With challenging times upon us during this lockdown, we think it’s important to explore the best ways of planning and booking your wedding photography during the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. What to look for before signing any wedding vendor contract during these uncertain times? Also, we cover how to negotiate, change and cancel a wedding contract during the pandemic. Finally, based on our experience and conversations with our couples, we look at best practice tips to create a safe and memorable environment for your guests should you proceed with your small wedding or elopements during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some time ago we created a blog post focused on; how to find the right photographer for your wedding day. For example, what to watch out for when planning and booking a Wedding Photography Contract. You can find this post here: The Wedding Photography Contract Guide for Couples
In this post we go beyond and look at the many COVID-19 policies and tips which you should be aware of currently. To be sure, this is a complicated topic as the pandemic has sadly effected so much of our daily life. Signing any contract these days may seem foolish during the uncertainty. However, we share what to look for, the questions to ask and how to negotiate with your vendors. Signing a contract now maybe the best thing you can do to book your date before availability disappears well into 2023.
WHY IS PLANNING AND BOOKING YOUR WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY DURING COVID-19 A SMART THING TO DO?
Many couples are still moving their 2020 and 2021 wedding day due to government COVID-19 gathering restrictions. The new dates later this summer and in the fall of 2021 are filling up very quickly. Similarly, dates in 2022 are disappearing also with couples working hard with all of their vendors to move their wedding day to a time when restrictions are lifted and all vendors are available. Venues are now booking weddings for weekdays as most weekends are filled up well into 2023.
Securing your date now, is a wise decision, provided and only if, your contracts with all vendors have a solid date change and cancelation policy. This allows you to safely start planning and booking your wedding photography during the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions now and to celebrate with your family and friends when these restrictions are lifted.
WHAT IS A COVID-19 PANDEMIC DATE CHANGE POLICY?
Most vendors we know have adjusted their contract to include some type date-change policy. We know this from personal contacts but also from speaking to our couples. We have our own COVID-19 Wedding Photography Date Change policy too.
Our policy states:
Should the CLIENT need to reschedule the wedding date due to: pandemic gathering, operational or travel restrictions, or illness, critical injury, natural disasters or acts of god, the PHOTOGRAPHER will make every effort to provide the services outline in Section 1: Scope of Work on the new agreed upon date. The PHOTOGRAPHER agrees that there will be no additional charges associated with any such rescheduled contract dates.
Simply put – Yes, you can reschedule your date in most cases. No, there are no additional costs.
Some of our couples have moved their wedding day three times now. We can only imaging how hard this must be considering all of the wedding planning, changes, emotional and financial stress. Therefor we decided that even though there is work associated with making changes to the contract and moving a wedding day, it’s only fair and kind that the couple is able to make a date change and do so with no additional charges lurking.
Most wedding vendors have a policy which will allow changes to your wedding date due to COVID-19 restrictions. Some of these policy have specific dates built in. For example, you may need to make the date change at least 60 or 90 days in advance. However, only some will do so with no additional fees. The thinking is that a year from now their expenses will cost more and that it takes time to changes contracts and move dates. We agree, but have chosen to keep our policy simple and to do what we can for our couples during this difficult time. Please make sure you check with your vendors what their change policy is and what timelines are associated with the policy before signing any contract. What about cancelations?
CANCELING A PLANNED AND BOOKED WEDDING AND PHOTOGRAPHY DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC.
A clearly stated cancellation policy is key in any vendor contract these days. Usually the policy has two parts. First, a part about cancellations for any reason but the COVID-19 Pandemic restrictions. Second, a part which states how the contract can be cancelled due to any COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Occasionally contracts are muddy. They use a Force Majeure clause for both types of cancellations. Force Majeure is something that due to unforeseeable circumstances prevents someone from fulfilling a contract. Personally, we have an issue with lumping COVID-19 restrictions as a Force Majeure. The reason is that these days government restriction due to the COVID-19 Pandemic are for the most part foreseeable. A dedicated clause addressing these restrictions directly is the right way to go.
Most wedding industry vendors will allow some type of contract cancelation. However, in 90% of the cases the retainer deposit which you paid to book your wedding will be lost in full. This is especially true when canceling for any reason other than the pandemic restrictions. Why is that?
When a wedding vendor receives a retainer they hold the date for you. New couples who reach-out with the same day as yours are turned away. If you now cancel your wedding day for any reason, the vendor will likely not be able to fill that date. This would be a substantial loss in revenue and in their livelihood. Most small vendors simply can’t afford such losses. In addition, work has already started. Contracts were issued, communication took place, expenses were paid by the vendor needed to run the business. This may not seem like much, but it does add up for most small vendors. Does this mean that your retainer deposit is non-refundable under all circumstances? Not necessarily!
At Ever After Photographers our Cancelation Policy is:
The CLIENT acknowledges and agrees that the reatiner amount is provided in exchange for a booking hold on the specific wedding date outlined in section 1 and that this deposit is not-refundable should the wedding date outlined in this contract be cancelled for any reason by the CLIENT, including due to any pandemic gathering, operational or travel restrictions, and if no attempt to rebook the wedding date is made by the CLIENT.
Simply put: The retainer is non-refundable. Unless you need to move the wedding due to a COVD-19 restrictions to a date on which we are not available. In this case our policy is simple again:
Should the PHOTOGRAPHER, for any reason, not be able to provide the service outlined on the new proposed wedding date, and if no engagement session was booked or delivered, the PHOTOGRAPHER agrees to a refund of 100% of any deposit payments paid by the CLIENT in relation to this shoot. If an engagement session was booked and deliver the PHOTOGRAPHER will refund 75% of the given retainer provided by the CLEINT.
This means that your deposit is refundable under certain specific circumstances when booking your wedding day photography with us. Most of the time we simply work with you to make the change and secure a new date with no fees. We do ask for an additional deposit if your wedding day moves significantly to spread out the booking costs. However this additional deposit is not mandatory in any way.
We wish we could say that was the case for all vendors. However, we know from our couples that it’s not. Many couples have lost their deposit in full when moving their date to a day when their vendor was not available or when simply moving their date at all! This is why it’s so important to fully understand and ask about the COVID-19 Cancelation Policy with any wedding vendor before booking. Such policies can place restrictions on your wedding day plans quickly.
Tip: If you are really stuck with a vendor who can’t provide a refund after signing a contract, our suggestion is to ask nicely for a credit valued in the amount of the deposit. You may then be able to use the credit to book a service in the future. Ask also if the credit is transferable as you may be able to gift or even sell the credit to a second couple. To avoid any miscommunication and issues in the future, we strongly suggest that you talk to your vendors before signing any contracts. Next, we share how to negotiate and book a wedding contracts during the pandemic.
HOW TO NEGOTIATE A COVID-19 PANDEMIC CONTRACT POLICY WITH YOUR VENDORS:
Couples are not aware that most points of a vendor wedding contract can be negotiated. If after reviewing your vendor’s contract you find that their COVID-19 date change and cancelation policy is lacking, make sure you speak to your vendor BEFORE signing any contract. Most vendors are willing to make small changes and clarifications in the contract before signing. Aim for a fair contract and most vendors will understand. After all, a good contract is an agreement between both parties that protects both the vendor and the client from miscommunication. It does so by clearly stating each agreed upon policy to avoid any confusion in most future situations.
TIPS FOR HAVING A SMALL WEDDING OR ELOPEMENT DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC:
Alright, so you checked the contracts, booked your vendors and with your wedding day quickly approaching decided to scale down your guest list instead of rescheduling your wedding day. We get it! Many couples simply decide to move forward with their wedding day despite the given restrictions. Below are some tips which we have put together based on our experiences of shooting small weddings and elopements during the pandemic. We hope they help you plan your wedding and photography during the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
1. Have a PLAN A, B and C!
With federal, provincial and municipal government restriction changing all the time, have multiple plans for venue and guests. Most couples have a plan A guests list, plan B and a plan C. Usually plan C is 10 people or less who would be part of your intimate wedding ceremony. We suggest creating a group email list for all three guest lists to make communication fast and easy when restrictions are placed or lifted.
I know it may seem odd to omit close family members from your C list. From talking with our couples we have found that all of their family members are very understanding. I am sure yours will be also! They know the stress you’re under and are willing to be flexible. Below are images from a wedding day initially planned for 150 people. Due to restrictions the weeding ended up hosting 10 people. In the end, the wedding was intimate, touching and beautiful and we were very fortunate to be there capturing all of the moments and emotions.
Communicate your plans clearly with your venue and all of your vendors so that everyone is in the loop. If you’re lucky enough to have a wedding planner they can of course do that for you. Incidentally we talked to a top Toronto wedding planner from Blush and Bowties about her work in our blog post here: The Importance of a Wedding Planner on Your Wedding Day
2. Share Your Wedding Story during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
When planning and booking your wedding photography during the COVID-19 pandemic we suggest involving those family members who will not be there in person by providing the ceremony coverage online. Many social media platforms and meeting platform such as ZOOM can stream your wedding for free or with minimal associated costs.
At Ever After Photographers we have decided that taking great photos is what we must concentrate on during your ceremony and your big day. We do offer about a dozen fully edited sneak peek images which you can quickly share with your family and guests shortly after the ceremony. As for streaming some videographers offer this service now. However, a good friend with a solid understanding of social media and live streaming is a great asset here too. Our big suggestion is please don’t try to do this on your own! This is your wedding day and you should focus on each other and not the cell or WiFi coverage in the area! We have seen couples loose themselves in their phone settings minutes before walking down the aisle! Be present and enjoy the profound experience of living through one of the most amazing moments of your life.
3. Make Sure You and Your Guests are Safe During the COVID-19 Pandemic!
A wedding day is a time to celebrate love and not risk the health of your family and friends. Respect all government restrictions meant to protect you, your guests and vendors. Limit any time spend indoors and only do so if absolutely needed. Most couples plan distanced tables with a single households only, especially when older or non vaccinated guests are concerned. A tip from a wedding we shot last year; consider hosting a lunch for certain guests followed by a dinner for close family members in the evening. Having two or even three sittings allows you to host more guests while respecting the given restrictions. Talk to your venue to see if they can accommodate.
Provide disposable masks, as they get lost and damaged. Small personal sanitizer bottles can be used as small favours. They are not as nice as chocolates but they are appreciated by guests. We have seen customized and hand made sanitizer bottles too!
Please make sure all guests were face-mask at all times other than when eating or drinking during the reception dinner. Communicate this at the start of the wedding through the host. This is especially true when guests leave their table to chat with others or to find the bathroom. Finally, when planning and booking your wedding photography during Covid-19 pandemic always leave room between family grouping photos. Also, we ask the guests to take their masks off for only 10 second and only if they feel comfortable during a family session.
Please remember that you can still catch the virus, or carry it, even when vaccinated. One of our couples asked all of their guests to provide a recent negative COVID-19 test before the wedding day. We fully support this. However, tests are not 100% accurate. The virus may simply have not developed enough to show up during testing. All protection and distancing precautions should still apply.
When planning and booking your wedding photography during COVID-19 pandemic, please consider your health and that of your guests. The COVID-19 pandemic is real. Please treat it with caution. As an example, during one of the weddings we shot late last year I found out that my last living grandmother, Baba Zosia, past away due to the COVID-19 viruse. Although not related specifically to the wedding of course, it was a sad reminder just how dangerous and real this pandemic is. Please stay safe everyone!
4. Despite the COVID-19 Pandemic, It’s About You and Your Shared Love!
Couples who choose to safely proceed with their wedding despite the pandemic restrictions are an inspiration to us and to many. They choose to celebrate their love responsibly, despite the challenges of the gathering restrictions and additional safety logistics. They choose to celebrate their relationship above the usual ritual of big marriages. Maybe because of this fact, our recently photographed weddings had a small yet meaningful wedding ceremony or reception.
When permitted, backyard wedding ceremonies and receptions are a great way to celebrate together in a safe and meaningful way. Below are images from a backyard wedding during the COVID-19 pandemic. We think it was one of the most natural, intimate, honest and beautiful to date. We have no doubt that if you proceed with your intimate wedding or elopement, it will have the same emotional value as this one did. Because, in the end it really is just about the two of you and your shared love.
Do your best to find people who can help you plan your wedding day. If you look, you will very likely find many who want to help. Because, even if your wedding may now be small due to the COVID 19 pandemic restrictions, there still is much to plan and book. This planning can sometime prevent you from focusing on each other. On, the commitment you are both undertaking. The love you share and the new life journey which you are embarking on is an amazing thing. We hope you find the time to be present and that you enjoy every moment that this unique merging of two people brings. For us, there is no greater joy or privilege than the ability to capture those authentic moments and emotions. Thank you to all of our couples who have trusted as with their small, weddings and elopements during these difficult times.
We hope the above information about contracts and wedding planning during this challenging time is useful. Planning and booking wedding and photography vendors during COVID-19 pandemic is not easy but it certainly is possible. If you have any questions at all about the above or if you are still looking to book a Wedding Photographer, please feel free to reach out to us below.
We look forward to chatting with you! Stay safe and positive everyone!