IMAGE BY KATARZYNA GRABOWSKA.
Disclaimer: This feature was originally written on Thursday 12th March 2020.
We might not want to think of it or deal with it but none of us are escaping the clutches of coronavirus right now. This week in particular things have ramped up within the wedding industry as some venues are hearing from customers needing to seriously consider postponement of their wedding.
This advice is not intended to cause alarm, worry, or heighten any fear but intended to provide thoughts on keeping customers at the forefront of our minds, protecting ourselves and our businesses and taking precautions where we can in what are uncharted waters.
Clearly this is written as a snapshot in time and is fast moving so please understand this advice is written with the best of intention with the information available on 12th March 2020.
Be available and show empathy
First up, if a wedding couple is contacting your venue re: any concerns on coronavirus or re: potentially cancelling or postponing their weddings, it’s important that you are there for them. Responding and acknowledging their email or phone call in a very timely manner is key. This is a stressful and emotional time and couples need to know that you are there for them above all and that you’re with them.
Any delays in them reaching you will heighten anxiety so first off respond to their message and start a dialogue. It’s not expected that that dialogue is going to give them the answers they need, nor would I suggest promising to anything that would have a financial impact straight off but start the dialogue with empathy in mind always. This is new territory for us all and we need to stand together to find solutions.
Be proactive with reassurance
As a further recommended step (and I’m pleased to see some venues doing this already) I suggest proactively contacting couples with reassurance that you and your venue team are very much intending to carry on hosting their wedding (unless Government advice indicates otherwise).
Some couples may be worrying that you’re going to pull out on them; it works both ways. Focus on telling them of the precautionary steps you’re taking to protect them and their wedding.
This may include:
The availability of hand sanitisers, anti-bac soap, paper towels, not hand towels, signage to remind of hand washing, extra tissues.
Checking of the recent travel movements of your venue team plus your key wedding suppliers such as caterers to ensure that staff have been and continue to be checked for not recently travelling back from highly infected countries (China, Italy, Korea, Iran) and if so are undergoing self isolation for 14 days.
Telling them of additional hygiene procedures your caterers have put in place.
Telling them of measures you’re putting in place to ensure your supply chain is as unaffected as possible so that you can host their event (particularly relevant to those venues who provide catering in house)
You may want to suggest to couples that they look at their guest list and take a view on whether elderly or those with respiratory conditions consider not attending the wedding and that they check their guests & hired in suppliers for adhering to the self quarantine regulations.
A different approach may be needed for couples not yet booked but venue searching currently – they are going to need additional reassurance of what a professional and reliable business you are before making any investment especially as they are being denied wedding insurance currently so give some thought as to ways you can communicate that during enquiry/showround/sales process.
Be Tech Ready
Whilst for most of us we’re continuing business as usual, it’s worth thinking and being prepared with ways you can reduce impact should there be tighter controls on movement in the UK. Or at the moment if couples are anxious about planning meetings and the like that are not urgent, can you find another way?
Can you look at moving meetings to video call using the likes of Zoom/Skype or Google Hangouts? I’m not suggesting this as a proactive approach (I’m certainly carrying on with meetings and life as usual) but being open to this for clients who are hesitating.
For those unable to get in and see you right now at prospect and speculative stage, are you able to direct them to a high quality virtual tour for example?
And for couples marrying soon to support them and try to offer some positive solutions in what is a very upsetting time, how about looking at setting up a live streaming service for guests who may not be able to attend their ceremony either because of the risk (elderly or those with underlying health concerns) or due to illness. Not the same as being there we know, but something to ensure they don’t miss out entirely. Thank you to Celia Gaze at The Wellbeing Farm for inspiring me with this idea that she has researched and put into action at her Lancashire Farm Venue.
Late Availability Dates
Sadly a number of UK couples are in the midst of cancelling beautiful Italian weddings currently. Many of them are overwhelmed with the sadness and responsibility of rearranging that wedding at short notice and closer to home. There is a chance to help here where you have availability.
Can you make it as easy as possible for couples to find your availability and guide pricing for say March – May by updating your third party platforms, web and social media channels.
Check your T&Cs
You may well have done this, but do ensure you’re aware of and understand your business Terms & Conditions fully. Discuss with the lawyer who wrote them how they stand if you are unsure at this moment in time. As it stands today on Thursday 12th March, it is ‘business as usual’ within the UK so your usual T&Cs stand until any kind of government decision tells us otherwise.
However given the highly personal nature of the business we’re in it is likely you are going to want to or need to flex from these terms in some situations which is your decision as the business owner. At the moment this is affecting mainly those venues unable to welcome wedding guests from Italy or other infected countries.
Most of those affected so far are looking at short term postponements and rearrangements of dates or accepting reduction of paid guest numbers to minimise impact all round. This is an ever changing situation of course and key is to keep dialogue going with your legal advisors and business insurers, whilst holding the customer firmly in mind too.
I hope you’ve found this advice useful as we all learn together how to navigate this challenge.