Whether couples can get their money back depends on the vendor, says Rebecca Grant, a wedding planner in Seattle, the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak. Grant will allow couples to transfer their wedding-planning funds to another date, as long as she’s available that day. “We as planners are trying to talk our couples off the ledge,” she told me. After all, it would be painful to call off a wedding months in advance only to find, in a month or two, that everything has returned to normal.
Though this might be the recommendation from people whose livelihoods depend on weddings, public-health officials are not quite so sanguine. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, has warned that “disruption to everyday life might be severe.” Colleges and workplaces are shuttering to prevent the spread of the disease, and coronavirus cases in the U.S. are rising.
Sarah, a bride near Seattle who did not want her last name used for privacy reasons, is following planners’ recommended protocol for her wedding in June. She said she’s prepared to either post a warning on her wedding website telling sick guests not to attend, or to simply retract her invitations and postpone the wedding to a later date, depending on the situation in a few months.
Some couples might consider wedding-cancellation insurance, but finding coverage for coronavirus at this point would be difficult, says Steven Lauro, the vice president of Aon’s WedSafe Program, a wedding insurance provider, which provides wedding insurance. Even if you already have a policy, canceling simply because you fear you or your guests could get the coronavirus would likely not be covered. The fear of something happening, Lauro says, is not quite the same, in insurance terms, as a hurricane or an earthquake actually happening. Only if, say, flights were grounded to your wedding destination, or your venue canceled all events with no refunds, would your insurance kick in.
Certain types of weddings, of course, have more need for a backup plan than others. Katja Schulz and her partner, who live in the U.K., were going to take a wedding cruise in July from Southampton to Norway. Except some countries, including the U.S., have now advised people not to take cruises because of how quickly the virus can spread in close quarters. Passengers aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship waited for days to disembark in Oakland, and they will be screened and potentially quarantined on military bases because of possible coronavirus exposure. Schulz and her fiancé are now debating whether to pay their next deposit for their spot on the cruise. “The question is, do we protect the $2,100 [we could avoid paying], or do we risk it all and hope that by then [the virus is] gone?” she says. Schulz says the cruise company told the couple in an email that it would understand if they want to cancel, though whether they’ll get back the money they’ve already spent is unclear.