Whether you're a couple facing a lockdown on your wedding day or you're a vendor with panicked couples knocking on your inbox, you’re probably feeling the pressure right now. As a wedding photographer with A LOT of experience with lockdowns in the last 18 months or so, here are 5 things that allowed me to juggle date changes, soothe minds and continue to thrive in the wedding industry amidst a pandemic.
1. Have a Contingency Plan
COUPLES: You absolutely need a Date Change Contingency Plan. I have a template saved that I send out to each of my COVID Lockdown affected couples that they share among their date-critical vendors. Get a spreadsheet going in Google Sheets, it’s shareable and everyone involved in the wedding can edit and view. Ultimately you want your spreadsheet to coordinate each vendor's available dates within your chosen timeframe. Select your top 3 dates that work for everyone in order of preference, and have your vendors mark 'YES' next to the date they can do.
VENDORS: Check out my FREE WEDDING COVID CONTINGENCY PLAN template here, and feel free to share it with your clients. The colours work well for my ADHD brain, but you can set it up whichever way for you. Be ready to work with other vendors, and figure out what works best for your clients.
2. Communication is Key
COUPLES: As soon as you hear whispers of a lockdown, I suggest reaching out to the date-critical vendor that you have the most ease of communication with. See if they have a plan and find out what they have done during similar instances of COVID affected weddings, they may be able to guide you. If you’re in the process of booking your vendors, definitely ask them about their COVID plans at the time of booking.
VENDORS: Reach out to your client as soon as you hear the lockdown or restriction announcement. Have a plan or some guidance ready to offer them to put their mind at ease, they have a lot to juggle right now so anything you can do to help them will be both super lovely of you and memorable. Even a simple “thinking of you” can help.
3. What About The Deposits?
COUPLES: Unfortunately there are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to this area. I’ve even had concerned couples contact me worried they’ll have to pay a second deposit to secure their new date. I can't speak for all vendors, but I would never make someone pay a deposit twice due to such an uncontrollable circumstance. Ask your vendors what their approach is regarding your deposit so you can clear that anxiety from your mental load as early as possible.
VENDORS: Be transparent, and be compassionate. It’s a great idea to have your deposit policy set in stone from the beginning, so you can be clear with clients from the time of booking. Cover your COVID deposit policy with them, because we just never know when more restrictions will be announced. Personally, I was fortunate that my business has remained strong throughout the pandemic so far. I've had a lot of weddings to juggle and a lot of date changes with no requirement for deposit refunds or double-paying deposits, and it’s worked for everyone involved.
4. Check, Check, Check Again
COUPLES: I can't stress enough how important it is to double, triple and quadruple check that your new date is announced clearly and sent to all relevant suppliers. You can adjust your wedding website or resend invitations if desired, as well as email all your vendors with the new date. If you haven't heard back from that vendor, call them. Make sure they see or hear the update. Before a new date is chosen, while tentative dates are whirling around, log these possibilities in your shareable spreadsheet instead of your calendar. I also recommend sending out an email to reconfirm new dates, months out from the new wedding date just to be sure no one has their dates muddled.
VENDORS: Once a date is chosen, get it into your calendar, CRM and all relevant databases as soon as possible, and DELETE THE OLD DATE to avoid confusion. During the first ever Coronavirus lockdown phase I ended up with 3 - 4 dates pencilled into my calendar per client until a final date was reached (this is also why a spreadsheet is important). Thankfully nothing bad happened, but it's a risky way to do things and I have lived and learned through this pandemic. I am still learning new and better ways to juggle the latest evolution of the industry but so far, so good.
5. Treat People with Kindness
COUPLES: This one’s just a good rule for life really. As soon as the Australian Government announces a lockdown or new restrictions, both couples and vendors tend to freak out. And with good reason! Throughout the stress of setting a new date for your big day, remember that your vendors are human too - and they want to help! Their livelihood is on the line, their workload is exploding trying to fit in new dates, and their inbox is blowing up with countless couples who are also trying to organise one of the biggest days of their lives. Be gentle, you’ll get through this together.
VENDORS: If you can help someone, help them. Your couples need to feel reassured right now, so remind them that regardless of the date, they will be married and their day will be filled with love and joy. Don’t be afraid to take the lead, because you've got more experience in this industry and may be able to help them, even if it's just to calm their nerves about the future and changes.
Whether you're in love or you're in the love industry, support one another because at the end of it all, damn there is something magical about a wedding that has been through a postponement. Witness that together.
Photos by me, concept, styling and florals by The Other Bridesmaid, Dresses by Made With Love and Ella Moda. HMUA Taylor Kimler, Tableware - I Love Linen, Paper Paper Co, Table For Louis, By Woman Kinde. Model - Johanna Carroll. Cake not pictured by Sweet Society Co.