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How to Cancel or Postpone a Wedding

Andrea Woroch

Getting married is supposed to be a joyous moment, but for many couples, it's turning into a stressful one. Throughout the country, event gatherings have been dramatically restricted or completely banned, and venues have had to close their doors as the government fights the spread of the coronavirus, leaving thousands of brides and grooms in limbo and devastating the wedding industry.

Considering that 78% of all weddings take place between May to October, as reported by the 2017 Real Weddings Study from The Knot, even more celebrations may be affected by this pandemic if it doesn't clear up soon.

For brides and grooms, a wedding cancellation often results in the loss of deposits already paid to their venue and various wedding vendors. Even if an event is rescheduled, couples could face additional charges. And, although moving a wedding to a later date sounds like a relatively simple solution, the influx of brides and grooms trying to reschedule at the same time poses limitations and makes things more complicated.

Whether you already canceled your wedding or you're anticipating a postponement, here are some ways to mitigate financial loss and make it as seamless as possible:

-- Review contracts and negotiate with vendors.

-- Call your insurance provider.

-- Postpone instead of cancel.

-- Be flexible.

-- Schedule video planning sessions.

-- Ask for revised contracts.

-- Keep guests up to date.

-- Livestream your ceremony.

[Read: Can Lying to Vendors Help You Avoid the 'Wedding Markup'?]

Review Contracts and Negotiate With Vendors

Before you make any major decisions, gather all your wedding contracts to familiarize yourself with their cancellation policies. This way, you know what rights you have to cancel or postpone as well as the financial repercussions of each option to help you make the best decision, advises Leah Weinberg, owner and creative director of Color Pop Events, a New York City-based event planning company.

Meanwhile, Kristin Watkins, owner and lead event planner of Stephanie Rose Events, a full-scale event production company specializing in weddings and nonprofit events in San Diego, suggests that your venue should accommodate your request to reschedule without any financial loss if your original wedding date was during a government-issued, stay-at-home order or if local gatherings were restricted.

If your vendor cancellation or rescheduling clauses are strict, try to negotiate. Your florist, photographer and caterer should be willing to work with you given the unprecedented circumstances, whether offering to rebook at a later date, provide a partial refund, waive the date-change fee or create a revised payment plan.

Call Your Insurance Provider

If you purchased wedding insurance, don't assume your policy covers cancellation loss or rebooking fees for the COVID-19 outbreak. Review the terms of your policy carefully and call your provider to inquire about your options. Even if your wedding hasn't been canceled yet, the sooner you call to inquire about the terms of your policy, the better and more informed decisions you can make later.

"Coverage will vary from policy to policy and from carrier to carrier, so anyone currently with cancellation insurance should try to get written confirmation from their insurance company as to whether they have coverage for coronavirus," Weinberg says.

Meanwhile, Lauren Schaefer, founder of Your Wedding by Lauren, a month-of wedding coordination company serving New York City, Nashville and Chicago, points out that if a key member of your wedding party becomes suddenly ill from the coronavirus, which requires you to postpone, this may qualify for coverage.

Postpone Instead of Cancel

Rescheduling your wedding may be the last thing you want to deal with, but it is often the best option for your finances and everyone involved.

"If canceled, couples have more of a risk of losing the money they've already invested and perhaps more based off of the terms outlined in each individual vendor contract," Schaefer says. "Postponement also keeps many small businesses in the wedding industry afloat," she adds.

The sooner you inquire about rescheduling your wedding, the easier it will be to coordinate with vendors and family. Begin by asking your venue for alternative dates so you can cross-check availability with everyone involved. Watkins says you should prioritize checking date alternatives with vendors who can only do one wedding at a time, such as your officiant, musician, and photographer or videographer. Your florist, bakery, rental company and limo service can typically manage multiple weddings at once, so they will have more leeway.

[Read: Are Cash Wedding Registries Worth It?]

Be Flexible

The more willing you are to be flexible in moving your wedding to a later date, the easier it will be to reschedule. For instance, be open to hosting your wedding on a Thursday, Friday or Sunday in late summer or early fall instead of a Saturday, Watkins suggests. "Most Saturdays in August, September and October may already be booked," she adds. If you're set on Saturday, you may have to push your date back even further.

Meanwhile, if you had your heart set on a certain photographer or florist who is not available on your new date, ask if they can refer you to someone who matches your style and budget.

The good news is that wedding vendors are working together to fill in the gaps, says Alicia Mae, chief financial officer and founder of ILE Events, a wedding planning company serving New York, New Jersey and Miami. This means your vendor may find another trusted service professional to work on your wedding and allow them to take over the contract so you don't lose your deposit.

Schedule Video Planning Sessions

If rescheduling is your goal, request all your vendors to hop on a video call via Zoom, FaceTime or Google Meet so you can get everyone's feedback at one time to determine the best course of action, says Kimberly Morrill, owner of Your Perfect Bridesmaid, a wedding planning and day-of coordination service based in Portland, Oregon, and Seattle. "This will make this process so much more efficient and effective," she says.

Virtual meetings are also a great way to keep up with wedding planning while stay-at-home mandates are still in place.

Ask for Revised Contracts

When postponing and rebooking vendors for a new wedding date, make sure you ask for updated contracts. "New agreements will need to be entered into with everyone either terminating the existing contract for a cancellation or modifying the terms of the contract to apply to a new date for a postponement," Weinberg says.

Keep Guests Up to Date

You may be far from ready to discuss the details of your wedding postponement with friends and family, but it's important to keep guests informed about your wedding plans so they can manage travel changes and book new flights or hotels for your rescheduled celebration.

Keep guests informed by sending a group email or text, updating your wedding website with details or sending change the dates in the mail.

[See: 25 Ways to Fix Your Finances Fast.]

Livestream Your Ceremony

If your wedding was canceled but you still want to get married, hosting a very intimate celebration doesn't mean your family and friends can't participate. Consider livestreaming your ceremony via a digital video platform like Zoom, Skype or even Instagram. You can always arrange to host a party with dinner and dancing at a later date. This is a great option if you're having trouble finding a new date later in the year that works for your family and vendors and if you don't want to wait any longer to tie the knot.

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