If you’re a marriage celebrant, or officiant or even just a wedding vendor of some description, and your main clientele are inhabitants of planet earth, you might find yourself in a position in the coming weeks where there is a negative effect on your business and way of life due to a pandemic.
This article will not serve as a source of news or updates to said pandemic, try Googling for that kind of information. We’re also not going to go into great depth as to how to stop a pandemic, if only because my Certificate III in Radio Broadcasting is the highest authority I have in regards to stopping a pandemic, and as I studied for that course nothing – I repeat, nothing – was ever mentioned about pandemics, so I’ll leave that to the experts.
Don’t believe the hype
Everyone has lots of opinions about how this all works, how it pans out, and who’s doing what right, or wrong.
What you do need to do is find a number of sources you can trust on information you need.
For example, in regards to travel advisories in and out of Australia, the only source of correct information is the Smart Traveller website, alongside the companies who you booked the travel with, plus Betty in a Facebook group. Trust no-one else.
Another example isn’t how everyone is a legal expert in regards to cancellations, refunds, and how fast over the speed limit you can drive without legally speeding. Don’t listen to these guys, listen to lawyers and government authorities.
Don’t spread the hype
Betty in a Facebook group is already doing enough hype-spread, so leave it to her. As for you and your house, you shall follow those authorities you decided to trust.
In particular, as people who have social media accounts with followers who trust us, do not abuse that trust by spreading hype.
Answering those emails
Many couples who have booked weddings with you and your colleagues may also be emailing you, asking questions from travel to gathering sizes, and whether or not you’ll still be at their wedding.
Answer with only three things.
- What those authorities say. Don’t add to the hype, or spread further hype.
- What your service contract says. Your service contract defines the outer limits of your commercial relationship with this couple and it exists for times like these.
- Within the bounds of your service contract and the law, what are you doing.
So, you don’t have a service contract?
Many of us claim to be running a business, but don’t have service contracts. If you are in the wedding industry and you don’t have a contract between you and your clients that is crafted by lawyer knowledgeable in
- your business and how you run it,
- where you run your business and how that local authority expects you to run it,
then you are simply a cowboy, and it’s totally ok to be a cowboy, but you’re not running a sustainable business.
I know, I know, everyone’s very offended by this idea, but here’s all the reasons you need to have a service contract
- A service contract defines the outer limits of your relationship between you and the people who you went into business to serve. Without it, who even knows what your relationship looks like?
- A service contract protects your couples from you going out of business when a pandemic or other terrible things happen.
- A service contract lets your couples know what you will and won’t do for them.
- A service contract protects you from the extremities and weirdness of living and working on planet earth.
- A service contract allows you to be generous with your payment, refund, cancellation, and change policies because a starting point was defined early on. Who even knows if you’re being generous when they don’t know what the basic relationship looks like?
- A service contract allows you to budget for, and plan for, running a sustainable business into the long future ahead – instead of that horrible other possibility where you don’t do that.
Simply put: real businesses that care about their clients, have service contracts. It’s like marriage, if you’re serious about spending your life together with this other person, you marry them, because you want to define your relationship like that.
Do I need to give a refund if people cancel?
It all depends on what your relationship looks like between you and your couples.
If you have no defined relationship outside of “yes, I will be your celebrant!” then you are subject to general consumer law.
In Queensland, where my business is based, the government says “Refunds aren’t always an automatic right. Businesses don’t have to give you a refund if you: change your mind, buy the wrong size, or buy the wrong colour” as an example as to when you don’t get a refund.
But if you don’t have a service contract then who even knows if you should give a refund? It’s up to you to sort that out with each couple who wants one.
Should I charge more for moving a wedding to a date further away from said pandemic?
What does your service contract say? And how generous are you feeling? Personally, with me and my couples, if I am able to still be their celebrant, but they change the date and I’m not available, then there is no refund available and if they aren’t flexible with their new date then I’m maintaining that there is no refund available.
If the couple are moving to a new date where I am available, then I’m doing that at no extra cost unless there are extra or new travel costs. Some celebrants however are offering deals like it’s free to move to a weekday, or 50% extra for a new weekend date. Those celebrants have bigger balls than me.
What if the authorities say I cannot be the couple’s celebrant?
This is unchartered territory. It’s highly unlikely that your service contract does not mention the words pandemic, but maybe it does mention your unavailability in the case of weather or delayed travel. I would simply start having those conversations with couples who have weddings over the coming month or two. Let them take the lead, and commit to what you are comfortable to commit to, and if you don’t know, say “I don’t know” and get back to them when you do.
What if we are allowed to have the wedding, but I don’t want to?
That’s you cancelling the contract, and I would say a refund would be due to the couple.
What if we ‘flatten the curve’ and I’m out doing weddings?
We’re entering the area I like to call, general good hygiene.
Minimise touching and sharing and kissing and being naked exchanging saliva in a dungeon until you feel safe to do so.
No need to be weird about it, just calmly communicate that at this time you’re not comfortable hugging/dungeoning with anyone, and it’s not personal.
I wouldn’t make too much of a big deal about it on social media. I always try to imagine where my post would pop up on my couples phones, and it’s likely amongst a million other bloody posts about a pandemic. So I try to help, or lighten the mood, or help, but mainly, help.
So, your business is suffering because of a pandemic?
I hear you, many of us are swimming through these uncharted waters looking at the months ahead and wondering what on earth this all means for us.
Many of us have weddings cancelling, postponing, changing, moving, and that means a variety of things to us financially today, and more importantly, tomorrow.
Here’s some things I’ve been thinking of about how myself and my friends might find success into the future.
You see, in times of hardship in the wedding industry, we are often sleeping in the bed we made six to nine months ago. We have no real control over the current situations involving social isolation, self-isolation, travel bans, and quarantines, but we do have control over the
- the brand we are building today
- the product we are selling today
- the legacy we are leaving today
- the financial position we are working and planning toward
- Look for the opportunities to slim down, change, and make your business processes more efficient. Maybe that $10 a month service isn’t doing what you thought it did and you can cancel it, or you’ve got extra gear in your business you could sell or put to use.
- Re-evaluate your financial systems. Maybe your mortgage is paid forward so you can take a break from repayments today to save money for tomorrow, or other simple tricks. Many banks and other providers of services are offering discounts and changes, take these opportunities to slim down your expenses. Reducing your outs is often a lot easier than increasing your financial ins.
- As we move to differing levels of social isolation, look at how you can do business online. Either over Zoom or Skype, or using online forms, online service contracts, CRMs (customer relationship management systems), or simply email.
- If you still take cash, stop, and look at online payment systems. If you are an Australian business enable PAYID for you bank account so you can say “make the payment to firstname.lastname@example.org” instead of trying to send BSBs and account numbers, and if you’re using a system like Xero, Tave, Dubsado, Studio Ninja or other systems, enable credit card payments in Stripe, so payments can be made easily. Before you try to increase your ins, make them glide into your bank accounts a lot smoother.
- Finally, look for those new revenue opportunities. Many businesses are making changes, and some might even move or shut down. Look for new holes to insert yourself, either in marketing opportunities, SEO, on social media, or even in a different product or price market-fit. Is there a product you want to offer or bundle with? Now’s a great time to experiment and focus in on:
- Your passions
- Your strengths
- What you’re good at
- What your clients say you’re good at
- What people know you for
- What you’d like to be known for
In conclusion, all of this sucks, but we’re all in this together, and I can promise you that this too will pass.
So when it passes, will you be ready?