Weddings and wedding planning look different during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Some are being rethought. Some are being postponed and some aren’t being held at all. What does that mean to the makeup artists, hair stylists, florists, photographers, videographers, bands, DJs, bakers, caterers, catering halls, event spaces, event planners and other vendors who work so hard to make couples’ dreams a reality and rely on weddings for their income? What does that mean for the couples who have carefully planned the events they have looked forward to sharing with family and friends? It certainly may mean anxiety, uncertainty and a desire for guidance. We can provide that guidance, which should decrease anxiety and uncertainty. We have the experience and the compassion to appreciate that wedding-related contracts are not like other contracts. The parties are not exchanging money for things like machinery or maintenance services. The parties to wedding-related contracts are deeply connected to the services to be provided, because they represent the vendor’s craft and passion and because they represent a critical part of a couple making its dreams come true as its starts a new life together. Having to rethink or alter the terms of the services is complicated by the emotions involved, on both sides. While everyone wishes that these issues would go away and we could all return to a world without COVID-19 and the effect it has had on so many aspects of life, the reality is that it is affecting almost everything, including livelihoods and celebrations.
Wedding vendors and couples, who would all absolutely prefer to be able to focus on celebrating, now have to concern themselves with rethinking, altering, postponing or cancelling events and all the personal, professional and contractual issues that go with that. They are spending their time making alternate plans, or cancelling plans, and trying to figure out what their rights and responsibilities are under the contracts that they have signed. Whether weddings are your business or your own planned celebration, parties to contracts are finding themselves trying to understand what certain contract provisions mean, how they might be interpreted or applied and what effect that will have. As vendors and couples look to the future and consider entering into new contracts, they worry about what language they should negotiate to best protect themselves, including their health and their financial interests. Wedding vendors and couples alike are looking at the best ways to achieve their goals, while navigating new challenges presented by a global pandemic.
It’s a difficult time for wedding service providers, and for engaged couples, who are worried about whether weddings can be held, about how and where they can be held, about who can attend and what safeguards need to be in place. Contracts that were signed years, or even months, ago likely do not account for the possible effects of a pandemic on wedding plans. They do not account for the effect of guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, for the impact of government quarantine rules and travel restrictions and for concerns people now have about health, safety, social contact and distancing. Interpreting existing contracts in the context of this pandemic can be difficult and requires experience and an understanding of how courts are likely to read the contract provisions that were written without considering something like COVID-19. Drafting new contracts to take a new world of challenges into account requires a complete understanding of the issues faced by wedding vendors and couples planning their weddings when the future of global health issues remains uncertain.
Handling all of these issues require not only legal skills, but a sense of humanity and empathy. An attorney working with the wedding industry must remain keenly aware that weddings support the families of the professionals who make them work, make them beautiful and make them successful. The attorney must also remember that weddings create families, celebrate families and impact so strongly on the happiness of the couple and of their family and friends. There is likely no other contractual relationship that raises as many emotions as one for services to be provided in connection with a wedding.
Wedding service providers, and couples alike, are reaching out to us, concerned about what they can do to protect themselves financially, insulate themselves from liability and best ensure that services are still provided with the quality they all want. Clients have come to our experienced New York attorneys with questions about:
- Rights and responsibilities in contracts they have already entered into
- Options for cancelling or modifying existing contracts
- How they can protect themselves in future contracts
We have heard stories about inflexible vendors and inflexible clients, about unreasonable demands by engaged couples and by industry professionals. Clients have called us to address concerns about cancellation policies, refund policies and rescheduling policies. We have addressed clients’ issues including safety precautions to be taken and the impact of executive orders and guidelines on weddings. Clearly, not all wedding-related services can be provided at a safe social distance. For example, makeup artists and hairstylists cannot stand six feet from the people they are working on. The professionals providing those services and the people receiving them both want to make sure that everyone is safe and as relaxed as possible. We have worked with beauty professionals of all types and with couples, to draft contract language that will best protect everyone involved. Photographers, whose work involves not only the couple marrying, but many guests at the wedding, have consulted with us to address, contractually, their concerns about working in confined spaces and working in crowds.
Rosenbaum & Taylor, P.C. can provide expert guidance to help address the new issues facing the wedding industry and engaged couples. The ever-changing circumstances presented by COVID-19 present a set of challenges, but also opportunities. We have the experience to develop creative strategies to address the issues facing the professionals and the couples they serve in the wedding industry. We would be happy to help you understand your options and your best strategy so that you can focus on celebrations, rather than contracts.