Due to the COVID19 pandemic, we are living in a world of unprecedented uncertainty. While all aspects of normal life have been upended and impacted, in a world where social distancing is the norm, event planning has been disrupted even more than many industries.
Social events and life celebrations across the globe are being canceled and postponed. Some hosts are getting creative by hosting small ceremonies, drive-by celebrations, or pivoting their events completely or partially online.If you are hosting an event in the near future, you may be stuck wondering what to do next and how to handle the next steps. We’ve spoken to many event hosts that are in your shoes and gathered the best tips and things to consider as you navigate this uncertain territory.
Still On The Fence About Your Event? Start Planning Ahead.
Due to all of the uncertainty, there are many hosts on the fence in regards to whether they should proceed with their event. No doubt, this is a difficult decision to make! Given the ever-changing situation, it is fair in most cases to wait to see how things pan out before making your decision. At this point, we are seeing most events through June have been postponed. In most cases, it is best to make the call and notify your guests and vendors within two months out from your event date if possible.
While you are sitting on the fence, there are some practical and simple steps that can be taken to make possible rescheduling or cancellation of your event. Because we anticipate both a shortage of capacity for both vendors and venues for events in the post-COVID19 world, even if your event is a few months away, now is the perfect time to develop a contingency plan.
Here are some steps you should consider taking in the meantime:
Contact your vendors and learn more about your options
Luckily, most event vendors are more than willing to work with you through these uncharted waters. Start discussions with your most important vendors (venue, caterers, etc) and see what they are willing to do. Many are allowing their customers to reserve a second/alternative date free of charge.
Given the speed at which dates are booking up for the future, this should be your number one priority. As dates continue to book, your vendors may only be able to hold your second date for a certain amount of time before they will ask you to either take or give up your backup date.
Finally, if you have already paid deposits with some vendors, it’s also worth reaching out to see if there are any options to recoup your payments. While many vendors (suffering declines in business for obvious reasons) are probably hesitant or unwilling to return any down payments, there’s no harm in asking and finding out if deadlines for cancellation and deposit refunds have been extended due to the ongoing crisis.
Over-communicating is better than the alternative
Many hosts aren’t sending communications until a decision is made, but it doesn’t hurt to over-communicate in times like this. If you have a lot of guests coming out of town, they will be especially appreciative of any updates that you can provide.
There are a few ideas you should pass along, both to help your guests navigate their own plans and to make it easier for people to attend:
- If guests are traveling, encourage them to book travel for any alternative dates you are considering. With many travel companies (airlines, hotels, etc) offering significant flexibility right now due to low volume, cancellation should be risk-free and the flexibility allows guests to attend when a final date is set.
- As things change (as they seem to every day during the COVID crisis), don’t hesitate to send out quick updates and reminders. Most of your guests are probably stuck at home as well, so they’ll appreciate the updates and be more patient with frequent communications than usual.
If You Ultimately Need To Postpone…
Having to postpone a special event that you have likely put a lot of time and energy into planning can be heartbreaking. It is okay to grieve and give yourself some time before taking your next actions and notifying your guests.
Work With Your Vendors and Suppliers
If you’ve been planning ahead, you’ve likely already been in contact with many of your vendors already. Now you’ll need to solidify plans for your new date and coordinate with the important people who will be bringing your wedding to life. As mentioned, many of your vendors have likely been working with many people in the same situation and will likely be as flexible as possible to help you with your rescheduled event. That said, remember that this situation is also hugely impacting their businesses too, so try to be polite and understanding of their perspectives as well.
Communicating The Change of Plans
We recommend starting by notifying your ‘inner circle’ of the change in plans. You may want to call immediate family members, for example. In the case of a wedding, your wedding party should be notified first.
After that will be the remainder of your guest list. While some hosts are sending out physical mail, in many cases you may not have time for purchasing and mailing out a postponement announcement (or want the added expense). Emails or even a mass text is perfectly suitable.
To do this with RSVPify:
- To email all invited guests on your guest list, go to Invite > Send Email Invitation.
- To email all guests who accepted or replied, go to Tools > Send Email Reminder.
We put together some wording ideas for wedding hosts, but you can use many of these ideas for other social events too!
Depending on your event’s location and invitees, you may have guests who have made a number of arrangements in order to attend your event. While you are dealing with a lot, we do recommend that you do your best to support your invitees as much as possible. If you have a room block, communicate the hotel’s policy for refunding or changing their reservations and the steps they can follow to cancel or reschedule their reservations.
Don’t worry if everything seems chaotic – that’s the case for everyone!
We know how stressful event planning is during normal times – and these are most certainly the opposite of that. But before you get too worried, remember that everyone is experiencing the same uncertainty. Because of this, everyone from your vendors, to your venue, to your guests are more flexible and patient than they might have been a few months ago.
At the end of the day, the best you can do is to take early steps and control what you can control now, to help alleviate more stress down the road. Eventually, the pandemic will begin to end and events will go back to being what we are used to. For now, everyone is going to work with you, so relax as much as you can, and keep thinking about how you can still pull off the event you are hoping for.