What to Know About Canceling Your Wedding Due to Coronavirus, According to Someone Who Had to Do It
I chose my wedding date with great care. May 2, 2020 at Flora Farms in San José del Cabo. It had a nice ring to it. Not too hot — once you get toward the end of May, Cabo really starts to heat up. It was a good time of year for my fiancé’s career — he’s a TV writer, they’re usually on hiatus around then. A spring date made it the first wedding of the year, before our guests were met with 2020 wedding fatigue. Overall, we were pleased with the decision, which we’d made in October 2018.
So, suffice it to say, debating whether to move forward with our May 2 wedding was a thoroughly disappointing exercise. Last week, a level-four travel advisory went into effect as did restrictions on the U.S.-Mexico border, so ultimately, the decision to cancel was made for us. Though, to be clear, it’s a decision we would’ve made anyway, even without the advisory.
The plight of having to cancel or postpone a wedding because of the coronavirus pandemic is by no means one that is unique to me. When I called my wedding planners for their commentary on the situation, they told me they have now canceled (and rescheduled!) seven weddings, including ours. Not only is this emotionally taxing for all the couples and their families — and a logistical chore for everyone involved — it’s a huge strain for the vendors who depend on tourism revenue and the income from these weddings.
As coronavirus spreads and we head into the most difficult weeks of the pandemic in the U.S., with reduced healthcare supplies and lockdowns ordered across the country, it seems trivial to lament over a wedding pushed off nine months. Can you mourn an event that’s not happening, or a meticulously planned moment you didn’t get? Or is that simply taking up space I don’t have a right to co-opt when there is so much more at stake?
Here’s what I’ve concluded, though as with everything right now, it’s subject to change: It’s OK to give yourself the space to be upset when you’re robbed of a moment, a milestone, or an event as a result of this pandemic. It might not be a wedding. Everyone has their own moment they’ve been saving for, planning for, or anticipating.
But you have to first know that it’s a distinct privilege to be at home tearing up over your wedding (or whatever your anticipated moment is) as opposed to being out on the front lines. If the biggest upset in our life — as everything hangs in flux and coronavirus cases mount — is that our wedding doesn’t happen as originally planned, that’s exceedingly fortunate.
And of course, the next thing to be aware of is how postponing a celebration affects everyone else involved. Throughout the destination wedding-planning process, I’ve worked with the two masterminds behind Palms Weddings and Events, Elsa Dilasser and Maria Jose Garcia.
“Everyone’s really nervous because we’re talking about the entire wedding industry in the balance right now. And everything’s just kind of on hold,” Dilasser said when I asked about the impact of these cancellations.
As of now, Garcia and Dilasser report that despite Mexico not having a shelter-in-place order, most Cabo businesses have taken it upon themselves to close for the sake of public health in the long term.
“All the main restaurants in town closed just because they’re all very conscious that, if they don’t make this change now, it could be devastating,” Dilasser said.
Dilasser pointed out that wedding vendors will be impacted slightly less than the boutique hotels and restaurants, because they’ll still get their money as long as couples postpone rather than cancel. Nonetheless, as timelines get pushed, so do final deposits, which can cause significant financial strain. I’ve already had one candid conversation with a vendor, who I’ll be paying in April, regardless of our timeline pushing nearly a year, and I’d encourage any brides and grooms to have those same conversations if they’re able.
However, locally owned restaurants and hotels whose profits come primarily from tourism (rather than weddings) will be hit the hardest. I was adamant about working almost exclusively with local businesses; I made such a case out of it that my plans to use primarily female-owned small businesses were featured in The New York Times. But local businesses also have less backing, which regrettably means they’re more apt to go out of business in the current economy.
On this point, Dilasser reminded me of one semi-heartening truth about most destinations that rely on tourism revenue: they’re accustomed to a low season. And fortunately enough for Mexico, coronavirus-related cancellations are falling right in their low season. The dip in revenue could be much more severe this year, but ultimately, the annual drop in business during the off-season is one many local businesses prepare for financially.
And as Garcia and Dilasser have seen over their 17 years in the Los Cabos wedding industry, that preparation has helped many of these businesses weather storms like widespread illness (swine flu originated in Mexico) and multiple natural disasters.
“Summers can be very hard in Cabo,” said Dilasser. “(Businesses) have to be able to hold over for three months of way less business. If they don’t have the cash flow or savings for that, they won’t survive COVID-19. But the ones who’ve been here forever will.”
All this to say, we canceled, rescheduled, and now have a new date. And I’m sure once we grow accustomed to this shift, I’ll decide that the date has a very nice ring to it. Finding a new date was a challenge, and because of the timing, the nature of our event may change a little from what we originally had in mind. There is now a host of logistical questions that need new answers and new solutions. And everything that goes into picking a wedding date and a wedding venue — the calls to important family members, the pro and con debates, the financial nuance of it all — is rehashed when canceling and rescheduling. But while this has been disruptive and trying, I would never have decided against having a destination wedding. We love our venue and our destination, and still want to share the celebration and experience with our guests — no matter how many months off.