‘When should I postpone my wedding?’ is the question flying around in homes across the country right now. And it’s easy to understand why. Things are tough at the moment, while I sit at my desk writing this post the sun is streaming in, which makes all the difference to my mood. But for the most part the grey January lockdown days are doing nothing to help with my optimism about the horrific statistics on the pandemic, or when restrictions will be eased.

When I launched my recent blog series on planning micro weddings, I also asked on instagram if there was anything else people would like help with and the resounding answer was ‘when should I make the decision to postpone?’

Lockdown is not easy on anyone, but if you’re planning a wedding (or indeed if you work in the wedding industry!) the stress has been next level. A lot of us have already battled our way through one summer, postponed weddings, once or even twice before and never dreamed that any events in 2021 would be at risk.

Back in December Boris Johnson was filmed saying Easter would look like normal life, we all felt a huge weight lifted; only in January for us to see the biggest surge in cases and deaths yet. This doesn’t mean that Easter won’t look vastly different to where we are now. But it’s certainly harder to see the way out of this at the moment.

UPDATE: 27th January 2021, Boris Johnson has announced he intends to set out a plan for how the lockdown in England could be eased and the criteria involved in the final week of February. So hold out until the end of February if at all possible before making final decisions. Read more here.

No Roadmap

All of the agonising and guessing we’re going through is made worse by the fact that the government are unable to give us a clear road map out of restrictions, or any indication how lenient restrictions might look. We don’t know whether April and May are definately facing restrictions, and if so at what level. Will 15 guests be allowed, or thirty? Or 100? You’re having to make a judgement call, based on pure speculation in a time when the restrictions can change over night. It’s incredibly stressful.

Now I’m only one person, so I’ve drafted in a load of other industry experts to offer their advice based on their own area of the wedding industry and how it might impact you & your wedding. But of course ultimately this is a totally personal decision. However I really hope the insight from these industry experts will help give you a clear idea of when or even if you should make the call to postpone.

bride and groom apply hand sanitiser during their wedding ceremony in the covid-19 pandemic 2020 photo by Lydia Stamps Photography
Ben & Kate apply hand sanitiser before they sign the register during their wedding ceremony in 2020

Should you go micro?

If I was planning my own wedding right now this would be my first consideration. I myself got married with just thirty of my nearest and dearest with me. It wasn’t what I’d originally had in mind, I’d always been the kind of girl who dreamed of the whole big do, but having had a small wedding I wouldn’t change it for the world. (you can read more about that here)

I did a beautiful wedding last December with just thirteen guests because the bride and groom said they wanted to ‘take back control’ and were tired of ‘putting their lives on hold’. For them, it was just purely about getting married. They’re planning to hold a bigger party later when the pandemic isn’t a problem anymore.

Another one of my couples had a relaxed and stylish wedding at Syrencot with thirty guests, which included themselves, me and their videographer Ben in the numbers due to the rules at the time. Unlike my previous couple they feel that was enough for them and aren’t planning on a bigger party later on. Both weddings were just beautiful, keep in mind that there is more than one way to approach planning a micro wedding.

What are your priorities?

I’d advise having a chat together and deciding what your priorities are, and what you can compromise on. Whether it’s just about getting married, or how much you could slim your guest list down and still feel happy. Keep in mind you might not feel ‘happy’ about changing your original plans to start with, but weigh up the relief of taking back control, and no longer feeling that life is ‘on hold’.

What I can say for sure from experience as a photographer over the years, as well as my own experience of planning my wedding is that even if your wedding isn’t exactly what you had in mind when you started planning you will most definately still have an incredible day. Whatever else is happening, it will be your wedding day and that will make it special.

Each of the couples whose weddings I shot last year had not set out to have a small wedding, but they all had an incredible day. If you haven’t read their stories they’re being published each Wednesday between the 20th Jan -3rd February. I really hope they give you some reassurance. Once they had decided to go for the micro option, they all said a lot of pressure was taken off the day, as well as the stress of wondering what the best route forward would be.

Caylee & Dave’s micro wedding ceremony at Syrencot.

Holding Out Hope

Personally (and this is just my own opinion) I think it’s too soon to let go of the hope that we won’t be holding normal weddings in Summer 2021. I don’t think we can yet anticipate when or how restrictions will be lifted, and I think that all large events going forward are going to look a little different to how they looked pre-pandemic, possibly forever. I think we’ll probably always be much more wary of germs and infection from now on. Buffets may be a thing of the past, and masks might be mandatory in ceremonies for years. We can only speculate.

I have been in touch with my couples for April and May to touch base and see what they’re planning for their weddings as I think there’s a chance that there may still be some restrictions on guest numbers in place during these months. I haven’t been in touch with couples beyond this as I think it’s too soon to make that call. I’ll be re-assessing whether I need to speak to my June/July couples in late February, though my inbox is always open!

There’s a lot of doom and gloom in the news, and I for one am guilty of doom scrolling and getting into a panic about what this year will look like (bless my long suffering husband!). Whatever doom there is on the front pages I am heartened to see the vaccine numbers ticking up each day. Also on This Morning Tim Spector, epidemiologist and creator of the Covid Zoe App was filmed saying that he expects life to look much more like normal in April, only this morning 22nd January, have a watch below.

I do think we could just be in the darkest phase before the dawn, and that there is a real risk of panicking and postponing, only to find that your wedding could well have gone ahead after all.

Tim Spector, epidemiologist at UCL on This Morning 22nd January suggests life as normal by Easter

But what if I just want to postpone?

Of course for many of you I understand you may just want to remove the worry completely and postpone, possibly for a second or third time.

If this is the case I’d advise checking each of your contracts with your suppliers regarding their cancellation and postponement terms and conditions. If their ts&cs are quite strict it’s not always a reason to panic, it’s also worth dropping them a line to talk through your plans as many vendors are offering reductions in their usual postponement fees in the event they’re available for your new date and you can keep your booking with them. For example I’m waiving fees for anyone who postpones within 2021. For postponements to 2022 I’m waiving the fee but packages will be chargeable at my 2022 prices. Many vendors are offering similar schemes to accommodate their couples, but things like charging next year’s prices for all weddings in 2022 are essential to keep wedding businesses open.

Check availability

You may find your vendors to be accommodating if you’re able to continue to use their services on your new date but keep in mind that if you change your date without checking their availability, or if you choose a date they’re not available that they are within their rights to keep your booking fee or uphold whatever cancellation fees were agreed to upon booking.

Unfortunately it’s a simple fact that if you choose to postpone you may need to prioritise some suppliers you’re not willing to lose, but be prepared to lose others and some deposits along the way. This is an unfortunate side effect of the situation and no one’s fault. You should find you’re able to claim these back on your wedding insurance.

In order to make life as easy as possible I have an online availability calendar that I’m able to share with my clients so they can cross reference this with their venue or other suppliers to keep things simple and avoid a million phone calls or emails from you to check.

Why not opt for a reserve date?

Instead of postponing completely it might be possible for you to hold a back up date with your vendors. This is something I’m offering my couples. I’m able to reserve dates until another party expresses an interest in booking the date, at which time my existing couple would be given first refusal and a choice of which date they’d prefer to go with. Having a reserve date might really be a great middle ground and give you the peace of mind you need without postponing completely just yet.

One big tip when checking availability or updating your suppliers is to avoid making contact via Whatsapp or DMs on facebook or instagram. Your suppliers are probably dealing with similar messages from several clients at once and keeping up with dms is really tricky. Sending an email direct to their inbox ensures there’s a paper trail and then there are less likely to be any miscommunications, confusions or mix ups.

Please remember that vendors are being put in an incredibly difficult situation. Contrary to what you may have read not every business owner has been entitled to government support and have had their incomes decimated. A lot of us are one man bands working to provide for families. It should go without saying, but above all be kind. It goes a long way.

bride and groom and their wedding party outside a church all wearing masks during the covid-19 pandemic, photo by Lydia Stamps Photography

When should I decide to postpone my wedding?

My Dad always says “Never make a decision you can put off until tomorrow.” The longer you can afford to wait the clearer the restrictions will be for you to make an informed judgement. However, I understand that you have guests who are probably asking you every five minutes what your plan is! So perhaps agreeing a back up date as well as a timeline when you’ll make a final decision would be helpful for everyone. You might decide one month or six weeks before is a reasonable time line given the situation. It’s really up to you. But choosing a deadline by when you’ll decide could really help you take the pressure off yourself in the mean time.

Ultimately it also comes back to the ts&cs of your suppliers. Personally, I am more than happy to leave it until the very last minute with each of my couples as I’d much rather go ahead and shoot the wedding on the original date where possible.

However I have heard that some venues are giving couples a deadline by which time they have to choose either a new date, or stick with their original date regardless of restrictions. Of course this will give you a very real deadline for making that decision but puts you right back to speculating rather than making an informed judgement call closer to the time. Certainly checking with your venue about their availability & terms for postponements will probably be the deciding factor on when you make the call. So start there.

A shot from Sarah & Jake’s day. They moved their date twice from 2020 to two dates in 2021 before moving it back to 2020.

Advice from a venue

Pippa from The Manor Estate says “We hear so many different accounts from the media and word of mouth – and following last year’s experience of this virus I feel we are all still a little sceptical that ‘normal life’ is on the horizon. I feel ‘normal’ is still over the hill and a few fields away.”

“At Manor Estate we have been flexible with our couples who have chosen to postpone and are currently in talks regarding postponements with April and May couples of this year. We do not have any deadline by which time you need to choose to postpone. Some couples have decided to have a small ceremony with us this year but postpone the main party til 2022. While others are moving their ceremony and reception to 2022. Love is not cancelled and now more than ever we all need a celebration to look forward to.”

Love is not cancelled and now more than ever we all need a celebration to look forward to.– Pippa, The Manor Estate

Catherine from Antrobus House says “It’s such a hard decision to have to make, especially when there are so many ‘unknowns’ right now.  As a venue, we’ve been regularly checking in with all our couples. Most decisions regarding postponing are being made three to four months before the weddings are due to take place, but sometimes longer and sometime’s shorter. Truth be told there is no ‘right’ time to postpone and since each couple and each wedding is unique, I think my advice would be to go with your gut feeling. If you’re the sort of person who will worry and have sleepless nights stressing over whether or not your wedding will be able to go ahead, it’s probably best you postpone.  If you’re happy to roll with it and take a chance, great, stick with your original date.” 

“Either way, if you’re undecided I would recommend getting a back-up date pencilled in if that’s possible, at least with your venue, just in case a) your wedding can’t go ahead at all or b) you wouldn’t want your wedding to go ahead with restrictions in place.  It may not be possible for other suppliers to hold a second date for you, but hopefully your venue will be able to help.  We’ve done this for our couples and just having that second date in the diary for them, has lifted a huge weight from their shoulders. One important thing to mention, if you have booked a registrar and you have decided to postpone, don’t forget to let your local registry office know.  They can then release your date, so another couple may be able to get married on your original date instead – you’ll need to contact the registrations team anyway, to get your ceremony booked in on your new date.  One final piece of advice … keep talking! Keep talking to your venue and keep talking to your suppliers – we are all here to support you during what we all know, is an incredibly difficult time.”

“Just having a second date in the diary, has lifted a huge weight from [our couples’] shoulders.” – Catherine, Antrobus House

Advice from a wedding dress boutique

Philipa from Allum & Sidaway Bridal says “Personally I would wait until the announcement next month and then make a call on it if my wedding was in Spring. As far as the dress goes, if you need to bring things forward or can’t get into a bridal shop at the moment due to current restrictions don’t panic. We have so many sample dresses available to purchase off the rack, and if that isn’t right for you then most of our designers are also offering rush options on new dresses for brides. Usually once your dress has been received in store the alterations take around six weeks but speak to us, if the seamstress has availability we will do what we can to turn this around quickly. You are not alone and we can help.”

“You are not alone and we can help” – Philipa, Allum & Sidaway Bridal

Advice from a make up artist

Yasemin Bilgic Hair and Make Up Artistry says “We never thought it would go on as long as this, but you are not alone, be it a fellow COVID bride or the suppliers that eagerly await, plan and look forward to creating some magic for you on your wedding day we’ve all been hit by the pandemic. If you’re rescheduled date is fast approaching do you wait it out, cancel or push back? I think it depends on the two of you and how you imagine your big day, if you would consider something smaller and are open to adjusting to the measures in place then maybe consider keeping your date. If your intentions are to host a wedding that looks closer to your original vision then I’d recommend pushing back until restrictions are giving more freedom. The key is to keep in touch, weddings are booked so far ahead and with many wedding dates flying around for all involved at the moment communicating with your suppliers at the earliest possible stages is key. I think it’s best to allow a minimum 3-4 months to make sure we have enough time and that my diary has the availability to schedule in your trial date and please be aware that availability is going to be limited due to the high demand so you may need to be flexible”

“With so many wedding dates flying around for all involved, communicating with your suppliers at the earliest possible stages is key.” Yasemin Bilgic, HMUA

brides viel is inserted by a hairdresser in full PPE face shield and mask on a wedding during the covid-19 pandemic photo by Lydia Stamps Photography
Kelly from Sienna Taye adjusts Caylee’s veil in full PPE

Advice from a florist

Lindsey from The White Horse Flower Co. says “Nothing regarding postponement is set in stone, it is literally the discretion of your florist and what was agreed in their T’s & C’s. Some florists are asking me ‘what is the law?’ The law resides in your agreed terms & conditions, the same as every business agreement.”

The Impact of Brexit on Flower Costs

“What I would say is that unfortunately you can’t expect your quoted price to remain unchanged. I’ve heard some couples trying to push their wedding back three years and expect the quote from 2020 to remain the same, but this is unreasonable I’m afraid. Brexit has had a huge effect and we florists simply cannot keep prices the same without incurring losses. I take time to explain the situation to my couples and have been transparent and be as flexible as possible. I personally am trying to work within the 2020 budget agreed for all 2021 dates but this may mean adjusting the amount flowers to keep within the original budget. For postponements beyond 2021, I am having to re-quote due to the cost implications of Brexit and florists are not just service based but heavy on commodity (the flowers).”

“I do my best to keep my clients calm and reassured” – Lindsey White Horse Flower Co.

“On the whole I’ve had really good relationships with all my couples. Everyone has been moved successfully with the exception of one couple who I found another florist to take their wedding on, and as a gesture of good will I transferred their deposit over too. I appreciate not all florists can afford to do this. Next year I may not be able to afford to be so generous with so much rescheduling and Rishi may not be able to make the payments he’s made this past year. I keep in my mind it’s no ones fault. It is what it is and I will do my best to work with all my clients to keep them calm and reassured.”

face mask with the words 'lockdown wedding' to be used at a micro wedding during the covid-19 pandemic photo by Lydia Stamps Photography

What can you do? A checklist …

  • Check the current cancellation/postponement terms of your suppliers & availability.
  • Check if your venue has a deadline for you to stick with your current date or postpone.
  • Ask if you can pencil in a back up date with your vendors but keep the original date in place for the time being.
  • Check your back up date with the registrars.
  • Weigh up what’s really important to you about your wedding, what you can live with and what you can’t.
  • Speak to your florist about whether you need to adjust your flower budget since we’ve left the EU.
  • Write to your MP to lobby for a road map for the weddings industry.
  • Stop the doom scrolling!
  • Start a meditation habit. I’ve found Calm really helpful.

I really hope this has given you some practical options and helpful advice when considering when, or whether you should postpone your wedding. I’m always available to be a listening ear. Whatever you decide the important thing to remember is that whether you have ten guests or one hundred you will have an incredible wedding day. Because love always wins.

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