Coronavirus: Advice for Wedding Businesses
The UK in lockdown and has meant there will no longer be social gathering in the country for the foreseeable future. There is no doubt that COVID-19 will affect the wedding industry. The only question is how significantly and what we, as business owners, can do to reduce the impact on couples planning a 2020 wedding. Bridelux Atelier and London Bridal Fashion Week have both been postponed due to the outbreak. We expect more events will be impacted in a similar way.
Weddings that have been planned for many months are being cancelled and postponed.
By looking at the impact of Coronavirus on weddings across Europe, we can predict what couples in the UK will be facing over the next weeks and months.
LATEST FROM THE GOVERNMENT:
16/6/20 – Still no news on weddings to take place by the Government despite rumours of a potential restart from 15th June.
Northern Ireland has allowed outdoor weddings of up to 10 people but there is still no news for the rest of the UK. ‘Small weddings’ were included in the governments’ second phase of reopening the country announced on the 11th of May 2020. This included the reopening of bridal stores and other non-essential retailers like florists and menswear stores on the 15th of June. With no new mention of weddings, we may be waiting until the government move the country into phase 3. Dominic Raab assured us at the Downing Street briefing on Monday 15th of June that this would be no sooner than the 4th of July.
Restaurants, Theatres, Pubs, Cafes and Night Clubs closed from 20th March 2020.
Along with business focused grants and loans, the government have this evening announced the closure of many hospitality and entertainment venues. This will most certainly affect many couples, wedding venues and suppliers across the country. While this is obviously going to cause businesses financial issue, the Chancellor revealed a glimmer of hope. Rishi Sunak followed this announcement by stating that the government will be deferring taxes and abolishing business rates for the hospitality sector. Home delivery services will remain unaffected. Alongside this, many small businesses will also receive grants to cover up to 80% of employee wages up to £2500. There wasn’t very much clarity on what will happen for those employees who are on zero hour contracts.
Sole traders such as photographers, florists and other relevant wedding suppliers, will also be eligible for the statutory sick pay and can apply for universal credit where they may need further financial support.
Watch the full announcement on the BBC website.
Should you encourage your couples to postpone their wedding?
If their wedding is in the next 3 weeks, this is the only option. For weddings in March to June 2020 it is very strongly advised to reduce any possible liability. It is likely that neither your business insurance NOR the couples’ wedding insurance will cover Coronavirus, postponing has to be the only sensible option to reduce liability for both parties.
Postponing if the couple is insured
Most wedding insurance policies will not cover the costs if the couple choose to postpone. Just as with travel insurance, the cancellation and postponement clauses only come into place if they are forced to reschedule and even then it is thought that there will be clauses in most policies that means they won’t have to pay out.
- Discuss an alternative date so they know that they have a back up plan and don’t need to make a decision too early.
- Be clear with them as to when you need a final decision.
Remember; as soon as they voluntarily postpone, they can’t claim on their insurance if the situation advances and government restrictions change. But if their insurance might not cover them anyway, it becomes irrelevant.
Postponing if the couple isn’t insured
We’ve been heartened to hear that venues are being so helpful in arranging an alternative date at no extra charge for couples wanting to postpone. We hope that this continues to be the case and it paves the way for other suppliers to do the same.
There are definite advantages to this approach:
- Allowing or encouraging your couples to postpone keeps your team safer. No one wants to miss out on being at a wedding so for venues, caterers and others there on the day, there is a risk to your team from wedding guests that may attend when they should be self-isolating.
- Depending on your contract, if you are unable to carry out your commitment to the couple, for example if your venue is forced to close or you are unwell, you will probably be obliged to refund in full.
- Allowing couples to postpone at this relatively early stage will put your couples’ minds at rest and allow them to refocus on the new date, while you focus on those that are still keen to go ahead if they can.
For most of us it is a waiting game to see how things progress.
From the experts
We are taking a belt and braces approach to all necessary precautions to ensure public safety.Matt Hancock
Practical suggestions for venues and wedding suppliers:
- Update your online calendar to appear on the Late Availability section. If you advertise with Guides for Brides you have access to a free calendar in your business hub. Email your account manager if you’d like help setting it up. Lots of couples with weddings booked over the next 3 months are looking at their options to change dates. Make sure you are one of the options they are considering.
- Add the calendar widget to your own website so couples can check your availability there too. Again, our account managers are here to help you.
- Add a mobile number to all your online listings. This way, you can be contacted if you are unable to get into work.
- For venues, look at measures you can take to allow weddings to take place safely. Can you move all or part of the wedding outdoors or into a marquee? Could you boost your wifi or set up a dedicated connection to allow live-streaming? Are you able to be flexible in allowing a reduction in the number of guests without penalties for the couple?
- If you haven’t already, contact your couples. In particular, contact those who have weddings in the next 3 – 6 months to discuss any contingency plans.
Being absolutely clear on your policy for various scenarios will help reassure couples and allow them to make contingency plans. The predicted level of interruption and impact on social events is fairly unprecedented so you may need to look at your own policies first.
Couples are concerned about losing deposits and whether they will be liable for the full costs. You need to be able to offer them up-to-date, accurate information. Some key issues to consider:
- Your Cancellation Policy: What is your cancellation policy 1 day / 1 week / 1 month before the wedding if the couple chooses to cancel?
- What is your policy if the couple significantly reduces the scale of the wedding and just invite close family? Or choose to hold the wedding ceremony but delay the reception?
- Government Intervention: What happens if postponing or cancelling is out of their control as the government or local authority stops social gatherings?
- What happens if you choose to shut down your venue or business, or your staff aren’t available to work?
“it is possible that up to one-fifth of employees may be absent from work during peak weeks” – Government advice
Consider what the knock-on effects will be from these scenarios. If you cancel your part in the wedding, will you be liable for their consequential losses if the wedding then has to be cancelled? Most importantly, communicate with your couples; let them know what plans you have in place. They will be worrying, so if they haven’t contacted you yet, contact them.
Wedding Insurance and COVID-19
The main wedding insurers stopped issuing new cover on Monday 9th March. If your couples didn’t already have insurance, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to arrange it now.
Those with wedding insurance should be covered for cancellation if they or an immediate family member are ill or if the venue is unable to hold their wedding. This includes venue closure by the local authority. It will not cover situations where guests choose not to come.
“If you are an existing customer, we can assure you that your policy remains in place and unchanged.” – John Lewis Wedding Insurance
Whether or not your couples have insurance may influence how you deal with a cancellation or other changes to their plans. For example, they may need to cancel in order to get an insurance refund and then rebook, rather than simply postpone or reduce the size of the wedding.
Play Fair on Contracts
Your contract with the couple will probably have fairly punitive clauses if they cancel. However, that contract was probably designed to discourage couples from cancelling just because they changed their mind. Think about whether it feels right to enforce those terms if they are cancelling in order to be responsible and reduce the spread of Coronavirus, and whether there is anything you can do to help.
What alternatives can you offer for weddings affected by Coronavirus
Couples are facing the fact that their wedding won’t be the day they imagined and will be trying to decide whether to go ahead with a smaller wedding, postpone to a later date or cancel entirely.
Consider which alternatives you could easily put in place.
Could you allow couples to postpone their wedding to another date? It may be that this has certain clauses, such as paying the rates applicable for the date they choose or choosing a midweek date.
Can you reduce their losses by only charging for the costs you will actually incur? This may have repercussions further down the supply chain but there is a responsibility on all to try to mitigate losses.
Would you be happy for them to reduce the size of the wedding without penalty?
As a business, you will undoubtedly face financial losses and you will be keen to minimise them. But bear in mind the goodwill and benefit to your reputation if you can really look after your couples and find a solution you are all happy with.
Have contingency plans in place, communicate clearly, but don’t panic your couples unnecessarily. They will be looking to you as a professional for guidance and reassurance. So, if there is a chance that their wedding can go ahead as planned, keep that as Plan A. If you seem concerned, your clients will feel that anxiety and react to it.
You should, of course, be truthful with clients about possible delays in the supply chain and problems that you can foresee; however, you should also express the appropriate confidence in handling the situation if you can. Your clients will have more faith in you and your problem-solving abilities if you are open and honest with them explain the options and contingency plan.
We’d encourage you to share our advice for brides and grooms regarding Coronavirus, so you can provide up to date information to your clients. We are updating this blog regularly as the situation develops.
All information is correct to the best of our knowledge at 19.00hrs on 16/3/20 but the situation is rapidly changing and we cannot be held responsible for actions as a result of this advice.
Health Secretary announcement
Government Advice for dealing with Coronavirus in the UK