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How to Be a Good Human in Trying Times (& How I Dealt with Cancelling my Wedding Because of COVID-19)

Maddy Osman engagement

He certainly took his time with proposing but I never doubted that marriage was where our relationship was heading. 

We took an international trip together just a few months after meeting and were planning six months ahead to our next international trip shortly after returning. We moved from Chicago to Denver after his job changed, got a dog together, and recently purchased a house.

We’re in it for the long haul.

And we were so excited to celebrate our love story with our friends and family on March 28, 2020. But the rapidly evolving situation with Coronavirus forced us to change our plans.

My COVID wedding cancellation story

Red Rocks

I’ve never been a particularly emotional or fretful person, but when sh*t was really starting to hit the fan around March 13, my anxiety went sky high. 

For days on end. 

I realize that the impact of cancelling my wedding isn’t as great as getting seriously sick, dying, or losing a job — but you have to understand: I’ve been planning this event for a year and a half. All the details, decisions, and appointments have completely consumed my life.

This was to be one of the most important days of my life.

And quite frankly, I just can’t imagine going through the process of fretting over wedding details for a second time.

Along with the counsel of our parents, my fiance and I initially started out by thinking we’d stay the course. Then, as more news came to light, we talked about discouraging older and immunocompromised guests from attending — still trying to salvage all the work that went into planning this event over the past year and a half. 

On March 16, the Denver mayor decided to make the CDC recommendations to cancel events of 50+ people mandatory. 

Finally, we accepted that the decision to go on with our wedding was completely out of our hands.

At the time, I felt defeated. But looking back now, I feel a sense of relief that someone else made the decision that meant I couldn’t keep pushing forward with this event (or one of my many ill-conceived backup plans).

Writing the article you’re about to read has been a cathartic experience. As was sharing some of our story for WGN Chicago:

A quick aside for 2020 brides and grooms

If you’re planning to get married in 2020 and have any doubt that your date will still work, I can tell you from experience that waiting and trying to continuously adjust as news comes out is a definite recipe for intense stress. 

I’d recommend getting ahead of the situation ASAP. First, talk to your venue about possible backup dates. Then, ask vendors about their policies for switching dates and holding off on making payments past deposits until we know more about how Coronavirus will affect gatherings over the next weeks and months.

For everyone else who didn’t have a wedding scheduled but is just trying to adapt to this strange new world, here’s what I’ve learned from this experience about how to be a good human:

Keep your team in place however possible

All of my wedding vendors have been incredibly understanding and helpful throughout this incredibly stressful situation. 

As soon as Coronavirus presented itself as a real threat to our event, I proactively emailed all of our vendors to ask for their policies given the situation. Initially, some mentioned giving a refund minus a deposit or pushing the balance forward to a new date. 

As soon as Denver declared a state of emergency and limitations on gatherings were imposed, all of them were willing to give us a full refund including our deposits.

I joined the Wedding Disaster Support: COVID-19 group on Facebook and it’s been a godsend for getting through this tough situation. But it’s also been tough to see that not every couple had as awesome of an experience with their vendors.

If I may, some shout outs to my amazing vendor team that you absolutely won’t regret working with:

For the vendors who represent small, solopreneur businesses, I’m telling them to keep the money as a future credit. After all, it’s already been earmarked for this purpose and I still want to work with this team — especially after seeing how flexible and understanding they’ve been in this situation.

My advice for being a good human in this situation: if you’re still planning to work with someone (whether it’s a wedding vendor or a business service you need), do whatever you can to avoid taking money out of their pockets right now. 

If they can be flexible with you, do what you can to limit a disruption to their cash flow.

Go out of your way to support your local economy

On a related note, my heart is bleeding for the hospitality industry right now (among the many others directly impacted by government regulations that shut them down or make operations and sales exponentially more difficult). 

I’ll admit it, I’ve done an emergency quarantine grocery stockpile or two — with more food in the house than I think we could eat in months. But even with easy access to all this food, I’ve been making an effort to order delivery and pickup almost every day this week.

I want to do anything I can to support workers and businesses dealing with the impact of Coronavirus in whatever ways possible. I hope you consider likewise finding ways to support all the amazing businesses in your community who are struggling and fearful for the future. 

Toast POS put together an awesome resource for buying up restaurant gift cards. 

Rally for restaurants

Many online ordering platforms are taking a hit on their commissions to make it easier on restaurants to adapt to shutting down dine-in. 

Even enterprise businesses like Facebook are creating funds for the hardest-hit businesses to find some financial relief from these sudden changes.

And if you don’t have a lot of extra cash to space, there are many other ways that you can support your favorite local businesses. 

Did you have a great meal out a few weeks back that you can’t stop gushing about to friends? Leave a nice review on their Yelp page. Is there a local business offering a special deal to otherwise try to encourage sales while their storefront is physically shut down? Help connect them with your audience by sharing it.

What else can you do to help your community during these tough times? I urge you to deeply consider the possibilities.

Give graciously, without expecting anything in return

While I’m definitely feeling blue about the postponement of my major life milestone and celebration, I’m really working hard to keep things in perspective. There are bigger problems in the world and I’m certainly not the only person whose life has been affected in a big way over the past few weeks.

It’s really important for us all to think about more than just ourselves right now. And I’m not just talking about things like social distancing — I’m talking about taking care of the most vulnerable members of society. 

I’m grateful for stores like Target, Walmart, and many grocery chains making efforts to set special shopping hours for those most at-risk. I hope you’ll follow me in respecting these guidelines.

On that note, although I think it’s ok to buy a little extra at the grocery store to prepare for the possibility of a quarantine, please don’t take more than what’s reasonable. Don’t help yourself at the expense of someone else’s health and safety. 

And please, for the love of GOD, stop hoarding toilet paper. There is more than enough for everyone if everyone stops panic buying it.

Beyond the impact you can make in decisions around your personal life, consider the ways in which your business can provide resources to your clients and audience, such as:

Offering free office hours to chat with individuals about their business stresses and how to pivot. This is what I’m doing — I expanded my regular free Thursday office hours to additional availability for free, no-pitch Coronavirus business strategy sessions (please book my time if you’re struggling right now).

Appointment calendar

Whatever you can do doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, and it certainly shouldn’t come from a place of trying to profit off of this awful situation. Regardless, doing whatever you can to help won’t be soon forgotten. 

Finally, I’m looking for ways to fill the void that my wedding and surrounding events would’ve taken up. I’m thinking that I’d like to help volunteer to help at-risk members of my community get the supplies they need to stay safe and healthy. 

An organization like Meals on Wheels seems like a good opportunity to get involved and turn all of my emotions over this situation into something more positive. There’s likely a chapter in your community if you’d like to join me!

Final Thoughts: How to be a good human in trying times

If I can be positive about the future and the fact that I know we will collectively get through this, I hope that can help you to likewise see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The most important thing we can do in the meantime is to stay human, above all else. So check in on the elderly person who lives on your block and make yourself available to help run some errands for them. Now that you have all the time in the world at home, use some of it productively to FaceTime your parents or a friend you haven’t checked in with in ages. 

I’d love to hear the ways that you’re staying human — both personally and professionally — during these crazy times.

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