We spoke to luxury wedding plannerMark Niemierkowho is best known for more high end, contemporary wedding ceremonies and we asked him how the Coronavirus is affecting his business, his suppliers and his customers. His response is certainly encouraging.
As a wedding organiser Mark effectively acts as a conduit between both suppliers and clients and as an authority on all things matrimony, he’s a shining example of optimism. It’d also be easy to presume a wedding planner would take a subservient approach to their clients but this is not the case and it’s clear to see why this is so important.
❝I take a tough angle, I’m here to look after brides and grooms but I’m also a mediator as I have to look after suppliers. To get the best wedding day we have to keep a happy team.❞
Mark goes on to explain that quite simply somebody has to take charge and it would seem that the bride and groom are not always the best people to take those decisions. Coronavirus is no different. Just because people are getting ill doesn’t mean life isn’t going to continue.
How has CV affected your business and industry as a whole?
Interestingly, Mark has not had any cancelations as yet but would look at it on a case by case basis should any arise. However this is not really a concern for him as from talking to people that have planned weddings this season Mark tells us that concerns remain low.
❝My customers currently aren’t overly worried – but are talking to me daily where we are monitoring the situation.❞
Furthermore Mark feels that overall we will get to a point with Brits that we’ll get bored of staying in doors and we’ll all be back out as before. Even if that means staying locally. Even if that means taking holidays in the UK. Who doesn’t love a well planned stay-cation?
❝The public needs to be aware it’s here - it’s not going anywhere - life goes on. ❞
That said the outbreak of the Coronavirus has obviously caused Mark to consider how he would react in the coming months if things continue to escalate, but he’s calm and offers nothing short of a well measured and sensible response.
❝If an enquiry comes in today for August, I might not take it on, and would advise that client to potentially look beyond September. If it’s a short notice wedding, definitely yes let’s get busy❞
Medium term weddings Mark feels it’s too uncertain so would be best to delay and the problem here arises where the government decides to ban events for over 200 people. Wedding ceremonies aside, the bigger problems are not for the bride and groom but for the wedding suppliers themselves.
❝This will be a wake up call for the industry. I’m constantly shocked about how suppliers lose out. I hear stories about events getting postponed where they’ve held the date, not sent an invoice and the event doesn’t go ahead. ❞
If you’re a supplier or venue and you’re taking a booking, do not start work until you’ve agreed contracts and deposits are paid. Be open and honest. Spell out precisely what it is you’re going to be doing, when, and what happens if plans need to change.
What are you doing to try and solve the problems Coronavirus is causing?
Mark’s approach is pragmatic and responsible. If a couple chooses to go ahead with their event there are some simple steps we should take to make sure things go smoothly, and this advice is not just for the weddings industry.
Set a firm H&S policy Get things in place for your event such as hand sanitiser Show clients what you’re doing and be transparent Run a thorough risk assessment prior to the event Be mindful of guest numbers and the possibility of the government
He’s right; the problem isn’t going anywhere soon. It’s not time to shut up shop. It’s a time to pull together and find a sensible solution that works for as many people as possible.
As a further response to the outbreak Mark has also launched a free wedding advice line for people planning a wedding in the face of the Coronavirus outbreak.
What advice do you have for the industry?
In terms of his advice to the industry as a whole, Mark notes there are going to be casualties and it’s obviously a great shame as not everyone is geared up to weather the storm, but now is definitely the time to sit down now and look at your overheads and not to stick your head in the sand.
❝Talk to landlords. Prepare them for the worst. Talk to people now. If you have staff maybe you can pay them now but what if things get worse? Would they do part time or share roles? Start the conversation before it’s too late. Cover the overheads now because you just don’t know what might happen.❞
However overall it would seem the problem here is not so much the Coronavirus itself but it’s that the wedding industry is very relaxed and if you’ve not taken a deposit for a booking that then cancels, then it’s probably too late.
For example, if a wedding has been planned and now cancelled, look at the problems that ensue. The work starts from the moment the deposit is paid. A florist or caterer may have already ordered and paid for supplies. A destination planner may have booked flights but not confirmed or billed the client. It’s doing business the wrong way round, but it’s really important to get paid!
❝If they want to cancel then we can move the date within reason for no charge, and potentially up to 6 or 12 months depending on the circumstances but any changes will require negotiation with the supplier.❞
Mark recommends the whole industry take the same approach. By the time of the wedding the work is already done - the fee is not the wedding day and people need to respect the fact that the work has already been done.
❝As a wedding planner the biggest job on the wedding day is to look busy; if the job has been done properly and done well the wedding planner has very little to actually do at this point!❞
This is all good advice and should resonate throughout the events industry not just weddings.
Advice to bride / groom - don’t panic!
If you were planning a destination wedding and are now faced with travel bans, now is clearly the time to consider your options, and there are literally hundreds of stunning hotels in the UK so choose something closer to home that can be better managed.
❝Don’t panic! There’s no reason why your event still can’t happen.❞
Something else to think about; the issue is not always with the event agencies or venue, but with the entertainers and suppliers; if you cancel the event, everyone loses out and some of these people only work at the weekend.
As for the honeymoon this should also be something to look forward to. People are too quick to go away after the wedding and seemingly it’s all too rushed. Mark’s advice is a little more measured.
❝Get married. Have some time out. Go away when the dust settles.❞
With so many travel bans and flight cancelations this is sound advice.
❝Support the industry, buy British have a mini-moon.❞
It’s clear to see the virus isn’t going anywhere soon, but life goes on. There is always another solution no matter the problem whether this be hosting the event locally or scaling back preparations to a smaller event.
How are you reassuring your clients?
Mark is right. The virus is only going to come back next year and each year after and we’ve got to learn how to cope with it. So now is not the time to panic and desperately negotiate discounts. It’s time to think carefully and to make sensible plans to move forward.
❝First and foremost, this is not a time to panic. Coronavirus is here to stay, but life goes on. So don’t panic and above all, don’t cancel. If anything postpone your wedding. We have just got to work together. It’s still a wedding day and still a celebration so make sensible plans to execute a successful event.❞
Mark is proud of his service standards and is reassuring all of his clients with the following message :
- We are thoroughly screening all suppliers.
- We are putting contingent planning in place for forthcoming events; what to do in the event of an outbreak.
- We have updated our terms and conditions to allow for postponement policies.
- Let’s work together and get through this thing.
The bottom line?
❝There is simply no need to cancel your wedding.❞