COVID and the wedding industry

COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic Impact on Business Decisions in the Wedding Industry

May 27, 2020

published on

filed under

As an active member in the wedding industry, both locally here in Charleston and in social media groups online, one of the things I’ve noticed amongst wedding vendors during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is that there is a lot of judgement and disagreement about how vendors are handling this crisis.  It seems like there are two camps that are divided strongly:  the wedding vendors who are not fearful of the virus and want to get back to work ASAP and the wedding vendors who are fearful of the virus and don’t want to put themselves at risk by going back to work yet.  Neither position is “right” or “wrong”, but this difference in opinion is becoming an issue as venues start to reopen and clients have to make the decision about whether to go on with their wedding as planned this year or postpone into 2021.

COVID Coronavirus Business Practices

Wedding vendors’ personal feelings about the virus are impacting the business decisions they are making: those vendors who want to get back to work are implementing rescheduling fees in order to discourage clients from postponing their wedding date even further into the future and those who don’t want to expose themselves to the virus are allowing clients to postpone for any reason without any fees.  Again, neither one is “right” or “wrong” – but it does lead to confusion and frustration for clients when vendors are not all on the same page.

2020 couples who are scheduled to get married later this year – if you are thinking about possibly postponing your wedding into 2021, you will most likely find that every wedding vendor you’ve hired will have a different postponement/reschedule policy.  AND THAT’S OKAY!!  Some vendors have a team that works under them, which allows them way more flexibility in rescheduling.  Some vendors can only work one event per day and don’t have a team to lean on, so they aren’t as flexible.  Some vendors depend on this job to support their families and NEED to get back to work.  Some vendors have a partner who financially supports them and the money they make from weddings is just a bonus, so they don’t need to get back to work as urgently.

Some vendors are scared of the virus and don’t want to work yet in fear of contracting the virus.  Some vendors aren’t scared of the virus and can’t wait to get back to work.  Some vendors do this full-time.  Some vendors do this as a second job.  Some vendors work 10 weddings per year, making rescheduling extremely easy.  Some vendors work 40+ weddings per year, making rescheduling next to impossible.  Every single vendor is unique and they are all making business decisions based on their unique situation.  Just be aware that everyone is handling this differently and that is okay.

COVID Coronavirus Business Practices

“But other vendors aren’t {keeping the non-refundable retainer/charging a rescheduling fee/etc}!”

That’s great, but it doesn’t really matter what anyone else is doing in regards to their business policies.  As I said before, everyone is going to have a different way of handling things because everyone’s business and financial situation is different.  I personally don’t make business decisions based on what other people are doing – and neither do most people I know.  While some vendors may have the ability to reschedule without penalty or refund a retainer without question, most will not… and that doesn’t make them a bad person.  Throwing around judgmental comments in order to make vendors feel bad or guilty about their business policies just isn’t fair.  We are all trying to navigate this situation the best that we can.

“But {refunding/not charging rescheduling fees/etc} is just the right thing to do!”

Here’s the thing.  There is no “right thing to do” in this situation.  We are all stuck in this weird position of feeling extreme empathy for our clients, but also needing to make business decisions that will allow us to stay in business throughout the next 2 years.  Would I love to be in a financial position where I could gift everyone their non-refundable retainer back?  Of course!  But I’m not in that position and neither are most vendors.  Would I love to be in the financial position to allow all of my couples to reschedule into 2021 without any restrictions?  Of course!  But my business wouldn’t survive without the ability to book new business in 2021.  Everyone has to make business policies based on their unique situation.  Sure, a photographer who shoots 10 weddings per year can easily accommodate reschedules without blinking an eye.  But a photographer who shoots 40+ weddings per year simply can’t.  If those photographers who shoot 40+ weddings per year allowed every single couple from 2020 to reschedule into 2021, there would be no room for new business in 2021… or they’d have to book 2 years worth of weddings (80+ weddings!!!) in 2021 and be shooting triple headers all year, giving ALL of their clients a subpar experience.  Rescheduling a handful of weddings is one thing… rescheduling 40+ weddings is another beast.

Every vendor is trying to create policies based on what’s fair for everyone involved and every single vendor has a different story.  It has been so sad to see wedding vendors attacking each other.  Calling other vendors selfish, irresponsible, inconsiderate, greedy, heartless, insensitive, unreasonable… it’s really sad.  Don’t judge people for making decisions that are different than yours.  Nobody wants to have to make these tough decisions and have these difficult conversations with clients.  Judgement and name-calling is simply uncalled for.

COVID Coronavirus Business PracticesLet’s all just accept the fact that we are entitled to make our own business decisions and there is no need to attack someone for theirs.  If you are ready to go back to work and not afraid of the virus, great!  Let’s get back to work!  If you aren’t ready to go back to work because you’re afraid of the virus, that’s absolutely understandable!  You have to make the best decision for yourself, your family, and your business… but do not slam other vendors for not making the same decisions that you do.  Don’t throw other vendors under the bus in an attempt to make yourself look good because “you’re doing the right thing”.  There is no “right” or “wrong” here.  Your personal feelings about the virus should NOT impact your clients’ decision on whether they want to postpone or go on with their 2020 wedding as planned.  This is THEIR decision.

Do not overstep your bounds!  I’ve heard stories about vendors privately emailing clients and telling them that it is not safe to have their wedding and urging them to reschedule.  I’m sorry, but THIS IS NOT YOUR PLACE!  This is the clients choice, period.  Leave your personal feelings at the door and don’t try to sway your clients one way or the other.  If your client wants to have their wedding and you’re not comfortable fulfilling your end of the contract because of the virus, that’s okay.  Just be transparent about it versus pushing them to make a choice to align with your views.  If your client wants to reschedule even though you want to work, that’s also okay.  You have business policies in place to compensate you for the loss of income and you shouldn’t feel guilty about enforcing those policies.

COVID Coronavirus Business Practices

So I guess more than anything… BE KIND!!  To each other, to your clients, and to yourself!  In the end, no one is going to have handled this situation perfectly because we are learning as we go.  Give yourself and others grace.  We are all in this fight to save the wedding industry together!

2020 couples, if you’re seeing different postponement policies from different vendors, this is to be expected.  Every business is unique and has its own challenges when it comes to this pandemic.  Some vendors aren’t fearful of this virus and want to get back to work ASAP and some vendors are still concerned about exposing themselves to the virus and don’t want to jump back into weddings yet.  Just because one vendor is doing things one way, doesn’t mean that it’s the “right” way.  What’s right for one vendor could be completely different for another vendor.  So just try to understand that everyone is trying to do what is “right” for them and their business.  We hate having these difficult conversations just as much as you do… trust me.

And to my 2020 DCW couples, THANK YOU for being so patient and understanding throughout this process.  I am so lucky to have such amazing clients and I can’t wait to get back to work next month!!  I am so ready… let’s do this!!

read more

With a well-worn passport in hand, and an affinity for a good cocktail, Dana works with fun-loving and kind-hearted clients around the globe. 

meet DANA