The Federal Government has suggested that restrictions around public gatherings due to COVID-19 may last up to six months. As a result, many couples are not only postponing weddings for upcoming months such as April and May, but also into the winter months of June, July and August.
As a wedding supplier, it can be hard keeping on top of the needs of all our couples and how we can postpone weddings while still maintaining our bottom line. Of course, the message is simple: Postpone, don’t cancel. At the end of the day, a wedding later in 2020 or into 2021 is going to be better for both parties than no wedding at all.
On April 3, 2020, we ran a webinar with leading wedding industry expert, author, business consultant, and educator Alan Berg, who has been in the industry for over 25 years. He’s experienced recessions, downturns, and other tough times, and here he shares his advice on how to postpone a wedding for a couple during COVID-19.
Alan’s Tip: Reach out proactively
Couples are going through the same uncertainty and emotions as we are at the moment. So, it’s important to reach out to your couples to let them know that you’re thinking about them.
To make this process simple, we suggest reaching out to couples by the immediacy of their wedding date.
For venues, Alan suggests steering the conversation rather than waiting on the couple to reach out. He recommends starting the conversation with something like this:
“Let’s get you rescheduled so you can have some certainty about what to change your planning to. We have quite a few couples who are also in the same situation as you and our calendar is filling quickly with their requests. Let’s take a look at the calendar and lock your date in while we can.”
Other vendors should also reach out to couples to discuss the potential of new dates or find out about their plans.
Alan says the worst thing you can do is wait for someone to tell you what’s happening and risk missing out. The best thing you can do is strengthen the relationship with your existing couples with strong leadership and empathetic communication.
Alan’s Tip: Help your couples set a new date
When you know that a couple is going to postpone, it’s important to lock in a new date. That date shouldn’t just be something that is convenient to the couple but that also fits in with your bottom line. Venues will likely be the first contact a couple reaches out to, so it’s up to you to lock in a date that makes sense to your business and the industry.
Alan recommends not giving up your most popular wedding dates for 2021, as then you have one couple who have taken away two of your big dates. Plus, we know that most of those dates may already be taken up anyway.
It’s about talking to your couples and discussing what their options are to rebook your venue.
When looking at wedding photos, no one has ever asked; “what day of the week was that?” Guests will have as much fun on the dancefloor, food will taste just as good, and the pictures will look the same on a Thursday as they do on a Saturday.
Talk to your couples to let them know that if they do need to pick a less popular day of the week that their guests will understand. Normally, guests might ask why a couple has chosen a weekday wedding. But if their wedding is postponed, guests will more than likely thank the couple for still including them in their big day.
For other vendors who might be a bit later in the planning stage, this is where reaching out proactively will work in your favour, Alan says. You can ask a couple what dates they might be looking at. If they’re unsure, you have an opportunity to suggest dates you’re available to help influence their decision.
Some couples might have already postponed their weddings to a period that is still unknown, such as September. If you have couples who might reach into this unknown stage, Alan recommends discussing an additional Plan B date with them. This should again be a less popular date so you’re not setting aside two popular dates for the one couple.
Alan’s Tip: Encourage couples to move their entire team
If a couple chooses a popular date in the wedding calendar, the chances are that some, if not most, of their suppliers will already be booked out. Couples have spent a significant amount of time choosing their vendors and putting together their perfect wedding. The emotional toll of postponing that wedding is going to be compounded if they can’t have all those amazing suppliers they already had their heart set on.
Venues, this is again where it lies to you to encourage couples to postpone to less popular dates. A couple has a much higher chance of moving their entire wedding team if they choose a less popular Thursday over a Saturday.
The reality is that a couple postponing to a weekday wedding could have a smaller headcount of guests. This may mean they spend a bit less on costs such as catering or venue charges per head or weekday rates may come into play. But at the end of the day, a smaller wedding is still better than no wedding at all.
Alan’s Tip: Offer additional value
To encourage a couple to postpone to the date that you want them to, you may need to offer some incentives to that postponement. But, Alan says, now is not the time to be discounting. Every dollar you discount without taking something away from your service is money that you are giving away.
Offer your couples additional value instead. Additional value doesn’t have the same dollar-to-dollar impact that discounts have. But it is a great way to incentivise couples into locking in that new date.
Additional value could include offering an additional service such as personalised vows, or extra products such as monograms or decor features. Think outside the box to see what you can offer for your business. If you’re unsure, industry groups and networks such as the exclusive Easy Weddings industry Facebook group could help with ideas.
Alan’s Tip: Avoid losing your client over availability
Alan suggests reaching out to couples who might be postponing to find out what their plans are. If you don’t and they pick a date you’re not available, you risk losing that client.
You can avoid that sticky situation by reaching out to your couples to offer suggestions and see what their plans are. If you can’t get onto the couple but know their venue, we suggest reaching out to that venue to see whether they’ve locked in a new date.
You should already have a relationship with couples who have booked your services so use that relationship to connect. Encourage them to look at different days of the week. Let them know that you’re happy to put a Plan B date aside. Make suggestions of when you are available if they are having trouble setting a new date.
As Alan says, people do business with other people. Let them know that you are thinking of them and that you are here to help.
Depending on how well you know them, you can even touch base with them without an ask just to see how they are going. If you know your couple well, consider sending them a gift for what would have been their original wedding date. Remind them of how amazing their wedding will be when the time does come.
Couples will remember how you treated them throughout all of this, so consider how you want to be remembered.
Alan’s Tip: Revise contracts and discuss finances
Once a couple has locked in a new date, it’s time to look at the logistics. The first thing Alan suggests doing is to amend your original contract or agreement. It isn’t just the date that has changed but timeframes for service, delivery and payments. Secondly, you may need to update the materials that need to be changed due to the new date.
You can also consider asking for an additional deposit. It may seem like walking on eggshells asking for more money in a situation that is out of everyone’s hands, but remember Alan’s favourite advice:
If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.
This will come down to how you communicate and the relationship you have with a couple. You don’t want to sound like you’re in trouble. It also depends on how soon the wedding would have been. If a couple who were going to get married in April or May postpones, they would have been paying the full amount over the next month or so anyway.
Ask them whether they’d be willing to put an extra deposit down or discussing a payment plan ahead of the day. This won’t impact the total amount they pay at the end of the day, but it could help your business during this quiet period.
The worse they can say is they can’t afford it now and you continue with your original plans. Or they could agree and you have a little extra cash to tide you over.
Alan’s Tip: Stay positive
People latch onto positive messaging and run away from negativity. Alan says be positive about the day to come in all your communications with couples.
We’d also like to add: Don’t be afraid that a couple will cancel their wedding entirely. Less than 5% of all couples are cancelling weddings completely, with most postponing weddings to late 2020 or into 2021. Some couples are even going ahead with restricted weddings (max 5-people) and will then celebrate their reception later.
Rather than being a victim to your couples, be a positive guiding light for them. Provide advice. Make suggestions. Be proactive. Your couples will thank you for it and your relationship will remain strong because of it.
As Alan says, the wedding industry is a recession-resistant industry. Couples might not be getting married now, but they still want to have their wedding in the future. 2021 is set to be a big year for weddings all around the world. And that’s something we can all be positive about.