AN UPDATE: 19.03.2020
Thank you so much to everyone who has been in touch, whether to show support and solidarity or to share how they are feeling if this post resonated. Since writing it a week ago, things have moved along quickly, with us having postponed four weddings so far to new dates and have another three in discussion. For us we are moving these dates for our clients without question and without financial penalty but it’s tough, and as we are now giving up a second date in our calendar to each wedding, we’re already looking at 4 days unavailable next year for new couples. This will undoubtedly impact us financially as a business but we are remaining positive – looking after our beloved clients is our first priority!
But it’s worth noting that if you are planning for later this year, 2021 or even 2022, it’s worth getting in touch to secure your favoured suppliers NOW. Diaries are becoming very busy now and your enquiry will also absolutely make the supplier’s day, I promise you. We all need lovely new enquiries now more than ever!
This week we have also been trying to spread the #postponedontcancel and #supportsmallbusiness messages, and recorded an interview for BBC Look East which went out last night at 6:30pm. It also featured our lovely couple Siobhan and Matt. They only used a small section in the piece but you can see the whole two minute section here.
Some of you may notice that is is our first blog post in a significant amount of time. We’re in the middle of a website redesign, and it was our intention to start blogging again on the new site when it was finished. However, as Covid-19 is in our midst, we felt like we wanted to address your wedding and the Coronavirus, and how the virus is going to potentially affect all the people who work so hard to make a wedding the dream day so many of our clients plan for.
This isn’t a blog on how to protect your wedding from cancellation or how to follow advice regarding your wedding and Coronavirus. Our friends at wedding planning company R and F weddings are already keeping many updated on the day to day situation with this excellent blog, and we recommend you bookmark it if you a currently planning a wedding or particularly getting married this year.
But what this blog is about is to ask you to be sensitive to the suppliers you have engaged. We are currently experiencing an unknown of our generation. We are waiting patiently for our government to make decisions or update us, whilst other countries take bigger decisions such as banning large events, or in Italy’s case, a complete lockdown. Understandably there are worries over whether your wedding will be able to go ahead, and whether there will be financial losses. Yet alongside your worries of your wedding, also worrying are a whole host of self-employed suppliers; suppliers who live every day striving to make weddings the most magical of days for their clients, suppliers who started their businesses from kitchen tables, working in coffee shops, sneaking in admin time between baby naps. They’re the ones who are tackling inboxes at 10pm or editing photos in the middle of a busy season at 2am. Whoever said being your own boss would mean you never worked a day in your life was a liar or not actually their own boss. Being self-employed means long and unsociable hours, often missing friends’ gatherings and parties, picking yourself up and putting on your game face when all you want to do is sleep. Sometimes you remember the days when you’d be able to pick up the phone and tell your manager you weren’t coming in today, that you weren’t feeling well, and crawling back under the duvet…
Being self-employed you regularly forgo all of that. Speaking from a wedding photographer point of view, although other on-the-day suppliers will relate, there is no such thing as a sick day. Your ‘boss’ on the day is your couple, and having invested months into them and their day, the last thing you want to do is let them down. We look after ourselves, avoid places and people where we might pick up illnesses and try to keep healthy by eating well and working out. Being self-employed means no official sick days and no sick pay when we aren’t well enough to do the job.
So the rise in discussions and for some, cancellations already, of events and weddings is a frightening prospect. Whereas the government are reassuring employed workers about sick pay rights, self employed people are looking at whole swathes of work being wiped out from them. Imagine this, you go to work and your boss says they are locking down due to the virus, you are you go home and not come to work for the next month – but you’re covered by your sick pay at least so you’ll get by. Now imagine going to work and having your boss say the company is shutting down for the month, maybe two, and you’re not going to be paid because the business is no longer open. Maybe you were going to look for a new role this year but decided to commit to your current role for one more season, but now you are faced with a couple of months of no pay at all. Pretty scary prospect right? This is what all your wedding suppliers are currently going through and yes, it is quite a terrifying prospect.
In a recent BBC news post, it stated that in the latest UK figures for the last three months of 2019, about five million people are self-employed. Don’t get us wrong, being self-employed is brilliant. Being the main decision maker for your own destiny is a powerful thing to have and to do things 100% your way so you can give your best to your clients is amazing. Yet we put all our eggs in the basket of the one client for that day, taking a booking, turning down others, sometimes many multiple dates over and over again, so when a cancellation occurs, it can be a huge dent in your cash flow, maybe even the the difference between paying the bills or not that month. Multiple weddings being cancelled could put many self employed people completely out of business. Yes of course, a well run business will have a contingency for issues that may arise, but the scale of what could arise is unprecedented in our lifetime.
This is why we and many other suppliers will always recommend wedding insurance as your first point of call when planning your wedding, so that you can be covered if balances are paid out. You may find if you didn’t take it out you will struggle to get cover now, however, hopefully you are reading this having done so, and there are some things to consider when deciding if you need to cancel your wedding due to Coronavirus:
DON’T panic-cancel your wedding or suppliers
If there are no restrictions against it going ahead, no foreign office restrictions on travelling to your wedding and your venue has no issue then please do not panic cancel. Your insurance will unlikely pay out and you will be left with the full burden of costs either from non-refundable deposits or even full balances. For the majority of suppliers, us included, the current status is that normal cancellation policies apply so check all those terms and conditions you signed on booking and keep yourself informed of the day to day picture as it may change. As it stands on the day this blog has been posted, UK weddings are largely unaffected, as are many European destination weddings, bar in the main Italy, which currently has a ban on all public gatherings until April 3rd. Italy’s aggressive stance may well benefit them and see them tackle the virus so that they can somewhat recover their summer season, but it remains to be seen.
Talk to your suppliers about Coronavirus
It may be that you had a large amount of guests travelling from another country and now they may not make it which makes you want to not go ahead on your original date. Talk to your suppliers about possible postponement, many suppliers may be able to move your date and carry forward any payments to the new date if they have it free in their diary. We are all human and in this together, but don’t expect full refunds ‘just because.’ Again look at your agreements and what your wedding insurance will cover you for, and when the best time is to make key decisions.
What if your wedding supplier catches the Coronavirus or has to self-isolate?
This should be no different to if they were generally ill or could no longer provide the service you have engaged them for, so their cancellation policy should have explained what would happen in this instance. If you are in any way unsure then do contact them for clarification.
And if you’re a wedding supplier?
The wedding industry as a whole has a great sense of community. If you are concerned about not being able to fulfil any contractual agreements, or maybe you yourself are vulnerable to Coronavirus and don’t want to be attending a large gathering of people, now is the time to start checking dates with other people who do what you do, have contingency plans and a few select people who could step in if you need them to, or even think about passing a booking on. We are firm believers of #communitynotcompetition and it’s at times like these we all need to pull together.
In yesterday’s budget, the government announced there will be a “£3,000 cash grant to 700,000 of our smallest businesses, delivered by Local Authorities, and worth a total of £2 billion.” They have also said they will make it ‘easier’ for self-employed businesses to access benefits if they need them, but all of this is lacking detail at the moment. We’ll try to update this post if we discover more.
If you’re about to start wedding planning, make insurance TOP of your list
It’s all very exciting when you are about to start planning your wedding, but once you have an idea of the budget you are going to spend, and how many guests you are likely to have, take out wedding insurance. It really isn’t that big a cost in the grand scheme of your wedding budget, but could save you a fortune if things go wrong out of your hands. In our eleven years of shooting we’ve seen two barn venues burn down, two venues go into administration, multiple dress designers go into administration, a cake shop shutting without notice… We don’t want to scare you and there have been many more events without a hitch but why take the risk? You wouldn’t buy a new car and not insure it so why would an event be any different? It’s still a significant amount of money to spend so keep yourself covered. Here’s some useful comparison lists:
The overarching point of this blog is to remind you that behind the screeching headlines, is an extremely vulnerable group of businesses, who do what they do because they are passionate about making weddings magical. Because they adore being part of your special day, to make their clients happy – to make dreams come true! This is going to be hugely challenging to many many wedding businesses and a little sensitivity is going to go a long way.
As ever if any of our clients have any thoughts or fears and want to discuss their weddings, feel free to get in touch. Below are some useful links to keep yourselves informed. Let’s all get through this together.