COVID19 Pandemic Came and we must postpone our wedding, now what?

As a wedding venue we have been hit by this COVID19 pandemic quite hard and so have our wedding couples, whose months of wedding planning have been shattered by the restrictions imposed by government.

At first it was a limitation on the number of guests you were allowed to invite (100 guests), then the limitation in terms of alcohol was imposed (no alcohol to be served if the number of guests was over 50, including staff working at the function) and then finally, the dreaded LOCKDOWN due to the COVID19 Pandemic worldwide.

As a venue, we only managed to do a wedding before the lockdown came into place, and it wasn’t great because people were upset with the restrictions and very emotional about it.

Now, 9 days into the lock down and all the weddings that were planned for end of march and April had to postpone their big day to dates later in the year.

This has several implications:

  1. Finding a new suitable date with the venue
  2. Agreeing with the venue and other service providers that you won’t be charged a cancellation fee.
  3. Make sure you can move your flights or any other traveling arrangements you might have made like flying for your honeymoon, accommodation, etc.
  4. Knowing when the restrictions will be lifted so that the wedding can go as planned (number of guests and alcohol limitations)
  5. Getting all the relevant suppliers to agree to the new date, provided they have the availability
  6. Organize new traveling arrangements for guests coming out of town.
  7. Deal with potential extra costs like higher venue hires, price increases on some of the services, etc.
  8. Will I have a job when the pandemic crisis is over?
  9. Should I cancel the wedding all together?
  10. Will this postponement affect our relationship?

Based on my experience for 16 years and what we had to deal with over the last 4 weeks with the COVID19 Pandemic, I would like to comment on each of those points to try and shed some light and help you make the right decision for your wedding.

  1. Finding a new suitable date with the venue. This should be relatively easy as Venues will be very accommodating in these testing times. The challenge would be:
      1. To find a Saturday if you are changing your dates from early winter to beginning of summer.
      2. The higher venue hires one normally pays in summer
      3. Some venues might try to force you to choose off peak dates
  2. Cancellation fees for postponement. This is a tricky one but after speaking to several service providers I have worked with for over 12 years, most of them understand that the pandemic is no one’s fault and they will waive any extra costs, cancellation costs, etc.
  1. Flight and other traveling arrangements. This has been quite a controversial one and at first it wasn’t clear if people would be able to cancel flights or even postpone them. In the end most airlines came to the party and decided to allow people to postpone if available or to get a voucher to book future new flights.The challenge here is to find availability on your new wedding dates and the fact that some of the airlines limit the time you can use the refund voucher for. I booked a flight to Port Elizabeth for Ironman on the 28th of March with Flysafair and they did allow me to cancel the flight but the voucher I received is only valid for 6 months and the new dates for Ironman fall outside that 6 months period (15th November are the new dates).As far as accommodation is concerned, things are a little trickier, sometimes those businesses are small and have suffered incredible loses due to the COVID19 Lockdown and they might not be in a position to refund you but most will be happy to postpone your dates to later in the year with no cancellation fees.  I firmly believe that trying to get refunds from these small businesses will cause huge irreparable financial damage to them and out of solidarity it would be best to ask them for postponement in these difficult times. You will say that it is your money and not your fault, but it isn’t their fault either. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.
  2. When would restrictions fall away? This is the biggest question mark of them all. I firmly believe the COVID19 virus will create a new set of social rules moving forward. The world will never be the same as we know it.
    1. When will the lockdown finish for real? 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 9 weeks, no one knows and if anything goes by what’s happening in Europe, they keep on moving the goal post.
    2. If the lockdown is over, what will happen with the restrictions in terms of amount of guest you can have in your party
    3. Will you be allowed to serve alcohol or not?
  1. Getting all suppliers to agree to a new date. This will also be one of your biggest challenges as some of the suppliers like photographers, Make-up artist and the likes can only do 1 wedding at a time and their availability is much more limited. Also asking them for a refund, when they will have zero income for several weeks or even months, wouldn’t be a good idea. Again, we are talking about solidarity, this is a world crisis, and these are small businesses that rely on their income for survival. The advice here is to try to find a suitable date with them so as not to make them go bust.

“Again, we are talking about solidarity,
this is a world crisis”

  1. Out of town guests. Some of your guest come from out of town and they might have other commitments on the new dates or maybe their airline (as above) only allowed them to postpone for a certain period. This one is unfortunately a difficult one and linked to the restrictions imposed by Government. We don know at this stage if people will be allowed to travel for quite some time after the lockdown period. As I said earlier, the COVID19 will mark a before and an after in how things are done so time will tell.
  1. Higher costs. Potentially some of the costs will go up and you didn’t budget for this. This is a very controversial point as Venue Hire, prices, etc. do change depending on the time of the year. I think considering the world crisis we find ourselves. You have quite a bit of room for negotiation. We encourage you to have solidarity with vendors and the vendors should reciprocate in the same manner. An honest conversation with them will go a long way.
  1. Will I have a job when all of this is over. This is something that has come up a few times with couples getting married at Valverde that had to postpone. We have been saying that after the crisis is over, we can sit down with them (after social distancing rules have been relaxed again) and discuss all those scenarios. Government and the private sector are making huge donations and contributions to the Relief Fund, UIF Fund, etc. (to date, some of the most wealthy businessmen in SA have contributed a total of R3Billion, the Rupert Family, the Oppenheim Family and the Motsepe Foundation) to assist businesses like in the hospitality industry that have been hit hard due to the COVID19. We all trust this will help all companies stay afloat amid such difficult and tough conditions.
  2. Should you cancel your wedding all together. I have mentioned the word solidarity a few times in this article and I think that’s the key when considering cancelling or not. If all functions, conferences, wedding and hotel room bookings where to be cancelled, thousands of businesses would go under and millions of South Africans would lose their jobs. It is everybody’s responsibility to try and avoid this no matter what. We are all in this together and if us wedding suppliers and you the customer are honest with each other, we can find common ground and still make your dream wedding come true.

    “It is everybody’s responsibility to
    try and avoid this no matter what”

  3. Will the postponement affect our relationship? Sometimes organizing a wedding can take months and even years of planning, hundreds of phone calls, hours of browsing the web, countless emails and lots and lots of stress. A postponement can be a huge blow and some people can go into depression after all the hard work they had to put in. The key is for couples and families to be kind with each other and supportive. Ultimately this wasn’t your decision or your fault

The fact is it’s the celebration of your marriage that’s getting postponed, Other people are dealing with losing jobs and income and the world is facing a pandemic.

Ultimately your love for each other is very much intact and eternal and because the human spirit can overcome anything we will get through this together.

As a business owner I have hope that we will together overcome this world crisis and we will come out stronger on the other side of this.

I write this from the bottom of my heart, and I wish everyone a safe lockdown and don’t forget that in the end, humanity shall overcome.

Joaquin Valverde
Owner Valverde Eco Hotel