March 2, 2020
With the first reported deaths from the Coronavirus taking place in the Seattle area over the weekend, many people are understandably worried about the virus, and looking for ways to protect themselves and their families. With some of Seattle’s largest companies instigating travel bans for their employees, this has some of our clients asking, what does this mean for my wedding?
We consulted with Resilience & Crisis Manager and former client, Ashley Young-Tau to get her unique and informed perspective, and here’s what she had to say.
“One important thing to note: the flu has killed more people in the US than COVID-19. The mortality rate of COVID-19 is less than 2%. Caution is important, but panic is not necessary.” Sound advice, but when it comes to exercising caution around your wedding, what exactly does that mean?
Contact your vendors (especially catering and venue) and ask them what their protocol is for this situation, some suggestions would be:
All servers & food handlers are asked to wear gloves and masks to reduce contact. Please note: we are not suggesting that guests should wear them.
If a server/food handler is sick on the day of, or displays symptoms (cold, cough, fever, etc) the caterer should ask them to stay at home and have appropriate backup.
The assumption is that COVID-19 lives on surfaces for 24 hours, if the venue has more than one event happening in a 24 hour period their cleaning protocols should be especially rigorous.
If you have booked licensed and insured professionals they will already have to have be certified in food handling and safety, meaning that basics like appropriate hand washing will already be standard. If your wedding is of a DIY variety and you are relying on non professionals to help out, then it is definitely important to tell them what you expect and ensure you have appropriate liability coverage.
Consider adding some additional signage in bathrooms to nudge guests in the right direction. Good intentions can go out the window when you’re eager to get back to the dance floor! Medical advice tells us that washing our hands regularly for at least 20 seconds is the best preventative measure we can take.
It would also be sensible to advise any guests who display symptoms of a cold or flu not to attend, however sad this might be, for that guest, or for you.
Many people have asked whether they should cancel their wedding. The reality is that right now there is no need to. If there was a significant spike in cases resulting in a government mandate that restricted movement, then it might become advisable. Or at the very least, you should restrict guests who are most at risk, such as the elderly, children, or those with weakened immune systems.
However, if the empty shelves in grocery stores across Seattle this weekend are anything to go by, one thing is clear, many people are already in panic mode. So government mandate or not, this may well have some impact on events coming up over the next couple of months.
Everyone has a different line between caution and panic. You may have guests who aren’t prepared to attend, and this may feel to you, like an over-reaction and actually be quite hurtful. Try to remember that it isn’t personal. Concern for our safety, and the safety of our loved ones, isn’t always logical, and it doesn’t affect how much they love you.
If you are planning your own wedding (ie. you don’t have a planner or coordinator to do this for you) it may be advisable to check in with your vendors to understand where their comfort levels lie and double check contracts to understand what your rights are. All the vendors we have spoken with say they fully intend to honor all commitments so we definitely don’t want to scare you here, but being in regular communication will assuage everyone’s fears.
Lastly, if you do decide you need to cancel your wedding, either because the situation worsens or you have a high number of guests who are unwilling or unable to travel, talk to your vendors as soon as possible! All professional vendors should have a Force Majeure clause in their contract, meaning that you will likely not be entitled to a refund for any retainers already paid and may still be liable to pay any outstanding balances. However, in our experience many vendors will work with you to accommodate date changes if they can and will be far more likely to be flexible before they’ve placed orders for fixed costs like food or flowers. This is a difficult situation and emotions will understandably be running high, but just as with almost everything else in life, good communication will help you here.
Please note that purchasing cancellation insurance will not help you if you have to cancel due to this virus. Insurance companies will not insure against known pandemics.
I want to end this by reiterating Ashley’s earlier words “caution is important but panic is not necessary”. If you are feeling anxious or stressed seek help, and if you need any further advice on how to navigate your wedding planning please reach out to us.
Ashley Young-Tau is currently employed as a Resilience and Crisis Manager at Oracle Cloud Infrastructure and was previously in charge of Business Resilience and Continuity at Starbucks. She has degrees in Humanitarian Logistics and Emergency Management and is a certified Business Continuity Manager (DRI) and Associate Emergency Manager.