Canceling events because of coronavirus: A woman with her phone, laptop, and a cup of coffee

From South by Southwest, to Coachella, to the Kentucky Derby, people around the world are cancelling events because of coronavirus. And while your personal guest list might not span hundreds of thousands of people, cancelling memorials, weddings, and college graduations can feel, well …

Honestly, we’re struggling to find the words to describe it. Shocking. Mournful. And maybe a little frustrating that this sudden outbreak cancelled one of your greatest life events.

With flights cancelled around the globe, college students told to pack up and leave campus, and the Governor of California telling all residents to stay home, many people are uncertain when, or even if, these major milestones will be rescheduled.

At Greenvelope, we empathize. We may have a 100% digital product, but at the end of the day we love bringing people together. With everyone currently staying home and focusing on health and safety — a move we support — you’ll need to modify or cancel your plans. We understand the disappointment you must be feeling, but we remain hopeful. We’ll get through this.

We don’t know how or when our “normal lives” will resume. In the meantime, this guide is meant to help you reschedule events you’ve had to cancel due to the coronavirus. In addition, we’re offering a few ideas to help you digitally gather with friends and loved ones — ensuring a safe, six-foot distance apart.

Cancelling Events Because of Coronavirus: 3 Steps to Cover

Canceling events because of coronavirus: A man with his planner, a calendar, a pen, and his phone

With the White House telling people to avoid groups of 10 people or more, many life events — like weddings, funerals, and graduations — are getting postponed. This has sent the event and wedding industry into turmoil, as people ask questions like, “How do I get my money back?” “What happens to my deposit?” and “What happens to all those hotel rooms I blocked off?”

We understand this is a stressful time. But the advice on how to reschedule events because of coronavirus follows the same language we’ve been hearing since the pandemic hit headlines: Be smart, and be patient. While the world waits out the virus, here are a few steps you can take.

1. Look at Your Deposits

At this time, most people around the world are advised to stay home. If you have an event scheduled in the next eight weeks, you should try to postpone it.

If you haven’t placed a deposit on a venue, as is the case with many college graduations, bridal showers, bachelor and bachelorette parties, reschedule it to a to-be-determined date. Spreading the virus to family and friends — particularly elderly relatives — is simply not worth it.

It can be disheartening having to postpone a major life event. Here are a few things you can do in the meantime:

  • College graduations: Universities such as Maine and Michigan held impromptu “Coronamencements” at the beginning of March when a May commencement became unlikely. You can still send out a college graduation announcement — er, coronannouncement — saying you will hold an in-person party at a later date.
  • Bachelorette and bachelor parties: If you were planning to have a get together with your best gals (or guys), you can do so in a virtual environment. Send out a bachelorette party invitation for a “virtual hangout” over Zoom or Google Hangouts. Pour yourselves glasses of wine, play games, and catch-up for a few hours.
  • Birth announcements: While friends and family are cooped up at a home, seeing your smiling, new baby’s face might cheer them up. To accompany your birth announcements, set up a Skype date with your family members so they can see your new addition to your family. (Pro tip: If elderly relatives are unfamiliar with Skype, use the Chrome Remote Desktop to control their computer remotely, and set it up for them.)

2. Review Your Contracts … Closely

If you placed a deposit with a venue, caterer, or other event-based business, review your contracts. With the current, uncertain state of affairs, many businesses are willing to work with you to reschedule your event. Call your venue to see if you can work out an agreement that benefits both of you.

As a last resort, you may want to pay an attorney an hourly rate to see if there’s a loophole in your contract. You may be able to postpone your event for fewer penalties than you realize.

As Sommer Devlin, owner of Phoenix-based Devlin Law Firm told the Trade Show News Network, some contracts have a “force majeure clause,” where an unforeseen event makes it impossible for your event to take place.

While the virus outbreak may not be enough to argue force majeure, holding a wedding in California where the Governor has ordered people to stay in their homes, may be enough. (Disclaimer: This is not meant to be an example, only — not legal advice. We advise you to consult an attorney to understand your options.)

Contracts aside, since this worldwide outbreak wreaked havoc on the event industry, some small businesses may be willing to work with you during this time. For example:

  • Catering: If you’re working with a caterer or local bakery, ask to reschedule your order in exchange for keeping your deposit. Holding your deposit could provide much-needed funds for their business, making them willing to negotiate with you.
  • Printers: If you recently printed wedding programs with a now-cancelled date, call your printer and ask if they’ll give you a discount on reprinting.
  • Florists: Florists have been especially hard hit by the coronavirus outbreak. Flower shops have seen 75% cancellations according to Reuters, and their perishable goods can’t be saved to resell after the epidemic lets up. See if your florist will offer you a discount if you put down a deposit now when revenue is tight.

3. Rebook Travel

If you’re planning a destination wedding or another event that requires air travel, the coronavirus probably interrupted your plans.

Luckily, due to growing concern in the airline industry, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, JetBlue, and others made an unprecedented move by waiving ticket changes and cancellation fees. According to USA Today, these so-called “peace of mind” waivers help both parties: the airlines and the individuals. With airlines strapped for cash, and individuals unaware of how long the outbreak will last, these waivers may keep the travel industry afloat.

Airlines made it clear that these waivers are a temporary change, so be sure to change travel arrangements soon (many waivers expire at the end of March, with some airlines extending them to June). The good news? Now you can book your honeymoon without the stress of having your plans cancelled.

Here are the cancellation policies of three popular airlines:

  • JetBlue: JetBlue’s waiver covers airfare purchased between February 27 and March 11, and covers travel through June. Travelers will receive credit for future flight if they’re forced to reschedule.
  • Delta: Delta’s waiver covers tickets purchased through the entire month of March for international travel, including U.S. territories Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands (domestic flights are not covered).
  • United: United’s waiver covers tickets purchased from March 3rd through the 31st, for any destination. Travelers can change their flight or recieve a travel credit, good for one year.

Alert Guests If You’re Canceling Events Because of Coronavirus

Canceling events because of coronavirus: A woman handwrites notes surrounded by flowers, wedding rings, and wedding gifts

If you’re postponing or cancelling events because of coronavirus, there’s one more step to take: Send your guests a note.

Taking the time to send a personal notice to friends and family will be especially appreciated during this time. Your loved ones understand this is difficult for you. They know you’re trying to balance calling the caterer, negotiating with your venue, and rebooking flights. Therefore, they’ll be even more grateful to know that — even during this hectic time — you paused to think of them.

You can send your guests a greeting card, save the (to be determined) date, or cancellation notice directly through email, helping get the world out quickly (and virtually). Write a note to your guests explaining your plans to reschedule, wish them well, and thank them for their support. Upload your guests’ email addresses directly into Greenvelope, and we’ll send the announcements to their inboxes within minutes.

During this time, there’s no need to be licking envelopes — let’s all stay home, stay safe, and stay healthy.