What to Do When a Natural Disaster Affects Your Wedding Plans

Here are some actions you can take.

Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma

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Thanks to the unpredictability of natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and forest fires, engaged couples with upcoming wedding plans can go from wedding planning bliss to panic mode in the matter of a forecast update.

While physical safety and well-being are of the utmost concern for all, there is an added stress to major storms for those who plan to wed in affected or targeted areas. Below, a guide to how to crisis manage or prepare for the worst-case scenario—because when it comes to wedding plans involving loved ones and a big budget, it's better to be safe than sorry.

Purchase Wedding Insurance

According to Rob Nuccio, President of R.V. Nuccio and Associates, if wedding insurance was purchased prior to the storm, you may have recourse—in the event of a total cancellation, your losses may be covered. He advises that if a policy was purchased within the right amount of time, “You’re in good shape. There’s nothing to do now until you know whether or not you have or will have a loss. The only way you’ll know is when the storm has passed.” In the case of an evacuation, he explains, “the loss has already occurred. If you bought cancellation coverage for your wedding, it would be a covered loss.” However, you must have had the coverage before you first even heard of the storm.

Your coverage will directly depend on the type of policy you own. For example, Nuccio’s policies require to purchase more than 14 days in advance of a potential weather event. He shared that while many brides who may be affected by Hurricane Florence are now attempting to purchase insurance, it is unfortunately too late for the coverage they are looking for and will be for most if not all other policies, too. However, if purchased now, it could potentially cover other things that might affect a big day, such as the unfortunate loss of someone integral to the wedding, and even what they call “change of heart.”

Look at Your Vendor Contracts

If you don’t have any type of insurance coverage, you may still have some hope of recovering funds in the event your wedding is completely off. If you are 30 days outside of your wedding, it is extremely important to carefully read all your signed contracts, including photographer, entertainment, beauty services, and flowers. Each vendor will have outlined their own time limits required for notice of possible cancellation or breaking of the contract. Depending on what you signed, you may be able to recover some funds.

Additionally, Nuccio shared that for some facilities, if completely damaged, it could become a legal issue between couples and the venue. If the facility was not able to have your wedding, it could be outlined in a contract or cancellation clause but you may have room to seek legal options in an attempt to recover your losses. It’s important to carefully understand and know the extent of any liability or cancellation clauses included in a contract.

Some vendors, such as Mikkel Paige Mihlrad, wedding photographer and owner of Mikkel Paige Photography, explains that her couples would be able to rebook their wedding within a year without any penalties. “As long as I have the data available, I’m happy to rebook!” sharing that while she never had a weather-related cancellation, she did have a couple reschedule due to Zika concerns surrounding their destination wedding in Mexico.

Remain Calm

Mihlrad offers some supportive words to those facing both the stress and worries of the pending storms and the effects on their wedding. “Remain calm and positive! It'll help you face the situation with a clearer mind.” She also suggests that you “understand the effects the impending natural disaster may have as best as possible before you decided to rebook or not." She says: "Are major roads closed? Are minor roads leading to your venue going to be affected, perhaps by flooding? Are airports closed? To what extent? If the power goes out does my venue have backup generators? Enlist the help of trust friends and family to help you investigate. Contact key vendors to ask their thoughts as well.” If you do cancel, or if you have no choice but to cancel, there are ways to make that process a bit easier.

Practice Self Care

First things first—it’s important to acknowledge all your feelings and stressors. Mental Health Counselor Jody E. Smith, LPC, NCC says, “no feeling is ‘normal’ or ‘not normal,' " and being set to wed during such severe weather is quite complicated. “Regarding a wedding being affected by a natural disaster, the fact that you have spent tireless hours planning and looking forward to it, some of the most common feelings are frustration, sadness, anger, and grief. All of these are natural feelings because they are linked with the disappointment of expecting a big day and then having it changed because of something out of your control.” She adds, “Remember, whatever feelings you are feeling are natural and expected in light of any disaster affecting your world. The key is to not beat yourself up for feeling guilty for being upset or disappointed because it’s a natural feeling, and a majority of people would feel the same.” So, in case anyone was wondering, she clarifies, “it is 100 percent OK to mourn the loss of your wedding.”

When it all gets to be too much, Smith recommends trying to disconnect. “On a daily basis, we are bombarded with negative news that we as individuals have very little control over. This can make a person feel helpless, leading to high levels of anxiety, which doesn’t help in any scenario.” She recommends trying exercise, meditation, and getting involved with local recovery efforts to give back to these communities affected by natural disasters, as well as “speaking with your healthcare professional if you feel like the anxiety is overwhelming you and affecting your daily life.”

Help Others

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, newly-married women have taken to Reddit's wedding planning forum to offer up bridal gowns and wedding decor to Houston-area brides-to-be who lost their nuptial supplies and attire in the floodwaters. “Dress available for a Harvey bride," read a thread posted by a user named Jenna, who happened to have survived another natural disaster—Hurricane Katrina—12 years before. “If you’re not familiar with that type of national disaster, if you’re not familiar with what it’s like to evacuate a flood-prone area, then you want to help but you have no idea how,” Jenna told Racked. “I was hoping my post would gain momentum. It’s good that other people saw that and were like, ‘Hey, that’s a good idea, I wanna [offer up my dress] too.’ ”

Since then, more and more Reddit brides have offered to ship their own wedding dresses to Houston brides in need. As the post has grown, even those without a gown to give have volunteered to donate venue decorations, dinnerware, and other wedding must-haves to hopefully ease these brides' worries as they begin to rebuild their lives.

Listen to Advice From Others

While it may feel like you're navigating this crisis alone, know that you aren't. Unfortunately, past couples—and many current, just look at online message boards and Facebook groups—have been through similar experiences. And, most likely, they learned from the process.

Just listen to bride Mackenzie Pinholster whose wedding venue, Port Aransas, was closed after Hurricane Harvey. She and her husband to postpone their wedding and honeymoon, deciding to focus on what was most important. “We have been very involved with helping Port Aransas. We have many friends who lost their homes and everything they have, so that has been our main focus. A wedding can be re-planned and postponed so we are focused on helping rebuild Port Aransas first,” she says. Christine C. and her husband Brian tied the knot in the midst of Hurricane Sandy aftermath, albeit not without some stress and luck on their side. "Stay calm and stay positive—think the best possible things as long as you can," she advises. "The biggest thing to remember is that no matter what, no matter what happened, what can’t go as planned, just remember that in the end you are marrying the love of your life and that’s what it is really all about.”

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