Houston Skyline
Houston is back in business, post-Harvey! Courtesy Visit Houston

What to Do When a Natural Disaster Affects Your Wedding Plans

Hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural disasters can affect your wedding plans with little notice. Here's how to prepare and protect yourself.

You’ve booked the venue and signed contracts with your key vendors, RSVPs are streaming in from guests, and you and your betrothed could not be more excited about your upcoming big day. But then, seemingly out of the blue, disaster strikes. It could be a wildfire, an earthquake, or some other unpredictable natural disaster. For millions of Texans this year, it was Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall on August 25 and caused unprecedented flooding and damage throughout the eastern and southern reaches of the state—many wedding-related businesses were still closed weeks later. As a result, some couples have had to significantly adjust their wedding plans.

This certainly isn’t what you were hoping for, but hang in there. Your dream wedding can still happen. Here are some steps you can take, both early in the planning process and immediately after a natural disaster presents complications, to ensure that you’re still able to enjoy the magical wedding you’ve long anticipated.

And in case you’re wondering about the wedding industry in Houston, Galveston, Port Aransas, Corpus Christi, and the many other communities affected by Harvey, the massive cleanup effort will take months, but Texans are gradually getting back to the new normal, both at home and at work. The wedding industry was hit hard, but we’re happy to report that the recovery is moving steadily. The majority of the Gulf Coast’s wedding venues and hotels have reopened, and many others are busily getting back on their feet. If you want to see “can-do” spirit in action, look no farther than Texas.

Hotel Galvez & Spa
The historic Hotel Galvez, one of Galveston’s most alluring LGBTQ-welcoming wedding venues, reopened for business shortly after Hurricane Harvey. Courtesy Hotel Galvez.

Vendors affected by Harvey have also taken steps to accommodating cancellations and reschedule events as couples piece back together their wedding plans.

After the contracts have been signed, and the invitations have been sent, canceling or rescheduling your wedding can be a daunting task. In the event of so-called “acts of God” and natural disasters, you may have no choice but to cancel or reschedule, and the sooner you make the call, the better. The first thing you should do in such a case is contact your wedding planner. As the main liaison between you and all of your vendors, your planner can take on some of this burden for you. If you don’t have a planner, call your vendors directly, starting with your venue, to see what steps you can take to make alternative arrangements. Everyone will benefit if you’re able to exercise patience and keep in mind that others involved in planning your wedding may also be dealing with disaster-related turmoil themselves. Communication may be slower than usual, and some flexibility may be called for.

Most professional service and rental contracts contain a force majeure clause, which can protect you financially in the event of natural disaster or some other unforeseen event—this clause generally allows for a rescheduling of the wedding at no additional cost.

Remember that the wedding industry is a populated with many small business owners and sole proprietors, and a community spirit pervades. Talk to your vendor team and candidly discuss any concerns you have related to the possibility of an impending disaster, or one that has recently occurred. In most cases, vendors will work with you and accommodate the necessary changes as best they can. The wedding industry as a whole is a supportive, close-knit group, and vendors will even connect clients with other vendors who might be able to step in and help during a crisis. When disaster strikes, we’re all in it together—colleagues, clients, and even competing businesses.

Lastly, if you’re just in the early stages of planning your wedding, make sure that any contracts you sign with vendors do contain the aforementioned force majeure clause, and also consider purchasing wedding day insurance. Most venues require you to have liability insurance for your wedding day, but cancellation insurance is a separate, optional coverage. Cancellation insurance from reliable companies—such as WedSafe or WedSure, which offer policies starting as low as $95—can reimburse you for money lost, including nonrefundable deposits, in the event that you must cancel or postpone your wedding day. Typically, you’ll need to purchase this form of insurance at least one month before your wedding.

We’d like to express our thanks to several wedding vendors and venues in Houston and Galveston who shared their advice with us for this story: the Houston florists Blush and Vine and Flower Vibes and bakery Sugary & Chic, and the Galveston hotels the Hotel Galvez & Spa and the Tremont House.

Christy Matthews operates Christy Matthews Events in Dallas–Fort Worth and hosts The Big Wedding Planning podcast.