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What Happens Next After You Postpone a Wedding?

What even do we do now?

Q: Dear APW,

I am an immunocompromised bride, with an immunocompromised Maid of Honor and Mother-in-Law. We live in a city with minimal cases of coronavirus at the moment, but almost everyone else would be flying in from various hot-spots. When we called our families to get advice last night about whether we should postpone our wedding the first weekend of April, everyone was in agreement that we should.

Our wedding package vendor is being kind about rescheduling, we lost our catering deposit, likely will lose our deposit for the venue (park), and Costco is canceling our floral order so we won’t be bombarded with 200 stems of baby’s breath. I was able to change our “let us know if you need to change your RSVP” cards to “due to an unforeseen global pandemic we are postponing the wedding” cards before printing to send to all our guests. Updated the wedding website. Those who had flights we contacted immediately last night. I want to recognize how fortunate we are that no one we love has gotten sick (though a friend is trapped in Europe) and that things are, for the most part, working out considering the circumstances.

But…now what? We live in a place where our outdoor wedding is not feasible between June-September (hey 100+ degree summers). October is already booked solid. November is elections and Thanksgiving, December is Christmas…do we just wait until next April and try again, hoping there won’t be another outbreak? Do we try and plan a small morning wedding with just our families (taking our 50 person wedding to 15) over the summer or one of our pre-determined family holiday gatherings?

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My partner and I are married in all the ways that matter, we have a domestic partnership, we live together, we love each other. This transition to marriage was meant to be a celebration of our love surrounded by the people who mean the world to us. (We even splurged and took secret ballroom dance classes to surprise people with our first dance! Somehow, this is one of the most painful parts of postponing to me for some reason.) So we are genuinely torn: do we do a smaller intimate marriage and throw a party when things settle down, or try and find the “right” time to try again?

Some practical issues my partner and I also need to figure out how to address:

  • Sending out invites… again… : Do we send them to everyone originally invited? Do we send out save the dates and invites? How far in advance do we send them out? (I hand made all of our invites, which I cherished at the time, but I don’t know if I can do that again.)
  • Dealing with gifts: So far, we have received no gifts. I don’t think we will receive any with our communication network and the postponing cards going out, but if we do, do we mail them back? What is the courtesy for getting gifts for a postponed wedding?
  • Say we shrink the wedding and throw a party: Are we horrible people if we decide that we want to just get married and throw a party later? We will be abundantly clear that is what is happening. We joked last night about doing a drive-thru wedding with our family in a limo and my partner brought it up again this morning.

Yes, we had a wedding vision (loved ones, park, tacos, get married) and I DIY’d my heart out…but I don’t know if I can go through the heartbreak of having our wedding postponed again should more unforeseen circumstances arise.

We’re still in the first 24 hours of postponing, so I feel like my judgment is clouded. We have a week or so before we’ll talk to our wedding package vendor about new dates, and possibly scaling down.

What advice do you have for a postponed wedding?

Anonymous

A: Dear Anonymous,

I’m so sorry. There’s no getting around that this is awful. I hear from loads of couples who have bad wedding luck, but I think even they’d agree that “global crisis” is next level. Be gentle with yourself.

At this moment, it’s pretty clear that no one knows when we’ll be back to some semblance of normalcy. My kids’ school is closed for two weeks. I’ve heard from friends that they’ve cancelled theirs the rest of the school year. I’d love-love-love to tell you that “of course everything will be fine by June!” but the truth is that I don’t know if… anyone? knows?

That’s, woof, maybe a little depressing (sorry), but I only say it because it might be easiest to just let yourself off the hook from planning the friends-and-family-reception-party-event right now and instead consider it TBD.

I’m not sure what that means for your wedding package. Perhaps they’ll be willing to just give you a credit that you can cash in whenever we’re all allowed out of the house again. But the other stuff is easier to answer:

  • A New TBD event means you’re better off just starting fresh. You’ll have all new invites, save-the-dates if you have loads of folks traveling, same original guest list, according to the usual timelines (wedding invitations eight weeks in advance, save-the-dates eight months in advance if you’re using them). And if you don’t want to make your invites again: don’t. In fact, at every step of this second-time-around planning process, ask yourself if you want to do something, and if you don’t, DON’T. That’s always a good rule in wedding planning, but extra true—and easier to follow—now.
  • Keep the gifts! The wedding isn’t canceled, just delayed. There’s still plenty of reason to celebrate, and ugh. Returning gifts is such a hassle under normal non-pandemic conditions.
  • You’re not horrible people. Pretty much the opposite in fact. You’re good people in a horrible situation. There are literally no rules for this (go ahead and try to find the Pandemic chapter in Emily Post), and everyone will understand whatever choice you make. A drive-thru wedding sounds amazing! (Though now the Vegas Strip is closed, so there is that.)

You’re dealing with stress, disappointment, and so many unknowns. Be kind to yourself. Snatch whatever joy you can. Circle back to planning the full deal when everything is a little less uncertain.

Liz Moorhead

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