Updated April 1, 2020
COVID-19’s spread across the globe is an unprecedented black swan event. What does this mean for your upcoming Indian wedding? Most Indian weddings are gatherings of hundreds of guests and given that this illness has a high person-to-person transmission rate means that Indian Weddings and COVID-19 do not mix well.
More cities and states are stressing guidelines and even issuing orders to cancel all gatherings of as little as 5 people. For how long? In most cases until a specified future date but there’s a lot of uncertainty.
Shelter in Place
On March 17, 2020 six San Francisco Bay area counties were ordered to go “shelter in place” until at least April 7, 2020. At that time, just two weeks ago, it was the strictest measure of its kind in the continental United States. Within days and since then cities and counties across the United States – approximately half of the country, followed suit. In Hawaii, anyone arriving to any of the islands is required to quarantine 14 days. Shelter in place means urging residents to stay home at all times and limit travel to necessity only i.e. buying groceries, essential business travel.
Update April 1, 2020: Unfortunately, due to the increasing cases of COVID-19, the shelter in place in the San Francisco Bay area was extended until at least May 1, 2020 and we expect other cities, counties and states will also, as a surge of COVID-19 cases is expected. Schools across the country, that were originally expected to re-open have also extended closures until at least May 1 and some have even closed their doors through the rest of the academic year.
Shelter in Place is NOT the Same Thing as a Lockdown
It’s easy to use these two terms interchangeably in everyday conversation, but they have very different definitions. In a Shelter in Place all non-essential businesses and government functions are ordered to close. Public and private gatherings of any size outside a home are prohibited.
The main difference between a Shelter in Place and a Lockdown is that a lockdown means you can’t leave without approval from an authorizing body, such as the government. That’s a VERY different way to live vs. being urged to stay home, with the ability to leave at any time for essentials like groceries or unavoidable travel.
Define Essential Businesses
Every state has the freedom to define what qualifies as an “essential business”. And as the Shelter in Place gets longer and longer, what is deemed essential changes as well. For a short term Shelter in Place, essential is limited to pharmacies, medical care, and access to food. But as the length of time gets longer, essential could mean car repair service for doctors and nurses that are trying to get to work.
- Grocery stores
- Medical facilities and hospitals
- Gas stations and auto repair shops
- Hardware stores
- Childcare facilities and educational institutions, though only through distance learning
- Restaurants for delivery or take-out only
Real Story: Real ID and ‘Essential Business Functions’
My drivers license expires in a few weeks. I had an appointment to get my REAL ID, which requires to physically visit the DMV. I cancelled my appointment and renewed my regular license online instead, foregoing the REAL ID, for now. The DMV website doesn’t state whether they are cancelling appointments due to COVID-19 but I would imagine it varies by county.
Why Was This Shelter In Place Measure Put Into Place?
It’s preventative. As COVID-19 continues to spread across the state, by putting a shelter in place order into effect, it restricts people’s movements which leads to social distancing which leads to reducing the spread of the virus which is a preventive measure so that hospitals and healthcare institutions do not get overwhelmed.
Hospitals facing shortages of things like ventilator machines are being forced to make decisions between who gets treated and who doesn’t which for severe cases is akin to deciding who lives and who doesn’t.
What does the Shelter in Place mean and What Is Its Impact? It means that this measure may be echoed by other counties throughout the state and the country as COVID-19 continues to be on the rise. It also, unfortunately means rescheduling many Indian weddings in the near future.
This past weekend Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said that all Americans, not just the SF Bay area, should be prepared to have life disrupted for another 8 weeks…at least. We’re talking about mid-May. He also acknowledged that that timeline is based on historical data, but there’s really no way to know for certain.
Update April 1, 2020: Venues Shutting Down Operations
Since original publication of this article on March 17, 2020, we heard from at least 5 venues that decided to shut down operations until May 1, 2020. We have heard from Venue Executives that are being furloughed. Several venues postponed their contracts with us. And BRAVO to the hotels and venue that are transforming their spaces into makeshift hospitals.
Indian Weddings and COVID-19
There is so much uncertainty and the situation is rapidly changing everyday. We know of a Southern California bride whose wedding is scheduled for mid-April and until recently she was debating whether to cancel it or not. Governor Newsom had originally advised to cancel all events until March 31, 2020. Hours before the order expired it was extended to at least April 30, 2020. When we originally published this article on March 17, 2020, our recommendation was that she should cancel her wedding. Now, she probably has no choice.
Given that it can take up to 14 days for someone with the virus to show symptoms – having a wedding puts everyone at the event and everyone that the attendees come into contact with, in danger and impacts others exponentially.
A couple days ago, I was talking to a friend that recently received an invitation for a relative’s Indian wedding at the beginning of June – it is supposed to double as a family reunion, as many Indian weddings do. She shared that even if the shelter in place is lifted by then, she’s wary of traveling.
It is such a hard decision to postpone one’s wedding — packed with emotion, real life impact, monetary decisions, social and familial impact for the couple, their families and the guests traveling from across the globe.
Should You Postpone Your Wedding?
Weddings that are in April will have to postpone. Weddings in May seem likely to have to be postponed. Couples whose wedding is towards the end of May such as Memorial Day Weekend, which is a major Indian wedding weekend, if you have the flexibility to ‘wait and see’ then you may want to. Given how rapidly the situation is evolving and changing everyday, things might change by then.
What About Weddings in June, July and After? Should They Cancel?
No one can know what’s going to happen. If you have the flexibility, and are not forced into making a decision in the immediate term, then wait and see.
Fortunately most airlines and hotels are being flexible (to varying degrees) about refunding tickets and offering credit to future flights. So guests arriving from out of town should be ok. As for the couple and their families and postponing with your venue and vendors, read below.
How Are Venues and Vendors Managing Cancellations and Rescheduling Indian Weddings Impacted by COVID-19?
At the moment, most venues are offering to reschedule weddings and events to another date in the same year or to another date within 12 months of the original date.
This is where the terms and conditions of your venue contract are very important.
Most venue and vendor contracts have a clause addressing Acts of God, Civil disaster etc. In most cases a refund is likely not due and you could even be liable for any due balances, depending on how late you cancel and the terms of the contract.
Why would you have to pay a balance if your wedding is being postponed? This would apply in situations where decorators, wedding planners, DJs or other vendors may have incurred costs for materials, labor and work completed before the wedding. Some vendors may not have any or much pre-day-of work; it will vary by vendor.
Force Majeure Clause in Venue Contracts
Additionally it matters who cancels – you or the venue. Where many venue contracts have coverage in place, is when the venue cancels due to Force Majeure (uncontrollable, higher authority circumstances) such as a disease outbreak that is potentially covered by insurance. This clause exempts both parties from carrying out the contract.
Where this would not apply is if you decide to play it safe and cancel just in case or because a number of guests are unable to make it. It is important to check the clause in each contract.
Please know that most venues and vendors will want to work with you to renegotiate the wedding date if at all possible.
How Are Indian Wedding Vendors Managing Cancellations and Rescheduling?
This varies vendor to vendor but a few things are at play here. First of all, most people are nice and recognize that this is an unprecedented, global event that we are all going through together. The fact that COVID-19 is so highly communicable is also important to address as never before has one’s individual behavior been so impactful on the health and well being of someone else and their loved ones.
Never Before Have We Been So Interdependent On Each Other.
In other words, most people in our community recognize the weight of the responsibility we have towards each other at the moment (I choose to believe most people recognize this). I care about your parents, your grandparents and your loved ones as much as I care about my own so I am voluntarily self isolating to minimize bringing harm to them. And likewise I hope you’ll do the same for me.
In that same vain, most people are nice and understanding as we are all experiencing COVID-19 together. And vendors and venues will want to work with you to reschedule your wedding without additional fees.
Additionally, since the Indian community, is small – word travels fast. And vendors that don’t work with you, risk negative word-of-mouth and acquiring a bad reputation. Having said that I cannot emphasize enough how important your COMPASSION for your wedding vendors is right now.
Compassion for Vendors
Please keep-in-mind how hard hit the hospitality and wedding industries have been during this crisis. Thousands of small businesses have had their revenue shattered. There are probably some companies that will be forced to close their doors. Vendors are people. Most are small businesses. They have loved ones, just like you. And some vendors simply may not be able to refund deposits.
Policies From Real Indian Wedding Vendors on Rescheduling Because of COVID-19
Raj Gujral, the Founder of Sound Nation, is allowing couples to reschedule with no change or additional fees for up to 1 year from the scheduled wedding date. He encourages couples to check new dates with him as well as the other vendors before re-booking a new date with the venue.
Robles Video Productions, is allowing couples to rebook within 6 months of the original date.
What If The Vendor I Originally Booked With, Isn’t Available on My Rescheduled Date?
In that case you’ll need to speak with the vendor about getting your deposit back. Some vendors will give it back, as everyone is trying to be understanding and compassionate during this unprecedented global event. But as mentioned above, this is really hitting companies hard and some vendors simply may not be able to return deposits. It will vary by each vendor.
What About a Court Marriage?
Check the website for your county. Unfortunately, many marriage and license bureaus have suspended services to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Are Virtual Weddings Going To Be A Thing?
I don’t think Indian weddings will go away anytime soon. Did you know in Australia you can buy tickets to attend an Indian wedding? That’s how much some people want to attend one. But we may see some changes in Indian weddings such as fewer grandparents and other high risk groups’, in-person attendance at Indian weddings with virtual setups instead. We will just have to wait and see.
This article is about Indian weddings and COVID-19, and the policies of venues and vendors around rescheduling weddings.
At the moment most venues are offering couples to reschedule their wedding either within the same year or within 12 months of the original date. This varies by venue. And vendors are offering couples to reschedule within 6 months to a year without additional fees – again this varies by vendor.
Some vendors will refund deposits and others will not be able to. This is a very stressful time for everyone. Please be kind and compassionate with your vendors as this event has drastically, and negatively impacted their revenue and income.
Anyone reading this, we empathize with the disappointment, stress, and chaos this is causing. We are sending you an e-hug, sending positivity, and wishes that you and your loved ones are happy and healthy through this difficult time.
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