Q. Coronavirus forced us to postpone or cancel our wedding. Why are our vendors charging us fees and refusing to give refunds?

A. Oof, y’all. I know. The universe is completely fucking unfair right now. Not only are you stuck at home, all day every day with your partner, trying to work in an uncomfortable chair at your dining room table, but now you have to reschedule the wedding you’ve been planning for a year.

And on top of that, some of your vendors are charging you reschedule fees and/or increased rates to do it. What the fuck, right?

First of all: I’m sorry that this is happening to you. This entire situation just completely sucks. You are absolutely entitled to feel pissed off, sad, frustrated, and any other way while you navigate this.

But please don’t take it out on your vendor team. This is a lose-lose situation.

Trust me when I say that we’re all feeling a lot of these same feelings. There’s nothing we want more, professionally, than for you to have the wonderful wedding you’ve been planning, with our full support.

We don’t want to charge you rescheduling fees or increase our rates. But we need to if we’re planning to still be in business next year when your new wedding date comes around.

Bear with me for a minute while I explain.

Wedding Venues and Vendors are Virtually All (Very) Small Businesses.

Some, like caterers, are larger operations with multiple full-time employees. Others, like your planner or photographer, may literally be just one person who sometimes hires other seasoned pros to assist on your wedding day.

Facing down postponement after postponement (plus some cancellations) during one of the busiest parts of wedding season means our predicted income streams, that we depend on to pay our rent/mortgages, feed our families, and put gas in our cars so we can get to your weddings, is unexpectedly looking quite grim.

You probably know that already, but you may not have considered that we aren’t hanging onto giant cash reserves like the big box stores or Amazon or Starbucks. We don’t, for the most part, have 3 or 6 or 9 months worth of dollars saved to pay ourselves in case of unprecedented global pandemics.

Much like retail workers, house cleaners, hairstylists, actors, and other service providers and creative types, we are suddenly out of work and we can’t work your wedding day from home.

Your Wedding is Not the Product You Are Purchasing

(or, Why Are There Even Reschedule/Cancellation Fees in the First Place?)

When you hire us, you likely think that what you’re buying is a wedding and so if that wedding isn’t happening, why should you pay for it? But what you’re actually buying is a totally unique product: our services on a specific date.

Once you hire us, we can’t sell that product to anyone else. The inventory is gone. And if we give you a replacement product – your new wedding date – we can’t sell that one to anyone else either.

On top of that, there is a very real limit to how much inventory we can create: there are only so many Saturdays in a year and we can only work so many weddings before we get burned out. If we move three months’ worth of weddings from 2020 to 2021 (or from spring to fall), we’re very quickly going to be giving less than our best to all of our clients because we’ll be spread too thin.

We are essentially giving you a buy-one-get-one-free deal if we don’t charge you for that. And, FWIW, we’ll also be doing extra work relating to the date change – updating paperwork, rescheduling staff, adjusting orders for materials or ingredients, possibly losing non-refundable payments to our own suppliers, and in the case of planners, managing all of that across your entire vendor team.

That’s why you’ll find that most of our contracts include provisions for date change fees, increased rates, and/or penalties for cancellation. The closer it is to your original wedding date, the less likely we’ll be able to book another client in your place.

We Are All in This Together

Because this situation has literally never happened to any of us before, we are all struggling to figure it out. We want to be here for you now and we want to STILL be here for you whenever your wedding is able to happen.

Yes, it sucks that a catastrophic event that is in now way your fault is costing you extra money. But… you likely budgeted for your wedding as an expense above the essentials for staying alive, fed, and housed; for your event team, your payments go directly towards our own basic needs.

We need you to have empathy for us, too. Please understand that fees associated with a date change are not a punishment; they’re a business decision that is designed to ensure we can keep running.

Every business has to make its own decision about how much leniency it can offer during this time. Some have the flexibility to offer a change without a fee or a cancellation with a full refund, but many others do not. Still more have made up special policies or exceptions to deal with this, like offering only Fridays/Sundays for reschedules or limiting new dates to specific months.

If you’re struggling financially due to the pandemic – talk to your vendors. I promise we are all humans with empathy for you and this shitty, shitty situation and we will do whatever we can to move forward with a plan that works for everyone.

And please, please, please don’t fight your vendors if they can’t be flexible and they need to enforce the terms in the contracts you signed with them. You know all those posts saying you should pre-purchase your next haircut and keep your paying for your gym membership and buy a gift card to your favorite local restaurant so that they can stay in business? We’re your neighborhood small businesses, too – and we need your support.

xoxo, Cindy
(your solopreneur wedding planner who’s always here with the Real Talk)

p.s. If you want some professional help with your own COVID-19 wedding postponement (and you wanna support this small biz during difficult times), you can get that here.

Cindy Savage | Aisle Less Traveled

Cindy Savage | Aisle Less Traveled

Cindy Savage is the queer, feminist wedding planner behind Aisle Less Traveled and the co-creator/co-host of the Super Gay Wedding podcast. When she's not busy planning unique and creative weddings for the absolute best couples around, she can usually be found wearing stretchy pants with her nose in a book and a glass of wine in hand. She currently lives in Seattle with her partner and an assortment of small houseplants.

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