Covid-19 and lockdown
I just want to say
To all of the couples out there who were due to marry in 2020, I am so sorry that this has hit, what should have been, one of the happiest times in your life. I can’t begin to imagine how it must feel to have everything you have saved and planned for, to be paused.
To all of my fellow self-employed wedding industry suppliers, I’m sorry this has hit your business. The business that, like me, took you years to build through hard work, sweat and tears. Time spent away from family working on weddings, often working two jobs whilst you build your business up, all so you can have a better life.
Nobody knows how long social restrictions will last. Yes, you may have read the proposed exit strategy, but really, nobody knows. So, here is my take on things and I have absolutely no inside knowledge! This is coming from the heart of a person who has seen her hard work over the years come to an abrupt end overnight. From somebody who works in an industry that, at the moment, is in tatters. Somebody who is spending a lot of time thinking about things she can do to bring money in to pay the mortgage. It’s not fair, it’s not right. Not fair on me, other wedding suppliers and of course, our lovely couples.
So, having had lots of messages from couples, it’s time to set out the facts. I hope what follows helps in some way for all of us, to be kind to one another and see things through a different perspective.
We have feelings too
Please remember we are human. Although we act like superheroes most of the time, ensuring our couples get the best possible service, people who work in the wedding industry are human too! We catch viruses and get ill like everybody else. So, if you have been trying to contact your venue or a wedding supplier and have not got any answers, please be mindful that maybe they are one of those families who have been directly affected by Covid. That in itself is of no help to you I’m sure, if you have a wedding coming up in June and you need answers, of course it will cause you stress. So please, if and where possible try and exercise some kindness and deeper understanding. Please don’t take to social media straight away and start slandering venues, photographers or florists and leaving bad reviews on Google. This affects us, deeply. This kind of behaviour causes serious ramifications, ones I’m sure you don’t want to be held accountable for later down the line when Covid is a distant memory.
Please also understand that for a lot of us, this is our life’s work. Self-employed people work so hard to carve a path for themselves; their life savings often go into their passion. Overnight in March, we all lost our incomes. What the government say about furloughing or paying 80% is rubbish, please don’t assume all wedding suppliers are getting paid, some of us are not. Again, please exercise some sympathy when contacting us. We are worrying about putting food on the table and paying our mortgages, just like the rest of the country.
We want to help you
Please understand, every wedding supplier LOVES their couples, if we didn’t love this job then we wouldn’t be doing it. It’s hard, stressful and full of pressure. However, we still want to help you, we want to make sure you can still have the day you dreamed of. We are not the enemy, sitting at home swimming around in a massive pile of deposits. Those deposits are our wages, they pay for us to live, just like your salary. That’s why we are all asking you to; postpone, don’t cancel.
Frustration and understanding
Right now, as it currently stands, we are in a semi lockdown. We do not know when lockdown will end. Any wedding planned for the period of lockdown cannot go ahead. This is not the fault of any party. This is an act of God; the wedding cannot go ahead, it is neither parties’ fault. Nobody saw this coming. This is what is called a frustrated contract. In simple terms, this all becomes about negotiation. It is now up to both parties to negotiate an agreement. Demands and threats are not possible nor feasible. Take for instance, a florist. A florist who was due to work a wedding the weekend after lockdown began. That florist has bought all of your flowers that you have paid for. Those flowers cannot now be used. Is that your fault? No. Is it the florist’s fault? No. That florist will now have to use their profits from that job to source new flowers for your new date. Demanding your money back is very unfair and it’s very unfair that you are left with nothing. Now you negotiate. You have a conversation on a human level, you talk, ideally over the phone, not in some passive aggressive email. Have a chat, discuss options. None of us in our lifetimes have ever had to deal with this, so we are all learning.
If a complaint were to go to court, be aware BOTH parties need to be able to prove that they acted fairly, be able to show that they negotiated, offered solutions, back up plans, showed clear communication.
All wedding suppliers should have provided you with written confirmation, terms and conditions, contracts etc detailing their services.
Please bear in mind that extra charges may be applied. This is purely down to each individual. Please remember the work you have paid for was supposed to be undertaken in this financial year. If a wedding supplier has a clause in their terms that says “extra charges may occur for prime dates” then this is their terms. I have seen lots of shaming on Facebook, where photographers, cake designers or florists are charging more to move those bookings to another year. Remember, inflation goes up, particularly for a product (flowers) nobody knows what the import prices will be after all of this is over, expect prices to rise. It is up to each individual wedding suppliers’ personal circumstances and contract to make a decision like that. We are all in different financial situations and there is no uniform rule on what is right or wrong. What you read on a wedding Facebook group from one couple saying “My photographer didn’t charge us to move our date to 2021” and another that said “My photographer charged us another £600 to move our date” is down to the individual wedding supplier. This is their business, their livelihoods, they can conduct it however they see fit, or need to. Again, negotiate, have a chat, something may be able to be worked out.
Right now, we are still in lockdown. If you have not been able to negotiate, (not demand), a new date to postpone your wedding to with all of your suppliers or negotiations have broken down, where exactly do you stand?
Again, it’s a negotiation. It’s a conversation to be had. There’s been a lot of misinformation, some advising that couples should be getting full refunds is untrue. This whole situation is terrible. Terrible for everybody involved, but your wedding suppliers have already been doing work in the background. We have emailed, zoomed, met you in person, sent out contracts, welcome packs, done pre shoots, had a menu tastings, venue meetings, posted brochures, paid for advertisements that allowed you to find them in the first place and this costs money. This is what your deposit pays for. Work done prior to the wedding day. Yes, we will not be able to provide the main service, but we have been working for you; again, not just sat on a pile of deposits. The law states that a non-refundable deposit doesn’t exist. However, a deposit covers work already completed, so please, have a good think about what your suppliers have already done for you. If you email your supplier stating that you believe are entitled to a full refund then be prepared to be disappointed. Be kind.
Cancellation outside of lockdown
There’s no easy way to say this, if you choose to cancel your wedding in October 2020 because you’re nervous about a second spike, it’s a breach of contract. You lose your money as per the contract. You may even find yourself having to pay a percentage of the total balance. Again, as we keep saying, postpone, don’t cancel. If the UK is out of lockdown by October then your wedding suppliers can still do their jobs. We can still fulfil the work we intended to do for you. Therefore, it is your choice to cancel, and will be treated as such. Then, yet again, it comes down to each individual supplier and how they intend to run their business, there are no rules, no rights or wrongs. Some may choose to fully refund because they feel sorry for you, those same people might have second income or a partner who earns 60K a year and can afford to. Others may be single parents or struggling to feed their kids and will stick strictly to their terms and conditions, that they are legally entitled to. My advice to you is, please approach with understanding and on a human level, again, be kind. You are more likely to get somewhere if you approach suppliers in a nice way, rather than sending demanding emails. If you don’t work with all of your suppliers to find a date that works for everybody then you need to be prepared to lose money. Again, if it were to go to court, you need to be able to prove that you have acted fairly by considering all parties when looking for a new date. Simply emailing them and saying “ Heather, found a new date, oh, you can’t do it, I want my money back” isn’t fair. You should have negotiated.
When postponing to another year, please bear in mind, wedding suppliers get booked up 18 months to two years in advance. The chances of you getting a prime Saturday in June, July or August are slim. You need to be prepared for this. You also need to make a list of which suppliers you absolutely cannot live without. You will be extremely lucky to keep all of your suppliers for a new date, unless you are prepared to move to a mid-week date. I’ve seen a few couples not happy with this, they have “paid” for a prime Saturday and demand another one. No day of the week holds a higher value than any other, granted a Saturday is easier in most ways for planning, travelling etc. Remember this whole situation will change our working lives forever. The guests you invite will simply be so happy to attend your wedding that they will make it work, they’ll take a few days off. At the end of the day, I firmly believe if you are lucky enough to walk away from 2020 and have a wedding in 2021 with ALL of your loved ones still alive and around you, then it really doesn’t matter if that’s on a Saturday or a Tuesday. Please don’t demand a reduced price for a weekday, we work just as hard for you on a Wednesday as we would on a Saturday.
Insurance and acting fairly
I have booked and paid for some flights this year. Some couples have chosen to postpone to dates that I should be on holiday, I will lose my money. I am not insured for this situation. That is my fault for not getting insurance when I should, but I won’t be hounding those couples to pay for my flights, it’s not their fault. Likewise, if you didn’t purchase wedding insurance last year, Why not? I can’t understand why we are getting all the stick instead of the insurance companies. That is literally their sole job.
Remember, if you demand a full refund from every supplier you have booked, because you are not prepared to postpone; good luck with finding a new venue, a photographer, florist, caterers etc in 2021. A lot of suppliers will all be going bust and you may struggle to find somewhere to hold a wedding next year.
What we can do as an industry
As an industry, at the moment we are under an increasing amount of scrutiny from the media. Stories of venues not returning deposits or charging couples for weddings in lockdown that simply cannot go ahead. Please be reassured, this is a tiny snapshot of an industry full of people who do what they do to make people happy on their wedding day. The vast majority of wedding suppliers have bent over backwards to help their couples. So, wedding suppliers, what can you do for your couples? Send them a card in the post, chat to them on the phone and use this time to get a better relationship with them. Get online and stay online. Yes, it’s an uncertain time, but it’s more uncertain for your couples. If your social media presence goes down the pan throughout this pandemic, you are no doubt going to be hit with messages of worry. If your couples don’t see you online then they will worry. If you’re directly affected by Covid, tell them, put a message out on social media simply saying you need some time out. Don’t whatever you do, go radio silent.
Suppliers, if weddings are downsized with smaller numbers and shorter coverage then consider offering a split package. Shoot the ceremony in 2020, under social distancing rules, with vastly reduced guests and timings and then shoot the reception at a better more convenient time in 2021. This way, no income is lost, simply delayed. Yes, it will mean a horrendously busy 2021, but you can’t have it every way.
What couples can do
There are lots of things that you can do to help your wedding suppliers in this awful time. The following things are simply suggestions, nobody will expect them or demand them, but explaining why it may help both parties might may it clearer to you.
1) Write a positive review for your wedding suppliers, if they have bent over backwards to help you, like 99% of the ones I know personally have done, then get online and spread the word. Not only does it help our business, it helps our morale. In a time where we can’t work, cannot share recent work we have done to bring in new customers for the next few years, a positive review can mean the world to small businesses.
2) Buy things from your suppliers, gift vouchers, wedding albums, cake tasters, flowers…. KEEP THEM IN BUSINESS!
3) Make a plan B and plan C if needed. Have a serious chat about your options, both as a couple and with your suppliers. You absolutely do have options. Your wedding suppliers want to keep your business, we can suggest elopements, celebrants, and lots of other things that will ensure you can still have your wedding. It may just be a little different to the way it was planned.
4) If you’ve agreed to a partial refund from your wedding suppliers through whatever circumstances, then accept or suggest a payment plan. Most of us would have been starting to get paid in full round about now, we haven’t, the money in the bank is slim. We cannot produce money out of thin air to refund every client. We will go bust. Again, be thoughtful, kind and understanding. If communications have broken down, be prepared to accept a payment plan to return partial deposits over a set period of months.
5) Use your insurance, I would like to think that most couples get insurance, if you can claim, then try to help out your suppliers by paying them again out of your claim money. Even if it’s just a token gesture, it will mean a lot to a self-employed person struggling financially.
I know this time is unfair, scary and unpredictable. But, try and find the positives, you’re not the only ones. Your wedding will never be forgotten, that’s for sure. When you do finally get to have your wedding you and you guests will have been social distancing for so long, they will be like caged animals ready for the mother of all parties! Rethink your entire day. Do you need all the materialistic stuff, or will it be more about family and friends? Plan a UK honeymoon, use this time to get the map out and plan something closer to home, less expensive and on home turf. Give something back to the struggling UK economy. You suddenly have more time to save up.
Potential future issues
From a photography point of view there are a few things that may crop up which could cause some problems. If packages include second shooters or pre shoots these may no longer be able to be included or go ahead. The industry is on its knees. Lots of suppliers have gone bust, or under the stress, have decided to quit. There may be fewer on the ground next year. Photographers won’t be able to allocate second shooters until closer to the wedding date as it will become priority for those photographers to find a full day of paid work, rather than take a second shooting job. So please be patient with this.
A final note
Remember, this is no one’s fault. Not your wedding suppliers, not yours. We are all human. Suppliers, remember your couples have had their day cancelled, are under an incredible amount of stress and worry. Couples, remember your wedding suppliers have lost their incomes and are worrying about their future.
You will marry, you will have a wedding day. Although it may not be what you had in mind, it will happen. With any luck, you’ll be celebrating with every single one of your relatives around you on a day filled with love, happiness and memories, be it on a Saturday in 2021 or a Tuesday in 2025!
To everybody, BE KIND. We are all in this together.
A personal thank you to every single one of my couples who have been wonderful in communicating with me. I have, so far, been able to accommodate each and every one of you with your chosen postponement date, at no extra cost.
Regardless of whether I’m you’re wedding photographer or not, if you have any worries about your wedding day or if you’d like to book me for your intimate wedding now restrictions have been eased, please contact me.
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