The venue’s been booked, the menu set. The invitations are in the mail. Everything’s in place for your wedding day.
There’s just one tiny unknown left to worry about: life, which has a pesky habit of taking a chisel to plans that once seemed rock solid.
An unforeseen event — family illness, inclement weather — can make short work of your meticulous matrimonial planning, leading to the sudden cancellation or rescheduling of your wedding. If that happens, you and your beloved won’t be bringing your lips together in front of friends and family. You’ll be kissing your deposits goodbye.
And it’s not just pre-wedding misfortune that can cost you. There’s no shortage of mishaps that can take place during and after the ceremony, opening the door to financial nightmares.
You can’t prevent life from doing what it does, but you can mitigate some of the risk by following these simple guidelines.
1. Vet your vendors
It’s critical that you find professionals with the capacity to come through when you need them. Booking someone who’s inexperienced, a side hustler or simply not that good, could leave you in the lurch.
It certainly wouldn’t be the first time a photographer accidentally double-booked themselves, or an unlucky caterer went out of business prior to a wedding, says Matt Taylor, general manager of operations at PAL Insurance Brokers in Simcoe, Ontario.
Ask your married friends for recommendations and carefully consult online reviews. When you’ve found a few vendors you like, see if they’re recognized by the Better Business Bureau or belong to any related trade associations, like the Professional Photographers of Canada or Restaurants Canada (formerly the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association).
No matter who you choose, be sure to get written contracts that clearly spell out cancellation policies, your vendors’ expectations around things like accommodations and meals, and any additional fees, charges or gratuities that might have to be paid.
2. Brace for bad weather
Weather was the biggest fear nagging Lynzie Kent, founder and creative director at Toronto-based Mad Bash Group, an event services company, before her own wedding 11 years ago.
“I had many stress dreams leading up to my wedding, and it did rain on my wedding day — a lot,” Kent says. “But we had tents and umbrellas, and it stopped in time for the ceremony and cocktail hour.”
According to Danielle Andrews, president of the Wedding Planners Institute of Canada, most traditional venues have contingency plans in case the weather decides to toast your wedding with rain — or something even worse.
If you choose a non-traditional venue, like a farm, a beach or backyard, it’s important to arrange your weather-related Plan Bs well ahead of time. That may mean organising an alternative space that’s large enough for all of your guests, or creating one with equipment that can block wind and rain, like Kent did.
Uncooperative weather won’t just impact you and your guests. It can also create problems for your photographers, DJs and other vendors you hired to work their magic outside. They’ll all need contingency plans, too.
3. Insure what you can
Insurance can factor into your wedding plans in two ways.
The first is largely non-negotiable. Event spaces often require you to secure coverage for potential damages to their property, as well as host liquor liability coverage, which is a must if your guests will be consuming alcohol.
But a well-lubricated reception isn’t the only place accidents can happen. Taylor remembers one ceremony where an elderly participant, following behind the flower girl, slipped on the scattered petals and banged her head on one of the pews.
“That was quite a significant injury, so there was a lawsuit brought forth on that for long-term care and medical expenses,” he says.
Protecting your guests and venues needn’t cost a lot. Some packages in Canada start around $100. An online quote from one event insurer for a theoretical June 2022 wedding in Edmonton came up to less than $150 for over $6 million in total coverage.
The second way is to insure the deposits paid to vendors, which are notoriously difficult to get back, even in the most extreme circumstances.
Comprehensive wedding insurance isn’t common in Canada, but some companies do offer policies that cover deposits lost due to circumstances like adverse weather, family illness and vendor no-shows. They also offer protection for wedding rings and dresses in case of theft or damage.
Shelling out for expanded insurance could increase your wedding costs by more than $1,000. It’s up to you and your partner to decide whether the added protection is worth it. Keep in mind that change of heart, the most common reason for wedding cancellations, is not covered by wedding insurance.
4. Don’t forget about COVID-19
One variable that wedding insurance won’t protect against is a cancellation due to COVID-19. In fact, insurance companies are explicitly telling their customers that COVID-related claims won’t be paid out.
Attempting to COVID-proof your wedding must be a joint effort between you, your vendors and your guests. The plan should:
- Ensure that you understand the COVID measures being followed by the vendors and venues you book — and that you’re comfortable with them.
- Give your guests more space. Seating eight people at a 12-person table, for example, can literally create more breathing room. This may result in you needing a bigger venue for your ceremony or reception.
- Communicate the venues’ COVID-19 policy to your guests. Remind them that not following the rules could result in them not participating in the festivities.
- Encourage your wedding party and guests of honour to be extra careful regarding COVID exposure in the weeks leading up to your wedding.
5. Turn to the pros
If a DIY wedding feels like too heavy a lift, there’s an entire industry of wedding planners who will happily help carry the load — for a price.
“The thing is,” Andrews says, “most wedding planners save couples enough money by preventing costly mistakes that they usually pay for themselves.”
That may be, but hiring a planner could still add a considerable amount to the cost of your wedding. The average cost of a planner tasked with fully coordinating the event is 10-15% of the total wedding budget, according to the Wedding Planners Institute of Canada. Going with a “month-of” coordinator, who helps finalise details and assists on wedding day, can still cost well over a thousand dollars.
Rather than looking at wedding planners as an expense, Andrews suggests couples consider them an added layer of wedding insurance: You can probably get by without it, but if you’re wrong, you won’t know until it’s too late.
An experienced wedding planner has likely seen it all, too, which allows them to plan for the wilder what-ifs that might not even cross your mind.
“I’ve witnessed everything from a guest’s water breaking, to a groom so drunk he wet himself, to a cake that got ruined in a car accident, to golf ball-sized hail on a tented reception,” Kent says. “You can’t prevent these things, but you can roll up your sleeves, start thinking critically and work as a team to get Plan B in motion.”