It’s nearly impossible to keep up with the situation surrounding the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, especially with a 24-hour news cycle. But on Sunday, March 15, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made an announcement that will likely put a definitive hold on most upcoming events, and, unfortunately, weddings.
“Large events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States via travelers who attend these events and introduce the virus to new communities,” the CDC said in a press release. “Therefore, CDC, in accordance with its guidance for large events and mass gatherings, recommends that for the next 8 weeks [until May 10, 2020), organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States.” Update: In a press conference on Monday President Trump advised no gatherings of 10 people or more.
Listen to this week’s special episode of The Woman Getting Married Podcast, Coronavirus and Your Wedding: What You Need to Know
Shortly after the CDC’s announcement, lawmakers in states like California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, and Massachusetts revealed that they’d be implementing additional safety measures. For many, that includes banning on-premises eating and drinking at restaurants and bars. Starting on Tuesday in New York, movie theaters, small theaters, concert venues, and nightclubs will also be forced to close. This is all in addition to everything that’s happened in the past week when numerous governors declared a state of emergency, thousands of schools closed, and employees in various fields started being forced to work from home, or worse, laid off.
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For now, the CDC’s recommendation regarding gatherings is set to last until mid-May. That could certainly change, especially if the number of coronavirus cases in the US continues to rise. As of Sunday, there were at least 3,349 cases in 49 states, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and Washington DC, according to CNN.
With ongoing restrictions, closings, and most importantly, a concern for people’s health and wellbeing, where does that leave couples who were planning to say “I do” this year?
If you have a wedding planned for March and April (and even beginning of May), you will most likely need to postpone. It’s a heartbreaking choice to make, but one that prioritizes the wellbeing of your family and friends (especially those that are older or immunocompromised). Social distancing — AKA deliberately increasing the physical space between people — will quite literally “prevent infections and save lives,” World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom said.
Our Editor Lindsay Jones answers your wedding questions on Instagram:
Also, many government offices are now closed until further notice which would delay getting your marriage license.
Your venue and your vendors should ideally be taking the advice of the CDC for the next 8 weeks, and hopefully working with you to postpone your wedding if it’s scheduled during this time period. If you are running into issues with a vendor letting you postpone to a later date, review your contract (more on that below) to see what your obligations are and if you have an out. Specifically, you should be looking for a “force majeure” clause. This essentially says that, if something outside of the control of one or both of the parties occurs (like an earthquake, hurricane, civil unrest, etc.) then one or both of the parties can pause or cancel the contract.
For weddings scheduled for this summer, talk to your wedding vendors about what your options are should the travel bans and gathering recommendations be extended. Just keep in mind that the sooner you can make a decision, the better. Not only so you can keep your guests informed, but for your own peace of mind.
Read on to learn about cancellations, refunds, insurance policies, and everything else you’ll need to familiarize yourself with if you have a wedding planned for this year.
Those with weddings in the upcoming months — even if they’re being held in the U.S. — might be short a few out-of-town guests. Last week, President Trump “said that he could restrict domestic travel to regions of the United States,” the NYT reported. More specifically, a reporter asked if he would restrict travel to states with a large number of reported cases, like Washington or California. “Is it a possibility? Yes, if somebody gets a little bit out of control, if an area gets too hot,” he responded.
If your first thought is to encourage driving over flying, consider the advice of Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious diseases physician and vice chair of the Infectious Diseases Society of America Global Health Committee. She told the Times that the issue isn’t how you get somewhere, but why you’re going in the first place. “It’s about what you’re going to do when you get there,” Dr. Kuppalli said. People are still going to have contact with other people, which goes against the WHO’s recommendation of social distancing and staying close to home to prevent the outbreak from spreading.
If you’ve already booked a venue or secured a caterer, the first thing you should do is go over your various contracts. Most contracts, as stated above, have a “force majeure” clause. According to The National Law Review, this clause “usually operates to relieve one or both parties of some or all of their contractual obligations if an unforeseeable event beyond either party’s control prevents or delays full or partial performance of obligations under the contract.” Even if your contract doesn’t have this clause, the law that governs your contract could be implied, according to The National Law Review:
“… force majeure concept (such as the doctrine of impossibility or frustration) could be implied under applicable state contract law. How does the contract define a force majeure event? Is the provision broadly written? Assess whether the outbreak of the coronavirus, or the efforts to contain it, constitute a force majeure event under the contract. Examples of relevant language that may be included are “disease,” “epidemic,” “pandemic,” “quarantine,” or “acts of government.”
Also keep in mind that you could find yourself on the other end of a cancellation, too. So, reach out to your vendors, and have an in-person conversation about the current situation. If it’s outside the 8-week period, ask them what their personal plans are for their business, and also what would happen if you had to cancel or postpone your wedding in the event the situation is not any better? Keep a line of communication open with your vendors no matter what you decide, and if you can choose to postpone rather than cancel altogether, than do that. This will not only help small businesses, but will mean you won’t have to start from scratch if you choose to plan your wedding for a later date.
Speaking of guests, you’re probably being bombarded with questions about whether or not your wedding is still on. An easy way to keep people in the loop is by constantly updating your wedding website. If you don’t have any immediate changes to announce, still include a note about the coronavirus and acknowledge that you’re monitoring the situation.
You should also mention that you completely understand if anyone is uncomfortable traveling or attending your wedding and encourage them to let you know right away.
If you need to cancel or postpone, then you need to tell your guests ASAP. In the interest of timeliness, this can be done in a simple manner. Whether you’re notifying people by email or updating your wedding website, keep the message short and sweet. For example, “Due to the coronavirus outbreak, we are making the difficult decision to postpone our wedding. Though we are disappointed, our top priority is your health and safety. We’ll keep you updated about any future plans for our wedding.”
Usually trip or wedding insurance does not cover foreseeable events, and at this point the coronavirus is considered foreseeable. There are “Cancel for Any Reason” policies for travel (more on those below) so that’s an option for your honeymoon, but for your wedding chances are your existing policy or a policy you would purchase now for a future wedding would still most likely not cover it. If your venue is forced to cancel because of a government ban and they do not reimburse you, you would most likely be covered in that event. So talk to insurance companies like Travelers to see what your options are.
When it comes to your honeymoon, Melanie Musson, an insurance expert and writer for USInsuranceAgents.com, told Newsday that your best bet for coverage that will reimburse you for a canceled trip due to coronavirus is to get Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) coverage.
Be warned, though. For one, the coverage won’t be cheap. “It could easily cost 10 percent of the cost of your trip, and it will only reimburse you 50-75 percent of your trip costs…” Musson said. Additionally, you might not be covered if you’re planning to go to a place with a known outbreak.
Just make sure to read the terms and conditions of your plan, and ask lots of questions. What are the limits of the protections? Will you get a cash refund or a credit to reschedule your trip? Is medical insurance included? These are just a few things to consider.
Destination Wedding-Specific Information
Couples who planned to leave the U.S. to have a destination wedding are in an admittedly tough spot right now and are having to decide between moving their nuptials stateside or postponing for a later date. If you’re in the midst of this decision-making process, here’s what you need to know.
President Trump has suspended travel from Europe (including the United Kingdom and Ireland) to the United States. Per The New York Times, the ban was initially set to be in place for 30 days, but the White House later said that the restrictions will remain in place “until terminated by the President.”
The banned countries, known as the Schengen Area, include: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
U.S. citizens and their family members currently in these countries can come back to the U.S., but the State Department’s global Level 3 health advisory (the second-highest; a Level 4 advisory means “do not travel”) urges citizens to “reconsider travel.”
People should also be warned that more restrictions could be imposed as time passes. The State Department said travel could be halted “without notice” even in countries where no cases of Covid-19 have been reported. Airlines are likely to begin cutting flights, too — especially low-cost carriers.
While we can’t tell you exactly what you and your S.O. should do, we can provide you with the resources and information you need in order to make a decision yourself. We will keep this page updated with the latest information. In the meantime read our articles on whether you Should Cancel/Postpone Your Honeymoon Because of the Coronavirus and How the Coronavirus is Affecting the Wedding Industry.
General Travel & Accommodation Information
We’ve gathered information about cancellations and policy updates for various airlines, hotel franchises, and more.
All three major US airlines — Delta, United, and American — operating transatlantic and transpacific routes are waiving change and cancel fees for travel to all of Europe and Asia, according to Business Insider.
American is waiving flight-change fees prior to travel on any tickets purchased before March 1 for travel through April 30. The offer applies to any of American’s nonrefundable fares. Customers’ new ticket has to be reissued on or before Dec. 31 or 12 months from the original ticket date, whichever comes first.
The airline is also waiving change fees for those who purchased tickets before March 11 for travel to Europe (including the UK) through May 31. Furthermore, anyone with previous plans to go to Italy, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, South Korea or Wuhan, China, is eligible for a “one-time fee-free trip cancellation.”
Delta is broadly waiving change fees for travel impacted by coronavirus. That means all travel departing in March or April 2020, as well as all tickets purchased in March 2020. Any Delta ticket expiring in March or April will be extended to allow for rebooking and travel until Dec. 31.
Delta is also waiving fees for any travel through May 31 to the following areas:
- Europe, the U.K. and Ireland
- Shanghai and Beijing
- Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala and St. Maarten
For other flights May 1, 2020 or later, Delta encourages customers to check back as the situation evolves.
United is waiving change fees for any bookings — domestic and international — made between March 3 and March 31. The airline will also issue waivers for all tickets issued on or before March 2 with original travel dates of March 9 through April 30. Travel plans can be changed to a flight of equal or lesser value up to 12 months from the original ticket issue date free of charge.
Below, we’ve listed additional airlines and provided links to their updated cancellation policies.
avid, Atwell Suites, Candlewood Suites, Crowne Plaza, EVEN Hotels, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Club Vacations, Holiday Inn Express, Holiday Inn Resorts, Hotel Indigo, HUALUXE® Hotels and Resorts, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, Regent Hotels & Resorts, Six Senses Hotels & Resorts, Staybridge Suites, voco
InterContinental Hotels Group is waiving cancellation fees for existing and new bookings at all IHG hotels globally for stays between March 9, 2020 and April 30, 2020.
This is in addition to existing cancellation policy measures currently in place—for any stay prior to March 9, 2020, existing measures mean that you will be able to change or cancel a valid booking reservation without financial penalty, if you are traveling to or from:
- Mainland China, Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR and the Taiwan region for any stay between January 23, 2020 and March 9, 2020
- Italy and South Korea for any stay between February 28, 2020 and March 9, 2020
Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Canopy by Hilton, Curio – A Collection by Hilton, DoubleTree by Hilton, Embassy Suites by Hilton, Hampton Inn by Hilton, Hilton Hotels, Hilton Garden Inn, Hilton Grand Vacations, Home2 Suites by Hilton, Homewood Suites by Hilton, LXR Tapestry Collection by Hilton, Tru by Hilton, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts
Modification and cancellation waivers in place for specific regions are listed here:
- For guests traveling to, through or from China with stays from January 23–March 31, 2020.
- For guests traveling to, through or from Italy with stays from February 24–April 30, 2020.
- For guests traveling to, through or from South Korea with stays from February 24–March 31, 2020.
- For guests traveling to, through or from Saudi Arabia with stays from February 27–March 31, 2020.
- For guests traveling to, through or from Israel with stays from March 10–March 31, 2020.
- For guests traveling between the US and the following European countries from March 13 – April 12, 2020:
Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
The following regions will receive special modifications and cancellation waivers based on Government Travel Restrictions. These modifications will be in addition to the global and regional enhancements described below:
- For non-United States Citizens traveling to the US from the United Kingdom or Ireland from March 13 – April 12, 2020 (extension of the policy re: Europe)
- For guests traveling to, through, or from France with stays from March 14 – March 28, 2020
- For guests traveling to, through, or from Spain with stays from March 14 – March 28, 2020
Additionally, any new and existing reservations that are booked between March 12 and April 30, 2020, for any future arrival date, can be changed or canceled at no charge up to 24 hours before arrival.
Andaz, Alila, Thompson Hotels, Hyatt Centric, Park Hyatt, Miraval, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, Hyatt Zilara/Hyatt Ziva, Hyatt Place, Hyatt House, The Unbound Collection by Hyatt, Destination Hotels, Joie de Vivre
Hyatt will wave cancellation fees for all existing reservations made before March 13, 2020 that are for arrivals between March 14 and April 30, 2020. These can be changed or cancelled at no charge up to 24 hours before your scheduled arrival.
AC Hotels, Aloft Hotels, Autograph Collection Hotels, Bulgari Hotels, Courtyard by Marriott, Delta Design Hotels, EDITION, element, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Four Points, Gaylord Hotels, Homes & Villas by Marriott International, JW Marriott, Le MERIDIEN, Marriott Executive Apartments, Marriott Hotels, Marriott Vacation Club, Moxy Hotels, Protea Hotels, Renaissance Hotels, Residence Inn, Ritz-Carlton, Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Sheraton Springhill Suites by Marriott, St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, TownePlace Suites, Tribute Portfolio, W Hotels, Westin
For all Marriott International hotels worldwide, the following policies are being implemented:
- For guests with existing reservations for any future arrival date, including reservations with pre-paid rates that are typically more restrictive, Marriott will allow full changes or cancellation without a charge up to 24 hours prior to arrival, as long as the change or cancellation is made by April 30, 2020.
- For guests making new reservations for any future arrival date, including reservations with pre-paid rates, between today and April 30, 2020, Marriott will allow the reservation to be changed or cancelled at no charge up to 24 hours before your scheduled arrival date.
Below, we’ve listed additional hotels and provided links to their updated cancellation policies.
Airbnb is providing the following coverage for COVID-19 under its extenuating circumstances policy.
Reservations made on or before March 14, 2020 for stays and Airbnb Experiences, with a check-in date between March 14, 2020 and April 14, 2020, are covered by the policy and may be cancelled before check-in. Guests who cancel will receive a full refund, and hosts can cancel without charge or impact to their Superhost status. Airbnb will refund all service fees for covered cancellations.
The host’s cancellation policy will apply as usual to reservations made after March 14, 2020, and to reservations made on or before March 14, 2020 with check-in dates after April 14, 2020.
Read more about the policy here.
- Plan, prepare, and respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 – CDC
- The President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America
- COVID-19 Cases in U.S.
- Coronavirus disease (COVID-2019) situation reports – WHO
- Information for travelers – U.S. Department of State
- A list of widely circulating coronavirus myths – WHO
- Health information from the U.S. National Library of Medicine
- Template for family disaster plan – American Red Cross
- Live coronavirus updates and coverage globally – The New York Times