When a couple decides to get married, they often embark on one of the biggest and most expensive planning events of their lives. It’s no secret that weddings can be just as stressful as they are joyful. Unless you happen to already be an event planner, looking at an ever-growing list of “to do’s” can be daunting even under the best circumstances, let alone a pandemic.
COVID-19 has thrown a huge and terrifying wrench into every upcoming 2020 wedding plan, including my own. While moving forward is the only option, it may come at a cost. Many couples have had to postpone or cancel their weddings for the time being. This means deposits may have been lost, travel plans have had to change, and budgets may have to be adjusted.
In this time of wedding uncertainty, I’ve compiled four tips for fellow soon-to-be wedded couples that will help them navigate unexpected costs and hopefully reduce some financial stress.
Tip One: You can’t manage the pandemic, but you can manage your expectations
While all couples have different expectations for their big day, the COVID-19 pandemic was one thing none of us expected. With the uncertainty of when provinces will lift social restrictions and the potential impact the pandemic may have had on your finances, it makes it difficult to have any expectations for your wedding let alone manage them.
In Canada, the spring and summer seasons are typically dubbed “wedding season”, however, this year many couples planning for spring and summer weddings have already decided to put their big day on hold. Others have opted for courthouse weddings or more intimate affairs. Couples that are planning for fall and winter weddings may very well get to go on with the show, but with little certainty on when we will be able to gather with our loved ones again the decision to move forward or prepare for a postponement is still very real.
The truth is many couples may also have to adjust their wedding expectations due to the financial impacts of COVID-19. Many Canadians had their income reduced due to the pandemic. This means it is time to cut costs and use our savings to help bridge any loss of income. For some couples who are planning a wedding this year or even next, this may mean dipping into your wedding savings to help cover costs for the time being.
Confronting the reality that your wedding may not be what you were expecting is both difficult and crucial to moving forward. The first things my partner and I discussed when we realized COVID-19 might affect our plans were “what’s really important here?” and “what are we willing to let go?”.
Whether you end up rescheduling the whole thing, getting married with just the two of you, with a small group of loved ones or cancel the day altogether, managing your expectations will be helpful when dealing with the huge level of uncertainty COVID-19 has brought.
Tip Two: Take a step back and assess the financial damage
Once I got over the fact that a pandemic may uproot my wedding, I needed to confront the next horrifying fact: what will happen to my deposits? With an upcoming wedding almost planned to completion, chances are you’ve put deposits down on your venue, ceremony space, cake, entertainment, flowers, photographer and possibly many other vendors. This creates a lot of financial uncertainty and stress.
The best thing I could do to assess the damage of what would happen if I did have to reschedule my wedding was to contact all of our vendors. I asked each vendor two main questions:
- Can we reschedule and if we can, when do you need to know by?
- What will happen if we have to cancel (a.k.a. will we lose our deposits)?
Having these conversations was immensely helpful. The responses were positive, and it helped eliminate some of that uncertainty.
The vast majority of the vendors were more than accommodating. The venue offered new dates in 2021 to put on “COVID hold”; for the decorator, it was no problem to reschedule as long as they had notice; the florist had even gone as far as to stop taking new 2021 bookings so 2020 brides would have more options if they were forced to reschedule already planned events. The reality of the situation is many business owners are also feeling the effects of COVID-19 and are willing to be accommodating or make exceptions.
The overwhelming theme from their responses, despite how bleak things may look, was that it will be ok. Knowing that it was possible to reschedule and that my deposits wouldn’t be lost helped us create a workable plan B and know exactly what the financial repercussions of our decisions would be.
Tip Three: Sticking to your budget is a vow you should keep.
Whether or not your wedding is or will be affected by COVID-19, it’s important to remember your wedding budget. On your wedding day, you’ll be committing yourself to your partner and leading up to the big day staying committed to your finances is just as important.
The first thing I did when planning my wedding was once again set expectations with my partner. What was our “dream day” and is it truly affordable? What is vital to the experience and what can we do without? Although this can be a difficult step, it ensured we didn’t bite off more than we could chew. Once we had our expectations down, I could start the process of trying to figure out how long it would take to save the funds and how much we would need. This took A LOT of research.
If you decide to reschedule your wedding, going through the rescheduling process will be no different. Date availability may change the entire look of your wedding and require a whole new set of expenses. For those deciding to downsize their weddings, this may also be an awesome opportunity for huge savings. Now more than ever you will need to use a budget to help you stay on track of your expenses or potential savings.
Tip Four: Weddings are for gaining life partners, not more debt.
While we all would like to have our dream wedding, high expectations can have even higher costs. This year especially many couples may be looking to make up for lost savings or income by using credit cards, lines of credit or even payday loans to cover the cost of their big day.
If you need to put deposits down on credit cards or use your line of credit for bigger purchases, this is fine as long as you have a plan to pay back the money in full.
While it might seem to make sense to take on more debt to help pay for your wedding at the moment, once the wedding bells stop ringing, the bills will start coming in and you will have to pay back all of the money you borrowed with interest. If you don’t pay back the borrowed money in full or can’t pay it back and begin to miss payments, this could have not only have an impact on your cost of living, but it could affect your credit and put other financial goals on hold like buying a house, going on a trip or starting a family.
Before you look towards credit or high-interest loans like payday loans, consider all of the financial implications and discuss them with your partner. Are there places you can cut back on to afford the items you want to buy? Can you make changes in your household budget to help offset the added cost? It’s important to have these conversations before either of you decided to take out a loan for your wedding.
As we collectively scramble to try and put the pieces of our imagined “Happily Ever After” back together, the one positive is that we truly are all in this together. Many couples are facing the same struggles, so do not hesitate to research and reach out to see how other couples may be handling the unexpected costs and changes that have come with COVID-19.
While the pandemic has brought on a lot of concern, uncertainty, stress and tears for many soon-to-be-married couples, it’s important to remember that no matter how your special day may have to change one thing is certain: it will still be filled with love.