COVID 19: what to remember when postponing weddings in order to protect your business

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, sadly there are many couples that need to reschedule their special day. However, the good news is that chances are, they still want to get married! It is crucial to do everything you can to work with your couples to postpone, instead of cancelling. Whilst still not convenient for either parties, this will protect your revenue and cash flow. 

Bridebook are in a fortunate position to have a view on both sides of handling postponements; our UK Wedding Venues Slack group has over 700 active members and our Facebook group is 7000 couples strong! Hamish Shephard, Founder of Bridebook & Hedsor House, has put together some advice to consider when postponing weddings, in order to protect your business.

Think about how many weddings you are doing a year

If it is only a small handful, then hopefully moving these weddings won’t be too difficult and you can accommodate them. However, if you are doing a larger number (more than 40-50 per year) and weddings are a core / the core part of your business, it becomes paramount to focus on protecting your business as a top priority.

Work out the financial impact postponements will have on your business

Think about how both the best and worst case scenarios will impact your business model. You  must be extremely aware of the financial impacts that could be coming your way. It has been alarming to see some venues being overly generous (as lovely as that is!) and allowing couples to reschedule their wedding to any day in the future, even their peak summer 2021 dates. 

This is extremely dangerous, as you are essentially ‘giving away’ your prime dates for next year at no extra cost, which will create a significant cash flow issue. You would usually be getting double this revenue, as you would sell those dates easily. Be very cautious of this and study your financial model carefully.

When should you be moving weddings to?

We highly recommend trying your best to not move your couples further than a year out from now.  For example, if we take September 2020 as the very earliest to be pushing weddings back to, you can then offer couples an 8 month window between September 2020 and March / April 2021 to reschedule their wedding in. Hopefully, you will likely have more flexibility with available dates during this time frame, too. This time period allows you to keep all wedding bookings within a year and therefore, help manage your cash flow.

If you allow postponements beyond March, you will be treading into dates you usually have no problems booking / busier dates for your venue. You must be very cautious of protecting your business here. Whilst it may make discussions with couples much easier to allow them to re-book their wedding whenever they wish, your number one priority to your team, your suppliers and indeed, your couples, is to ensure your business is protected and still standing in a year’s time.

Be hyper aware of wedding insurance policies

Discussions on our UK Wedding Venues Slack group and Facebook group for couples are showing that wedding insurers are not being hugely reliable, and are acting defensively. Understandably, this has been a huge shock for their businesses as well, however it is very important you are aware of the situation surrounding insurance. 

Wedding insurers’ first reaction has been trying to push the weight back onto the venues, rather than allowing claims or payouts. We have seen challenges coming from all 4 main wedding insurers in the UK – the most popular one has even taken down their website! There is a huge amount of doubt over whether insurers will actually pay out, therefore you must tread with caution and not rely on the fact that your couples have insurance.

If a couple have wedding insurance, there are very different liabilities to their wedding if it has been affected due to a government shutdown, or due to your or their choice to postpone / cancel. There are two possible implications: 

  1. If you are cancelling / postponing their wedding due to the current circumstances, the liability could fall solely on you. You must know your contract. 
  2. If you have to move their wedding in the next few weeks due to the government shutdown, the situation is very different, as you have been forced to close by the government.

Sadly, it is highly likely that even if the insurer does have to pay out to your couple, they will ask them to see your contract. They will be looking to find holes in the contract, to see if the payout can fall on yourself, before they even pay out to the couple. The insurance companies are under a huge amount of strain in this climate, so will be looking to find loopholes in your contract – please ensure you review them thoroughly.

What is the best possible scenario?

The ideal situation for all venues at this time is for couples to happily agree to postpone their wedding to a date that suits them, and protects your business. The way a postponement should work, ideally, is that the couple agrees to ‘cancel’ their wedding and you are able to re-issue their existing contract as a new booking, but with a new agreed date. All that is changing in their new contract is the date, do make sure not to change anything else. Again, this is not something you HAVE to offer your couples, but it is the best possible scenario for both sides.

Communicate clearly with your couples, with empathy

This is a hugely emotional time for couples having to postpone their wedding, so don’t forget to simply talk to them. Show them you’re still committed to giving them their dream wedding day, and that their best shot at getting this is moving the wedding to a mutually agreeable new date. Do let them know that you are working together with them, but that you are a business too and must protect it. 

If couples are still holding onto their original date and you feel its best for them to postpone, we highly recommend discussing the fact that even if weddings return to semi-normal in the coming weeks, there will still be other implications to affect their perfect day. For example, elderly guests and those coming from abroad may not make it, their honeymoon may be affected and registrars may still be limiting numbers of people in a ceremony.

This truly is the toughest few weeks we have ever faced in this industry. Once again, KEEP GOING! There is light at the end of the tunnel and we will get there by supporting each other. Bridebook are here to help as much as we can, so keep an eye on the UK Wedding Venues Slack group for further supportive content.