As the coronavirus outbreak spreads worldwide, couples who are planning their weddings are understandably worried about what it means for their big day.

Image: Shot on location at Ashley Park House by Into The Light

You might be wondering what you should do - of if there's anything you can do - to prepare and plan for the fact that your wedding may potentially be affected by the coronavirus.

It's a scary thought, we know. The virus is worrying, and health should be your top priority, but when you've thousands of euro on the line with vendor bookings and deposits - and potentially friends and family have booked travel and accommodation to join you - the lack of information can make wedding planning amidst this outbreak very stressful.

You probably never thought that you'd have to add 'imminent global pandemic' to the list of planning issues, right next to 'choosing the correct peony shade' and 'making sure someone keeps Aunt Mary from offending your spouse's family'.

Image: Shot on location at Ashley Park House by Into The Light

This is a very fluid situation, so it is hard to give definite answers to most questions wedding couples have. At the time of writing, Ireland has 43 cases and one death related to the virus, but those numbers have been steadily growing since the first case was identified on February 29th.

With measures such as the postponing of sports events, and the cancelling of all St Patrick's Day parades, and flights to and from Italy, it is hoped that our containment efforts will be successful. But Health Minister Simon Harris is still expecting many more coronavirus cases for Ireland yet.

So, what does this mean for your weddings and honeymoons? Here's what we know so far...

 

Will wedding insurance cover coronavirus-related cancellations? Is it too late to buy wedding insurance?

Image: Shot on location at Ashley Park House by Into The Light

According to our wedding survey results, 74% of couples do not take out wedding insurance, so you're probably not alone if you haven't yet purchased it for your own day yet.

However, it is probably too late if you were planning to buy specifically to cover you in case of you might have a coronavirus related cancellation. There are of course other reasons to take it out - all of those are still valid.

According to WeddingInsurance.ie, the leading wedding insurance broker underwritten by Blue Insurance Ltd, they will no longer cover your wedding for coronavirus, whether that's total cancellation of the day, or a wedding vendor being struck down with the virus, if you bought your policy after March 10th.

You would still be covered for the 'outbreak of infectious disease' but as the coronavirus is now a 'known issue', it doesn't fall into the unforeseen category and can't be covered.

The good news is, if you took out your wedding insurance before March 10th, you are still covered, for weddings at home or abroad.

This advice may vary depending on your insurer so contact your broker to find out their cut off dates. However, you can be almost certain that no insurance company will cover the virus from here on out for similar reasons.

 

Should I be panicking about coronavirus and my wedding?

In short, no - at least not yet. The numbers are still quite small - relatively speaking - in Ireland, and if you're still going to the supermarket, you can probably still attend a wedding.

We don't know how the situation is going to change, both at home and internationally, so this may not apply next week or next month, but for now prioritise practical steps over panicking.

Follow the instructions we're being given from the World Health Organisation to help contain the virus, namely:

  • Wash your hands frequently. Find out how to properly wash your hands from the HSE.
  • Maintain social distancing - maintain at least 1m distance from anyone coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth - the virus spreads through respiratory droplets entering your body.
  • Practice respiratory hygiene - cough and sneeze into a tissue, or into your elbow. Dispose of the tissue immediately.
  • If you have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing, seek medical attention - but call in advance. Don't show up to A&E randomly.

 

Do I need to postpone my wedding because of coronavirus?

***UPDATE 11.52 am March 12th***

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar just announced that schools, colleges and public buildings will close from 6pm on March 12th until March 29th.

During his announcement he advised that public gatherings of more than 100 people (indoors) should be cancelled. Contact your wedding venue and vendors to see how this impacts your wedding if it was due to take place in the next two weeks.

There is no black and white answer to this as there are so many changing factors and unknowns.

The first thing to consider is how many of your guests are elderly or immunocompromised - these are the two demographics disproportionately at risk of getting infected.

For example, if your granny is frail at the best of times, your sister has just finished rounds of chemo, or your maid of honour is pregnant, they all fall into the vulnerable category. You can advise guests that it might be smart to avoid your wedding, or in the case of close friends and family, it may be a case that this is a deal breaker for you.

Next consider who is travelling for your big day. You might have a few overseas guests in different parts of the world, or your other half's entire family could be flying in. How big an issue this is for you really depends on how many people you're talking about, and where exactly they're flying from.

You can keep an eye on the daily changes to affected regions as well as new cases around the world on Worldometers who are updating live when changes are announced.

Image: Shot on location at Ashley Park House by Into The Light

Keep an open line of communication with your vendors and check what kind of backup plans they have should public gatherings be banned, or even if they, touch wood, should get sick. Understand that your vendors are probably being inundated with queries from engaged couples so try and be patient.

Your contracts may have contingencies due to illness - vendors can catch other things beside coronavirus after all - so this could be a place to start. You may be able to save deposits by rescheduling instead of cancelling so do explore your options, even if it's only so you know what they are should the time come to make a big decision.

Start considering your Plan B now, but try not to panic. And as much as possible, keep your planning on track if you think everything will go ahead as imagined. You don't want to fall behind and be in a panic in a couple of months if everything goes ahead as normal.

 

What about destination weddings? And if I planned a wedding in Italy before coronavirus started?

Image: Shot on location at Ashley Park House by Into The Light

Destination weddings are a little trickier. While travelling to another county is still totally fine, you (and your guests) may have much bigger reservations about travelling overseas.

Firstly check the live-updates from Worldometers of all the cases worldwide, to see how your chosen destination is faring. Also take note of the Department of Foreign Affair's travel advice - they have individual travel notices for every country, from take normal precautions to avoid non-essential travel to simply do not travel.

Whether it's safe to travel is up to you, according to experts. The New York Times has a regularly updated map which shows the travel advice from the American Centre for Disease Control, for at-risk groups and the general public.

The overarching advice is to thoroughly consider all travel, and limit your movements until the world has a better understanding of the virus. Talk to your vendors and see what your options are, and what the situation is on the ground in your chosen wedding destination, to help inform your decision.

As for Italy - all flights to and from Italy are cancelled until April 8th, the whole country is on lockdown until April 3rd and weddings and funerals are among the public gatherings that have been banned.

You're probably already aware that if your wedding was planned within the next month, it can't go ahead. We are devastated for you - you never could have foreseen this. All you can do at this point is contact your vendors and see if it can be rearranged, or perhaps look at planning something smaller at home for the same date to mark the occasion.

If you had a wedding in Italy planned for later in the year, no one knows at this point how long this outbreak is going to remain critical Italy currently has the next highest number of cases after China and in the last week, the number of cases and deaths have been jumping considerably.

It's for you to decide whether you want to cancel or postpone an Italian destination wedding later this year at this point - whether to cut your losses or hang on to see if the number of cases start declining.

China and South Korea have recently reported the start of the decline in new cases in their regions, so it's possible that the current lockdown will turn Italy's situation around. However, it's likely that the warnings to avoid non-essential travel will continue for a number of months yet.

It's worth considering how many of your guests will still be willing to travel even if you do go ahead later in the year, so perhaps discuss with your loved ones to gauge how they're feeling.

Remember that while it would be heartbreaking to call off your plans, you're still going to be married so think of it as postponing rather than cancelling. It won't feel like it now, but what matters is that you're married to one another - the specifics of when and where are details.

 

Should I cancel my honeymoon because of coronavirus?

Image: Shot on location at Ashley Park House by Into The Light

Similarly to planning a destination wedding, it really depends on where you've planned your honeymoon for and when you planned on going.

As we mentioned, the advice being given at the moment is that the safest decision is not to travel at all unless it's essential.

But many people's honeymoons are once in a lifetime trips, and ones they've invested far more into than they have any other holiday in their life. It can be hard to let go of your plans, especially if there are relatively few cases in your destination at the moment.

The New York Times has a regularly updated map which shows the travel advice from the American Centre for Disease Control, for at-risk groups and the general public. Worldometers is also updating their list of reported cases around the world live. Also take note of the Department of Foreign Affair's travel advice for every country.

Some airlines, especially Asian-based airlines, are offering refunds for trips booked before specific deadlines (most often booked before February) to areas highly affected by coronavirus - though not to all destinations. If the airlines cancel your flights, as many have to Italy, you are entitled to a refund or to rebook. Contact your airline and see what your options are.

While many hotels and other accommodation won't offer you a refund even if you can't travel to them any more, some may offer to allow you rebook for a later date so it's worth contacting them and checking what their policy is.

If your honeymoon is booked for much later in the year, you may be as well holding tight to see how it all plays out. This may be especially true for destinations that are currently marked 'Travel, but exercise caution' as you likely won't be entitled to refund or rebook the trip as it stands, but may be entitled if situations worsen.

Unfortunately the best advice at the minute is to keep an eye on the news and reports of new cases in your honeymoon destination, and make a considered decision as things progress.

 

Do I need to worry about my wedding dress because of coronavirus?

Because of the quarantines in China, where many wedding dress designers source their fabrics and often produce their dresses, there has been a halt in production for some bridal houses resulting in shipping schedule delays.

It's worth baring in mind that not all wedding designers source from China so your dress may not be affected at all, as few other countries have seen the same kind of quarantines.

Wedding dresses can typically take 4-6 months to come into bridal boutiques after you order them. And many bridal boutiques advise that it can take up to nine months so to shop early.

Boutiques know how long it typically takes different designers to ship your dress, and will usually tell you the maximum possible date so there's no panic even under normal circumstances. This means that there is a buffer built into your order so don't panic immediately.

It will make last minute wedding dress shopping trickier than normal, but it is likely to just cause a shipping delay and you may have to adjust your alterations schedule to accommodate a later arrival.

You can ask the bridal boutique you ordered from if they've had any updates from your designer, if you're worried.

If you're just about to start shopping and are feeling uncertain about how this will develop into the future, or just have left shopping later than you might have if you'd seen a potential pandemic incoming, considering off the rack options is probably the safest option. The ideal is just to allow longer for your dress to be delivered, so start shopping a little earlier than you might have if possible.

But do discuss it with the bridal boutiques you're shopping from - they will be able to give you the most up to date information for the designers they stock, and responsible boutiques won't place orders they know they can't fulfill.

And don’t worry– “currently, there is no evidence that COVID-19, can be transmitted from soft surfaces like fabric to humans”, according to Harvard Medical via The Bridal Council in the US.

 

What can I do if my wedding is coming up soon, to help protect my guests from coronavirus spread?

The coronavirus is something everyone is worrying about or at least keeping tabs on. You can't help it, with the frequency of updates in the news.

Don't feel like you're being a diva or going overboard by considering measures to protect yourselves and your guests from contracting or spreading the virus. People can carry the virus without displaying any symptoms so it is important to be aware.

There's inevitably a lot of touching at weddings - celebratory hugs and kisses, handshakes, and dancing are all obvious culprits. You can warn guests beforehand if you'd prefer people to observe social distancing advice. You can only advise, we wouldn't go as far as creating rules, but suggest people avoid shaking hands, and that you won't be doing a receiving line.

Check with your venue to make sure there is ample supplies of hand sanitiser around so guests can avail and keep their hands clean.

Some venues curtailing buffet and family-style meals to avoid multiple people coming into contact with food your guests will eat. Even if you have to go ahead with buffet meals rather than plated meals, you can ensure servers wearing gloves are the only people who come into contact with serving spoons as an alternative measure.

The final thing is a slightly more awkward undertaking, but might make the biggest difference to your day. You should check with your guests where they have been and make sure they haven't travelled to affected areas for two weeks before your wedding, and if they have, check if they are self-isolating for the recommended period at the time. It's up to you whether you ask them to stay away from your wedding if they have visited an affected region.

Similarly, you can ask guests to stay home if they are feeling sick or showing symptoms of coronavirus, like respiratory illness, fever, cough (especially dry coughs) and shortness of breath.

While we're sure they don't want to miss out on your big day, it's irresponsible to potentially expose an illness to the rest of your guests. Perhaps you put a friend in charge of videoing or live-streaming the ceremony for guests who do have to self-isolate or choose not to attend for virus-related reasons.

 

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