It’s official. My fiancé and I have cut ties with the venue of our dreams – well, my dreams – and it very much felt like an emotional breakup. You know, the kind when you’re in a new relationship, and you really want to make it work, but your partner is not putting in the same effort? Some odd combination of frustration, disappointment, and only a little glimmer of hope.
Brief back story: At the beginning of the year, we put down our deposit with the venue to secure our wedding date for January 2021. In July 2020 we were supposed to pay fifty percent of our total and start working on the details (decor, menus, etc.), but COVID-19 happened. Between the pandemic and being furloughed, we knew we would have to make some changes to our original wedding plans. There had been no communication from the venue’s end since the COVID-19 outbreak, and that was not sitting well with me, so I decided to initiate the conversation.
My initial question was, “What are the options available for wedding dates that have already been secured?”
The answer was brief – pay a fee to change our date or cancel and forfeit our deposit.
My follow up question was, “Would there be any updates to my contract due to COVID-19 and updated event guidelines?”
Again the answer was brief – no, the contract and date remain as is unless our reserved date is affected by a government mandate.
There were many more questions:
- What precautions has the venue taken in light of COVID-19?
- What safety measures are in place for the staff?
- Will our guests be able to social distance if our guest count is not reduced? Will they be required to wear masks?
- Will we have to change our buffet dinner to a plated dinner? Would that be an extra charge?
- If we change the date and further restrictions arise, would we have to pay another fee?
After a lot of back and forth, asking every possible question, and making suggestions, the venue stood their ground and provided no flexibility to our contract. The simple solution would have been to pay the change-of-date fee and hope for the best in 2022. However, the venue’s lack of flexibility, communication, and ability to answer many of my questions did not inspire much confidence in their ability to manage things better in the future. As a professional in the hospitality industry and a former wedding planner, I was disappointed and heartbroken by the bleak interactions.
On one end, I get it: the hospitality industry is one of the most affected industries, with millions of jobs and revenues lost. With large gatherings “discouraged” until further notice, hotels, restaurants, and event venues alike will have a tough time recovering. On the other end, the hospitality industry is all about meeting and exceeding expectations of those we serve. Proactive efforts and communication are the keys to success.
Here’s what I would have done differently:
- Empathized with the situations presented by clients – everyone is being affected by the pandemic in different ways and thus will have different questions and needs. It will be important to address those needs on a case by case basis.
- Provided reassurance – clients don’t expect you to sugar-coat things. Give proactive updates, especially on procedural or venue changes. Things are constantly changing, but open dialogue helps maneuver those changes more easily.
- Provided options – guests, clients, customers, they all want to feel that they are in control of their experience, so make sure to provide a variety of options. Once those options are removed, clients will remove themselves.
Ultimately we decided to remove ourselves from the situation (and we did lose our deposit). Due to the experience, we don’t plan on working with this particular venue (or their affiliates) if and when we can host a wedding.*
To all the brides whose weddings were impacted by COVID-19, I feel your pain. Don’t be discouraged though, a dream wedding is still a possibility. It may be a little delayed or look slightly different, but it will always be you and your partner’s special day. Next on my wedding to-do list: secure my wedding dress which is currently being held hostage at the bridal boutique (not their fault, they’ve just been closed due to COVID-19).
*The name of the venue and its affiliates will remain anonymous. All images are stock photos and are not related to the venue in any way. This is not meant to be a black-listing post, but rather an example of how things can go right or wrong depending on how the client relationship is managed. I have provided the venue with this feedback and I am hopeful they will take the opportunity to learn from it.