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Is 2020 postponed? The trade-offs we're having to make in lockdown

By Alex Holder

Alex is a journalist and author, who writes for The Guardian, The Telegraph, GraziaRefinery29 and Elle among others. Her book, Open Up - Why Talking About Money Will Change Your Life, was released this year. Here’s what she had to say, we hope you enjoy it as much as we did. 

Time to read: 6 minutes

Head vs Heart - the heartache and financial stress of cancelling big plans

As it turns out, un-planning a wedding is every bit as emotionally labourious as planning one. Flowers must be cancelled, photographers stood down, invitations withdrawn. The venue you spent a month choosing? There’s now red tape across its entrance. And while everyone knows why a wedding, or a birthday party, or a family get-together can’t and shouldn’t go ahead it doesn’t make postponing any less heart-breaking.

‘Cancelling plans is really tough. It’s a loss, and we need to accept it as one’ says Dr Emma Hepburn a clinical psychologist and mental health advocate, ‘I’ve seen lots of people saying ‘I’m healthy so I shouldn’t be feeling this way’ but it doesn’t mean it’s not difficult for you.’ Dr Hepburn’s words ring so true, everyone has been affected by the pandemic in different ways and it’s easy to trivialise the cancellation of a wedding or a party, but these are huge life events, and ones that will have sunk a lot of time, money and emotion already.

So how do you process calling off a long-awaited family gathering? Do you tell someone you had planned a surprise party for them? Should you hire a wedding un-planner? ‘It’s important to allow yourself time and space to grieve,’ Dr Hepburn says. ‘And if you can, try and find other ways to mark the occasion or the day, it gives you something to focus on other than the loss.’

As lockdown lifts there is still uncertainty around future dates. Should you cancel plans in September or October? How have others coped? No one knows exactly what the future holds or what the protocol is for 2020 socialising, so to help guide you with your own tricky decisions we hear from four people working through their own calendar collapse:

In the end it was a relief to cancel

Marni’s wedding was meant to be in early July, the invitations were out, the dress was fitted, and then lockdown happened. ‘When everything felt so uncertain in March, we gave ourselves by the middle of May to decide what we would do. It felt good to give ourselves a deadline.’ Their venue had cancelled all weddings until the end of June, but hadn’t cancelled July events. ‘We were constantly asking ourselves ‘Will we? Won’t we?’, so in the end we just decided it was much easier and less stressful to postpone our wedding until 2021 and luckily our venue was really accommodating, which definitely hasn’t been the case for everyone. Making a decision was a huge relief. But telling my Dad to put his pen down as he wouldn’t be doing a speech this year or walking me down the aisle any time soon was a sad moment’ Marni says. ‘And I feel an immense amount of guilt for the guests who had already booked flights and still don’t know if they’ll get a refund. I don’t know what this will mean as we plan for another date, can I ask people to book twice?’

Luckily, Marni and her partner have been able to transfer all their suppliers over to a new date in 2021 and they’re now planning on treating that as the party and will hopefully get married in a registry office this year with just two guests as witnesses. ‘By having the registry ceremony we still get to call each other husband and wife this year, without missing out on the party with friends and family next year – it’s the best of both worlds. We’re now really looking forward to it, I bought a(nother) dress before we even have a date. And we feel like the small wedding will allow us to focus on each other.’

Who says you can’t celebrate next year?

Natalie and her family had planned a series of surprise celebrations for her Dad’s 70th, ‘but in the end his birthday was a TV dinner with a video conference on the side.’ On the family video call the night of his actual birthday they told him about the surprise party, the venue they’d hired, the people who had booked travel to come from far, ‘It felt a bit ‘look what you could have won’’ Natalie says, ‘but we wanted him to know we had big plans. I did ask myself ‘who are we telling him for? Ourselves or him? But I wanted him to know we had put a lot of thought into his birthday this year, he’s never really had a big birthday party before so it was going to be truly special. He asked if we’d got all of our money back! Which we had, that was the simple bit actually. And next year we plan to throw an excellent 71st birthday party.’

I learned not to cancel trips yourself

In early February, before the coronavirus shut down Europe, Sara gave birth to her son in London. ‘He’s the first grandchild so the family were so excited to meet him.’ Sara is Greek and had planned to take him to Greece in early May. ‘I’m not a planner, but for once I had booked ahead. We had booked accommodation for the whole family and arranged to do a mini naming ceremony while we were out there.’ When lockdown happened in late May Sara was given a crucial piece of advice, ‘We were told not to cancel ourselves as we might not get a refund.’ The decision of whether to go or not was taken out of Sara’s hands, ‘the company I booked the hotel through cancelled and refunded the 50% I’d paid, and with my husband furloughed the money has been handy. I’m still saddened by the fact that my parents haven’t yet met my son, I feel especially sad for my mum. Being a grandparent is such an honour for her and I know she’s jealous of her friends who have their grandbabies close. But I’m sure we’ll make up for this lost time next summer.’ 


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