Sometimes a change of wedding plans is unavoidable. Happy news like an unexpected pregnancy or a fabulous, career-changing job offer may make it literally impossible for the engaged couple to keep their planned wedding date. Bad things, like a death in the family or losing a job, can also necessitate a major change of plans.
Most recently, I've had to move some destination weddings because of the threat of the Zika virus in parts of the Caribbean. And truthfully, I feel terrible for the couples and their guests because switching things up after your out-of-town guests have already paid for travel can be a traumatic experience.
The truth is that most of your guests will understand your dilemma, and go with the flow, if you approach the change of date or location in an organized manner. Here are my five tips for making the change as easy as possible:
1. Have a new date and location in the works when you announce the change. And follow up with the finalized new plan as soon as possible. Some of your guests will be able to change their plane tickets for a small fee, and not lose everything they spent for the wedding that isn't happening, if you give them enough notice and information.
2. Talk to your wedding venue and find out if your guests will be able to recoup their deposits. This will vary depending on the lead time of the cancellation. If you're simply postponing at the same venue, most vendors will work with you to minimize the loss to your guests. Provide your guests with detailed information based on what you've worked out with the venue so they're prepared when they cancel or reschedule their own reservations.
3. Expect that some guests who had RSVP'd "yes" to your original wedding may not be able to join you at the newly planned one. Whether it's because they can't afford the airfare a second time, or they can't get time off of work on the new date, you will lose a few people who really wanted to be there. Be gracious about it and try to make plans with those people, independent of the wedding, as soon as you're back from your honeymoon.
4. Don't expect that all the members of your wedding party will be able to participate on the new date. Make sure you ASK your bridesmaids and groomsmen if they will do you the honor, again, rather than just expecting them to rearrange their lives. Surely, those who can be there won't let you down. But you must be careful not to put unreasonable expectations on them.
5. Be careful about inviting new guests to the second wedding planned, even if you've lost a bunch of people. Despite wanting to have a bigger wedding and needing to fill gaps in the guest list caused by the change, you risk making the "B List" invitees feel like second class citizens. They'll wonder why they weren't good enough friends to get an invite the first time.
*Sandy Malone is the owner of Sandy Malone Weddings & Events and author of * How to Plan Your Own Destination Wedding: Do-It-Yourself Tips from an Experienced Professional. Sandy is the star of TLC's reality show Wedding Island, about her destination wedding planning company, Weddings in Vieques.