Coronavirus & Weddings: Postpone vs. Cancel

Couple holding hands

Before March, you were likely eagerly anticipating your upcoming wedding and excited to celebrate your love with friends and family. But the spread of COVID-19, more commonly referred to as the Coronavirus, has put weddings on hold across the country as directives come down to limit gatherings and stay at home unless you absolutely must go out.

Popular wedding venues are closing up as they're deemed nonessential, and many vendors and catering companies have been forced to close up shop — permanently, in some cases. 

Those who planned a spring — or even summer — wedding are being forced to change their plans, and many brides and grooms are scrambling to figure out what they're going to do. With the new guidelines surrounding social distancing showing no signs of being relaxed soon, it may be time to consider either postponing or cancelling your wedding. We've created a guide to help you decide which is best for your situation and provide some tips on how to make the process as smooth as possible.

Postponing to a different date

When faced with the choice between postponing or cancelling the wedding, many couples would rather postpone. However, it's important to be aware of what this could mean for you, your guests, and your vendors. Postponing your wedding means pushing the date back far enough that, hopefully, the social distancing and business closure rules will be lifted. Then, your wedding can go off pretty much as planned, albeit at a later time.

The good

Postponing your wedding is a valid option if you can't hold it as scheduled. Vendors who have been forced to stop operating as part of the shutdowns may even be grateful to be able to have work lined up as soon as the restrictions are lifted instead of having to deal with an empty calendar from couples cancelling. Postponing may also be a way to save money on the deposits you've already put down.

The bad

The big issue with postponing your wedding is that there's no way of knowing when it will be safe to gather in large groups again, so you could end up postponing the wedding just to have to postpone it again. You may also find that by the time the next date does come around, that friends and family don't have the money for travel expenses after having lost jobs or gotten behind on bills, so you may end up getting fewer yesses in the RSVP pile. With many other couples rescheduling — and others who prescheduled in those future slots before the pandemic hit — you may have to get creative with your timing.

The bottom line: If you — and your guests — are fine with keeping things flexible and your vendors are willing to work with you, postponing your wedding can be a good way to ensure you're ready to celebrate once you can.

Cancelling the wedding totally

No one wants to be forced to cancel their wedding, but it's a reality that many couples are facing in 2020. Anyone planning anything more than the most intimate of gatherings is being stymied by limits on the number of people allowed in a social gathering, and many people just aren't comfortable being around even close friends and family right now for fear of carrying an illness back to at-risk loved ones. Cancelling the wedding may also be the only option for couples who were paying the costs on their own and who have lost their jobs.

While it's still possible in some places to be married at the courthouse by a justice of the peace, it's totally normal to not want to sacrifice what you had envisioned for your wedding. Couples still holding on to the hope and romance of their big day may want to cancel until things can proceed normally again. 

The good

While cancelling your wedding may seem like a last resort, it doesn't have to be all bad. If you've been stressed about trying to plan the wedding around all of the COVID-19 issues or are just feeling overwhelmed dealing with changes in your work and social life, cancelling the wedding can give you more room to breathe. It also means that once everything is back and running normally, you'll be able to take the time to plan things out the way you want them without having to rush things or settle for so many compromises.

The bad

Other than the emotional letdown, cancelling your wedding can have some negative effects on your wallet. In most cases, you'll be forfeiting any money you've already paid out on deposits for venues or vendors, and it's possible that when you're ready to reschedule the wedding that your favorite location or caterer is no longer available. This can especially be an issue if you were going to get married at a highly sought after location. If you were planning a destination wedding, it might take even longer for international travel restrictions to be lifted and some guests may no longer be comfortable going out of the country.

The bottom line: Cancelling may be best for couples who can afford to lose deposits and want to ensure that their big day still lines up with everything they had pictured.

Letting your guests know

No matter which side you come down on, you'll need to inform your guests about your change in plans. It's understandable to want to wait and see what's going to happen, since changes related to the virus are happening daily. But it's best to let your guests know as soon as possible once you know that the wedding won't be able to be held as planned.

A personal phone call is the most sensitive way of handling these notifications, but if your guest list is long, an email or text can work as well (no group messages!). If you've already received gifts, the best etiquette is to offer to return them. If they want you to keep them, make sure to go ahead and send out thank you cards as soon as possible.

With a cancellation, this is really all that's needed. Just let your guests know that you're sorry things have to be changed and you'll let them know as early as possible about future plans. In the case of a postponement, you'll want to send out change the date cards as soon as possible to give guests plenty of time to prepare.