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Coronavirus: What Does COVID-19 Mean For Weddings In 2020?

We’re currently writing an article about Coronavirus and how we can expect it to affect our fellow industry peers, we’ll be bringing this to you guys shortly. The following article looks at the impact of the virus namely on people planning their weddings for 2020.

This article has been updated on 3/4/20. COVID-19 is an ever-changing situation so for up-to-date health alerts and advice related to the virus, visit health.gov.au.

Dear Couples,

First up, let us begin by sharing our deepest, heartfelt sympathies if you’re currently experiencing stress and wedding disruption due to the Coronavirus outbreak. No-one could have foreseen this coming: a pandemic that’s affecting the entire world. It’s a *touch wood* once-in-a-lifetime experience. And yes, the irony of how in sync that is with the nature of weddings isn’t lost on us. We wish we could give each of you a big hug right now.

And just as we couldn’t in our wildest dreams have predicted an event like this, sadly too the non-existent timeframe for getting this virus under control leaves us hankering for an equally non-existent crystal ball.

If you’re Australian, you’re probably still scratching your head like us, confused and bewildered by the hand we’ve been dealt in the last four months. As if the bushfires of last summer weren’t challenging enough, now we find ourselves facing a life-threatening virus too? We recently saw a meme that said “Who pissed off 2020?”. Exactly.

Over the last week, we’ve been responding to a large number of queries from concerned couples desperately seeking guidance on what to do right now. We don’t have all the answers. But we’ll do our very best to help provide whatever insights and advice we can. This is the basis of this article.

Since the announcement made on Tuesday 25th of March, there are now unprecedented new restrictions on gatherings like weddings. Weddings may only take place with a maximum of five people in attendance (the couple, celebrant and two witnesses). Prior to this date, there were alternative restrictions based on the size of the wedding and the setting. For the vast majority of couples, this means that wedding postponements are the best option moving forward.

Before we go any further though, we just want you know that we’ve been inspired by you guys – the positivity that so many of you are sharing right now is amazing. And we’re proud of the way that our industry peers are approaching the situation: largely with compassion, flexibility, and understanding. Many small businesses are going to suffer over the coming months. But we’re all in this together and working toward a common goal – to get you guys hitched and having the best damn day ever, even if that day takes place a little later than originally planned.

Here’s a topline summary of the things we’ll get into below:

Insurance

  • It’s unlikely existing wedding insurance policies will cover wedding changes/cancellations due to COVID-19.
  • If you’re thinking about purchasing wedding insurance now to protect yourself from wedding changes/cancellation due to COVID-19, you won’t be covered as the pandemic is a known event.

Postponements and cancellations

  • If your wedding date is in 2020, we’d urge you to contact your venue and vendors via email ASAP to ask them what their postponement policy is and to gather their available dates for later this year, or preferably beyond to safeguard yourself against a second postponement.
  • We would strongly urge you to postpone your wedding rather than cancelling the entire occasion – you can find a step-by-step guide to postponing here and some further tips and templates to share with your wedding team and guests here.
  • When postponing your wedding, we know that the vast majority of wedding venues and vendors are be incredibly understanding in helping you facilitate this.
  • If you decide to cancel your wedding, however, it’s likely you’ll forfeit any deposits you’ve put down. Also, depending on the proximity of the cancellation to your wedding day and the T&C’s and position of the venue/vendor, you may incur additional costs.

Restrictions

  • Thursday 3rd April: The current restrictions Australia is facing, including those below, will be in place for a minimum of 90 days.
  • Tuesday 24th March: Weddings may only continue with a maximum of five people in attendance – the couple, the celebrant and two witnesses. The 4 square metres provided per person in an enclosed space rule still applies.
  • Sunday 22nd March: Further restrictions have been put in place on places of social gathering – many of which include popular wedding venues. For the foreseeable future, the following premises will be restricted from opening: Australian pubs, licensed hotel areas, bars, restaurants and cafes (takeaway only), entertainment venues, casinos, churches and places of worship, indoor sporting arenas and several other facilities (e.g. gyms). You can find the Prime Minister’s official statement here. The same restrictions introduced in the previous days still apply for events less than 100 people indoors, and also events over 100 people (but less than 500) outdoors.
  • Friday 20th March: For gatherings of less than 100 people, there needs to be 4 square metres provided per person in an enclosed space.
  • Wednesday 18th March: The Australian Government has introduced new restrictions on non-essential gatherings. These include:
    • Non-essential indoor gatherings of greater than 100 people (including staff) are no longer be permitted
    • Non-essential outdoor gatherings between 100 to 500 people are permitted but social distancing of 1.5m and good hygiene practices should be applied in these settings. 
    • Non-essential gatherings of over 500 people are not permitted
  • From what we understand, marquees constitute an indoor space, according to the government’s online statement.
  • Any person entering Australia from overseas needs to self-isolate for a two-week period.

Proceeding as planned

  • For those that choose to move forward and adjust their wedding to fit into the new restrictions (five guests maximum), we have some suggestions on how you can still celebrate – just later.

Honeymoons and travel

  • All overseas travel has been restricted for the foreseeable future. Postpone/cancel all overseas travel for the time being, and also consider a local-moon after your wedding does take place. You’ll be providing much needed support to local businesses and let’s face it, our own backyard is bloody beautiful.

Emotional burden

  • We 100% get where your head might be right now. You may be feeling hopeless, sad – even guilty for feeling these things, given the threat to people’s health right now. Please know that this is all completely normal and that you’re in no way alone.
  • Your wedding – when it happens – is going to be made all the more special for getting through this period.

The future 

  • Don’t stop planning your wedding. Life will go on post-Coronavirus and there are so many people in this industry more excited than ever to help you celebrate your love.

We know it’s a nerve-wracking time for both couples and industry alike but we will get through it together. This is a situation where we all need to work collectively to be as compassionate and supportive of each other’s positions as possible.

If you were scheduled to get hitched in the next several months or even weeks, our hearts are right there with you as you adjust to the rapidly changing requirements surrounding gatherings in Australia and New Zealand. Hopefully this article provides you with some confidence to move in the direction that feels right to you.

The big thing we want to say is that when your wedding does happen, there will new meaning to it. And we’d bet our bottom dollar that the dancefloor moves your guests will pull will be even more impressive.

If you’re wanting to connect with other couples who are also going through the same thing right now, please join our couples-only Facebook Group ‘Wedchat by WedShed’. There is a huge number of supportive discussions happening, with wonderful advice shared.

So, let’s chat about the Coronavirus and weddings.

 

INSURANCE

++ Does wedding insurance cover COVID-19?  

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear so. We’ve reached out to multiple Australian wedding insurers and have heard back from one – the message was:

“Few policies covering weddings (or usual commercial activities) will cover a pandemic or infectious diseases so sadly few brides will have insurance protection if their wedding is cancelled due to the virus but the policy will cover loss through the all the other areas such as fire, death or injury to the bride and groom.

… we are fielding many calls from couples wanting insurance for Coronavirus – this simply isn’t available.”

We’ll update this section with more information as we receive it from other wedding insurance policy providers. We did hear second-hand (not confirmed) that one policy does cover cancellations related to Coronavirus. Though if true, this policy would’ve needed to have been purchased prior to Coronavirus being identified as an epidemic, and it’s not clear what the circumstances need to be in order to make a successful claim now. An alert was issued for the Coronavirus outbreak on 23rd January 2020, and we know that many travel insurers will not cover any claims made on policies taken out after that date, so in the absence of more solid info, we’d suggest it’s probably a similar scenario for weddings.

 

++ What about travel insurance? Does this cover for COVID-19 related changes? 

Choice.com.au has provided this information regarding travel insurance and COVID-19:

  • A bit over half of insurers cover medical expenses resulting from a pandemic, but less than half cover cancellation expenses
  • If you buy travel insurance after a pandemic or epidemic such as the COVID-19 coronavirus becomes a known event, you may not be covered regardless

Here’s further clarity on this, direct from Choice:

“People who bought travel insurance before the disease became a “known event” may be covered for medical expenses that arise from contracting the disease overseas, and may even be covered for cancellation expenses. But people who bought travel insurance after COVID-19 was a known event may not be covered for medical or cancellation expenses relating to contracting the disease, or from changes to travel plans that result from quarantine measures, for example.”

We understand this is a bit ambiguous. If you’ve purchased travel insurance to cover you for a honeymoon or even for an overseas wedding, you’re best to contact your insurer directly for the most relevant information according to your policy.

 

WEDDING POSTPONEMENTS AND CANCELLATIONS

++ Should I postpone my wedding?

Updated for 25th March, 2020.

** New restrictions on weddings mean that they can only go ahead with a maximum of five people in attendance: the couple, celebrant and two witnesses. If this doesn’t suit your wedding plans, now is the time to make official postponement plans.

______

As each day passes, we’re hearing of more and more couples making the voluntary choice to postpone their weddings. There are several reasons why:

  • Their wedding is over 100 people and is indoors
  • They had overseas family and friends attending their wedding that can no longer make it
  • They don’t want to bring together a large group of people and put their loved ones at risk
  • They’re conscious that it’s a decision that may be taken out of their hands soon anyway and want to get the jump on it
  • They’ve spoken to their venue and vendors who have been accommodating and happy to facilitate a postponement, making the decision easier
  • They don’t want a day that they’ve invested a lot of time, energy and resources into to be anything different to what they imagined
  • They don’t believe the social distancing that’s currently recommended is conducive to weddings (no hugs, kisses, close dancing, shared food or normal seating, which tends to be within 1.5 metres)
  • They don’t want to put guests in the awkward position of deciding whether or not they’re comfortable to attend in the first place

We’ve discussed at length what we here at WedShed believe to be the best course of action. Our personal stance has changed day-to-day as news, alerts and public knowledge about the virus has developed. We’re not ashamed to say that just weeks ago, it hadn’t even fully occurred to us that people should consider postponing their weddings due to the virus – such is the speed at which public awareness and concern has escalated.

Today, however, it’s a different story. When we weigh up the health risk to guests (and the couple and their vendors), as well as the uncertainty of the situation ahead, we’d strongly advise starting the conversation if you haven’t already with your venue and vendors about how they’d feel if you were to postpone your big day, as well as gathering alternative dates that are available. We can guarantee it’s a conversation they’re expecting.

Here’s a sample email that you could send:

Hi {VENUE/VENDOR NAME},

I hope this email finds you well, and that you and your loved ones are safe during this difficult time. Due to the current situation surrounding the Coronavirus, we’re concerned about proceeding with our wedding and putting our guests and wedding A-team (you guys) at risk. We’re sure this situation has put you under a lot of stress as we know it’s impacting many people right now and our thoughts are with you.

Due to the uncertainty of the coming months and new restrictions placed on weddings, we wanted to touch base to see what our options were on rescheduling our wedding with your team. Is it possible to postpone the date and reschedule once this has all calmed down? We appreciate you are no doubt managing multiple couples in the same position as us – please let us know if it’s easier to have a conversation over the phone. 

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Kindest,
{NAME + NAME}

 

++ What if I postpone my wedding but can’t find a date that all of my suppliers can service?

This is unfortunately a hard reality – it might be difficult or not possible to make your wedding work with all of the original businesses you chose to partner with, due to the volume of future weddings and postponements. We’ve got all our fingers crossed that these tips will assist you in finding a date that works for everyone:

  • Be open to getting married on a weekday, for example a Thursday or Friday when there’s likely to be more availability for your wedding team. Weekday weddings are a total vibe!
  • Start with your wedding venue – get their available dates for the preferred months that you’re happy to reschedule your wedding to
  • Share these dates in an open and edit-able spreadsheet with your vendors so that they can tick which dates they can and can’t do. This will make it much simpler for you to find the date that the vast majority can make happen

For any of your A-Team that sadly can’t service your new wedding date due to pre-commitments, it’s unlikely due to the nature of cancellations that you’ll be able to expect your deposit back (see our next question) but many vendors will be eager to work with you to provide some sort of “credit-service” to the value of your deposit. For example, if your photographer can’t make your new wedding date, they might be able to instead do a family photoshoot with you, or an engagement shoot as a good-will measure.

 

++ I’m thinking of cancelling my wedding – what should I expect? 

This will largely depend on the T&C’s set in the contract you’ve entered into with your venue and vendors. Most contracts require a deposit to be paid to secure the services of the business and often these are non-refundable at a certain time-frame (for example, within six months of the wedding date).

Chat to your venue and vendors if this is something you’re looking to do. Of course, if you make this decision it’s absolutely fine – your wedding, your call, always.

We do know that the vast majority of venues and vendors would much rather you postpone your wedding date over cancelling altogether. And as much as we’re sure they would love to be able to hand back any deposits, the financial implications of this is just too much to expect of a small business (it’s why they have T&Cs in the first place to protect themselves), particularly given the fact that they’re already likely to be losing future business that will be taken up by postponed weddings.

 

RESTRICTIONS

Here are the current restrictions affecting events in Australia, in chronological order:

The Australian Government has introduced new restrictions on non-essential gatherings, in place from Wednesday 18th March. These include:

    • Non-essential indoor gatherings of greater than 100 people (including staff) are no longer permitted
    • For indoor gatherings of less than 100 people, there needs to be 4 square metres provided per person in an enclosed space
    • Non-essential outdoor gatherings between 100 to 500 people are permitted but social distancing of 1.5m and good hygiene practices should be applied in these settings. 
    • Non-essential gatherings of over 500 people are not permitted
    • Any person entering Australia from overseas needs to self-isolate for a two-week period.

As of Sunday 22nd March, additional restrictions were introduced on the type of places where social gatherings may take place. For the foreseeable future, the following premises are restricted from opening (many of which constitute wedding venues):

  • Australian pubs
  • Licensed hotel areas
  • Bars
  • Restaurants and cafes (takeaway only)
  • Entertainment venues
  • Casinos
  • Churches and places of worship
  • Indoor sporting arenas and several other facilities (e.g. gyms).

As of Tuesday 25th March, weddings have been severely restricted. They are able to take place but only with a maximum of five people in attendance – the couple, a celebrant, and two guests.There still needs to be 4 square metres provided per person in an enclosed space.

You can find the Prime Minister’s official statements outlining these restrictions here.

 

++ Are marquees considered an indoor space or outdoor? What if the sides are up? 

From what we understand, marquees constitute an indoor space, according to the government’s online statement.

“An indoor gathering refers to a gathering within a single enclosed area (i.e. an area, room or premises that is or are substantially enclosed by a roof and walls, regardless of whether the roof or walls or any part of them are permanent, temporary, open or closed).”

Despite the fact that marquees can be erected outdoors, they still fall under the category of a single enclosed area, substantially enclosed by a roof (even if the walls are removed of left up). It doesn’t make a difference if the marquee is permanent or temporary either.

We know that prior to the recent announcement of wedding restrictions (5 people maximum) many couples still hoped to proceed with their wedding by setting up outdoors. Given the expense of marquees and the limitations on weddings, it’s understandable that this will no longer be a viable option for many.

 

PROCEEDING AS PLANNED

Prior to the 24th March and the new restrictions imposed on weddings, some couples were hopeful that their weddings would be able to proceed. In light of these new restrictions, only small elopement-style ceremonies may now take place, and all other weddings should be postponed. However, that’s not to say that if you do want to make things paper-official on your original wedding day, that you can’t go ahead and do this (providing you’re adhering to the new restrictions of a total of five people in attendance) and then postpone your wedding reception and party until a future date where you and your loved ones can safely let your hair down.

You could also live steam your small ceremony via video for those close family members and friends who are not able to attend due to the restrictions.

 

++ What if the two guests I chose for my ceremony (in light of new restrictions) don’t want to attend?

We really feel for you here – of course you want to get married surrounded by all the leading people in your life, let alone a select couple. But given the covert nature of COVID-19 and the fact that it’s impossible to know who has the virus until they’re symptomatic, it’s reasonable to expect that guests may not feel comfortable to attend your wedding. They may have contact with kids, the elderly or immunocompromised people, or they may just be conscious of wanting to distance themselves from people until authorities say it’s safe to do otherwise.

While it can be heartbreaking to hear, our advice is to be completely understanding of your guest’s choice and to not let it influence your relationship with them. This is a time where we all need to respect each other’s autonomy.

 

HONEYMOONS AND TRAVEL

++ Should I book a honeymoon?

If you haven’t already booked your honeymoon, the most obvious suggestion here is to postpone it or travel within Australia once travel restrictions and warnings are lifted. Right now, Australian state borders are in a state of lock-down, and overseas travel is prohibited.

If you had already booked travel,  some airlines are giving credits to flights, so touch base with both your travel partners and accommodation provider to see if this is an option for you. One business offering an alternative is Qantas, who are giving customers who hold tickets for domestic and international flights the ability to cancel their travel and retain the value as a credit until March 2020 for travel booked up to May 2020.

 

EMOTIONAL BURDEN

OK, this is a biggie. And we want to spend some time here, because we have a lot. Of. Feelings.

We know it’s likely that you’ve been looking forward to this day for ages. Putting time, emotions, money and more into bringing an epic celebration together, only to have the rug potentially pulled out from beneath you. If you’re getting married in the coming months, the confusion about whether to proceed or postpone (or otherwise) can feel overwhelming and just downright devastating. We 100% empathise with you here – we know this is not how you wanted to be moving into married life.

On top of this, you might be feeling guilty or indulgent for even allowing yourself to feel upset about your wedding, given we’re talking about people’s lives and health being on the line.

What we need to say here is don’t. Know this: your disappointment is valid. We would feel exactly the same.

But also know this: no matter what happens to your wedding day in the short-term, it’s more important than ever to reflect on the things that are important to us as people, and that’s our relationships. The beautiful thing here is the very fact that you’re planning a wedding means you’ve found a life partner that you can depend on during the toughest times. It’s like you guys get to start your marriage early – just without the official piece of paper.

Focus on loving each other, keep communicating and know that when your wedding day does happen, it’s going to be so much more special having gone through this challenge to get there. If there’s anything we can take away from this pandemic, it’s the importance of taking stock of our loved ones and looking out for our community. This means when you’re smashing cake in your face at some point in the future and raising a glass of sparkling with those special people around you guys, there will be no better feeling.

 

THE FUTURE

++ Should I keep planning my wedding or wait until COVID-19 is over?

We know that Coronavirus is all-encompassing right now. But eventually, this will be something we can collectively put behind us. If you’re hoping to get married in the future, don’t stop planning your wedding – allow yourself to get excited, get inspired, speak to venues and vendors and get the ball rolling. Now more than ever, the entire industry is so excited to help you celebrate your love! And it’s not just for financial reasons; we all need some positivity right now and looking to the future and all the happy days ahead is as feel-good as it gets.

– – –

If you have any further questions, suggestions or comments, send us a DM on Instagram or ask our lovely couples in our couples-only Facebook Group. Our hearts and thoughts are with you and we hope you can remain positive knowing that you’ll have an incredible day regardless of when it takes place. We hope that you and your families stay safe and healthy as Australia navigates COVID-19.

With love,
Amy, Mel + The WS Team.

18th March, 2020

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Comments

  1. Thanks for this article as the mother of the bride I have found it really helpful in planning a way forward .

    Ruth Mollison
  2. Thank you for such an insightful and valuable post! As we here at Swan Valley Wedding DJ try to navigate through this situation and achieve the best possible outcome for our clients and for our business (not always easy to balance those two things!), we are grateful to have something so specific to our industry to read through.

    I’ll be sharing a link to this article on our social media as I believe it is invaluable to our clients.
    Thank you again for writing it, and we wish you all the very best of health in the coming months.

    Marty and Rose,
    Swan Valley Wedding DJ

  3. Thank you for sharing such thoughtful insights! I love the positivity and actionable steps we can all take to make it through this crazy time.

  4. Dear Wedshed, you are the loveliest humans and thanks for putting into words what I am sure a lot of people need to read right now. You are always so kind, compassionate and on top of things. We love you – please keep being an awesome ray of light through these times. We’ll be ready to celebrate with you at the #postpandemicparty xo

  5. Something worth considering in line with weddings and seating plans from the Dept of Health website concerning Covid-19 and indoor gatherings under 100 (The last line regarding family and household groups is what I am referring to):

    “This might mean changes are needed to seating or capacity. For example, cinemas and theatres will need to decrease density of patrons, which could include alternate seating, staggered seating and alternatives, except for family or household groups who may be seated together.”

    S J
  6. Thank you so much for putting this post together., I have shared your link to my facebook page to hopefully help my Couples in their decision making process.
    I wish you all good health., hopefully one we all come out the other side of this chaos., the world will be a better place…..
    Long Live Love!!
    Leonie xx

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