SCENARIO: I’m pretty unclear what the new guidelines actually are. Can you clarify the most important changes?
“The biggest change the government has made is taking the number of permitted guests at a wedding to just 15 people (that includes the couple, guests and witnesses but not your suppliers or the officiant). This change is effective from 28th September, prior to which you were allowed to have 30 guests. During the wedding, everyone should adhere to social distancing guidelines, too. This means people should be at least two metres apart and take extra steps to stay safe (such as wearing face coverings) to reduce the risk of transmission. The rule of six also means no larger celebrations at home – even in an outdoor marquee – or private restaurant spaces either – unless you’re happy to only have six people, including the two of you. Singing and eating or drinking during the ceremony is also strictly limited, and couples are being advised to wash their hands before and after the exchange of rings.” – Chenai Bukutu, founder and owner of ByChenai
SCENARIO: I’ve already re-arranged my wedding once to make it much smaller. Should I still try and go ahead if I’m able to cut numbers again?
“From an industry perspective, people are being encouraged to go ahead. But as a wedding planner, it’s more than understandable if brides want to postpone. With a second postponement, you have to be aware that there will come a point where fees might be incurred, depending how far the event is pushed back again. It’s critical to understand the financial pressures suppliers are under. Some will have worked second postponements into their new, post-lockdown contracts, too. Across the board, there will be pressure for suppliers to charge for their time.” – Rachel Overall, owner of Mirabella Weddings
SCENARIO: I’m not due to get married until next spring. At the moment my wedding doesn’t meet the current guidelines – should I change anything yet?
“If your wedding is taking place next spring, it pays to be aware that the prime minister said the latest rules could be in place for up to six months. That said, the advice given to my clients is anyone having a UK wedding with larger numbers in 2021 should hold steady until New Year. Last time, we were able to make changes within three weeks. From my perspective, let’s get through the winter and see what’s happening by January. If transmission is low, restrictions could ease up. Some people will make a snap decision – but don’t be too hasty.” – Chenai
“There’s a long way to go before weddings look like normal, and the six-month timeline has put extra stress on couples getting married early next year. That said, there have been so many government U-turns, that if all goes well, things could be relaxed again by the spring. My fear is that couples jump the gun and react too quickly. It depends how couples want to compromise – right now, everyone should endeavour to keep guest counts low so that it becomes about damage limitation in the worst-case scenario – it’s easier to change a wedding for 60 guests than 120. Think about whether it might be possible to invite people last-minute, and be realistic about what is feasibly going to be allowed moving forward. This situation has gone on longer than any of us anticipated, but the change in spring climate and a potential vaccine rollout, rapid response testing and general herd immunity, could mean things eventually get better.” – Rachel
SCENARIO: I’ve decided I’d like to postpone again or cancel altogether. Is it reasonable to expect refunds or to pause my final payments?
“It’s all about good communication and having honest conversations with all of your suppliers in turn. It is reasonable to expect refunds, but if your supplier has already performed some of the duties under the terms of the contract (like your dressmaker for instance), then it is also reasonable for them to deduct that from whatever monies have been paid. Again, it will be a case-by-case basis depending on where you are in terms of your wedding planning, but generally if you're postponing because the government regulations make it impossible for you to go ahead, you should be able receive a refund. The quicker you can let everyone know the better. And remember to check your contract – especially if they were changed back in March as they might have further stipulations about a second postponement or eventual cancellation.” – Chenai
SCENARIO: I had started to approach the final stages of my wedding dress fittings but am now facing another six-month delay. What should I do?
“If you’re going bespoke with your dress, communication is paramount. Dressmakers won’t buy the necessary fabric and find themselves in a tricky financial situation – as long as you tell them in time. Once the materials are bought, it isn’t as easy to pause the process. If you’re mid-way through, try to come to a compromise with your supplier. It’s likely you’ll have to pay for extra alterations at a later date – but people don’t actually tend to fluctuate in body shape as much as they might think.” – Chenai
“If your dress is already being made and you’ve committed to buy it, you need to have an individual conversation with your dressmaker about the kind of alterations that can be made last minute, especially if you’ve already paid. Don’t forget, the dress also needs to be ready if you bring the wedding forward in an attempt to avoid a possible tightening of restrictions again.” – Rachel
SCENARIO: I’m totally confused about what my wedding insurance policy now covers. Any advice?
“If you’re only recently engaged, or thinking about buying wedding insurance, couples should hold off on buying a new policy right now. While it compensates for force majeure, acts of god and pandemics, you’re generally not covered all of the time – it’s very complicated. Big companies like John Lewis are no longer selling new wedding insurance policies and lots of underwriters have pulled out of the market completely. If you bought a policy before all of this kicked off, it still counts. If you’re looking at how to protect yourself moving forward, the best advice I can give is to pay with your credit card where possible and sign a thorough contract with every single supplier if you can. Always check the T&Cs and be wary of any insurers offering policies you don’t recognise.” – Chenai
“At the moment it’s hard to get your hands on any new wedding insurance policies, and these days it’s unlikely to cover any Covid-based scenarios. If you can find a policy you’re happy with, there are other benefits to it though: it’ll cover you in can case suppliers go bust, for example. Otherwise, it’s about having an honest conversation with all of your suppliers and checking the contracts and payment terms specifically to see what you’re covered for.” – Rachel
SCENARIO: My partner and I have decided to hold off on a larger celebration, but we’d still like to go ahead with a legal ceremony. Is there anything else worth knowing?
“The ‘two-parters’ or wedding ‘sequels’ have become increasingly popular – although demand for registrars is growing exponentially, so you need to be quick if you’re going to book the legal part. As for the second wedding celebration, you do have to consider availability of venues and other suppliers. Venues already have so many bookings for next year, with some of them being forced to go up to hosting weddings seven days a week, which was unusual in the past.” – Chenai
“We’ve seen so much more demand for legal weddings and, as a result, registrar availability is low. Different areas also have different lockdown rules, so it pays to be flexible on the day and time you want to get married. It might just require a bit more creative thinking.” – Rachel
SCENARIO: I was due to have a destination wedding abroad. Is this something you recommend going ahead with?
“In my view, destination weddings are still okay to pursue. The only thing to bear in mind are the logistics – that means quarantining and getting people (especially older relatives) there and back safely. But individual governance in the country is the over-arching concern in this scenario.” – Chenai
“Destination weddings are a really interesting angle, and there’s definitely been an increase in the number of couples looking at opportunities abroad where the restrictions just aren’t as harsh. But there is an inherent risk posed by travelling, and last-minute limitations being put in place. Also, your guests have to be happy to travel – including elderly members of your family – so it comes down to who you want to be there. Adequate cover should also be in place – including your suppliers and travel insurers. It’s true that venues can refuse to give a refund if they’re able to go ahead in their country – so be prepared for some of those suppliers to be a bit tougher.” – Rachel
SCENARIO: I’ve been using a wedding planner, but now face having to keep them on for far longer than I had originally budgeted for. What’s your view?
“I’ve not charged any of my clients who have postponed to next year, but if they need to postpone again, there will be a small, fixed fee to cover any additional time and administration – postponing a wedding is a huge undertaking and I read all the updated terms for my client's contracts, as well as support them emotionally. Some of my clients will be with me for more than two years by the time they get married (the original fee they paid usually covers a year's planning). I can't speak for all planners, but that's how I have decided to proceed.” – Chenai
“I’ve done everything I can to help my couples so far, as it’s not been their decision to postpone. Going forward, however, these decisions might have to be re-evaluated. I don’t want to charge my existing couples more, but there is so much extra work involved now. For all suppliers, wedding planners included, you have to be really specific about the contracted work and what is included in a certain fee and what’s not. Couples will have to respect that if the industry is to survive. It blows my mind that if this was any other industry – e.g. building work – people would happily pay for an extension or if further problems were uncovered. Our industry is definitely evolving.” – Rachel
SCENARIO: I’m really keen to book a honeymoon within the current travel guidelines. Is that a wise idea?
“Travel is more flexible as it's governed by country of destination. However, given how swiftly quarantine rules can be applied, I'd wait until the end of the year, once we're into the winter and can see where we are with the overall rate of infection. If the rates are dropping or consistent by the New Year, then planning for spring and beyond is doable. As for short breaks or short-haul holidays, if you have something imminent booked, go. There’s less financial risk and can get back quickly if need be.” – Chenai
“For me, it’s about holding off on booking a honeymoon until as short notice as possible. If you can delay your plans, the overall safety is likely to be much better. Otherwise, check your travel insurance policy as soon as possible, and try to get as much flexibility as you can when making a booking.” – Rachel
SCENARIO: I’m just feeling so despondent and sad. How can I look at this with a practical mindset?
“Be reactive and have a contingency plan for your contingency plan. Establish the compromises you’re willing to make. Small weddings can be really beautiful too – it means you can go bigger on other parts of the experience, like the food and drink for example, or more flowers. Couples will inevitably realise it’s not what they envisaged, but it makes for an interesting story given the unique situation. It’s perfectly understandable if you don’t want to put their life on hold and get on with the next chapter.” – Rachel
For more information on current guidelines, visit the government site here.
To read the previous feature published by SheerLuxe regarding wedding cancellations and postponements, click here.