In ordinary times if you tell someone you’re getting married soon, their reaction will typically be excitement on your behalf. Tell someone you’re due to tie the knot in the midst of a global pandemic, however, and it will likely be quite different.
While the effects of the coronavirus outbreak continue to have an effect on all of us, for bride and grooms-to-be who have likely spent months, or even years planning their big day, it’s a particularly unsettling time.
Suddenly worries about colour schemes, seating plans and great uncle Bob having too much vino have been eclipsed by the concern of COVID-19 completely crashing the wedding party.
As we head towards wedding season, with flights cancelled, schools shutting and the prospect of being on total lockdown looking ever likely, the likelihood of getting spliced any time soon is looking less likely.
Just yesterday, it was announced that only five people are recommended to attend church weddings during the coronavirus outbreak.
That’s according to the Church of England, who announced that only the bride, groom, vicar and two witnesses are advised to attend – the legal minimum.
Even the royals aren’t exempt from coronavirus wedding disruption with Princess Beatrice announcing earlier this week that her Buckingham Palace gardens reception has been called off.
Currently there’s been no confirmation as to whether the marriage ceremony itself will proceed.
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No doubt Princess Beatrice and her fiancé Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi are in a quandary about what to do, but they’re certainly not alone.
Estelle Keeber, 37, Leicester, Co-founder of the Mums in Business Association is unsure about what will happen with her own wedding which is due to take place in Cyprus on May 14th.
“My concerns for our wedding started at the beginning of March when Coronavirus was spreading rapidly across Italy,” she tells Yahoo UK.
“Listening to various daily news reports I knew that the UK was preparing for mass outbreaks too. Although at the time there were still 2 months until we flew out I knew that we had to start preparing ourselves for the possibility that flights were going to be cancelled and borders were going to be closed meaning our wedding could be cancelled too.
It was at this point Estelle really started to worry.
“After speaking to both my insurer and the airline I was left just as confused and even more worried. It seemed that no one would give us a definitive answer about whether or not the wedding could still go ahead.”
Then she discovered that the Government in Cyprus had announced flights were being cancelled.
“After a lot of research online I discovered that should our flights be cancelled due to WHO guidelines we would be able to claim back the costs,” she explains.
“Air BnB have been amazing and very open about their protocol in this situation announcing that should we be unable to travel they will also refund any costs.
“So other than the inconvenience the financial side of things isn’t too bad. Whats worse is the uncertainty and lack of information being shared. If we had a definitive answer we could make other arrangements and start planning what is meant to be the happiest day of my life, instead I’m left wondering what can I do now?”
Estelle says she sympathises with others left wondering what will happen about their wedding, during an already stressful time.
“Your wedding is suppose to be something you look forward to with anticipation and excitement…right now I just want to know if it will even go ahead,” she adds.
But Estelle is trying to look at things from a positive perspective.
“If the wedding goes ahead great, if not we postpone and concentrate on buying our first house together. There's always a silver lining, it’s just sometimes hard to see.”
Another bride-to-be whose wedding could potentially be impacted by the coronavirus is Lauren Naylor, 39, from Leigh on Sea.
The PR and bridal make up artist is due to get married on May 10th at Langtons House & Gardens, Hornchurch with around 30 of her closest family and friends.
Although she received a letter earlier this week to say her wedding has the go ahead, the situation is changing day by day, and she has since received a notification of the options if disruption occurs to the wedding which is outside their control.
The letter reads: “If disruption occurs which is outside of our control, we will endeavour to inform you at the earliest possible opportunity and to offer you the option to postpone your ceremony to a later date; or to hold a closed ceremony (restricted to the attendance of two witness’ only); or to cancel your booking.
The notice goes on to say that if cancellation is unavoidable, the couple will receive a full refund of any fees already paid.
“We have mainly paid deposits such as the invites, restaurant, cars, flowers, the dress has been fully paid (ouch!) and his suit,” Lauren explains.
“My main concerns are my elderly parents - my mum has diabetes, and my dad is disabled. So both are very vulnerable. I just want us to all get through these unprecedented times. The way I see it is it’s perfectly normal to feel confused, anxious and nervous.”
Although she was trying to remain positive, Lauren has said the latest news about only five guests recommended to attend weddings has given her cause for real concern.
“Yes, my partner and I want a small wedding but having only five people at the gathering would mean one set of parents can’t come!
“So as the days go by it’s becoming very scary and I think I’ll have to plan a complete new gathering.
Lauren says she’s already had two of her May brides reschedule until later in the year, which has also made her consider if she should follow suit.
“For me, if it happens, brilliant. If it ends up just us two and a giant wedding bus transfer swigging bottles of champagne - so it is!”
What should brides and grooms do if they’re worried their wedding might be affected?
Do you have to cancel your wedding?
“If you are due to get married in the next few weeks, then it is looking likely you will need to postpone your wedding,” add Bernadette Chapman, Founder of The UK Alliance of Wedding Planners.
Emma Hla Owner of Coco Wedding Venues says that following the update from the Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this week urging people to avoid gatherings and non-essential social contact it is starting to feel like the inevitable is imminent.
“However, the ambiguity around whether you really should or could go ahead with your wedding, has sadly still been left open for venues and couples to decide,” she adds.
Hla says that many of her venues are still business as usual and as such will not cancel a wedding unless they are told they must.
“But whilst couples have been saying 'I Do' and celebrating with all their might in the last few days, it does feel that couples with a date coming up in the next few days or weeks should now consider postponing,” she adds.
Hla adds that the decisions that follow for couples in the next few hours and days are personal to their situation.
“If couples have been waiting it out to see what would happen closer to their date, then now is the time to talk to venues, suppliers and family,” she adds.
Should you postpone or cancel?
“It would be my advice to postpone NOT cancel for a number of reasons,” says Chapman. “Firstly, you have spent months organising your wedding, a time to celebrate with friends and family and become married. Never forget the end goal which is ‘being married’.
“So instead of cancelling altogether speak with your friends and family and discuss a suitable time to postpone to instead.”
Will couples get any money back?
According to Hla, if couples are cancelling or postponing, whether they receive any money back depends on the contracts they have with their venue and suppliers and if their insurance is covering the current situation.
“Without a government lockdown if a couple cancel their wedding now then they may be liable for cancellation fees, lost deposits or possibly final payments,” she explains.
“Whilst the new advice from the government isn't currently enforced by law, it does feel like an enforced closure or lockdown is the next logical step and soon.”
Hla says venues and suppliers are working hard to be as flexible as they can under these unprecedented circumstances, but if a government lockdown happens and weddings can't take place then contracts between couples and suppliers would then most likely fall under a 'catastrophic event'.
“If your contract mentions this in a clause, then in simple terms this means both parties are excused from not performing its contractual obligations due to an event or effect that they could not have foreseen or controlled,” she explains.
“This isn't a very nice scenario for anyone to be in and we wouldn't advise waiting for this to happen, so work with your venues and suppliers now to work out the best possible solution for all involved ahead of any enforced period of closure.”
If anyone reading through their contracts feels a little lost or concerned about the legal or financial aspects Hla recommends seeking expert advice as soon as possible.
What tips and advice is there for brides and grooms who might be impacted?
“Firstly, try not to panic,” advises Chapman. “Speak with suppliers and venues about postponing to a new date.
“Then think about sending out postponement cards with the new date listed. Don’t forget you will need to inform the church or registers (and give notice for the new date).”
“Remember the most important thing is celebrating your new marriage with friends and family. So this will still happen. It’s just going to be a little later. You have done the hard work of finding the venue and suppliers. The wedding will still proceed, just a new date.”
That’s a sentiment echoed by Hla.
“For couples that are having to make the difficult decision to postpone or cancel then know this is temporary, it's a pause and your wedding will happen,” she says.
“You will be married and you will celebrate with all your loved ones around you – healthy, happy and safe. Because really, that's all that matters.”