Bride and Groom at the Farm in Candler NC

What to Do if the Government Shutdown Ruins Your Wedding Plans

NOTE: If your National Park Wedding got canceled and you need immediate need help, visit and fill out the form. Someone will be with you shortly.

Bride and Groom at the Farm in Candler NCPhoto from Blue Bend Photography via Mountainside Bride

Fall is one of the most popular and magical times for a National Park wedding. As I write this, the National Park in my backyard, Yosemite, along with every other National Park in the Nation is closed. And I mean the gates are closed, hotels locked, and concessions gone. Last week tens of thousands of National Park visitors around the country were forced to leave in the wake of the Government Shutdown. The result: Hundreds of weddings were cancelled nationwide. The Knot claims that:

“October [is] on track as a popular wedding month. October 12 is the most popular wedding day of the year with 24,100 registered weddings.”

(By the way, the Knot had such a ridiculously useless article on what to do if your wedding is canceled by the Government Shutdown, that it prompted this post.) Last month, massive flooding in Colorado caused hundreds of other weddings to be canceled or relocated. The Rim Fire in Yosemite spoiled more than a few Lake Tahoe weddings this July, and last year Hurricane Sandy effected dozens of New England mountain brides. So what do you do when disaster strikes?

Here’s a checklist of the things to do when your wedding is canceled due to the Government shutdown

  • Read through your vendor contracts. This may be boring and tedious, but it’s your first step to finding out where you have flexibility and whether or not you’ll  lose deposits, or have to pay twice for certain things. Look for details about whether you can you cancel without a penalty. If you stand to lose deposits, that’s an important budgetary detail. Don’t panic. Just make a note of what you have available to you and what, if anything, you stand to lose. Keep in mind that circumstances beyond your vendors’ control may void the contracts. Make sure you check. Also, understanding where your flexible can help you prioritize later in the game.
  • Can you cancel? Your best bet may be to postpone your wedding. If this is impossible due to  guest travel plans or vendor contracts, you’ll have to relocate and/or reschedule your wedding.
  • Set up a “situation room.” You likely have at least a few of your bridesmaids, family and friends nearby. Set up a central “situation room” with all of your information: vendor contracts, vendor contact information, and pens and notepads for taking notes
  • Delegate. You likely have what seems like a million people asking you how they can help. Pick a handful of your nearest and dearest and delegate responsibilities to them. You may have one person working on finding a new venue, another rescheduling with your photographer and florist, and another is running interference with incoming guests.
  • Find a New Venue, STAT! This is your top priority right now. Look for venues near your original venue. Doing so may allow you the greatest flexibility for keeping your currently booked vendors. Communities near National Parks have hotels, parks, gardens, and restaurants that can accommodate you on a short timeline. In the interest of expediency, you may want to look for an all-inclusive option that includes the reception venue, ceremony site, rentals, dinnerware, catering, and wedding cake options. If you need help with that, check out the Save My National Park Coalition on Facebook.
  • Call local Visitors’ Bureaus and Chambers of Commerce. It may be time to pick up the phone. Visitors’ Bureaus and Chambers of Commerce may know of local businesses who are running deals specials to help provide relief for couples affected by the Government shutdown.
  • Ask you planner what your options are. This is one of the reasons you hired her. While she may not be able to magically make everything better, she is well-networked in her industry and may quickly be able to find you options.
  • Figure out what else you need. Do you need to reschedule or find new vendors?  What’s going on with your caterer, musicians, officiant, or photographer? Figure out what your next priorities are and take the same steps for rescheduling or finding new vendors as you did finding a new venue. This is not the time to be grandiose. This is the time to set priorities.
  • Talk to the other vendors. If you’re close to your photographer, florist, or baker, reach out to them and ask if they have other couples who are in the same situation and if so, what some of them are doing. When you call other vendors, be mindful that they are not professional wedding planners and may be limited in what they can do for you. Do not expect your photographer to take the place of a wedding planner. Nonetheless, it never hurts to ask if they have any suggestions for you.
  • Do a Google search for your area of shutdown. You may find that other vendors and venues are offering couples affected by the shutdown alternatives, such as Cathedral Gardens near Washington DC
  • Search hashtags on Facebook such as #ShutdownWedding

Other Tips

  • Have a point of contact for guests. Guests may be flying in from across the nation and may be confused about where t go, what to do, and what to expect. Have ONE PERSON run interference with your guests. Her job will be to relay updated information from your situation room. She will also be in charge of making sure they feel calm. She may even become Suzy Cruise director, suggesting lodging alternatives, places to eat, and things to do while you’re relocating your wedding.
  • Honor your emotions. You’re a mountain bride, which makes you down-to-earth. You vowed not to be a bride-zilla. But this SUCKS! This is too much! Waaaaay too much. It’s true. Let it out. Honor your feelings of anger, injustice and helplessness. Take a moment, or two to cry, scream and carry on about the whole shitty mess. Now get over it. You’re going to figure it out. You’re going to be fine. You’re going to be married soon. Honor your emotions, but make a promise to yourself that you will not glorify the negative by wallowing in self pity. Remember, even during disasters, your guests will follow you, The Bride. And remember that Joy, Love and Grace begets Joy, Love and Grace. The better you do feel, the better you will feel.
  • Manage overload by figuring out what’s absolutely necessary. We’ve already established that an alternative venue is absolutely necessary. Now it’s more important than ever to revisit your core priorities. What else is absolutely necessary? Probably the officiant. Maybe the caterer (unless you’re going with an all-inclusive venue or a restaurant). Likely your most beloved friends and family. OK, we have all we need to have a meaningful wedding. Now what other extras would you like? Photography? A wedding cake? Music that take you’re guests mind off of an otherwise stressful situation? Start ranking this wish list in order of importance.  Even if you can’t get everything you want, you can likely get the most important things.
  • Give Thanks. You’re still going to marry your Love, and you’re still surrounded by friends and family. Live in each moment and appreciate the here and now with your family and friends. Walk outside and look at the mountains (or the beach), or go for a walk in a park (or down the street.) Feel the warm fall sun on your face, breath deeply the air. Amid all the chaos, you are still blessed. The perfection of your wedding is not a barometer for your marriage, your relationships, or your self worth. You are still you. You are more than your wedding. And you’re going to be just fine.
  • Consider a Do Over. You can always do this again. Lots of couples opt for two weddings. They may have a small intimate destination wedding and then a reception back home. Some couples re-new their vows after 1 year, five years, and ten years. You can still wear your wedding gown, you can still have your cake, and you can still have your fancy party later. The funny thing is, if you do a do-over and throw the perfect wedding, you may find that your disaster wedding was more meaningful. It’s probably hard to wrap you head around today, but weddings are magical things. Like Love and Joy and Grace, weddings tend to be beautiful no matter what.

Wedding Disaster Resources:

One Final Word:

For those of your reading this who are not actively going through a wedding day disaster, get wedding day insurance!!! A mere $100 can get you a million dollar policy that shields you from liability and covers cancellation due to extreme weather and Acts of God. Even you budget brides can find a hundred bucks!