By now, you have surely encountered your fair share of concern surrounding the state of event planning amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Clients don’t want to cancel, but are understandably wary about postponing their events while the forecast for the rest of 2020 is still quite tentative. Of course, we all want to be producing events by the end of summer, but that’s not our choice — we must roll with the punches and adapt our businesses accordingly.
Part of this adjustment requires event professionals to get in the heads of their clients to help them navigate the decision to postpone. This is particularly important for engaged couples, as planning a wedding is already an emotional endeavor. Throw in a global pandemic and you’ve got yourself a ticking time-bomb on your hands. So, you need to understand how they’re feeling in order to defuse that bomb and guide them through the process with tact and grace.
Let’s start by considering some of the biggest concerns couples are facing when deciding whether to postpone their weddings.
Adjusting their weddings for physical distancing
Is it really a wedding without guests mingling and dancing together? Couples are scared that people will not be allowed to sit together at dinner or stay on the dance floor late into the night—both things that were taken for granted before this pandemic.
Implementing health guidelines for guests
Step into your local grocery store and everyone is wearing masks. Of course, this is acceptable now, but most couples didn’t picture their wedding photos to be filled with masked guests. Likewise, they don’t want to postpone their wedding only to have guests tested (and possibly turned away) before entering.
Going over budget
Weddings aren’t cheap and most couples have already shelled out money to secure vendors and order products for the big day. Most vendors are being flexible with refunds, but there are some things that can’t be returned. Think about all of the beautiful décor pieces that have Spring 2019 dates printed on them. Starting from scratch and planning a wedding for a new date may be a costly endeavor that some couples aren’t prepared to handle.
Starting a family
One issue not many people talk about that is top-of-mind for couples is planning for a family. Some are not in a place to wait a year to start their family, but don’t want to walk down the aisle next year while six months pregnant.
These are just a few of the challenges faced by couples, not to mention the level of stress they may expect from planning another wedding. Thus, they will look to their vendors to help them make the smartest decision and that’s where we need to show up and be a resource. This is a humanitarian issue, so don’t make it solely about your bottom line. Your clients trust you to make the best decisions on their behalf, so show them respect by taking care of their interests.
Here are a few ways to guide your clients in the right direction, while still safeguarding your business interests.
Be open to compromise
We all need to be a little flexible when it comes to postponements. You are not just obliged to your clients, but your staff, vendors, and your brand. Remember: This isn’t anyone’s fault and we all want to make events happen, so we need to work together more than ever before.
Prepare answers to FAQs
Expect to hear the same questions over and over from those considering postponements. Prepare your answers in advance to ensure expediency and consistency; this will save you the time of rehashing the same response repeatedly. Get started with these questions:
What is your policy for postponements?
What dates are available?
Do any dates have an added premium or discount?
If my guest count goes down, how does my price per person change?
Do you have backups in case you, or a member of your team, is unable to execute the wedding due to COVID-19?
Offer flexible payment plans
Most of us have some type of payment plan in place, but they may not be the most advantageous for this situation. Consider breaking up payments into smaller increments paid more regularly. This could help clients who may not be able to do a large deposit upfront at the moment and it will also ensure that you have a steady cash flow through this difficult time.
Stay connected to the venue
When it comes to reopening according to local guidelines, venues will likely have the best information available. Remain in contact with their team to establish a personal relationship and make a point to discuss different scenarios so everyone is prepared for whatever may come.
Always have a plan B
A couple could postpone to September but, to be fair, we’re not sure what things will look like then. Having a date confirmed is important for plans to proceed, but you’ll want to set aside another backup date and confirm with vendors that they’re available that day. If September rolls around and we’re not in a place to produce events, that other day is there to fall back on.
Postponing any event is never ideal, of course, but in the current situation, it’s really the best thing we can do for our clients and ourselves. Stay transparent, keep communicating, and we’ll all get through this on the other side.