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Wedding planners feeling the pressure amid coronavirus cancellations

17 March 2020 - 06:00 By Sisanda Aluta Mbolekwa and Deepika Naidoo
Wedding organisers in SA are feeling the effects of cancellations and postponements due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Wedding organisers in SA are feeling the effects of cancellations and postponements due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Image: 123RF

Weddings are becoming casualties of the strict social distancing measures put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus in South Africa.

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday declared a national state of disaster over the pandemic.

On Monday, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said 62 people had tested positive for Covid-19, the respiratory illness that results from the virus.

Among the measures announced to reduce the spread of the disease is the prohibiting of gatherings of more than 100 people. Weddings, as well as other public events, are being halted as a result.

Johan Bray, owner of The Forest Walk wedding venue in Midrand, said cancellations due to the coronavirus had caused stress for the business.

“There are more people postponing their wedding plans as there is still uncertainty surrounding the virus,” he said.

Bray said they had a cancellation policy in place. “They [the couple getting married] put down a deposit from our side. A short cancellation is usually less than six months," he said.

In the case of cancellations due to the coronavirus, he said couples would "actually lose the R5,000 deposit”.

Cape Town-based wedding planner Jadee Fernandes McGowan agreed that the pandemic was affecting the industry.

“We have experienced numerous cancellations or postponements in the last 48 hours, especially after last night. Most vendors are happy to postpone weddings but not to give a full refund,” she said on Monday, adding that client refunds remained in limbo until the venues decided on the outcome.

Another popular venue affected by the cancellations is the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre (ICC) in Durban.

Marketing manager Scott Langley said that a number of events had been cancelled or postponed “owing to concerns for their delegates’ safety".

"The most notable cancellations have been Africa’s Travel Indaba and the World Football Summit Africa, both of which have opted to postpone their events until future dates when the situation has returned to normality," he said.

Langley said because this is an unprecedented situation, the centre was empathetic to the situation that event organisers found themselves in.

“The long-term relationship we have with our clients is more important than the short-term enforcing of a contract clause, so we are walking this road together with our clients and helping them find solutions to the challenge,” he said.

Langley added that he was pleased that people were heeding the announcement made by Ramaphosa.

“We all need to change our behaviour to protect our people and reduce the impact of the virus on our society and our economy. For most this means reducing the number of delegates at their events, practising social distancing or finding alternate ways of holding these meetings,” he said.

In some cases, this meant finding future dates for events or using live-streaming video instead of face-to-face meetings.

“It is really about being more creative in times of adversity.”