Your wedding is fast approaching, and you get a call from your venue, saying they’re not able to host your wedding – it’s not something any bride or groom expects, especially late in the planning process. When Kim got this call just two months before her wedding, it could have been a nightmare – but it wasn’t, and today, we’re sharing what she did to make the experience as stress-free as possible.
The information in this post is not intended as a substitute for legal or financial advice; please see our disclaimer for more information.
About 8 weeks before our wedding, I received a call from the manager of the restaurant that was hosting our reception. He asked if I had a minute to talk, and then informed me that a pipe had burst in their building, which would take some time to fix, after which they planned to undergo some renovations. They were about to close, indefinitely.
The rest of the conversation felt surreal, and as I listened to him, my mind was racing through all of the potential ramifications. Not even ten minutes earlier, S and I had been heading out to the post office, a box full of stamped and sealed invitations in hand – truly, you really can’t make this stuff up – and now I had no idea where our wedding was going to take place.
Having made it relatively smoothly, all things considered, through the process of finding a new venue, I want to share what worked, and what we’d suggest you do, too, if you find yourself suddenly short a wedding venue:
Check your contract
You may already be familiar with the cancellation policy in your contract – we were – but start there, just the same. Depending on the reason for the cancellation, a force majeure clause may be relevant, as it was for us (e.g., you’ll get back any deposits that you’ve paid, but no additional damages). If your venue or vendor just doesn’t feel like working with you, that’s potentially a very different situation, and one in which contacting someone more expert in contracts might make sense.
Contact your wedding insurance provider
If you’ve read our ultimate guide to wedding insurance, you know how important Steph and I believe wedding insurance to be (especially given the relatively minimal investment required), and you may have purchased your own policy. Now’s the time to revisit it!
The two categories likely to be most relevant at this point are the cancellation / postponement coverage, and the additional expenses coverage (and following the steps in this post, you can, hopefully, avoid a postponement of your wedding). You’re not going to be ready to file a claim at this point, but you can let your insurance provider know what’s happened, and they’ll let you know what you’ll need if / when you ultimately do.
I contacted our insurance company that afternoon to let them know that we were searching for a new venue, and was connected with the company that backs the wedding policy. We were assigned to a claim examiner, and she explained when and how we’d need to submit documentation, in the event we needed to file.
Decide what changes you’re willing to make
This decision may hinge on how far out from your wedding the cancellation happens, and on how many other contracts you’ve already signed. Are you going to want a venue within a short distance of your original one, or are you open to a different location? Are your start and end times flexible? If you haven’t already committed to other vendors, are you willing to pick a new date, in the event you find a venue you love that doesn’t work for your original date?
Thankfully, S and I were having our ceremony and reception at different places, so we only needed to find a new reception venue. On the other hand, we were so close to our wedding date that we couldn’t change too many of the key details, and would need to find a space available on our date, with a start time relatively close to the ending time of our ceremony.
Talk to your other vendors
You’ll want to give your vendors as much notice as possible that things might change, whether it’s the location, the time, the date, or all of the above. You might want to refer to these vendor contracts, as well, to see what will happen if you need to change your contract.
Also, your vendors will likely be well connected to other wedding vendors, and may have suggestions for other venues.
I e-mailed our day-of coordinator and our photographer right away, to let them know that we were starting the search for a new venue, so while the date wasn’t going to change, the time very well might. Our coordinator was also our florist, and she and I had been going back-and-forth about ideas for flowers, so I said I wanted to hold off on choosing flowers until we’d secured a new venue (so the designs would fit the new space).
I next contacted our bakery, to let them know the delivery location might change, and the company with which I’d been discussing linen options, to let them know we were still interested, but needed to find a new venue before making decisions.
I didn’t e-mail my hair stylist or makeup artist at that point, as I didn’t expect our start time to change (given that the reception was moving, not the ceremony). Once we found our new venue, we decided it would be easier to push the ceremony back an hour. Although I was perfectly fine with not moving the hair and makeup start times, I asked if it would be possible to start a bit later, and they were both able to accommodate the change.
Explore all of your alternatives
I’d strongly encourage you to contact any venues in which you’d be interested, even if you’re not certain how much they’d charge. S and I spent a few hours on WeddingWire, looking for anything that seemed like it might work and was within about a 10-minute drive from our ceremony venue – restaurants, event spaces, hotels, and so on – and then contacted all of them.
The message I sent included the following:
- That we were getting married on December 10, that our reception venue was closing, and that we were looking for a space for about 50 people on that date.
- That we had a ceremony venue, so we were looking for a space available shortly after our 5pm end time.
- That we were looking to spend a particular amount, but would be potentially willing to go above that amount.
At this stage in the planning process, I didn’t see any reason not to give all of the specifics, as to not waste anyone’s time. If they didn’t have the space available, or weren’t able to accommodate our size list or our budget, we could move on.
There were more available spaces than I’d expected, as I figured holiday parties would’ve booked out most venues on a Saturday night in mid-December. We were pretty quickly able to rule out spaces that weren’t quite the right fit for our guest list or our budget, and began discussing specifics with the few that were most promising.
You may find that venues, particularly when you’re approaching your wedding date date, are interested in filling their spaces, and so might accommodate you in a way they wouldn’t otherwise. The venue we ultimately chose – Le Méridien Philadelphia – was where we’d already signed a contract to hold our ceremony, and the amazing team members at the hotel were willing to get creative to find spaces that would fit our guests and weren’t already in use that night.
Reach out to your guests
The closer you are to your wedding date, the more essential it is to keep guests in the loop. Even before you know how things might change, we’d suggest letting them know that the possibility exists, and that you’ll update them as things fall into place.
As S and I were within the invitation-sending window, and knew we’d want to order new invitations and RSVP cards with the correct location, time, and meal choices, we definitely didn’t want to wait until we both had a new venue and a new invitation suite before saying anything to our guests.
Our parents spread the word to family, and S e-mailed our friends. We let everyone know that the invitations would be forthcoming and that the date wouldn’t change, but the exact location would, and so the time might, as well.
Allow yourself to be emotional
After hanging up with our original venue and taking a very deep breath, I got to work, contacting our vendors and our insurance company. I then called my family to let them know what had happened, and as soon as my mom answered the phone, I burst into tears. I felt silly for having been so emotional, but later decided that I shouldn’t have been so hard on myself.
Wedding planning can be an incredibly stressful time, and a major shock to the process, such as a venue cancellation, will only add to that. Be gracious to yourself.
If you’ve dealt with a vendor or venue cancellation, leave a comment and let us know how you handled it; if you haven’t, let us know what you think you’d do!
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