WHAT DOES COVID-19 MEAN FOR WEDDINGS IN 2020? (UPDATED AUG 2020)

WHAT DOES COVID-19 MEAN FOR WEDDINGS IN 2020? (UPDATED AUG 2020)

Written by Amy and Mel from Wedspiration

The following article looks at the impact of the virus namely on people planning their weddings for 2020. This article has been updated on 2/08/20. COVID-19 is an ever-changing situation so for up-to-date health alerts and advice related to the virus, visit health.gov.au.

Dear Couples,

First up, let us begin by sharing our deepest, heartfelt sympathies if you’re currently experiencing stress and wedding disruption due to the Coronavirus outbreak. No-one could have foreseen this coming: a pandemic that’s affecting the entire world. It’s a *touch wood* once-in-a-lifetime experience. And yes, the irony of how in sync that is with the nature of weddings isn’t lost on us. We wish we could give each of you a big hug right now.

And just as we couldn’t in our wildest dreams have predicted an event like this, sadly too the non-existent timeframe for getting this virus under control leaves us hankering for an equally non-existent crystal ball.

If you’re Australian, you’re probably still scratching your head like us, confused and bewildered by the hand we’ve been dealt in the last four months. As if the bushfires of last summer weren’t challenging enough, now we find ourselves facing a life-threatening virus too? We recently saw a meme that said “Who pissed off 2020?”. Exactly.

Over the last few months, we’ve been responding to a large number of queries from concerned couples desperately seeking guidance on what to do right now. We don’t have all the answers. But we’ll do our very best to help provide whatever insights and advice we can. This is the basis of this article.

Before we go any further though, we just want you know that we’ve been inspired by you guys – the positivity that so many of you are sharing right now is amazing. And we’re proud of the way that our industry peers are approaching the situation: largely with compassion, flexibility, and understanding. Many small businesses are struggling right now. But we’re all in this together and working toward a common goal – to get you guys hitched and having the best damn day ever, even if that day takes place a little later than originally planned.

>> COVID-19 And Weddings – The Latest Update As Of 2/08/20:

There are new changes and updates from the Australian Government for each state. Please note these rules and regulations are subject to change at any time with the uncertainty of COVID-19.

In general for all states, it’s worthwhile considering and breaching the topic of the following with your venue/vendors:

  • Canapé service may not be permitted in all states, and it’s best practice to serve each guest separately, meaning no shared plates or family-style catering. Your state might only allow sit-down service only too.
  • Consider how many people you sit at each table and check in with your rules and regulations for your state as well as your venue. You may be restricted to a maximum of ten per table.
  • Aim to seat people with their household, partners or family where possible.
  • Check in with your venue regarding styling changes. We’re aware of some venues not permitting cutlery and glassware on tables to minimise risk. 
  • Singing (including group singing), and wind instruments can spread COVID-19 if a performer is infected. If either of these are involved in the ceremony or reception, ensure that there is protection in place for guests including at least 3 metres distance from the performers.
  • Dancing has been restricted in some states. Please make sure you choose a venue that has a dancefloor with enough space. Consider what strategies you can put in place to avoid crowding on the dancefloor and other areas such as foregoing or modifying rituals like throwing the bouquet, and ensure people don’t take alcoholic drinks on the dancefloor. 
  • Record all of the names and contact numbers of all of your guests and vendorsattending your wedding, regardless of if it is a residential or commercial property wedding and retain these records to provide to the government if required.

STATE-BY-STATE BREAKDOWN OF THE LATEST WEDDING RESTRICTIONS

NEW SOUTH WALES

  • The number of people who may attend a wedding is limited to 150 or the maximum number of people allowed on premises in accordance with the one person per 4 square metres rule
  • Weddings held on residential premises must not have more than 20 visitors, unless the size of the premises is sufficient to ensure there is at least 4 square metres of space for each person on the premises
  • Singing (including group singing), and wind instruments can spread COVID-19 if a performer is infected. If either of these are involved in the ceremony or reception, ensure that there is protection in place for guests including at least 3 metres distance from the performers
  • Dancing has been restricted, with premier Gladys Berejiklian stating in a recent press conference that the current directive is “no dancing, singing or mingling”
  • Check with your state and venue about how many people you can have seated at each table, you may be restricted to a maximum of ten per table
  • Aim to seat people with their household, partners or family where possible
  • Check in with your venue regarding styling changes. We’re aware of some venues not permitting cutlery and glassware on tables to minimise risk
  • The couple must record the names and contact details (including contact phone numbers) of all people attending, conducting and contributing to the wedding, regardless of if it is a residential or commercial property. The records must be kept for at least 4 weeks and provided to the Chief Health Office if required

For more information for NSW weddings, please click here.

VICTORIA

  • As of Thursday 6th August 2020, weddings will be banned in Melbourne until at least September 13th 2020 in accordance with new ‘Stage 4’ lockdown laws. This includes small, elopement-style ceremonies that were previously allowed.
  • If there is a compassionate reason (e.g. limited life span, making a wedding urgent), authorities may be open to granting an exemption for a Melbourne wedding during the lockdown period.  
  • Outside of metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, weddings can have a maximum of five people (the couple, two witnesses and the celebrant). See more here
  • Ensure no guests that are unwell attend the wedding, and practice social distancing and good hygiene practices

Fore more information for VIC weddings, please click here.

QUEENSLAND

  • From 3rd July 2020, a maximum of 100 guests can attend a wedding. See more here
  • Social distancing must continue to be practiced and guests who are unwell should not attend
  • A record of contact details including name, phone number, email address and date and time of patronage of each guest must be made to assist in contact tracing, if required. This record must be kept for 56 days, provided to public health officers if requested where it will be securely stored and deleted after 56 days
  • The couple getting married is allowed to dance with each other and/or their parents
  • There is to be no buffet self-service. Guests are encouraged to do a sit-down reception, with individual plates served

For more information for QLD weddings, please click here.
For further details regarding cancellations, postponements and insurance for weddings in QLD, please click here.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

  • The total number of people present must not exceed one person per 2 square metres
  • Physical distancing principles still apply. Every person should attempt to stay at least 1.5 metres from other people
  • Some businesses are required to make and retain records of patrons attending public activities. This must include the name of each patron in attendance, as well as their phone number or email address, along with the time and date of their attendance. Contact tracing records must be presented at the request of an authorised officer. These records must only be used in the event that tracing of contacts needs to occur. For example, the records can’t be used for marketing or similar purposes
  • No shared utensils may be provided in the course of providing the service of any food or beverages
  • No communal food or beverage service areas may operate, this includes buffets, salad bars or communal water/beverage dispensers

For more information for SA weddings, please click here.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA

  • Gathering limits are only determined by the one person per 2 square metres rule, which only includes staff if the venue holds more than 500 people
  • Removal of seated service requirements at food businesses and licensed premises
  • No requirement to maintain patron register at food businesses and licensed premises 
  • Alcohol can be served as part of unseated service arrangements 

For more information on WA weddings, please click here.

TASMANIA

  • There is to be no more than one person per 2 square metres at a wedding
  • Where the number of people permitted according to the density limit (one person per 2 square metres) is less than the gathering limit, the lower number applies for capacity
  • For mixed use venues with multiple indoor or outdoor spaces, the gathering cap (250 people for indoor, or 500 people for outdoor) applies separately to each single undivided space. For example, a large hotel with multiple, separate indoor spaces (e.g. conference room, bar, restaurant, foyer, beer garden), is permitted to have up to 250 people for each of these spaces (the density limit applies)
  • Ensure that staff and guests are 1.5 metres away from each other. For groups of people seated at the same table, and for staff at times, this will not be practical
  • Arrange the wedding in such a way so that the 1.5 metre can be adhered to between patrons from different tables
  • Coordinate arrivals and seating of guests so that crowding doesn’t occur in arrival/waiting areas
  • Ensure there’s appropriate space between seated guests

For more information on TAS weddings, please click here.

AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY

  • From Friday the 19th of June 2020, wedding ceremonies can have up to 100 people (excluding those conducting the service or assisting in the conduct of the wedding) or one person per 4 square metres, whichever is lesser
  • Wedding celebrations should be held in accordance with rules for the hospitality sector
  • Wedding organisers must keep a record of the names and contact numbers of individuals attending and details can be safely destroyed after 28 days
  • You must develop a COVID Safety plan
  • Any indoor or outdoor reception must adhere to the ACT’s restrictions on public gatherings and/or hospitality venues and function spaces

For more information on ACT weddings, please click here.

NORTHERN TERRITORY

  • There is currently no limit on the number of attendees
  • Weddings with less than 100 people do not require a completion of a checklist or safety plan, however physical distancing and hygiene practices should be implemented
  • For weddings from 100 to 500 people, you must complete a COVId-19 safety checklist

For more information on NT weddings, please click here.

_______________

Here’s a topline summary of the things we’ll get into below:

Insurance

  • It’s unlikely existing wedding insurance policies will cover wedding changes/cancellations due to COVID-19.
  • If you’re thinking about purchasing wedding insurance now to protect yourself from wedding changes/cancellation due to COVID-19, you won’t be covered as the pandemic is a known event.

Postponements and cancellations

  • If your wedding date is in 2020, we’d urge you to contact your venue and vendors via email ASAP to ask them what their postponement policy is and to gather their available dates for later this year, or preferably beyond to safeguard yourself against a second postponement.
  • We would strongly urge you to postpone your wedding rather than cancelling the entire occasion – you can find a step-by-step guide to postponing here and some further tips and templates to share with your wedding team and guests here.
  • When postponing your wedding, we know that the vast majority of wedding venues and vendors are be incredibly understanding in helping you facilitate this.
  • If you decide to cancel your wedding, however, it’s likely you’ll forfeit any deposits you’ve put down. Also, depending on the proximity of the cancellation to your wedding day and the T&C’s and position of the venue/vendor, you may incur additional costs.

Restrictions

  • See state-by-state breakdowns above

Proceeding as planned

  • For those progressing with their 2020 wedding, just be sure to adjust your celebration to fit into the new restrictions.

Honeymoons and travel

  • All overseas travel has been restricted for the foreseeable future. Postpone/cancel all overseas travel for the time being, and also consider a local-moon after your wedding does take place. You’ll be providing much needed support to local businesses and let’s face it, our own backyard is bloody beautiful.

Emotional burden

  • We 100% get where your head might be right now. You may be feeling hopeless, sad – even guilty for feeling these things, given the threat to people’s health right now. Please know that this is all completely normal and that you’re in no way alone.
  • Your wedding – when it happens – is going to be made all the more special for getting through this period.

The future 

  • Don’t stop planning your wedding. Life will go on post-Coronavirus and there are so many people in this industry more excited than ever to help you celebrate your love.

We know it’s a nerve-wracking time for both couples and industry alike but we will get through it together. This is a situation where we all need to work collectively to be as compassionate and supportive of each other’s positions as possible.

If you were scheduled to get hitched in the next several months or even weeks, our hearts are right there with you as you adjust to the rapidly changing requirements surrounding gatherings in Australia and New Zealand. Hopefully this article provides you with some confidence to move in the direction that feels right to you.

The big thing we want to say is that when your wedding does happen, there will be new meaning to it. And we’d bet our bottom dollar that the dancefloor moves your guests will pull will be even more impressive.

If you’re wanting to connect with other couples who are also going through the same thing right now, please join our couples-only Facebook Group ‘Wedchat by WedShed‘. There is a huge number of supportive discussions happening, with wonderful advice shared.

So, let’s get into things in more detail.

INSURANCE

++ Does wedding insurance cover COVID-19?  

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear so. We’ve reached out to multiple Australian wedding insurers and have heard back from one – the message was:

“Few policies covering weddings (or usual commercial activities) will cover a pandemic or infectious diseases so sadly few brides will have insurance protection if their wedding is cancelled due to the virus but the policy will cover loss through the all the other areas such as fire, death or injury to the bride and groom.

… we are fielding many calls from couples wanting insurance for Coronavirus – this simply isn’t available.”

We’ll update this section with more information as we receive it from other wedding insurance policy providers. We did hear second-hand (not confirmed) that one policy does cover cancellations related to Coronavirus. Though if true, this policy would’ve needed to have been purchased prior to Coronavirus being identified as an epidemic, and it’s not clear what the circumstances need to be in order to make a successful claim now. An alert was issued for the Coronavirus outbreak on 23rd January 2020, and we know that many travel insurers will not cover any claims made on policies taken out after that date, so in the absence of more solid info, we’d suggest it’s probably a similar scenario for weddings.

++ What about travel insurance? Does this cover for COVID-19 related changes? 

Choice.com.au has provided this information regarding travel insurance and COVID-19:

  • A bit over half of insurers cover medical expenses resulting from a pandemic, but less than half cover cancellation expenses
  • If you buy travel insurance after a pandemic or epidemic such as the COVID-19 coronavirus becomes a known event, you may not be covered regardless

Here’s further clarity on this, direct from Choice:

“People who bought travel insurance before the disease became a “known event” may be covered for medical expenses that arise from contracting the disease overseas, and may even be covered for cancellation expenses. But people who bought travel insurance after COVID-19 was a known event may not be covered for medical or cancellation expenses relating to contracting the disease, or from changes to travel plans that result from quarantine measures, for example.”

We understand this is a bit ambiguous. If you’ve purchased travel insurance to cover you for a honeymoon or even for an overseas wedding, you’re best to contact your insurer directly for the most relevant information according to your policy.

WEDDING POSTPONEMENTS AND CANCELLATIONS

++ Should I postpone my wedding?

As each day passes, we’re hearing of more and more couples making the voluntary choice to postpone their weddings. There are several reasons why:

  • Their guest count is more than the maximum number allowed for their state/there is a ban on weddings at their location
  • Their guest count is more than the allowed number in order to abide with the 4-square-metre rule at their venue
  • They had overseas family and friends attending their wedding that can no longer make it
  • They don’t want to bring together a large group of people and put their loved ones at risk
  • They’re conscious that it’s a decision that may be taken out of their hands soon anyway and want to get the jump on it
  • They’ve spoken to their venue and vendors who have been accommodating and happy to facilitate a postponement, making the decision easier
  • They don’t want a day that they’ve invested a lot of time, energy and resources into to be anything different to what they imagined
  • They don’t believe the social distancing that’s currently recommended is conducive to weddings (no hugs, kisses, close dancing, shared food or normal seating, which tends to be within 1.5 metres)
  • They don’t want to put guests in the awkward position of deciding whether or not they’re comfortable to attend in the first place

The decision to proceed or postpone is largely personal and will depend on the restrictions in place for your state/venue and how that impacts the vision you have for the day.

We’d strongly advise starting the conversation if you haven’t already with your venue and vendors about how they’d feel if you were to postpone your big day, as well as gathering alternative dates that are available. We can guarantee it’s a conversation they’re expecting.

Here’s a sample email that you could send:

Hi {VENUE/VENDOR NAME},

I hope this email finds you well, and that you and your loved ones are safe during this difficult time. Due to the current situation surrounding the Coronavirus, we’re concerned about proceeding with our wedding and putting our guests and wedding A-team (you guys) at risk. We’re sure this situation has put you under a lot of stress as we know it’s impacting many people right now and our thoughts are with you.

Due to the uncertainty of the coming months and new restrictions placed on weddings, we wanted to touch base to see what our options were on rescheduling our wedding with your team. Is it possible to postpone the date and reschedule once this has all calmed down? We appreciate you are no doubt managing multiple couples in the same position as us – please let us know if it’s easier to have a conversation over the phone. 

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Kindest,
{NAME + NAME}

++ What if I postpone my wedding but can’t find a date that all of my suppliers can service? 

This is unfortunately a hard reality – it might be difficult or not possible to make your wedding work with all of the original businesses you chose to partner with, due to the volume of future weddings and postponements. We’ve got all our fingers crossed that these tips will assist you in finding a date that works for everyone:

  • Be open to getting married on a weekday when there’s likely to be more availability for your wedding team. Weekday weddings are a total vibe!
  • Start with your wedding venue – get their available dates for the preferred months that you’re happy to reschedule your wedding to
  • Share these dates in an open and edit-able spreadsheet with your vendors so that they can tick which dates they can and can’t do. This will make it much simpler for you to find the date that the vast majority can make happen

For any of your A-Team that sadly can’t service your new wedding date due to pre-commitments, it’s unlikely due to the nature of cancellations that you’ll be able to expect your deposit back (see our next question) but many vendors will be eager to work with you to provide some sort of “credit-service” to the value of your deposit. For example, if your photographer can’t make your new wedding date, they might be able to instead do a family photoshoot with you, or an engagement shoot as a good-will measure.

++ I’m thinking of cancelling my wedding – what should I expect? 

This will largely depend on the T&C’s set in the contract you’ve entered into with your venue and vendors. Most contracts require a deposit to be paid to secure the services of the business and often these are non-refundable at a certain time-frame (for example, within six months of the original wedding date).

Chat to your venue and vendors if this is something you’re looking to do. Of course, if you make this decision it’s absolutely fine – your wedding, your call, always.

We do know that the vast majority of venues and vendors would much rather you postpone your wedding date over cancelling altogether. And as much as we’re sure they would love to be able to hand back any deposits, the financial implications of this is just too much to expect of a small business (it’s why they have T&Cs in the first place to protect themselves), particularly given the fact that they’re already likely to be losing future business that will be taken up by postponed weddings.

RESTRICTIONS

Scroll back to the top of this post for a state-by-state breakdown of the latest restrictions in relation to weddings.

You can find the Prime Minister’s official statements outlining restrictions here.

++ Are marquees considered an indoor space or outdoor? What if the sides are up? 

From what we understand, marquees constitute an indoor space, according to the government’s online statement.

“An indoor gathering refers to a gathering within a single enclosed area (i.e. an area, room or premises that is or are substantially enclosed by a roof and walls, regardless of whether the roof or walls or any part of them are permanent, temporary, open or closed).”

Despite the fact that marquees can be erected outdoors, they still fall under the category of a single enclosed area, substantially enclosed by a roof (even if the walls are removed of left up). It doesn’t make a difference if the marquee is permanent or temporary either.

We know that prior to the recent announcement of wedding restrictions, many couples still hoped to proceed with their wedding by setting up outdoors. Given the expense of marquees and the limitations on weddings, it’s understandable that this will no longer be a viable option for many.

PROCEEDING AS PLANNED

Each state has different rules about how a wedding may look right now, and they’re constantly evolving. Many couples are forging ahead with their wedding and if there is a change in restrictions that means their wedding cannot continue in the way that they had hoped, then they are reassessing as and when needed.

However, that’s not to say that you can’t make things paper-official on your original wedding day, even if a postponement needs to happen. There are plenty of couples that are getting officially married on their original date with an intimate ceremony, with a big reception-style party planned down the track when they and their loved ones can let down their hair restriction-free.

Another suggestion for couples proceeding with their wedding is to live stream your ceremony via video for those close family members and friends who are not able to attend due to the restrictions.

++ What if the guests I invite to my wedding don’t want to attend?

We really feel for you here – of course you want to get married surrounded by all the leading people in your life, let alone a select couple. But given the covert nature of COVID-19 and the fact that it’s impossible to know who has the virus until they’re symptomatic, it’s reasonable to expect that guests may not feel comfortable to attend your wedding. They may have contact with kids, the elderly or immunocompromised people, or they may just be conscious of wanting to distance themselves from people until authorities say it’s safe to do otherwise.

While it can be heartbreaking to hear, our advice is to be completely understanding of your guest’s choice and to not let it influence your relationship with them. This is a time where we all need to respect each other’s autonomy.

HONEYMOONS AND TRAVEL

++ Should I book a honeymoon?

If you haven’t already booked your honeymoon, the most obvious suggestion here is to postpone it or travel within Australia once travel restrictions and warnings are lifted. Right now, Australian state borders are in a state of lock-down, and overseas travel is prohibited.

If you had already booked travel,  some airlines are giving credits to flights, so touch base with both your travel partners and accommodation provider to see if this is an option for you.

EMOTIONAL BURDEN

OK, this is a biggie. And we want to spend some time here, because we have a lot. Of. Feelings.

We know it’s likely that you’ve been looking forward to this day for ages. Putting time, emotions, money and more into bringing an epic celebration together, only to have the rug potentially pulled out from beneath you. If you’re getting married in the coming months, the confusion about whether to proceed or postpone (or otherwise) can feel overwhelming and just downright devastating. We 100% empathise with you here – we know this is not how you wanted to be moving into married life.

On top of this, you might be feeling guilty or indulgent for even allowing yourself to feel upset about your wedding, given we’re talking about people’s lives and health being on the line.

What we need to say here is don’t. Know this: your disappointment is valid. We would feel exactly the same.

But also know this: no matter what happens to your wedding day in the short-term, it’s more important than ever to reflect on the things that are important to us as people, and that’s our relationships. The beautiful thing here is the very fact that you’re planning a wedding means you’ve found a life partner that you can depend on during the toughest times. It’s like you guys get to start your marriage early – just without the official piece of paper.

Focus on loving each other, keep communicating and know that when your wedding day does happen, it’s going to be so much more special having gone through this challenge to get there. If there’s anything we can take away from this pandemic, it’s the importance of taking stock of our loved ones and looking out for our community. This means when you’re smashing cake in your face at some point in the future and raising a glass of sparkling with those special people around you guys, there will be no better feeling.

THE FUTURE

++ Should I keep planning my wedding or wait until COVID-19 is over? 

We know that Coronavirus is all-encompassing right now. But eventually, this will be something we can collectively put behind us. If you’re hoping to get married in the future, don’t stop planning your wedding – allow yourself to get excited, get inspired, speak to venues and vendors and get the ball rolling. Now more than ever, the entire industry is so excited to help you celebrate your love! And it’s not just for financial reasons; we all need some positivity right now and looking to the future and all the happy days ahead is as feel-good as it gets.

– – –

If you have any further questions, suggestions or comments, send us a DM on Instagram or ask our lovely couples in our couples-only Facebook Group. Our hearts and thoughts are with you and we hope you can remain positive knowing that you’ll have an incredible day regardless of when it takes place. We hope that you and your families stay safe and healthy as Australia navigates COVID-19.

With love,
Amy, Mel + The WS Team.

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