We never in a million years imagined we’d be sitting here writing a blog post about what to do if a global pandemic strikes months out from your wedding date. How to mis-match your bridesmaid’s dresses, sure. Where to find amazing wedding photographers, easy. But how to navigate the ins and outs of postponing your wedding day (or what to do if you decide NOT to postpone your nuptials) well, I think it’s safe to say we are all in uncharted waters.

Whilst our hearts are with every couple who is faced with the reality of postponing a day of celebration that has been in the works for months, if not years, our thoughts are also with the many sole-traders and small business owners who make up the Australian and New Zealand wedding industries.

In the first 24 hours since the news hit on March 18, we’ve spoken to wedding vendors who have had cancellations or postponements totalling $60,000. These vendors are often the sole or primary income earner and needless to say the devastation and worry this has caused in terms of them being unable to provide for their family is real. In times like this we’ve all got to stick together and support each other through the hard times. So we here at Hello May thought we’d put together a list of things to consider when weighing up what to do about your upcoming nuptials.

Before we dive in we just want to flag that the below information could change at any time, but at the time of writing, (5:00pm on Saturday the 5th of September) it was correct.

Thank you to Scott Surplice Photography for allowing us to use his gorgeous images to break up what is a huge amount of information. You can check out more of Scott’s stunning work here and here.

The most important thing to do is to take a deep breath, breathe and then set about arming yourself with as much information as possible. Avoid “news” sites like News.com, The Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph, these websites will do anything for a click and are more interested in mass hysteria than they are accuracy in reporting. Forget what that guy on that podcast said or what that girl in your local facebook group posted last night and focus on the FACTS from elected officials and their laundry list of qualified professionals.

You’ll find up to date information on government websites like Prime Minister of Australia as well as health.gov along with independently owned (ie: not biased due to corporate advertising dollars) news sources like ABC News and The Guardian Australia.

New South Wales – A maximum of 150 people are permitted to attend a wedding and must adhere to the four square metre rule. All attendees need to provide their name and contact details so they can be contact traced if necessary. Dancing is also not permitted except for the bride and groom.

Victoria Weddings are currently banned in Metropolitan Melbourne unless granted an exemption on compassionate grounds. In regional Victoria weddings can have only five attendees (the couple, two witnesses and the celebrant).

Queensland – Weddings with a COVID-safe plan can have up to 100 attendees — weddings without a COVID-safe plan can have only ten attendees.

South Australia  – Weddings are capped at 100 people and the bride and groom are only permitted one dance. Additionally food and beverage cannot be served from a communal area.

Western Australia  – Restrictions around weddings have been eased, except for events with over 500 people, where guests need to maintain 2 metres of social distance.

Tasmania  – All larger gatherings are limited by the density of the area with guests required two square metres per person. Venues are permitted up to 250 people in an enclosed space and 500 people in an undivided outdoor space.

Northern Territory – Any event with more than 100 people requires the bride and groom to complete a COVID-19 safety checklist. A wedding with more than 500 people in the NT would also need to complete this checklist and receive approval from the Chief Health Officer in the state.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said the measures would be in place for “at least six months”. We know it’s incredibly frustrating having no definitive answer, and even though there is conflicting information out there, it is always best to err on the side of caution. Plan your nuptials with the restrictions that are in place now, and if they ease as you approach your wedding date then have a plan on how to expand things from there.

For those continuing on as planned with reduced numbers  – we urge you to think strongly about the health and safety of your guests and vendors. We have a social obligation to help protect the health of our older and vulnerable community members as well as to reduce the burden to our health-care system by practicing social distancing measures and reducing the rate of transmission. Proceed by all means but ensure you are following government guidelines to a tee in the process.

For couples tying the knot from October onwards, we don’t know when this ban will lift. All the Prime Minister has said on this matter is “at least six months”. So regardless of whether you are looking to postpone October, November or December nuptials or wait it out and see if the bans are lifted at the end of September you should be considering your guest list. Have a ‘Plan A’ to go ahead as planned come October, but also have a ‘Plan B’ in place if these restrictions are carried through till the end of the year. We’ll be updating this post as soon as new information comes to light, so check back here anytime.

If your wedding date falls in the next six months and you feel it is safe to proceed with your wedding then you will need to contact your venue and find out if they are still open for business and happy to proceed with an elopement (with a maximum of five people) instead of your original larger wedding. This would also be a great time to ask them what precautionary measures they have in place given the current climate (they may employ extra cleaning, set up hand sanitising stations, temperature check guests on arrival etc).

If you plan to postpone your wedding (and it’s important that we’re talking postponement here guys, and not cancel) then we recommend asking them for six available dates from October onwards when you could potentially hold your nuptials. Its important to keep your mind open to mid-week dates too, and we’ll chat why a little further down this list

If you have decided to proceed with your elopement of 10 guests then you will need to contact all of your wedding vendors who will be on the ground, on the day, and confirm they are still comfortable servicing your wedding (as you never know, they may have an elderly person in their care, or regularly be in contact with an immunocompromised friend or family member or they me simply be more comfortable away from large crowds). What agreement you come to is between yourself and your vendor .

If you have decided to postpone your wedding then provide each vendor with the six alternate dates supplied by your venue and see who is available when. We recommend bcc’ing them all in on the one email and noting down each of their availability as they reply. You may prioritise key vendors like your photographer over others, it all comes down to what is most important to you. For any vendors who sadly can’t attend or service your new date, it is unlikely (due to the nature of their contracts and/or cancellation policies) that you’ll get your deposit back. Again this will depend on each vendors terms and conditions and will need to be a conversation that is respectfully held with each vendor individually.

There is a lot of speculation about this in the wedding and events industry at the moment. We’ve gone to great lengths to only advise on facts issued by the Australian Government and their current directive states the following

“An indoor gathering refers to a gathering within a single enclosed area (i.e. an area, room or premises that is or are substantially enclosed by a roof and walls, regardless of whether the roof or walls or any part of them are permanent, temporary, open or closed).”

The confusion seems to be lying in the definition of an enclosed space having a roof AND walls, and how you define ‘substantially enclosed’ and what that means for marquees, tipi’s and tents with no walls. Unfortunately, until more guidance is provided by the Australian Government we can not advise either way. A naked tipi, such as the one pictured above, would certainly be considered an open air space (so this is something to consider if the rain forecast is clear and you have a tipi booked for an outdoor wedding) but we’re yet to have the official word on all other marquees, tipi’s and tents.

Keep calm, keep booking vendors and most importantly keep paying deposits to secure those vendors as you normally would, as dates will start to fill up extremely quickly as the Australian and New Zealand wedding industries try and accommodate and consolidate 24 months worth of weddings in to a 12 month period. So if you’ve been tossing up between a few vendors or venues, time to secure your date, and the vendors you love the most, now.

First up we need to state if you are not in a position to do any of the below then that is perfectly ok too.  These are just suggestions.

If you’re able, the best thing you can do to help the many sole-traders that make up the Australian and New Zealand wedding industries is hire them. If you’ve postponed a wedding, give your photographers name to any friends looking to have family portraits done (which can make a lovely gift in itself) or recommend your florist to all of your friends for birthdays and other special occasions.

If you were set to tie the knot on a Saturday anytime between April and September 2020 and have decided to postpone your wedding, please think twice about taking up your vendors Saturdays in 2021. These vendors will need to recoup lost income as soon as humanly possible, and at the time of writing (again, according to our elected officials and their laundry list of qualified professionals) it will be potentially safe to gather again from October onwards. So why not look at a Sunday or Monday wedding in October 2020? Or perhaps a Thursday wedding with a Friday recovery brunch in November?

What matters most is you get to marry the one you love in front of the ones most dear to you, not what day of the week it is.

We don’t know what the week has in store for us, let alone the next six months or year. So if you are currently planning a wedding for anytime in the future, err on the side of caution and shop and hire locally to limit travel, cancellations and spread. You can use our directory to find vendors near you. Look for florists who use local and foraged blooms (as a lot of flowers are grown and shipped internationally), look for photographers, cinematographers and other vendors local to your home state, town or venue.

If you do decide to proceed with your elopement (again, with a maximum of 10 guests) over the next six months, reach out to all of your vendors to find out the measures they will be taking to keep things safe and clean for all in attendance. Sick guests may sadly be advised to stay home, your photographer may utilise a longer focal length to shoot the ceremony from a safe distance and your venue might set up hand sanitising stations at the entrance to the ceremony.You can also encourage guests to adopt a ‘hygienic hello’, which will keep handshakes, hugs and kisses to a minimum.

The Department of Health has put together a five page PDF called Advice for Organising Public Gatherings which you can read and download right here.  There’s some great information here that EVERYONE needs to read if they are proceeding with their elopement over the next six months.

We here at Hello May are feeling for couples and the wider industry right now. We know how hard you’ve worked with your dream team of vendors to create the perfect day, and to postpone during these uncertain and scary times must be heartbreaking. But we’ve got to say we’re also so damn proud to see our beloved vendors approach this crazy new normal with kindness, understanding and flexibility. So many small businesses and sole-traders are going to suffer over the coming six months (as will we here at Hello May) but the determination they’ve shown to see their couples walk safely down the aisle warms our hearts, even if it’s a little later than they originally planned.

If you’re looking for trusted wedding vendors to book for your own day of good times check out Issue 28 of Hello May, on sale now and stocked at newsagents nationally (you can also order online here and have it delivered directly to your door along with our sixth annual Real Wedding Special). Also be sure to check out our directory and the banners on our homepage, both of which highlight some of our all time favourite vendors.

Big thanks again to Scott Surplice Photography for allowing us to break up a barrage of information with his pretty pictures.