The wedding industry is bracing for the coronavirus's impact as couples consider rescheduling their dates
Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Wedding Paper Divas
- The wedding industry, which is centered around travel and large gatherings, is likely to be hit hard by the coronavirus.
- Some brides say their festive days could be cancelled due to coronavirus fears.
- Given how many industries, from hospitality to travel to entertainment, all rely on having a successful wedding season, the results of these cancellations could be financially devastating.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Francine Jordan's been planning her Ibiza wedding since June 2019. Her honeymoon to Japan, set for April, has already been cancelled due to coronavirus fears, but it's her wedding, which is in four days, that worries Jordan most.
"When you're planning a wedding, the last thing you think of is coronavirus," Jordan, a 29-year-old broadcast journalist, said. "It's a bit surreal. I did not expect this to have to be an issue three or four days before."
Ibiza's just had its first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus, which causes a disease called COVID-19, and Jordan has guests flying in from all over the world. She doesn't even know if she'll be able to get onto her Wednesday flight to Ibiza.
The wedding cancellation would cost Jordan over $13,000. If she and her fiance, both of whom are based in the UK, lost that money, she isn't sure how they would proceed. "I wouldn't even know what we do, whether we would reschedule for the same time in the UK or whether we would just have to start again and do it in a year," she said.
Jordan's guests are also preparing for the risk of exposure to the virus. Her mother has stocked up on face masks, despite knowing they don't protect against virus spread for healthy people, and her soon-to-be father-in-law has expressed a lot of anxiety about traveling for the wedding, as he's in his seventies and knows he's at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill from the virus.
"The thing I would feel worse about is if we carried on and someone like my father-in-law got it, or my mum," she said. "I would rather we cancel it than have anyone contract it."
The US wedding industry alone is worth $72 billion as of 2018, according to a report by IBIS World. Much of that money goes to the people who actually make the weddings happen: planners, day-of coordinators, bands, food vendors, and wait staff. As weddings and wedding-related events are cancelled, those people will lose money; the funds for deposits will be theirs, but that can't make up for the full cost they spend to put the event together.
The coronavirus could hurt the wedding industry
From catering to hospitality to venues to photography to flights, hotels, and wedding planners and bands, there are a a lot of industries relying on having successful wedding seasons for survival. "I don't think it's frivolous to worry about weddings," said UK-based wedding coordinator Nina Beer. "They involve so much of the economy in one day."
Considering how much can go wrong, many brides are turning to their insurance companies to see what their wedding insurance can cover in the case of cancellation.
"We've been getting tons of calls about coronavirus," a representative for Progressive, an insurance broker that sells wedding insurance, told Insider. Most wedding venues require basic wedding insurance, which protects people from getting sued in the case of an accident.
But most wedding insurers have an exclusion in their contract that render them not responsible in the case of pre-existing conditions or communicable diseases, according to Progressive.
That's just one of the things Beer has to worry about in the coming weeks.
"Some people feel it is not in their best interests to get on a plane," Beer said. "It's touch-and-go right now. We have to be quite careful."
That carefulness means the wedding industry is about to be hit hard.
"Most weddings involve travel and they are public gatherings, which can be a bit of a breeding ground, so weddings are getting hit," said Beer. "And don't underestimate the impact cancelling a wedding can have a bride's mental health."
When weddings get cancelled, people can lose thousands of dollars
Tori Buck, based out of Charleston, South Carolina, has been photographing weddings for 18 years. She told Insider she is concerned about an increase in cancellations, as well as a lack of bookings. "I personally have website, design, and logo work to fall back on," she told Insider. "But many don't."
The average wedding costs about $33,000 in the US, according to The Knot. In New York City , where there has been a recent uptick in confirmed cases of the virus, the average cost of a wedding is $83,000 as of 2019.
The majority of those costs go towards venues. Other costs, like invitations or wedding dresses, cannot be refunded. In the case of destination weddings, a cancellation would mean both the couple and the guests lose money.
The wedding industry is preparing contingency plans
As wedding planners brace for impact, elopement planning companies see an opportunity.
"We're bracing ourselves for the possibility of an influx in demand for elopements, as inviting no guests or smaller groups would help avoid many of the concerns people have right now about large gatherings," Karen Norian of Simply Eloped, an elopement planning company, told Insider.
Lauren Kay, The Knot's Executive Editor, advised couples to try to look at the silver linings if they're forced to change any wedding plans. "There will be more time to recuperate from their celebrations and they'll have more time to save money for the trip while having the opportunity to make additional plans post-wedding," she said.
If the wedding is still on, here's how to keep your guests safe
Beer recommends people reschedule instead of cancelling their wedding bookings so they don't lose deposits. "The suppliers are human," she said. "Try telling them, 'I want to rebook in six months time.'"
Another useful tip: "Pay wedding vendors with a credit card as opposed to cash or check, whenever possible," Steve Lauro, vice president at insurance company Aon Affinity, told Insider in an email. "The Fair Credit Billing Act and your credit card company could provide some form of protection if deposits are lost under certain conditions."
Be mindful of any minimum guest count requirements in the contracts you sign, says Leah Weinberg, owner of Color Pop Events. "In reviewing catering contracts, the couple wants to make sure they guarantee as low a number of guests as possible since they aren't sure how many people will actually be able to travel in," she said.
Josh Spiegel, the creative director of Birch Event Designs, a high-end decor, production, and floral company, said he advises people to wear gloves while dancing and put hand sanitizer, "monogrammed, of course," on every seat.
"And if you are still worried on the day you might want to suggest no kissing the bride or groom," Bernadette Chapman, founder of The UK Alliance of Wedding Planners, told Insider.
Jennifer Shum, a New Yorker whose wedding is planned for August, is considering postponing her wedding until she knows her family and friends can safely travel from Hong Kong to Brooklyn. "I hope all the other brides out there have luck this year, with the coronavirus," she said.
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