Should you cancel your wedding because of COVID-19?

Updated Apr 23 2020
Guest post by Events by Merida

This post was written on March 13th, 2020. In the days since, it's become more and more clear that the best guidance is to just cancel everything, and we've revised this post to reflect that. We're leaving this up for posterity, but our guidance at this point isn't "SHOULD you cancel your wedding because of Covid-19" but "HOW do you cancel your wedding?"

This mask by Etsy seller PlagueDoctorMasks comes in a really lovely shade of ivory.

If you've been pulling a Sleeping Beauty since last November, you might've missed the news: there is a novel coronavirus strain that started out in China, and has now moseyed its way to the United States.

It's a rather nasty bug, but we're coming short of the full zombie apocalypse. None of this below is meant to be medical advice. Also, this is not intended to be insensitive to those who have lost loved ones to this disease. I'm only trying to bring a little levity to a stressful situation.

But on to the question that's been on a lot of people's minds: will this affect my wedding?

TL;DR: Yes, unless your wedding is in the fall or afterward.

 

But hang on to your towels, y'all, it's going to be ok.

Unless your wedding is in the next month or so, you're likely only going to see a reduced guest count at your wedding, and some delayed RSVPs as your guests watch the situation. If your RSVP date is within the next month, consider giving them a little extra time before pinning them down (unless your caterer is requesting your counts, in which case, do what you need to).

The trouble is the ones coming up in the next month. COVID-19 has a fairly high transmission rate- about the same as the flu. People seem to be slowly getting the memo about washing their hands and not coughing on other people. However, the municipalities are urging people to reconsider having large groups of people together. Example A: a wedding.

So should you cancel your wedding?

You shouldn't necessarily cancel it — but if your wedding is before June, you should reschedule. Dates at venues are filling up with other couples moving their date, so get the jump on a date you'd prefer.

If your venue and vendors have flexible rescheduling policies, I'd consider this option. Most vendors will work with you on this, especially us individuals. I know most of the people (including myself) that will bend over backward to try and make your new date work, or find someone that can. I'm lucky enough to have a team of coordinators, but your photographer/DJ might not.

PLEASE NOTE: I have yet to find a wedding insurance plan that covers pandemics (the one I thought did, I was later informed did not). So if you're going to cancel, check your policy and try to find a reason that is not COVID-19.

Please don't go forward with your wedding before the end of May. You're putting your loved ones at risk, and no amount of hand sanitizer will help. Nationally, authorities are asking for weddings to be postponed, and I think that's an excellent idea. People are ignoring quarantine orders, and that's causing the spread to continue like crazy.
Love your people, and love them later on this year!

  1. This is an excellent opportunity to have a small wedding and say you absolutely cannot have your older relatives at it for their own protection.

    BTW LOVE the Cure meme.

  2. My heart really goes out to anyone in the difficult position of having to decide whether and how to alter their wedding plans. After investing so much energy, thought, and hope into organizing, and with so many people's emotions involved, it would be devastating to contemplate canceling or even postponing a wedding.

    With that said, this article doesn't go far enough in conveying how serious this pandemic is.

    I'm writing from Seattle. Last weekend, I was rolling my eyes at organizations that were canceling events. The idea of closing schools and businesses seemed paranoid.

    I feel like I've lived a year of my life since then. Everyone in this city is now working from home if their job allows them to do so. (And those who can't are at risk of being laid off as restaurants and shops sit vacant.) Schools are almost universally closed – even public schools, which are a lifeline for poor families. Nonprofits are facing extinction as performances, festivals, and auctions get shut down right and left.

    My point here is not to scare people, but to illustrate that the situation can escalate *extremely* rapidly. And without a coherent government response, the best thing ordinary people can do during this pandemic is self-isolate.

    If a friend were getting married this spring, I would encourage them to postpone or cancel the wedding they had planned. There are other ways to be legally married, and there will be other opportunities to celebrate your marriage.

    A wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime event; but this is a once-in-a-century global pandemic. Better to take decisive action now, with compassion and humility, than to put your loved ones at risk.

    • Yep, I'm in Seattle too — and the shift in the last 24 hours has been intense. I just got a text half an hour ago that my son's school will be closed for at least five weeks.

      I have a follow-up post publishing tomorrow about how to cancel your wedding due to Coronavirus. I think even just in the past day, the feelings have shifted drastically about the issue. It's remarkable to watch.

      • Intense, drastic, remarkable… yes, all of that.

        Best of luck with your son's schooling situation. I teach at a private middle school, and our students all have laptops, which makes distance learning feasible (albeit challenging to get up and running). Most public schools have no option but to just cancel classes – not to mention vital social services.

        This article on social distancing from the Atlantic directly addresses weddings: https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2020/03/coronavirus-what-does-social-distancing-mean/607927/?fbclid=IwAR1CTF0kSj_qN7NDOhTWKs8rxdQ9lhVUt9lwrFm4oBaLIUuyS5qmb5rlCRU

        Here's the relevant extract:

        SHOULD MY FAMILY BE CANCELING EVENTS LIKE BIRTHDAY PARTIES OR WEDDINGS?

        Watson: It’s hard to ask everyone if they’re feeling sick and harder to know what their exposures have been. I would take a look at who is invited to the party. Are there people who are very vulnerable? Older people, people who have underlying health conditions, pregnant women? If that’s the case, I would err on the side of caution. I don’t want to tell somebody to cancel their wedding. That would be terrible. But I think you have to look at the situation, maybe ask guests who are feeling ill not to come. If it’s being held in a community where there’s widespread disease, then it might be worth [reconsidering the event].

        Ko: If those events can be postponed I think that’s certainly productive. If a wedding can’t be postponed, there are things you can do. Hold it in an open space, where people are spread apart. You have to be really careful about exposures and really practice social distancing from the elderly.

        Cannuscio: One of the best ways we can show love to the people we care about is to step back and to stay away. In many cases that takes courage, and it takes speaking out over these social norms that dictate that we should be polite and we should be together and we should celebrate and gather. Really seriously consider whether now is a joyful time to gather family members for a wedding celebration.

        • Hannah, that's hilarious — I'm an Atlantic subscriber, and literally was JUST reading that article five minutes ago. It's that final sentence that's the kicker: Really seriously consider whether now is a joyful time to gather family members for a wedding celebration.

  3. My wedding is planned for April 25th. We’ve already had a couple people change their RSVPs and that’s fine. I want them to be safe, but we ARE getting married that day.

  4. We were planning on flying to Oahu with our parents and child in May and getting married there but we're erring on the side of caution instead. We're all in relatively good health but the risk isn't worth it. So we're going to wait and see what happens before we redo our plans. I have my fingers crossed that we won't have to deal with getting a real I'd on top of everything else!

  5. This week was meant to be the "90 days to go" point. Instead it was the week our plans fell apart and we were forced to postpone our plans for a year.

    It's been absolutely incredible how quickly everything had changed. Three weeks ago we sent out an email reminding guests to book flights and accommodation if they hadn't already; it didn't even cross our minds that the pandemic would impact our wedding (and I'm a professional worrier). Two weeks ago, I started wondering if there was a chance our wedding would be impacted, but everyone (my fiance, my nurse FMIL, my venue coordinator) said it was highly unlikely. Three days ago, there was a major shift that threw our wedding plans into total jeopardy, and less than 24 hours later a global pandemic was declared, and my fiance and I immediately postponed everything out by a year. I suspect a few guests thought we were overreacting, but even in the space of 24 hours, I think now everyone is realising that this is incredibly serious.

    I was afraid of postponing our wedding. It felt like the worst thing that could happen. But now that we've done it, I'm relieved. I don't have to worry about the worst case scenario, because the worst case scenario happened. And frankly, moving everything out by a year is better than soldiering on and having a wedding we spent two years planning completely fall apart.

    I think I'm still coming to terms with what has happened in the last two weeks. It's still dawning on me that I won't be married in June 2020 after all. But then again, I don't think ANYONE thought the world would be like this even a few weeks ago.

  6. Thanks so much for this great resource, Offbeat Bride! I'm a wedding coordinator in Portland, Oregon, and have been thinking a lot about how I correspond with clients and vendors right now.

    I've had enough conversations with fellow vendors that I decided to start writing down resources that have helped me. Ariel of Offbeat kindly invited me to share those resources here: https://www.elisabethkramer.com/unwed/wedding-vendors-small-business-coronavirus

  7. My wedding is the 26th of this month. I am currently super heartbroken because my mom is at risk because of life long asthma. I don't want her to get sick because my wedding would feel like a massive guilt trip for the rest of my life and I don't want that. To say am I devastated is an understatement. I have so many emotions. I'm in Washington state, my mom is in North Carolina, and my fiance and I are getting married in Las Vegas. I don't want to change my date because it is so much for everyone that has tickets and hotels. This is literal hell. I don't want to get married in Washington state so that is completely off the table. I'm at a complete loss for what to do and I just want this nightmare to be over. I feel so bad for every other couple in the same situation I am in.

  8. This is a difficult time for anyone, I mean for every person, of course and for any business. Those in charge of services are strongly affected throughout the world. We hope that in the next period it will be better and that everything will be normal in the world of weddings and elsewhere. Take care!

  9. I think this post needs to be updated ASAP, or replaced with the direction to go to your local health authority for guidance. Even based on these comments here, I can see that people aren't fully aware of why we absolutely need social distancing at this moment.

    In collectivist cultures, people seem to clue in a little faster, but please make this clear to the readers in our hyper-individualist society: 1) Even if you are young and healthy, you can transmit the disease. This may happen without any symptoms presenting. 2) Many other young and healthy guests you invite will go home to, work around, or otherwise interact with vulnerable people. 3) Just because Washington State, for instance, has more cases than someplace else, does not indicate the true severity of the situation in the state with fewer REPORTED cases. States vary greatly by public health standards and the number of cases reported is directly related to the availability of testing and quality of primary care.

    I love y'all, but I think anyone intending to go through with their wedding in the next few months who has invited more than an elopement ceremony's worth of people is making a grave and consequential mistake.

  10. I'm based in the UK and I wanted to share my experience. I can tell you that it's very unlikely that any weddings will take place until at the social distancing measured are relaxed which are set to be in place here for one month at least. On the other front, I’ve discovered from speaking to a wedding planner that a lot of insurers are are able reimburse policy holders for ‘reasonable additional costs incurred in rearranging the wedding and/or wedding reception and/or wedding services to a similar standard to that catered for by the original budget’. But there is a deadline for this it, only applies up to 30th June. So, I can imagine many couples are going to be looking to rearrange their weddings for after this time. I’m not sure if the case with insurers is similar in the USA?

  11. Such a sad state of affairs – I feel so sorry for everyone who isn't able to have their perfect day…. When we look back at this situation, all I hope is that the world will be a more kind and thankful place.

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