Just recently, Mother Nature not only wreaked havoc on the lives and property of people who lived in the path of Hurricane Matthew, and it coincidentally caused a LOT of weddings to be cancelled in Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.
For most brides and grooms who were affected, there was no option — there were forced evacuations along most of their coastlines. And guess where most couples get married in those states? Logically, it's someplace with a view of the water.
Any impending natural disaster for your wedding weekend is worse than finding out that your wedding venue has had some awful emergency (fire or flood, for example) that requires you move your wedding on a few days' notice. At least in that scenario, you would still be holding your wedding in same general region as it was originally planned, so your guests who purchased plane tickets wouldn't be greatly inconvenienced.
There's also the dilemma couples face about when to call a halt, or delay, to the festivities. Storms are unpredictable, and sometimes meteorologists are really off on their predictions about its path. Deciding to notify your guests that you're going to cancel before the storm track is confirmed will frustrate the heck out of you. On the flip side, if you wait too late, you could completely mess up anybody who is coming from out of town.
So if you think there's a chance you're going to have to call a rain delay on your big day, follow these five steps:
1. Do all of your homework about the upcoming storm.
Don't just freak over something you saw on Facebook — go to the official National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) website and see what they have to say about the weather. They have a page specifically for hurricanes, and in the winter, they have one for blizzards.
2. Talk to your wedding planner or wedding venue and find out what they have in mind.
Most venues do not want to host a wedding if there's a chance of a significant weather event, but some will be more difficult to work with if they're not willing to give you a free pass to reschedule (without losing your money) and want to continue to reserve the right to cancel up to 48 hours in advance. And yes, that happens. It isn't fair for them to wait until your guests are already traveling, and you may have to take the decision up the management chain to get a satisfactory result. Some hotels are only looking at the revenue they will lose if the bad weather misses them, not what your guests will lose if they cancel on you at the last minute.
3. Choose a new wedding date BEFORE you contact your guests.
You should be able to get it confirmed when you negotiate with your venue to postpone the wedding due to the impending natural disaster. As painful as it might be to do it, you need to send out an email to EVERYBODY as soon as possible. You must provide them with the new wedding date because many of them will be able to call airlines and get their flights changed if the authorities are suggesting evacuation from the areas where they're flying. Ask each and every guest to respond to you directly, and let you know they received the message. Give it one hour, and after that time, you start calling anybody who hasn't replied to your email. Leave messages. Send texts. But make sure you actually hear back from each wedding guest so that nobody gets an ugly surprise when it's too late to change their trips without penalty. For those local guests invited to your wedding, your notification of the delay will give them relief if they need to be preparing for the storm at their own homes, or even evacuating their own families.
4. Contact ALL of your wedding vendors with the new date, immediately.
There may be some who are already booked for your new date, and you might lose some deposits. But for the most part, you'll find that wedding vendors are very sympathetic to your plight, and want to help however they can. The DJ cannot perform if the power is out, or even fluctuating. It'll fry his system. Photographers don't want to shoot your wedding in 75 mph wind gusts, and less light than they need for stellar pictures and video. If you have a wedding planner, she should be able to help you coordinate the changes with all of them quickly. If you get lazy and put it off a day, and they find out you'd already postponed with the venue, you'll lose your deposit. And they'll be justified in keeping it.
5. Follow up with all of your wedding guests and vendors, as soon as the storm has passed.
Everyone needs a confirmation of the new details, and an update on where things stand that have not yet been confirmed. Remember, there may be some guests who were planning to be there but will not be able to make the new wedding date. Do not let them hear your anger and frustration when they cancel on you — this is not their faults. Let them know how sad you are they won't be there, and make plans to get together in the near future after your wedding day.
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.