Will weddings and events happen in 2021?
That’s the question that a lot of vendors and couples are starting to ask as new mandates are announced in many states—including my home state of Vermont.
I’m starting to see scenarios repeated in my Facebook group regarding how to handle the new cancelation or postponement requests. This is a really important question for everyone to answer because we are ALL going to get these requests. They are coming soon.
I am in this with you–I know how it feels to anticipate what lies ahead for us in the wedding industry.
One florist wrote:
Hi flower friends! So next weekend is my largest wedding of the year. Yesterday, our governor issued a mandate restricting gatherings to 25 people or less beginning Monday. I have not heard from the bride yet, so I’m just trying to be proactive right now, and have a solution (if there is any) ready when I do hear from her.
Obviously flowers are already ordered and supplies are already here. I’m trying to think outside the box and see if there’s anything I’d be able to offer her because I feel so bad for her! At the same time, I don’t see how I could give her any type of refund at this point. Help!”
Another florist shared earlier this week:
Hey everyone!! I need some advice please. I have a couple who postponed their May 2020 wedding to May 2021. I moved their date without penalty or fee and have held this date for almost 6 months for them. I had a lot of brides looking for dates in May last summer and already turned down another wedding for this date.
They recently let me know that they are cancelling their May 2021 wedding because they think there is a slim chance of Covid being any better by then. (They had a legal ceremony, but were still planning the full wedding/reception.)
I am wondering how all of you are handling possible 2021 cancellations. I wanted to be very generous to my couples when Covid happened and I made every effort to be available for their rescheduled date and moved their deposit to the new date without penalty. But I feel like this is different now. If next spring the Covid situation is still just as bad and they wanted to move their date or cancel, I might feel differently….Thanks for your advice.”
Gah! This is SO hard and it’s what we are going to see over and over and over again in the upcoming weeks/months as Covid-19 continues to loom over everything that we still hope will happen in 2021–most of all “large gatherings” for weddings and events.
Most of the florists I’ve observed during the Covid-19 crisis have been incredibly generous in handling their rescheduling and postponement requests.
But here’s the reality: this virus is not going anywhere before the end of 2021 at best—even with a vaccine—because we don’t have a plan to produce, transport, store or distribute vaccines to the general public in the quantities we’d need to safely gather with others without masks.
So even with the promise of a vaccine, we should expect social distancing and mask wearing for weddings and events in 2021 here in the USA. This means, if couples and guests are not down for that, they’re going to move their dates to 2022 or cancel.
It’s a crossroads we’re all facing in the events industry, knowing that 2021 will indeed be “uncertain” in terms of how safe it will be to gather. For sure, in March-May of 2021 we/our couples are still GUESSING at what will be considered safe or what will be “allowed” in June-September, so NOW is the time to develop your company policy on how to move forward from here KNOWING that masks are now, and will be, what doctors and scientists recommend are safest; and gathering in large numbers with people outside of your household carries inherent risks; and traveling across the country will not be predictable in regards to quarantine requirements.
How does your company address this foreseeable need to postpone (or cancel) “fairly”? Zero charge doesn’t have to be the policy (though it could be). Not everything in life has a money-back guarantee after all, though some things do!
So your business has to get really clear on how you will deal with your “money back guarantee” right now.
And if that means “no money back”, that’s OK. And if that means “a rescheduling fee of X”, that’s fine. And if that means that you need to reach a reasonable agreement with each client based on work performed to date, loss of income (due to turning down work, for example), and other extenuating circumstances, that’s OK, too.
There’s a lot to consider…
Read the contract: What does your contract say regarding cancelations, postponements and refunds? Florists will often offer this advice: “Stick to your contract.” However, they say this without having read your contract! So first, read your contract. What remedy do you provide currently?
Time & resources invested to date: How much time have you spent with this client already? Did you purchase products or supplies? The answer will vary for everyone. Some florists (like myself) don’t meet with clients until after we’re already booked, so the time investment is “minimal” until we get into the planning process. Depending on how far you are into the process, florists might meet in person (more than once), exchange dozens of e-mails, revise proposals and mood boards, make up samples/mock-ups, and schedule phone calls to discuss the details (more than once). Your company’s policy should take into consideration the amount of time & resources you’ve invested in your customers to date.
Loss of income: As referenced in florist #2’s question above, if you already turned down other work for their specific date, that’s an additional consideration. If you declined work because you were already under contract with a client and you will have to give up another potential wedding on the newly rescheduled date, then your company is arguably losing income from an entire event due to this cancelation or postponement.
Mandates vs. Choosing to cancel: Asking clients to “wait it out” until closer to the event date to see “what’s allowed” in your area is risky. Use caution when creating a Covid-19 policy that’s dependent upon whether “it’s mandated”–because what’s “safe” and what’s “allowed” simply don’t align in many states. So just because they can doesn’t mean they should. And just because it’s allowed NOW, doesn’t mean it will be allowed 2 weeks (or 2 days) before their date if their plans do get shut down due to mandates; it’s a variable that’s out of your control. I suggest we presume ANY event has the potential to be postponed or canceled in 2021 whether due to mandates or acting out of an abundance of caution to protect family members and the local community.
Refund, Store Credit or Lose your deposit: Clients forfeit their deposit when they cancel based on my contract language, but Covid-19 introduced a whole new ballgame in 2020. Canceling a wedding or event is one thing, but when customers ask to postpone because they have to move their date because it’s unsafe to host a large gathering, but they still want to work with me–well, that feels different. Whether you reschedule, offer store credit, determine a partial refund amount or keep all monies paid as per your contract, you have options to consider as remedies.
I suggest your company’s policy should consider all of these reasons to retain deposits or partial refunds or meet customers in the middle.
In my own business, for clients I already postponed to 2021, there will be a $500 fee to rebook in 2022 instead. There will likely be increased costs on my end for flowers, additional staff, etc. hence the higher fee for the 2022 calendar year.
Lead with clarity, compassion and empathy as you navigate these choppy waters with your clients. They are feeling the pressure of the uncertainty right now, too. Run your business with integrity as you create policies that you and your customers can live with as you move forward. Wear your mask and stay safe, Floralpreneurs! I’m in this right alongside you.
With love from me to you,