How the coronavirus pandemic may affect your 2020 wedding, and advice from Central Ohio wedding experts on how to handle it.

By now, it’s apparent that there is no industry that the new coronavirus will leave untouched—including weddings. If you’re engaged and planning a wedding for later this year, or even next year, you probably have a lot of questions. Columbus Weddings and our network of local experts are here to help. Read on for advice on how to handle your situation based on when you originally planned to get married; if you have a question that isn’t answered below, send it me at ehenterly@columbusweddingsmag.com. I’ll find an answer for you and, if your situation is widely applicable, will update this story with the new information.

If you’re panicking right now, Jennifer Derkin of Derk’s Works Photography has some advice: “Take a deep breath. Know you’re not alone,” she says. “Your vendor team wants to work with you and make this a success.” Husband and lead photographer Benjamin Derkin adds, “This is an opportunity to rely well on the team that you’ve put in place and let us, as the team, help.”

To that end, “don’t cancel your wedding!” says Sue Baisden of Capital City Cakes. “Maybe you have to postpone your reception, but still marry your sweetheart and treat everything else as if you went on a destination wedding. Then you can party like crazy when this is all over!”

Windi Noble, an officiant with Run to an Elopement, agrees.

“Let’s not take all of this hard work and money that you’ve already invested and throw it to the wayside,” she says. Because that’s what will happen if you cancel outright—your deposits will likely be unrecoverable, whereas most vendors are likely to transfer your deposit and contract to a new date if you simply reschedule.

First things first

Our biggest piece of advice, right now, is to hire a wedding planner … even if you didn’t originally budget for one.

“Planners, right now, are looking like probably the biggest ROI [return on investment] of any wedding spending that anyone could do,” says Kasey Conyers, who owns Orchard Lane Flowers and Bliss Wedding & Event Design. “The really reputable ones know how to make the phone calls, get the new date secured and make it really kind of stress-free for the clients.”

The fact Is, no one knows how long this pandemic will affect our lives. It could be that we’re back to some semblance of normal before spring is over—and we certainly hope that’s the case!—but it seems equally likely that this will upend life as we know it well into the summer or beyond. If your wedding is planned for any time this year, we think a wedding planner is an invaluable resource to help you deal with shifting restrictions on group gatherings that would restrict your ability to have a full ceremony and reception.

If you’re going it alone, Conyers suggests starting by taking the time to review all of your vendor contracts and understand what each cancellation policy looks like, in the event you can’t reschedule that specific vendor. If you have wedding insurance, call the issuer and ask what your options are—the pandemic is a unique situation that can’t be easily covered by a single clause in your coverage contract.

“Because of the fluid nature of the situation, coronavirus claims must be handled on a case-by-case basis to properly assess what coverage is applicable to each bride and groom, due to the endless variables and scenarios that can arise,” says Steve Lauro, vice president of Aon’s WedSafe wedding insurance program. “Like most insurance, cancelling for the fear of something potentially happening, including coronavirus concerns, would typically not be a covered reason for cancellation.”

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If your wedding is scheduled for late March or early April:

You probably know by now that your wedding won’t be happening as planned. That’s OK! Remember that one way or another, you and your partner will end up married—and that’s the most important aspect of your wedding.

Start by emailing or calling your guests, or designating someone (parents, siblings, maids/matrons of honor and best men are great options) to call them and let them know the wedding is postponed. You don’t need to provide a new date, but you should inform guests of their newly free evening as soon as possible. If you have a wedding website, post a notice on the home page letting visitors know that a new date will be announced soon.

If your original wedding date is significant, your best bet is to plan an elopement. Contact your officiant to see if he or she is on board with the change. Then contact your venue to find out if they will accommodate a smaller, shorter wedding. If not, you can opt for a nearby park or even your own home. You’ll probably want to contact your photographer and videographer as well, to see if they’re able to roll with the change.

Wherever you are, remember to follow current guidelines about allowable group sizes and maintain an appropriate social distance of at least 6 feet from anyone in attendance (other than your betrothed, of course—that first kiss can still happen). You can—and should!—opt for a separate celebration, which could include a vow renewal, at a later date, when guests are able to safely attend.

When rescheduling, whether it’s the entire wedding or just the party, start with your venue. Conyers suggests asking for three date options around the time frame you’re interested in, whether it’s this fall or next spring, and be open to Fridays and Sundays. The latter offers options for brunch weddings, which Conyers says “are actually amazing. You get to pick from a whole new menu of food options. … It’s like Sunday Funday.”

Once you have your venue’s open dates, start contacting your other vendors. Begin with single-operator businesses—think: officiant, photographer, videographer, DJ, hair stylist, makeup artist and the like—as they will probably be the hardest to rebook. Then move on to vendors that typically can book multiple weddings in a weekend—your florist, cake baker and caterer, for example—and end with vendors that are used to handling larger volumes, like linen, equipment, décor and menswear rentals.

Finally, once you have everything in place, let guests know about the new date. You can order a “change the date” card, which many local stationers are offering (more on those here), or opt to send a new suite that consists of just the invitation and RSVP card. If your guest list is smaller, you could call everyone individually and ask for RSVPs via your wedding website.

If your wedding is scheduled for late April through May:

You might be tempted to risk it and forge ahead. We get it; you’ve spent months planning your wedding, and the prospect of rescheduling it all might seem daunting. But with so much uncertainty, our official recommendation is to go ahead and reschedule.

“All my clients, their vendors have been really helpful and easy to work with on rescheduling,” says Jason Fletcher of Avant-Garde Impressions. Our own reporting has confirmed this: by and large, local wedding vendors seem to be open to rescheduling and accommodating without additional fees.

The exception: Vendors who aren’t available for your rescheduled date. In those cases, you’re unlikely to get your deposit back—though it doesn’t hurt to ask whether a partial refund is possible. Just keep in mind that the situation is affecting vendors, too, and this is their main source of income. If the contract says “no refunds,” be prepared to kiss that deposit goodbye and move on.

Follow the steps in the previous section to prep for your elopement and/or postponed wedding. If you haven’t yet mailed your invitations, contact your stationer and discuss options for reprinting just the pieces that need the new date, or for printing a new, additional card with updated information that can be included in the already-printed suite.

If your wedding is scheduled for June through August:

This is the tough one, especially for June couples. The fact is, no one knows what the situation will be in two weeks, let alone two months. You may choose to reschedule just for peace of mind, and no one would blame you. You could hire a planner to manage all those logistics, or just book one for a few hours to help you understand your contracts and options. (We suggest the former, if it’s in your budget. Trim down your guest list if you have to. You can thank us later.)

For those who opt not to reschedule, we salute your optimism. But don’t approach this blindly; keep a close eye on COVID-19’s development in Ohio, and be prepared to spring into action if needed. We recommend making a final call no later than six weeks before your wedding date—and the longer you wait, the more hectic and stressful it will be to reschedule. If you’re going this route, a wedding planner is almost a necessity, if only to give you reassurance that someone else will handle the logistics should you need to postpone.

In this case, it’s OK to wait until the last second to print your invitation suite, Fletcher says. “Most people send out their invitations about eight weeks before [their wedding], but etiquette is only six [weeks],” he explains. It might mean more chasing down RSVPs as your final counts come due, but if you’re dead-set on keeping your date, it’s one way to help prevent an unexpected expense should you have to reschedule at the last second.

You may also want to purchase wedding insurance at this time, if you haven’t already. It won’t cover a cancellation or postponement due to gathering size or travel restrictions—“[The novel coronavirus] is considered a known event, which would likely preclude any coverage for policies sold after a certain date in time,” says Lauro—but it could provide coverage if you, your fiancé or a very close family member falls ill in the days before your event, or if you have a vendor that unexpectedly goes out of business due to the economic hardship of stay-in-place orders.

Finally, if you have any vendors left to book—book them immediately! The influx of rescheduled wedding from this spring will put a strain on many vendors’ availability, so jump on that before vendor availability becomes scarcer than toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

If your wedding is scheduled for September through the first half of 2021:

Get. Your. Vendors. Booked.

Seriously. We can’t stress this enough. As stated above, the rush of people rescheduling their weddings from this spring to later this year and early next year is going to create a larger-than-normal demand in virtually every vendor category, but especially the small businesses and sole proprietorships.

Most of your initial consultations with vendors can be in the form of emails, phone calls or videoconferences, and guess what: Most of these vendors have a lot of free time to answer those calls and emails right now. And if you’ve been obsessed with carryout in the name of supporting local businesses, consider this: Wedding vendors aren’t getting their final payments right now, as weddings get canceled or rescheduled, and a vast majority of them are local businesses.

“In so many ways, we need business as usual. We need to be looking to the future,” says Jennifer Derkin. “It will be a lifeline to the small businesses; this is their livelihood.”

Last thoughts

Ultimately, COVID-19 has affected all of us in one way or another, and because of that, we will all get through it together—as trite as that sounds.

“It’s OK to feel disappointed. And it’s OK to feel a little selfish. Your feelings are totally valid,” says Teena Parker, owner of Ampersand Flowers & Events. “But I always tell my clients: At the end of the day, regardless of how this pans out, one way or another you and your fiancé will be married. That’s what matters. That’s all that matters. If you just focus on that, you’ll get through this—together.”

Whether your wedding takes place with you and your fiancé in your living room as your officiant signs your license from 6 feet away, or eight months later than it was originally supposed to in a different venue, the end result remains the same: You’ll be married to your love.

“I know there’s a lot of unknown that we’re all going through right now, but I have faith that love will prevail,” says Noble.