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Last week, I had the pleasure to give an interview to The New York Times – about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on destination weddings, and mainly how this is affecting couples who had been planning their wedding before it all started, as well as couples who cannot wait to start planning the celebration of their dreams.
In light of the article that just came out yesterday – read here – and of 2021 not showing many signs of improvement in regards to travel and event restrictions in Europe yet, I thought I’d detail a bit on some do’s and don’ts for all you lovely people who are currently dreaming big and picturing your I DO’s in a charming French chateau, Tuscan villa or in a romantic chalet in the Alps.
How long do we need to put our lives on hold?
I get it, life is not (completely) on hold right now, and social distancing has actually brought us even closer to ourselves, our better halves, and our wellbeing. With winter holidays behind us and Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I am sure some new diamonds are shining (soon) on some fingers and many of you cannot wait to step down the aisle and say your vows in a spectacular setting. So, here it is – the big questions you are most certainly asking right now:
How long do I still need to wait until I can plan a wedding abroad and the honeymoon I’ve been longing for my entire life?
Is it safe to start planning now?
Will the world be back to normal by the end of 2021, or shall we wait till 2022 or even 2023?
Oh, how I wish we had the answers to all these questions! But we are all in this together and as you noticed, there is no way to predict how COVID-19 restrictions will change from one week to the other, not to mention from this year to the next. For now, I can tell you this: take a step back and analyze your situation, discuss it with your loved one and reach a conclusion that you both feel most comfortable with! It is definitely a matter of priorities. So, if you’re not in a hurry to have kids, and celebrating life and love is something you don’t want to skip, here are 3 ideas of how you can deal with the current situation:
A. If you’re eager to start planning, go for it, but maybe avoid starting to plan a wedding for 2021 right now. Aim for a 2022-2023 wedding, as the probability of relatively “normal” travel and event conditions increases as the time passes, and the world learns to live with this virus. If you decide to start the process now, make sure you hire an experienced destination wedding planner, who is able to give you very transparent and thorough information about potential back-up plans and can consult you on the best choices of vendors at your chosen destination. From that moment on, you just need to trust your planner and stay motivated throughout the entire process. After all, having such a long planning journey again, has its advantages – no rush decisions needed and plenty of time to enjoy your engaged life
B. Wait, but do your research. Totally understandable if you don’t want to commit for a certain date right now and go through the hassle of postponements. But you can definitely use this time wisely, to research potential destinations and choose your wedding planner. You can even agree with them on a retainer to consult you on potential venues and wedding weekend scenarios. So, you’ll be ready to start the actual planning when you feel comfortable.
C. Sign the papers now, party later. If you can’t wait to call each other “hubby” and/or “wifey” or if getting legally married comes with certain legal, financial or international mobility advantages, sign the papers. Just the two of you at the registry office, or even have an intimate celebration with your closest family and friends, around this milestone, if small gatherings are legally allowed in your area. Then focus on planning the spectacular party you’ve been dreaming of when things get better. A symbolic or religious ceremony during your destination wedding will be just perfect. And ladies, you don’t only get to celebrate twice, but you can also wear two wedding dresses 😉
5 WAYS TO MINIMIZE FINANCIAL LOSS WHEN CANCELLING OR POSTPONING A WEDDING FOR PANDEMIC-RELATED REASONS
Always hire professionals with solid contracts and with previous destination wedding experience. Having a contract with all vendors when planning a wedding is a must! Whoever states they are professional and experienced wedding vendors, but don’t have a contract in place, are not to be considered for your destination wedding. This approach is definitely far from professional.
Actually read every word of the contracts before signing. Make sure you understand every single clause. If anything at all is unclear, ask questions! If certain clauses are not clear or complete, make sure they are amended accordingly before you sign.
Understand normal cancellation vs. force majeure cancellation / postponement / reduction clauses. Look out for exact postponement, cancellation, or event size reduction caused by pandemic related restrictions – you may find this information under the Force Majeure paragraph in contracts, and these terms are most of the times different from the usual cancellation terms.
Discuss all potential unpleasant scenarios before signing – this is something your wedding planner usually does for you, before presenting you with the final vendor contracts to sign. A few aspects to clarify if you are starting to plan now, while international travel is still limited, and events are not allowed in many countries:
Do you charge any additional fees if the wedding needs to be postponed, cancelled, or reduced in size because events are legally not allowed or not allowed in the initially planned format and/or size, due to the pandemic?
Until when do we need to decide on cancellation / postponement / reduction, to avoid incurring any additional fees? Another essential aspect: you need to agree with the vendors to make a decision based on restrictions in place at that particular moment (e.g. two months before the wedding), since waiting to see how things develop until last minute is impossible when planning a destination wedding, which involved people travelling from all over the world.
What if we are not allowed to travel to the destination? Events may be possible in the area of your event, but the travel could be restricted – in such cases some vendors (especially the venue) could consider the normal cancellation terms apply and may charge you the normal cancellation fee. If travel restrictions are not covered by the Force Majeure cancellation terms, carefully check the deadlines of the normal cancellation terms – you may find that you need to make a postponement, or cancellation decision earlier than expected, in order to avoid extra charges.
Obtain written confirmations of every single agreement that you make after signing the contract. Remember this – which actually applies to all planning aspects – have vendors confirm in written form whatever additional agreements you reach during calls.
GET AHEAD OF COVID-19 PUTTING YOU IN FRONT OF A THREE-WAY WEDDING CROSSROAD!
Decide early whether you will want to postpone, cancel, or reduce the number of guests. If you’re starting to plan now, make this decision before even kicking off the planning process. This way, you’ll know how to ask targeted questions when booking vendors, and everyone will be aware of your plans from the very beginning, knowing what to expect and how to adapt.
DO NOT PUT OFF UNTIL “AFTER” THE PANDEMIC WHAT YOU CAN DO “DURING” THE PANDEMIC!
Stay motivated! Let the wedding planning motivate you and cheer you up if it doesn’t work the other way around.
Don’t postpone decisions and important planning aspects – work with your wedding planner to get things done as if the wedding will go ahead as planned. This will be of great help when the wedding actually happens.
HOW LONG BEFORE THE WEDDING, DO WE NEED TO DECIDE IF WE’RE POSTPONING?
Basically, as in all event planning topics, the sooner the decision is made, the better. This gives not only you, but also all involved vendors and guests the time to adjust and adapt.
So, besides the advantage of giving peace of mind to all these people, an early decision to postpone or cancel may save you some additional costs – e.g. because cancellation fees might apply only within 1-3 months before the wedding. Also, guests might be able to rearrange travel at no extra charge.
A reasonable deadline for this decision can vary between 1-3 months before the wedding, depending on several factors: besides clauses in vendor contracts, it may also depend on the size of the wedding and where you and your guests are based, in relation to the wedding destination.
BE KIND, REASONABLE AND CALM!
It is not a secret – the event industry worldwide has been hit really hard by this pandemic. Some colleagues have had just fractions of their usual income, or even zero income for the past year. Despite all this, they are all doing their best to stay flexible and serve you to the best of their abilities.
Now, more than ever, it’s time to realize that we are all human and we are all in this together, so kindness, reason and understanding are of essence.