Since coronavirus was first detected in Florida on March 1, things have been tough.
Many Floridians have done their best to make the most of the worst, staging drive-by birthday party celebrations, having virtual hangouts with friends and family, some even putting on a smile to walk a virtual graduation stage after in-person commencement ceremonies were canceled.
[RELATED - Timeline: The spread of coronavirus in Florida]
Brides-and grooms-to-be also experienced loss, missing out on their weddings they spent so much time and money planning.
And as the state of coronavirus in Florida makes even incremental improvements and state leaders hint at plans to re-open the economy, it may be the right time for couples to begin considering picking up where they left off and moving forward with planning their postponed wedding.
Brandee Gaar has been planning weddings and events in Central Florida for 18 years, and founded her own wedding planning business, Blush by Brandee Gaar, in 2007.
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When asked if she had ever experienced anything like working through the coronavirus pandemic before, Gaar said this will likely be a history-making event in her personal career.
“I have even talked to some of my small business friends who have been in the industry for 30 years and they have never experienced anything like this either,” Gaar said. “It will definitely be a time we tell our grandchildren about one day!”
Fortunately Gaar said that most of her brides and grooms have been able to salvage their weddings, pushing them to a new date.
“We have been very blessed to only have one cancelled [wedding],” Gaar said. “All others have postponed but we’ve had to postpone almost three dozen. We had three couples do a small ceremony with just immediate family on their wedding day so they could legally be married and celebrate their original date as their anniversary. They are all planning larger receptions for later this year or early next year to celebrate when this all passes!"
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So once everything does pass, how should couples go about planning wedding 2.0? Gaar said creating a plan and knowing what contracts you’ve already signed is key.
Step one: reach out to your vendors to see what they can do to assist in changing your wedding date
“If your venue has the date available, then move forward with changing with the other vendors. It is like a giant puzzle in putting the whole vendor team together on a new date but ask if there is an option for an associate on the new date," Gaar said. “For photographers, they typically do have associates that can shoot instead or for planners they may have an assistant or other planner that can assist! We have had a few brides move dates where their exact planner was not available but someone else from our team was so we were still able to accommodate the date change.”
When considering moving your wedding date, Gaar said understanding the contracts you have signed with your vendors is crucial. Some contracts are more strict than others, and understanding exactly what you’ve already agreed to can keep you from losing money.
“Most contracts will state that the retainer is non refundable. For additional payments, it will come down to what the contract states,” Gaar said. “Additionally, the force majeure clause in each vendors’ contract should be read carefully. Most would require a postponement vs. a full refund but every contract is different.”
Gaar also said it’s important to work with your vendors and to be understanding where you can.
“In the end, it’s important to remember that no one in our lifetime has dealt with this situation and that we should all be willing and able to work with each other! Vendors are doing everything in their power to accommodate couples as we know how incredibly difficult this time is for them,” Gaar said. “So assume the best in each person you encounter and look for ways to work together to make the best situation possible!”
Gaar said she’s seeing vendor dates in Fall of 2020 and Spring of 2021 book up extremely quickly with re-scheduled weddings, and said it’s imperative to be flexible when choosing a new date.
Another very important piece of advice Gaar has for brides and grooms in the process of rescheduling their wedding: get all changes with your vendors in writing.
“I HIGHLY recommend getting a postponement agreement from each vendor,” Gaar said. “A contract in writing that states that your date has been changed, monies have been moved, etc... there is so much going on right now that everyone should be putting all agreements in writing so that it’s not left up to verbal interpretation.”
Gaar said that as she’s been busier than ever before helping couples re-plan their weddings, she’s also become more inventive in the ways she does business.
“Honestly, a lot of it in the beginning was just talking to brides every day and helping them to walk through what each new day’s news stories meant for their date,” Gaar said. “Then it was figuring out how to best serve our clients during this time of social distancing and even how to serve the thousands of brides who don’t have a planner but now may be wishing they had the help of a pro! We developed our newest service specifically for these couples that are still trying to plan their weddings but need help from a professional and aren’t able to meet their vendors!”
Gaar said her company’s new Blush Virtual Planner is a low-cost, 100% virtual planning software that provides all of the tools she uses to plan weddings, video tutorials on how to plan your big day, exclusive vendor discount offers and 24/7 access to chat with her team of planners.
Even though many brides and grooms had a special date taken away from them by the COVID-19 pandemic, Gaar said she’s seen love prevail as couples celebrate their canceled wedding date and work towards a new one.
“I have loved seeing all of the fun celebrations our couples have done! From a date night in, to a picnic in their yard and even some eloping on their actual wedding date,” Gaar said. “I definitely think making that date special is important and will serve as a fun memory in an otherwise stressful time.”