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Marriage Ceremonies – Postpone or Cancel?

Updated: May 1

ARTICLE 4: 20 April 2020


Advice for Couples Impacted by COVID-19

Congratulations on your engagement and upcoming wedding. Today our Prime Minister announced that New Zealand will extend its time at Alert Level 4 lock down by an additional five days. Level 4 will end at 11.59 pm on Monday April 27th. From Tuesday April 29th New Zealand will be operating at Alert Level 3 for two weeks through to Monday May 11th. Cabinet will meet, review and advise next steps. Worst case scenario - back to Level 4 or to a lower level.

This is most likely an incredibly stressful and difficult time for many couples who have been forced to make decisions about whether to cancel or postpone their wedding day due to the impact of COVID-19.

If you are one of those couples, my heart goes out to you. I feel your pain and disappointment. You’ve invested a significant amount of time and probably money into your wedding which at times be a little overwhelming, especially if you have planned for a large gathering with international guests.

It’s not easy to reschedule one of the most important days your lives, but read on as I’ve provided a few pointers to think about with your decision making. It’s all going to be fine, you will tie the knot, and you will be married to the love of your life.


From this day forward focus your energy on planning your new wedding on your new date and when your original wedding date comes around, celebrate that too.

But first, let’s be clear about what our restrictions are on gatherings such as a wedding under Alert Level 4 and how things look under Level 3. The following is from the government’s COVID-19 website and can change so do keep up to date with announcements and updates.


Alert Level 4 – Gathering Restrictions

Gatherings cannot go ahead as usual because they present a very high risk of transmitting COVID-19. It is important that as few people as possible travel and interact with other people so we can eradicate COVID-19. All indoor and outdoor events cannot proceed. These requirements apply to family and social gatherings such as birthdays, funerals, tangi and weddings. These gatherings cannot go ahead. We are asking you only spend time with those who you are in self-isolation with, and to keep your distance from all others at all times.

Advice for couples

The Registrar-General advises couples who, for whatever reason, believe that they need to go ahead with a marriage to use a celebrant in their bubble or who lives close by, for example, across the street, and follow the distancing and sanitising guidelines. As a member of the Celebrants Association of NZ we’ve been advised “not to officiate any wedding that requires a celebrant or any of the wedding party to leave, or compromise, their bubble” while we’re at Alert Level 4.

Advice about ‘virtual’ weddings

Under the Marriage Act, a marriage can’t occur virtually and the couple, celebrant and witnesses must be physically present in the same place. Some countries are reviewing the option for virtual weddings, but this does not apply to New Zealand.

How to get a refund for a marriage licence

The Registrar-General’s team is offering refunds to those who are not able to use the marriage licence within 3 months of getting it because of COVID-19. Simply email celebrants@dia.govt.nz for a refund.

Refunds for events

In the first instance, please contact your event organiser. They will likely need some time to determine their process and obligations for any refunds, payment to suppliers etc. Please be patient as they work through the process to meet any obligations they may have.


Alert Level 3 – Gathering Restrictions


As gatherings present a very high risk of transmitting COVID-19, acceptable gatherings are very limited. Up to 10 people only can gather for:

  • Funerals and tangihanga

  • Wedding ceremonies (not receptions).

Example to help explain these measures

For those holding a wedding ceremony, the limit means there can only be the couple, the celebrant, a couple of witnesses and family. A total of 10 people. Other people can still attend through video conferencing. Those who do attend must keep themselves and others safe. No food/drink are permitted. You can’t hold a wedding reception, no food/drink, only a ceremony. A list must be kept of those who attend, they must stay at least 2 meters apart and wash hands regularly.

How far can I travel?

Stay regional. Don’t travel outside your region, unless your local area crosses a regional boundary. Keep as local as you can – borders may still be closed for international travel and any arrivals may still be required to go into 14-day self-isolation on arrival.

It is vital that everyone knows we are still under Alert Level 4, and all Alert Level 4 restrictions remain in place.


Wedding Ceremony Only

Under Alert Level 3 you may be able to go ahead and have a small wedding ceremony with up to 10 people only. If this is something you’d like to consider, please talk to me as I’d be delighted to work with you to create a loving personalised ceremony with wonderful words that reflect who you both are as a couple and as individuals. But it can only be a ceremony. You can’t have a wedding reception (no food/drinks). You could think about using technology such as ZOOM and inviting others to join in and watch your ceremony. You could then celebrate later with a wonderful party or a belated wedding reception. But only when we move out of Level 3 or when restrictions change so we can all gather in with our wider circle of family and friends.


Food plays an important part in many peoples lives and sharing a meal together is a celebration in itself. But we don’t know when that will be at this stage either. Oh, and no travelling away for your honeymoon just yet! Stay home, decorate your bedroom ready for a bridal suite!

Postpone or Cancel

Do you postpone or cancel your wedding? The recommendation is always to postpone rather than cancel. This decision should be made jointly between you both and/or whoever is funding your wedding. You may not have a new date yet that you feel comfortable postponing to and that’s totally fine! If you speak with your key vendors, you can hopefully negotiate a middle ground, such as keeping your payments as a future credit to use when a date is set. It’s a win-win situation! You then help keep the businesses that you fell in love with afloat and when the time comes, you won’t need to replan the wedding. Of course, this lockdown could possibly force some businesses to permanently shut shop.

If your wedding isn’t until towards the end of this year my advice is to accept uncertainty, there is no way of knowing when the wedding industry will return to normal. It is definitely a safer option to postpone your wedding for now.

If your wedding is overseas or you have lots of overseas guest attending, then I recommend you postpone until 2021. But ultimately it’s your personal decision and risk to take but postponing by no less than a year from your original wedding date is probably a safer option! Based on current border and travel restrictions flights are looking very limited for some time to come.


Who to Contact First

If you’re planning your wedding yourself (not with a wedding planner), then you should as a couple, speak to your close family first, followed by a chat with your bridal party.

Take this time to gently vent your frustrations to them before dealing with everything else! Remember – be kind! Next, contact by email, your venue, caterer and celebrant about the postponement. They are your key suppliers, so they’ll be able to provide you with guidance. They will do their best to accommodate you, as they want to keep your business once normal life resumes. It is really important not to cancel anything, COVID-19 Alert Levels and its restrictions can change and you may regret making any rash decisions to cancel. A cancellation may also force businesses to let go of staff or close down completely.


When to Inform your Guests

Tell your guests as soon as possible! Especially those coming from overseas. Let them know that you’ll have to reschedule your wedding. Send out a fancy arty email with as much detail as possible about when and where. This is also the time to let other vendors know. You might not have a definitive new date in mind, but you could share some tentative date options with your guests so they stay in the loop! Most people are in still isolated in their ‘bubble’ under Alert Level 4 or heading towards Level 3. This will not only will this give them something to look forward to, but they’ll also have time to reschedule for your new wedding date.


Contacting you Suppliers

When reaching out to suppliers about postponing your wedding, the recommendation is to email them! That way, you’ll have a written trail to refer back to and it’s a lot easier than trying to remember a phone conversation. If your wedding is coming up soon then call and follow up with an email. Good to have something in writing. Be patient, as I’m sure you’re not their only client and vendors will be trying to help other couples too.


Cancelling a Wedding

We understand that this is a tough time for everyone and if you’ve made the hard decision to cancel your wedding for whatever reason, we suggest you contact your guests via a group email. This will be the least stressful and an effective way of communicating (this applies for postponements too). It also means everyone gets the notification at the same time. No cause for arguments. For specific people that you think might not check their emails, maybe try sending them a text to say check your email about our changes or giving them a quick call.


Wedding Insurance

It is certainly worth considering taking out wedding insurance, especially if you’re paying out a lot of money to vendors for their services. Unfortunately, you’re unlikely to find many if any insurer who could or would have included coverage for a pandemic such as COVID-19. It seems that due to COVID-19 the insurance world has changed.

It is recommended that you take out your wedding insurance once you have secured a date and booked a venue, and before you start handing out any money. This gives you both some degree of security while you continue to plan your wedding. There are a few insurance providers in New Zealand who cover weddings. Google Wedding Insurance NZ or read this article Wedding insurance available to Kiwis at home and abroad. I recommend you shop around for wedding insurance and ask the hard question about their terms and conditions, be specific, ask what is and isn’t covered. Don’t hesitate to discuss with them further as policies can and do vary. You can find more information COVID-19 Wedding Insurance Exclusions

And don’t forget to have your wedding dress, shoes, rings etc included in one of your insurance policies.


Wedding 2021

Things are still a little uncertain at the moment, so what is your best option if you want to get married in early 2021? You could always ask if you can make a ‘pencil booking’ for a venue, celebrant and caterer on the basis that the wedding world may not be quite ready for gatherings. Ideally, it would be good not to commit to anything financially yet. If you wait a few months to see how the situation is looking you can take this time to continue your research, Pinterest boards and finding suppliers.


Winter Weddings 2021


A winter wedding is often overlooked – it’s the off-season for many vendors and costs can often be considerably reduced to a summer wedding. Our gorgeous daughter had a winter wedding, it was wonderful, a roaring fire, pine cones, candlelight and branches with pretty red berries on the table. The bride wore, a white wedding coat over an organza dress and a white rabbit fur hat. It was a calm, blue sky day and they could keep with the preferred option, an outdoor wedding with her father walking her down a red carpet aisle. Very romantic, very Dr Zhivago.

A perfect day filled with love shared with family and friends.


Moving Forward

Be positive, there is a bright shining light at the end of the tunnel. Your love for each other will only grow stronger as you help New Zealand kick this virus out of the country. Think of this as a new opportunity to add that extra loving statement into your vows; to re-invent your wedding ceremony, find a new date that works for you all and send out those ‘Save the NEW Date’ emails.

And make sure your celebrant and venue will be available. Hey, think of the new blooms that will be in season, you could change your colour scheme!


If your original wedding plan was perfect, keep it that way, make it only a change in dates. You can use this time to potentially even improve your old wedding plans and get new inspiration!

Some of us need to feel an embrace, to hug and kiss and provide support to each other in a more physical way, especially with your wider circle of family and friends on such an important occasion.


You never know, you might even prefer your new wedding plan. Keep your head up - at the end of the day, this wedding will definitely happen and you will remember that special day for the rest of your life.


Celebrant Services

it would be an honour to work with you and your family to create a ceremony for you that is personalised and meaningful and reflects who you are, both as individuals and as a couple.

Let’s get ready, be pro-active and talk to me now. The rules may change and restrictions will be lifted so you can again gather in your circles of love, family and friendship.

The demand for celebrant services is increasing due to couples change their wedding dates – so get in touch soon. I have several bookings for later in the year and wedding bookings already for early 2021 which may also need to change.


You’ll find more information on how you can celebrate life, either a birth, a death or a marriage during and post COVID-19 in my other articles.

Please get in touch

www.ingrid-saxton-celebrant.com

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Ingrid Saxton Celebrant

Available for ceremonies in Wellington & Beyond