What to do if you have to cancel or postpone your wedding because of coronavirus

With Boris Johnson limiting social gatherings to two people only, many spring weddings are being called off. Here’s what to do if yours is affected

Your wedding day is said to be the best day of your life, but what if it suddenly becomes threatened by a global pandemic? As Covid-19 continues its unprecedented spread, this is the situation many engaged couples are currently in.

“We have been following the virus closely, and yesterday made the decision to postpone our wedding and push it back,” bride-to-be Hayley. “At the moment, only by a month but it is giving us an extra four weeks to work with. It was, and is, a stressful decision and has required a lot of extra logistical planning and admin.”

Tonight, Boris Johnson announced stringent measures for UK residents including no weddings for the next three weeks and no social gatherings of more than two people. Last week, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advised against all global travel for Brits until at least mid-April, making destination weddings, which account for 16 per cent of UK couples getting married, according to Mintel, virtually impossible. 

Lily, whose destination wedding was scheduled for the end of May in Spain, has had to postpone to a later date: “As it’s become more clear how severe the situation is, weddings in spring and May are definitely a no-go. Knowing that you have to cancel it is better than before, when it was stressful with the constant updates and family messaging you asking if you’re still going ahead with your wedding. “UK weddings might be possible but if you’ve planned a wedding abroad like I have it’s just impossible. Even in May, I think the vibe of coronavirus will overshadow it, it won’t feel as good.”

Amy’s wedding in France is still scheduled to go ahead in July – something she is becoming ‘increasingly nervous’ about. “Given it is early July I am praying that we may just make it out in time. Getting married abroad in France also brings more complications, I’m not sure about the day to day situation and how things are playing out in reality versus the news. 

“So far, the only coronavirus impact has been psychological, I am getting increasingly worried about how things are going to unfold and am checking the news frantically hoping for the best.”

Cancellations and postponements have become the norm this week, with London wedding planner Penelope Cullen of Tigerlily Weddings saying she’s seen three cancellations. “We had one that was overseas, that was just becoming too unmanageable and we had one in April and one in early May that meant a lot of people were flying to the UK which again meant it had to be postponed as it had become too difficult for guests to organise the flights.”

Should I postpone or cancel my wedding?

One of the main things you need to consider, says Nina Beer, wedding coordinator and owner of Occasion Queens, is the health of your guests attending. “You may find that your guest numbers drop due to travel restrictions or elderly family members not feeling comfortable going to large gatherings at the moment.”

Cullen adds that different factors should come into play when considering cancelling or postponing your wedding. She continues: “Each wedding is so different and it needs to be looked at on its own merit. [Couples should be] thinking about when you need to make key decisions and when key cutoff points are and updating your wedding website so everyone can communicate. Communication is really key during these times. 

“I think it’s just playing it by ear, if you’ve got the right insurance in place then no one is going to lose out in any way, shape or form. If you can postpone, it’s a better way as it takes them out of being in a stressful position that everyone’s in right now when it’s so untenable what can happen and when it’s going to happen. It’s hour by hour.”

Beer suggests, if a wedding at the moment is completely off the cards, holding an intimate wedding for you and your partner to get married in the meantime could be an option – something Lily is planning on doing. She says: “We think what we’ll do is go to the registry office anyway in April, just the two of us with two witnesses, and get married anyway so that we’re married and have the big party when everything is blown over.”

Hamish Shephard, founder of online wedding planner Bridebook, says he has seen an uptick in couples bringing forward their weddings in the past few weeks – one couple that was meant to get married on June 13 is now getting married in a Marylebone registry office on Friday with just close family in attendance. 

What is the first thing to do if I decide to cancel or postpone?

Cullen says the first point of call for couples looking to cancel or shift their wedding to a later date should be contacting their venue and each supplier and having a conversation with them about postponing. She adds: “Because it’s an unprecedented time, everybody’s actually being really flexible and understanding that things can’t go ahead. Suppliers are being much more flexible in terms of trying to look at the possibility of rescheduling and reassuring couples which I think is really key at this time.”

Lily says most of her suppliers have been really helpful and understanding of the situation. She adds: “The vendors and the venue have suggested dates that we could do later in the year or next year and the caterers have let us shift our deposits along so hopefully it shouldn’t be too costly. I have friends in South Africa, their wedding was in a week and they were in the country when travel got banned so it’s people like that, where it’s so immediate, I’m not sure what the impact will be for them.

“All of the suppliers have said they would shift it. My wedding dress fitting, for example, which is at The Mews Bridal in Notting Hill, they’ve just said that we can just move the fittings for as long as I want, they can hold my dress for as long as it needs to be held. Most suppliers have been really helpful, not charging any more money or anything like that, it’s just a faff having to reach out to everyone and having to move it all around.”

Hayley, whose wedding is now set to be in a Suffolk forest at the end of June, says her suppliers have been understanding as well. “Our venue, Upthorpe Woods have been amazing and so supportive and have guided us through all of it. And all of our suppliers, from our caterer to our photographer have been incredibly flexible and have all moved with us for no extra cost and with zero stress. They are in dire times too, and it’s important that couples work closely with their suppliers to ensure they don’t lose out either.”

What is the best way to keep guests updated?

“Have a wedding website so you can keep people constantly updated and they can refer to this as the first point of call,” Cullen suggests. “So any updates can be mass-shared live with people and you can give any advice or guidance for travel, health and safety. 

“Make sure that guests are thinking about any plans that they have made with hotels and travel, that they are checking that their insurances are covering them if they do need to cancel. Advising guests to manage their financial risk as well as the health risk during that time. You kind of have to just play it out and see, unfortunately you can’t pre-empt what’s going to happen. Are you thinking about older guests? Maybe doing a later summer party instead so they are protected during these times. This is some of the guidance that I’ve been giving people.”

Lily says although they have been updating their wedding website, they also have to go ‘old school’ (emails, texts, calls) for a lot of their older guests. “Obviously a big concern is the guests have paid for flights, paid for accommodation and so you’re hoping that guests aren’t impacted too much by the change of plans. It’s disappointing and it’s really sad, it was 18 months of hard work planning and suddenly it’s not happening.”

Amy says their plan was to send out invitations for their July wedding next week, and guests are still advising them to keep their wedding day as is. “At the moment our guests are more reassuring us that all will be fine come July so at this time we are not messaging anything other than it is all planned to go ahead.”

What about wedding insurance, do I need to get that?

“If you have wedding insurance then it is likely you will be covered if your venue has to close or if the registrars stop conducting ceremonies,” says Shephard. “It will be difficult to get through at the moment but stick with it and talk to your insurer. Hopefully the main insurers (Debenhams, John Lewis, WedInsure, Wedding Plan Insurance and Dreamsaver) will be publishing clear guidelines. As the situation changes with government advice so will the insurance position.

“If you don’t have insurance it will be more tricky but talk to your venue as a first point of call and understand what they are doing. There will not be ideal solutions and it may mean switching to an off peak date later in the year. Remember venues are juggling all their couples and will be under a lot of pressure to see this through as a business.”

Meg, who is looking at postponing her May wedding, spent over 11 hours on hold to her insurer this week only to be told she will only be covered if the venue cancels. She adds: “After an 11 and a half hour wait I got through and they’ve said they’ll only cover it if the venue cancels so I have got to literally wait and see. 

“I’m not sure what’s happening but even if it goes ahead we will have lost all of the lead up costs including the hen do and the stag do.”

Salman Haqqi, personal finance expert at money.co.uk advises to take out wedding insurance as soon as you’ve set a date: “Try to purchase a wedding insurance policy as soon as you start making any bookings or pay any deposits to book your venue, buy a wedding dress or when ordering the cake. Most policies let you take out a policy up to two years before your wedding, so it is worth getting it sooner rather than later. Make sure you know how much your wedding is likely to cost so you get the right level of protection, otherwise your policy might not cover the costs.”     

If you haven’t taken out insurance, speaking directly with your suppliers is the best bet. 

“Everybody still wants the wedding to happen, everybody still wants to work with those lovely clients and nobody wants to be penalised due to the situation,” Cullen says. “We still want our couples to have their day and that is the key, love is the key. It’s all about trying to be really flexible, practical and work together to make sure these couples all have their amazing day even if it is at a later date.”