons or trips. It might also be possible to move travel plans to a safer time later in the year, or next. Airlines will be expected to refund you at this point, while a refund from any accommodation will depend on your payment arrangement up until now. Small boutique hotels will welcome your business, so it’s crucial to try and negotiate a postponement as opposed to a complete cancellation.” – Rachel Overall

SCENARIO: My wedding was already small. Can it still go ahead?

“As things stand, churches are allowing five people at a ceremony – the bride, the groom, the vicar and two witnesses. If you weren’t planning a religious ceremony, we can assume freelance registrars are going to be overwhelmed, while many will be advised to not go ahead with last-minute bookings over safety concerns.” – Rachel Overall

SCENARIO: I’ve rearranged a date for later in the year, when restrictions will hopefully be lifted. But what if a key member of the wedding party falls ill with Covid-19 shortly before the new date?

“If a close relative or member of the wedding party (as defined in the policy wording) is sick (in accordance with official guidance produced by the NHS or the advice of other qualified medical practitioners), and it is inappropriate to hold the wedding, cancellation would be covered. We may ask for supporting evidence including medical reports if readily available in the circumstances. If a member of the wedding party or close relative is self-isolating but not sick, and your venue is still able to hold your wedding, then cancellation is not covered. If your wedding is due to take place in the UK within the coming weeks while the UK government ban on weddings is in place, your venue will need to cancel or rearrange your wedding reception.” – John Lewis Finance

SCENARIO: My maid of honour/best man had planned a great hen/stag do. What can they do about rearranging or cancelling arrangements?

“Get in touch with the hotel or events companies and if the event is no longer able to go ahead, ask about the possibility of rescheduling for a later date. Many hotels and properties are working hard to accommodate existing reservations, although you may need to be a little flexible with dates. If a new date has been set for the wedding, get in touch with the other hens and try and lock in a new date sooner rather than later, so that the hotel can try and accommodate your preferred revised dates. Depending on when you move it to, there’s a chance you may need to factor in prices increases. For hens and stags heading abroad, if the airline has cancelled your reservation, then you should be offered a full refund (if they offer you this or credit towards a future flight, it is better to take the refund in case the airline goes bust). Get in touch with your hotel to see if they’re able to move your booking to a future date. If you’ve booked on a flexible basis, you may be able to get a full refund or move the dates without incurring additional fees. If you have any problems, it’s also worth consulting your travel insurance policies, especially if the government is advising against travel to your chosen destination.” – Rachel Overall

SCENARIO: I’m feeling really overwhelmed and upset. What’s your best advice? 

“My biggest piece of advice is to remember why you’re getting married. Focus on your priorities and know that the wedding – whenever and wherever it happens – will be so worth the wait. Remember that your suppliers are going through a tough time too – they’ll be just as gutted. From what I’ve seen, people are doing what they can to help. If possible, try to look at it as extra planning time.” – Rachel Overall 

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