Postponing your wedding is a tough decision, but it can feel even more distressing when the decision is taken out of your hands. With a newly-implemented lockdown meaning all weddings must be put on hold for the foreseeable future, it can feel like you’ve suddenly lost all control over your big day.
We asked seven couples who’ve had to postpone their upcoming weddings to tell us their honest feelings. What was the postponement process like with venues and suppliers? How have your families reacted? And how are you really feeling about your new (and unexpected) wedding date? After all, for most of them it is in an entirely different season, if not year. With such a difficult task completed, they also share their advice for couples thinking about postponing their weddings.
If you’re in this situation now, this is essential reading. Among the stories of initial disappointment, we really believe you’ll find so much hope here. Your wedding day might not be what you planned, but as bride Helen says, “Whatever happens – our weddings will certainly be remembered!”
Ali and Hugh
Freelance lighting designer Ali Hunter, 28, and computer scientist Hugh Collins, 27, were due to marry on the 11th April at The Great Barn, Devon. They postponed their wedding until 20th March 2021 – which happens to be the International Day of Happiness! Guests said their postponement announcement was “the saddest and happiest email ever”.
“We made the decision on Wednesday 18th March, just after all the theatres started closing and all my work for the following months was being cancelled. This made us realise the severity of the crisis. My brother lives in Australia, two of our close friends live in the States, one of the groomsmen is in Paris, multiple friends and relatives work for the NHS. We realised that none of these people would be able to make it with the impending travel restrictions and advice about self-isolation.
“In an ironic twist, we collected our wedding rings from the jeweller on the day we decided to postpone. It was very surreal!
“Everyone has been really supportive. My Mum gave us her blessing to get married at the local registry office if we want! My sister and bridesmaids threw me a virtual hen do last weekend. My sister, Anna, couriered a bag of goodies including wine and face masks to me and everyone came online to make sure I was suitably embarrassed. My Mum even dialled in from the middle of a field to take part! Hugh’s best man also organised an online stag do and took us out for a commiseration drink before the pubs shut down.
“Hugh is pretty happy about it as he likes having something to look forward to. We can use the delay to perfect lots of the things that we’d rushed/decided ‘that will do’, like the music and table decorations. And we have a whole year to write our speeches.
“I’ve found it a bit harder to adjust as I’d geared myself up for it and suddenly all the adrenaline has nowhere to go! Now I’ve had a few days to get used to it I’m excited about what we can do to make it extra special. We might even learn how to dance!
“We asked Hugh’s Mum to send us pictures of the flowers out in Devon at the moment as this is the exact time of year we’ve rebooked for. The daffodils are going strong. It’s pure chance that we picked the International Day of Happiness but we think it’s a good sign!
“Our venue was extremely understanding. The florist, photographer, band and makeup artist were all brilliant and have put us in their diaries for next year. Everyone has been positive and really helpful.”
Our Advice for Other Couples
- Keep it fun. We sent an email out to all our guests with a list of fake reasons we were cancelling – 5% chance of snow forecast, daffodils flowering too early, the cake was too big to be transported. Everyone will understand the reason and we tried to give people something to smile about.
- Be kind to the venue and suppliers. As a freelancer I know how scary it is when all your work suddenly dries up. As we have the money available, we offered to pay an extra deposit to help the venue and suppliers out. Some took us up on it and some said they would be fine without. We checked our insurance and it covers deposits lost due to insolvency or other cancellations, so this money is safe if the venue is unable to make it through. Check you insurance!
- Work out what’s right for you. We considered eloping or having a small registry wedding but in the end we decided that the most important thing for us is to have everyone there to celebrate with us. We want our friends to sing in the choir and organise a Jenga competition, we want everyone to get rained on and to see my Dad’s drunk dancing. We’ve been together for years so waiting one more is just fine for us. Don’t let anyone pressure you into doing anything you don’t want to and take your time making the decision.
- Let people know if and when you want to talk about it. We had a manic day of sending emails and organising things and it was great to debrief with my family and friends. However, we left it a while before reading and responding our guests’ replies. People will want to show their support but having the conversation 20 times in a row can be draining.
Helen and James
Social worker Helen Pegden and scientist James Bramley were set to have a weekend full of celebration. Following a local church ceremony on Friday 1st May, they were due to have a celebration at Acklam Hall in Middlesbrough and a more traditional reception at The Angel Inn at Topcliffe on the 2nd May . They’re still hoping to go ahead with the ceremony with just immediate family, but have cancelled their reception plans.
“My sister is currently living with her partner in Australia and is one of my two bridesmaids. Celebrating without her seemed implausible and so when The Angel actually rang to advise that they are closing due to the virus, it was actually a relief.
“One of the most difficult things about the whole process was watching the slow death of our wedding in live TV briefings! We went from thinking two weeks ago, ‘We can just honeymoon in Cornwall instead of Italy’, to ‘Actually this might not happen at all.’ The relief of making a decision stops the TV bulletins feeling like such a personal attack on our day and we have regained some control.
“I was reluctant at first to change the wedding date. May is still a few weeks away and things are changing so quickly. However, I found myself unable to continue with the wedding preparations needed as I felt my efforts would be wasted. It was a shame to not be able to enjoy the last few weeks build up to the wedding when I had been so looking forward to the preparations. In addition to this, we didn’t want our friends and family to have to choose between their loyalties to us and their concerns for their own health. It was only responsible to call off the imminent celebrations.
“Currently, I am still hoping for our actual wedding to take place on the 1st of May and would be disappointed if I had to change this detail. May has always been my favourite month: it is mine and my partner’s birthday in May and I love the spring time.
“However, I have also always wondered what it would be like to have a winter wedding, I think there is something romantic about the dark nights and candle-lit rooms – maybe this way we will get to have the best of both worlds!
“We have had to cancel some vendors altogether and lose our deposit as we don’t think our later celebration will look exactly the same. At this stage we are thinking more of a party format later in the year.
“My family have tried to be very optimistic about the whole thing which, to be honest, I have found frustrating at times, as I felt they could not see the reality of the situation. My mum now is particularly disappointed as I think she was looking forward to the day more than me! She has a big hat and wanted to show it off. Everyone has been really supportive though and my maid of honour has been a rock of support.
Our Advice for Other Couples
“Remember the reason you are getting married and that you are so lucky to have found each other. Allow yourself time to feel sad about the changes without feeling guilty and delegate some phone calls to family and friends which may be too difficult to make yourself. Whatever happens – our weddings will certainly be remembered!”
Sarah and Chris
Event manager Sarah Millar, 29, and small business owner Chris Styles, 32, were set to marry on the 18th July 2020 at The Restoration Yard in Dalkeith Country Park, Edinburgh. As Sarah works in events, she predicted the cancellation of gatherings early on and lined up an alternative date with their suppliers as soon as she could; they just had to press the button when home working and self-isolation came into effect. Their new wedding date is Saturday 31st July 2021.
“We wanted to be in a secure position so started to get the lay of the land from suppliers as soon as possible. We have family travelling from America so when the travel bans came into effect and airlines started to fold, we knew we would need to postpone by more than a few months. We also didn’t have wedding insurance which really focused our attention when it came to getting the ball rolling early.
“The process of talking to our venue and suppliers was amazingly smooth – I was really surprised at how supportive they all were. They were all willing to move deposits and were all available on our preferred date in 2021, so we took it as a sign. We also wanted to keep cash with local small businesses that we are using for the wedding rather than pulling money out of the local economy – it’s always better to postpone rather than cancel if possible.
“A couple of family members have suggested we tie the knot in a low-key way and have a party later. We did consider this but a) it would not be our first choice, b) we have no idea when we would be able to do this with paperwork submissions and registrar offices potentially not open etc, and c) we would lose all our deposits if we cancelled. All suggestions from family come from a good place but we just went with our gut feeling.
“We wanted to stay with a summer date and we want a very relaxed garden party feel to the day. Our ceremony is outdoors (in Scotland!) so July is the best bet for good weather. There is a bit of disappointment to manage as we were looking forward to the day coming up soon, but it came around so quickly this year I have no doubt that it will be here before we know it again. It has taken the pressure off and has taken the uncertainty out of the planning which has been the best thing for our peace of mind and stress levels!
“We feel positive overall. There are many, many people who are in far worse positions than us. We count ourselves extremely lucky to be planning such a wonderful day in the first place and again lucky to be able to postpone rather than cancel. It’s obviously disappointing but it’s the right thing to do all round.
Our Advice for Other Couples
“As an events manager in my day-to-day life, my biggest piece of advice would be to act quickly and keep your options open. Even if you are unsure about what you want to do, get the information you need to be able to make an informed decision. Speak to all suppliers, venue and insurance to see what their position is and line up a plan B that you can quickly implement should you need to. Do not panic! Consider things rationally and logically.
“That being said, with the woolly Government advice and the rapidly changing situation in the UK, postponement may be a blessing rather than a curse for a lot of summer weddings. Bottom line – go with your gut. Your instinct will keep you on the right track when it comes to making big decisions – don’t let this be drowned out by lots of other opinions.
“While it can be very disappointing when things don’t go to plan, I think it’s really important to be thankful and count your blessings – if you are in a position to be able to postpone and continue to plan a beautiful wedding with your family and friends you are very lucky indeed.”
Jo and Rachel
Market researcher Jo Shaw, 57, and computer programmer Rachel Bowyer, 47, were due to marry at Butley Priory in Suffolk on the 24th May. Their wedding has been pushed back to the 15th May 2021.
“We decided to move forward almost 12 months to give ourselves the best chance of being able to get married at all – no point refixing for August or September and then maybe having to postpone again.
“The venue was great. We are having catering as part of their package so that’s taken care of too. I feel for anyone who has to navigate their business through this nightmare. Our photographer has also been super accommodating and rebooked us, but we’re yet to hear from the florist, the person doing the cake and a couple of others.
“We’ve been feeling pretty stressed and overwhelmed by the whole thing. Wedding insurance, which we have, seems to have been a waste of time in these circumstances. It covers us only for an outbreak of illness at the venue causing it to close, or amongst members of the wedding party meaning that they cannot attend. Any government ruling, or guidance, or restriction is not covered.
“This has made us pretty angry as it ultimately meant that we were up for losing about £11,000 if we chose to just cancel because we followed official advice to not put our guests in danger. Luckily, Butley Priory has been great and allowed us to roll the whole booking forward almost a year with no penalty.
“Friends and family have been very understanding and supportive, I don’t think anyone is surprised really. Some of our important guests are elderly, with underlying chronic conditions. We couldn’t risk having them there.
Our Advice for Other Couples
“Our best advice is try and plan now for the worst case. Find out what you can cancel and when, and what money needs to be spent in the next few weeks, plus when – write it down, then you can keep track and see how the financial risks are changing.
“Above all, play it safe. This virus is ghastly, especially for the elderly and those with chronic illnesses. We do all have a responsibility to try not to spread it – and we may have no idea we are doing it. That’s got to be a more important factor than our wedding, no matter how disappointing it is to have to postpone things.”
Hannah and Mark
Hannah Curtis, 27, and Mark Brown, 30, were due to marry at Nether Winchendon House in Buckinghamshire on the 18th July. Mark has a heart condition which puts him in the “at-risk” category and was a deciding factor in choosing to postpone. Their new wedding date will be the 26th September.
Image: Charlotte Hu Weddings
“After a recent Government press conference, we realised that the Coronavirus wasn’t just going to go away, and we didn’t want to risk the health of ourselves (Mark has a heart condition) or our guests.
“Initially we were both pretty gutted about the postponement as a lot of time, effort and money had gone into the preparation of the original date. But now we are resigned to the fact that this is completely out of our hands and we just have to be thankful that we’ve managed to find another date this year. Everyone has been sad for us, but supportive of our decision.
“It was the venue owner who reached out to us first and offered up alternative dates. She and the rest of the Nether Winchendon House team have been particularly helpful in making sure we still get the wedding we want. Our suppliers have been very flexible too and haven’t charged us for moving the dates – which we are really grateful of.
“We did have our hearts set on a July wedding, but the weather from the past two Septembers has been quite nice so fingers crossed! Now we just feel relieved that we’ve managed to re-plan the wedding with relative ease.
Our Advice for Other Couples
“I would highly recommend that other couples contact their venue(s), suppliers and insurance companies to get as much information as possible, as soon as possible. The sooner couples know where they stand, the sooner they can make plans to postpone or tweak their wedding.”
Rhianne and Richard
Rhianne Elway, 29, juggles being a wedding planner and a clerk to governors for local schools, while Richard Chambers, also 29, is a production manager. They were due to get married at Hazel Gap Barn in Nottinghamshire on the 3rd April, but have pushed it back to 29th November this year.
“Over the last couple of weeks I’ve not slept, not been eating and generally been very upset and down. We’ve been planning the wedding for two years and, as a wedding planner, I do feel the pressure, so really didn’t want anything to change. Now the decision has been made for us, a couple of days later, I do feel relieved.
“My bridesmaid is pregnant and her husband is one of the best men so they were not going to be able to join. Rich’s mum has no immune system and his sister is pregnant so they wouldn’t be able to come. Plus our elderly relatives. Our venue gave us the choice to postpone and said it was highly recommended with all the uncertainty.
“I’m feeling very mixed about our new wedding plan. One side of me is loving the new date as I’m that person that loves Christmas so it will be lovely. But then I’m gutted as the old date was smack bang in the middle of both mine and Rich’s 30th birthdays (there is 14 days between us) so this was meant to be our big birthday celebration too. Dreading how I will feel on the day too.
“It was surprisingly easy to deal with our suppliers, and all but one can do the new date. They’ve moved everything with no charge so we’ve been lucky there. We do just need to try and claim off the insurance for the one supplier though.
Our Advice for Other Couples
“Our advice would be pause, postpone, but don’t cancel. Your wedding means a lot to your suppliers. Also keep regular contact with your venue as they are the big player in all of this. And if you do need to postpone then maybe things do happen for a reason… now time to plan a third hen do!”
Imogen and Tom
Imogen Barlow, 27, is a senior HR advisor and her partner Tom Way, 32, is a wildlife photographer. They were due to get married on the 4th April at Little Missenden Church with a reception at The Hurley House Hotel in Berkshire. Their wedding has now been postponed to the 3rd October.
“It was a Saturday when the US travel restriction was announced which meant that my maid of honour, godmother and close family friends would not be able to attend. We also had other family and friends travelling from Dubai and Hong Kong and we were unsure if they would be able to make it. Then on Sunday evening, we got the news that South Africa, one of our honeymoon locations, was imposing travel restrictions which meant we couldn’t go. At this stage we were still planning to go ahead with the wedding but very upset about it.
“As the situation developed on Tuesday, we looked into what our insurance would cover, which at this stage was nothing. We then received a call from our venue saying that although they would go ahead if we wanted to, they didn’t feel comfortable hosting our wedding. They also said that if we made the decision to postpone by Friday they could transfer our payment to another date without any further fees.
“My overriding feeling was, ‘Are we being selfish in asking people to put themselves or those around them at risk for our wedding day?’ and, with that in mind, and not knowing how the situation would progress, we made the decision to postpone.
“We were extremely upset at the time, and it caused a lot of stress and worry. Neither of us are normally emotional, however, I was surprised at how much changing the date upset me. We were deflated as we’d been looking forward to this day for so long and had been planning our wedding for 18 months. We had specifically chosen the wedding date based on when we could go on our honeymoon and we were less than three weeks out when we made the decision.
“However, as the week has progressed, it’s become more and more clear that we made the right decision. And although we now won’t be able to go on our honeymoon straight after our wedding and we have to wait another six months, we have definitely made the right decision. Everyone has been extremely supportive and the messages we received from guests were heartwarming.
“It was so much easier to postpone than we anticipated. We picked out some dates that would work for us and emailed all our suppliers to let them know our decision and to ask if we paid in full now whether we could transfer our booking to another date. All our suppliers responded within 24hrs with really supportive, heartfelt messages and to let us know which of our dates they were available on. They all agreed to transfer our bookings without any additional costs.
Our Advice for Other Couples
“Our advice is to think about others and not just yourselves. Although it’s your special day, I think a lot of people would feel pressured to come even if they didn’t feel comfortable doing so. However, if you are happy to go ahead with just you two or a small crowd, I think you need to communicate to guests that it’s their choice, but for them to let you know.
“Also, speak with your suppliers. As soon as we knew we could postpone without losing any money, it was so much easier to make the decision to postpone. You also need to consider that many suppliers are small business owners, so don’t cancel or expect a refund; postpone and speak with them to find a solution.”