Wedding Finances during COVID

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pennywise
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Wedding Finances during COVID

Post by pennywise » Fri Jul 31, 2020 7:47 am

My daughter's wedding is scheduled for March 2021, and I'd be interested in hearing if anyone else is dealing with how corona is impacting plans WRT finances.

Edited to add: here is a thread on our original plans and questions about wedding costs, planning etc:

viewtopic.php?t=291722

We booked a venue and signed our contract back in December 2019. At that time, we estimated attendance at 100-ish, and guaranteed/committed for 80 people at a local upscale resort. We also committed for a room block of 10; we aren't paying for the rooms but if less than that number are not booked by guests we pay a reduced nightly fee. Total contract amount with taxes and hotel service charges is ~$24K and payment is structured with equal installments at 3 month increments. I've made 3 payments and the next is due at end of August. At this point we've paid approximately half the contract amount.

Additionally we have paid deposits to a wedding planner (required by hotel), photographer, DJ and makeup/hair providers. Total deposits are ~3K.

So, obviously weddings are very problematic in terms of whether or not they can take place and if held how many people can or will attend. We are living in a state with uncontrolled spread at this point and for awhile this spring our entire county (Florida Keys) was literally closed for several months as were all hotels down here. Daughter's family is based in Florida but future SIL is from the Midwest so his side will have a longer travel scope, largely necessitating flights. That of course would affect attendance if the pandemic is still extant next spring.

We discussed options in general back in June at which time the catering mgr at the hotel reassured us about sanitizing and distance measures etc. Obviously since then the situation has worsened. Of course, we are still 8 months out so it's impossible to predict.

I am very interested in what experiences others might have had, be it within your own family or with friends or relatives. Plans have been thrown into disarray around the country; wondering especially what corporate venues are doing for customers. Our contract, pre-COVID, stipulates liquidation damage as percentages depending on when we cancel.

We don't want to cancel of course. But I also certainly don't want to be out $25K for a wedding that can't take place. So far it seems rescheduling is being pushed hard by venues but sometimes that just doesn't work out so....any insight is much appreciated!
Last edited by pennywise on Fri Jul 31, 2020 9:09 am, edited 1 time in total.

MikeG62
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Re: Wedding Finances during COVID

Post by MikeG62 » Fri Jul 31, 2020 8:43 am

Congratulations on your daughter's engagement. In a similar boat here. Oldest daughter got engaged earlier this month. She and her fiancé are looking at a 200-person event in the spring of 2022 and have looked at many venues (DW and I have seen the ones on the short list). I have some thoughts on that, which I will get to in a moment.

First, I would point out that they have many friends who had weddings postponed due to Covid-19 (a half dozen that they were personally going to attend). How the individual reception halls are handling rescheduling the weddings is concerning to say the least. :shock: In some cases, their friends have been told they can move the date to a later date, but will lose their deposits. In other cases, shift to a later date comes with an increase in cost to reflect current rates (contracts were signed a year or two ago at older rates). In yet other cases, dates being offered by reception halls are weekdays only (Mon-Thurs). Does not matter that they had a Sat wedding booked originally. At least one of her friends is suing their reception hall. It's nuts.

So, what are we doing with this knowledge?

First, we are asking about whether contracts contain force majeure provisions (ensuring we don't lose deposits in the event reception cannot be held due to ongoing pandemic). Reception hall at the top of their list told us last weekend that their contract is currently being redrafted by their lawyers as existing contracts (in NJ) are being challenged in court. Said they expect updated contract language in the next week or so. Currently waiting to see what this language looks like.

Second, I am asking if they are willing to escrow our deposit (I am willing to pay for all escrow fees). Not only to cover a situation where they cannot hold events due to the pandemic, but in the event, they go out of business after being shut down for so long. I must say I am not receiving a warm response here. Some have said I am the first person to ask for this (I'm calling BS on that) while others have admitted that I am not the only one asking. Current first choice is taking that request to the owners to see what they say.

If they won't go for the escrow (which I am not holding out a lot of hope for), I am thinking of asking that their payment terms be amended. I am willing to make the first deposit payment. However, I'd like to defer all future deposit payments (there are many between now and a few months prior to their expected wedding date, with ~60% of the deposit money required a year before the start of the event) until they reopen and are having inside weddings (at normal capacity). I am planning to propose that any/all deferred deposit amounts (amounts that would have been paid under their normal policy because of the passage of time) be paid immediately upon their reopening. This way if they never reopen, we are only out the initial deposit (which is around 15% of the total venue cost). That is my fall back if (more likely when) they say no to my request for escrowing the deposit.

While my daughter and her fiancé have identified other vendors (for lack of a better term) that will be part of the wedding, they have not engaged in discussions with those folks because they are trying to lock down the date first. So, this issue about deposits will rear its ugly head again many more times (fortunately not at the $ amounts involved with the reception hall).

Honestly, even though we are talking about a wedding 20+ months out I am not overly confident that this situation with the pandemic will be sorted by then. It may be that things are not back to normal and then they will need to make a decision about whether to scrap the big venue idea and just go for something small (even if outdoor) involving only immediate family. DW and I have told them that in this event we would give them as a wedding gift all of the money we would have spent on the full-blown affair (yes we are paying for the cost). So, some financial incentive for them to just move forward if things have not improved. As an aside, some of their friends whose wedding receptions have been postponed have gone ahead and gotten married as scheduled (and are simply deferring the big celebration till next year).

Not sure how much that helps, but that is where we are at.
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azianbob
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Re: Wedding Finances during COVID

Post by azianbob » Fri Jul 31, 2020 11:57 am

I guess if you have already booked the venue and paid a deposit, then you are at the mercy of the venue.

I know several people who have gotten recently engaged as well and while they are looking at venues, are also planning for a Zoom wedding at either an open location (beach) or their parent's living room.

quantAndHold
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Re: Wedding Finances during COVID

Post by quantAndHold » Fri Jul 31, 2020 12:33 pm

The wedding and reception...are they inside or outdoors?

I would guess that only a small proportion of the people you originally expected to travel to the wedding will be willing or able to travel. If the wedding and reception are outdoors, the local people might still come, but if things are indoors, you may have trouble getting even the local people to come. And even if they are willing to come, are you willing to risk being the source of an outbreak?

My recommendation would be to try to negotiate with the venue for a smaller, outdoor event. The alternative would be to have an attorney read the contracts, looking for a way to get your deposits back.
Yes, I’m really that pedantic.

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Watty
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Re: Wedding Finances during COVID

Post by Watty » Fri Jul 31, 2020 1:05 pm

pennywise wrote:
Fri Jul 31, 2020 7:47 am
My daughter's wedding is scheduled for March 2021....
What do your daughter and her fiancee want to do?

That has got to be even more stressful on them and often times the couple is sort of going along with a large wedding just because of family expectations. They may be reluctant to talk about changing the plans just because they know that a lot of deposits have already been paid.

You might talk with them and let the know that if they want to they can change to a small private wedding that would be OK and they don't need to worry about the deposits that have already been paid.

If that is their preference then that would solve a lot of problems even if you don't get some of the deposits back.

MBB_Boy
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Re: Wedding Finances during COVID

Post by MBB_Boy » Fri Jul 31, 2020 3:30 pm

quantAndHold wrote:
Fri Jul 31, 2020 12:33 pm
The wedding and reception...are they inside or outdoors?

I would guess that only a small proportion of the people you originally expected to travel to the wedding will be willing or able to travel. If the wedding and reception are outdoors, the local people might still come, but if things are indoors, you may have trouble getting even the local people to come. And even if they are willing to come, are you willing to risk being the source of an outbreak?

My recommendation would be to try to negotiate with the venue for a smaller, outdoor event. The alternative would be to have an attorney read the contracts, looking for a way to get your deposits back.
Depends greatly on the people. Recent wedding for a friend was indoor / outdoor, the only people who didn't come seemed to be older relatives. Everyone local came, most of the people who needed to travel came as well

ETA: Ceremony and dinner were indoor, everything else outdoor

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8foot7
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Re: Wedding Finances during COVID

Post by 8foot7 » Fri Jul 31, 2020 6:02 pm

I would pay no more than 25%-33% down as a deposit for an indoor wedding in Florida in eight months. I would agree pay the remainder 10-14 days in advance of the event. The venue incurs little actual costs until then (ordering food, booking staff, etc.). I would provide proof of funds if asked.

Paying more than that now is simply giving the venue cash flow at a time where you are right to wonder if they are a credit risk.

Under no circumstances would I give any money at all outside of a small (under $1,000) deposit to any event venue that was currently closed for business.

OP, I would assure the venue you intend to have the event on schedule but I would refuse to provide further funds unless they were escrowed at your expense. The pandemic is an unfortunate situation for them, for sure, but you don’t need to become an unsecured creditor. They likely also really need your business

123
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Re: Wedding Finances during COVID

Post by 123 » Fri Jul 31, 2020 6:15 pm

In these COVID times I would not proceed with plans for a big wedding in March 2021. The greatest risk I think is the ability and willingness of the guests to actually attend, which could change a great deal in the days immediately before the event.

Perhaps an alternate approach is needed with a small private wedding (or an elopement) and then a large one year anniversary reception/celebration with guests. Of course there are a lot of unknowns as well with a one year anniversary celebration but it could allow for some time for the "new normal" situations to settle in.
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Kennedy
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Re: Wedding Finances during COVID

Post by Kennedy » Fri Jul 31, 2020 8:53 pm

MBB_Boy wrote:
Fri Jul 31, 2020 3:30 pm
quantAndHold wrote:
Fri Jul 31, 2020 12:33 pm
The wedding and reception...are they inside or outdoors?

I would guess that only a small proportion of the people you originally expected to travel to the wedding will be willing or able to travel. If the wedding and reception are outdoors, the local people might still come, but if things are indoors, you may have trouble getting even the local people to come. And even if they are willing to come, are you willing to risk being the source of an outbreak?

My recommendation would be to try to negotiate with the venue for a smaller, outdoor event. The alternative would be to have an attorney read the contracts, looking for a way to get your deposits back.
Depends greatly on the people. Recent wedding for a friend was indoor / outdoor, the only people who didn't come seemed to be older relatives. Everyone local came, most of the people who needed to travel came as well

ETA: Ceremony and dinner were indoor, everything else outdoor
I'm trying to figure out what else would be outdoors if the ceremony and dinner are inside?

fourwheelcycle
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Re: Wedding Finances during COVID

Post by fourwheelcycle » Sat Aug 01, 2020 8:20 am

MikeG62 wrote:
Fri Jul 31, 2020 8:43 am
Congratulations on your daughter's engagement. In a similar boat here. Oldest daughter got engaged earlier this month. She and her fiancé are looking at a 200-person event in the spring of 2022...

It may be that things are not back to normal and then they will need to make a decision about whether to scrap the big venue idea and just go for something small (even if outdoor) involving only immediate family. DW and I have told them that in this event we would give them as a wedding gift all of the money we would have spent on the full-blown affair.
A very good post. You are doing everything reasonably possible to plan for a wedding during a very unusual time. I think your gift alternative is also a very reasonable response to a difficult choice the young couple may have to make.

This must be a frantic time for the venues as well, since many of them are fully shut down, and losing money, in the short term, yet they are still trying to make reservation commitments for the future. Each reservation requires the venues to make their own expense commitments to provide qualified staff, food, and other wedding resources. If they have laid off or let go all of their qualified staff today, how can they assure they will be able to provide equally qualified staff for their future wedding commitments?

MikeG62
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Re: Wedding Finances during COVID

Post by MikeG62 » Sat Aug 01, 2020 8:59 am

fourwheelcycle wrote:
Sat Aug 01, 2020 8:20 am

This must be a frantic time for the venues as well, since many of them are fully shut down, and losing money, in the short term, yet they are still trying to make reservation commitments for the future. Each reservation requires the venues to make their own expense commitments to provide qualified staff, food, and other wedding resources. If they have laid off or let go all of their qualified staff today, how can they assure they will be able to provide equally qualified staff for their future wedding commitments?
Yup, this is yet another problem to toss in with the mix of other significant issues. :?
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lazynovice
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Re: Wedding Finances during COVID

Post by lazynovice » Sat Aug 01, 2020 9:35 am

Kennedy wrote:
Fri Jul 31, 2020 8:53 pm
MBB_Boy wrote:
Fri Jul 31, 2020 3:30 pm
quantAndHold wrote:
Fri Jul 31, 2020 12:33 pm
The wedding and reception...are they inside or outdoors?

I would guess that only a small proportion of the people you originally expected to travel to the wedding will be willing or able to travel. If the wedding and reception are outdoors, the local people might still come, but if things are indoors, you may have trouble getting even the local people to come. And even if they are willing to come, are you willing to risk being the source of an outbreak?

My recommendation would be to try to negotiate with the venue for a smaller, outdoor event. The alternative would be to have an attorney read the contracts, looking for a way to get your deposits back.
Depends greatly on the people. Recent wedding for a friend was indoor / outdoor, the only people who didn't come seemed to be older relatives. Everyone local came, most of the people who needed to travel came as well

ETA: Ceremony and dinner were indoor, everything else outdoor
I'm trying to figure out what else would be outdoors if the ceremony and dinner are inside?
Dancing, I would guess.

MBB_Boy
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Re: Wedding Finances during COVID

Post by MBB_Boy » Sat Aug 01, 2020 10:48 am

Kennedy wrote:
Fri Jul 31, 2020 8:53 pm
MBB_Boy wrote:
Fri Jul 31, 2020 3:30 pm
quantAndHold wrote:
Fri Jul 31, 2020 12:33 pm
The wedding and reception...are they inside or outdoors?

I would guess that only a small proportion of the people you originally expected to travel to the wedding will be willing or able to travel. If the wedding and reception are outdoors, the local people might still come, but if things are indoors, you may have trouble getting even the local people to come. And even if they are willing to come, are you willing to risk being the source of an outbreak?

My recommendation would be to try to negotiate with the venue for a smaller, outdoor event. The alternative would be to have an attorney read the contracts, looking for a way to get your deposits back.
Depends greatly on the people. Recent wedding for a friend was indoor / outdoor, the only people who didn't come seemed to be older relatives. Everyone local came, most of the people who needed to travel came as well

ETA: Ceremony and dinner were indoor, everything else outdoor
I'm trying to figure out what else would be outdoors if the ceremony and dinner are inside?
Cocktail hour post ceremony, and drinks and dancing after dinner (majority of reception)

Broken Man 1999
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Re: Wedding Finances during COVID

Post by Broken Man 1999 » Sat Aug 01, 2020 11:30 am

OP, I can only imagine the stress you and your daughter are experiencing.

A wedding seems to come with a great deal of stress in normal times, and on top of that, you are dealing with covid concerns.

I hope your daughter is able to enjoy her wedding as planned.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure what is rolling down the road currently, much less several months out.

Right now I am observing the local school re-opening plans. I see a lot of planning on the fly, but at the same time I would not want to be in the positions that are responsible for safely getting the children back to school. Too many unknowns, but here we are brushing up near the re-opening. A friend is a teacher, and he reported Friday to start getting ready for students.

Best of luck to you!

Broken Man 1999
“If I cannot drink Bourbon and smoke cigars in Heaven then I shall not go. " -Mark Twain

aristotelian
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Re: Wedding Finances during COVID

Post by aristotelian » Sat Aug 01, 2020 1:51 pm

123 wrote:
Fri Jul 31, 2020 6:15 pm
In these COVID times I would not proceed with plans for a big wedding in March 2021. The greatest risk I think is the ability and willingness of the guests to actually attend, which could change a great deal in the days immediately before the event.

Perhaps an alternate approach is needed with a small private wedding (or an elopement) and then a large one year anniversary reception/celebration with guests. Of course there are a lot of unknowns as well with a one year anniversary celebration but it could allow for some time for the "new normal" situations to settle in.
+1, you do not want to put guests in the position of having to take risk to attend your event. It is likely that some guests will be in the high risk groups. Even if your groups is OK with the risk you could be spreading it to society. In my state gatherings of more than 10 are verboten anyway. We have up a vacation this year that was intended to spread a relatives ashes. This is a pandemic and we have to make some sacrifices.

Looking at strictly financial issues, I would say this is actionable because you could be legally and financially liable for any outbreak if you disregard public health recommendations.

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pennywise
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Re: Wedding Finances during COVID

Post by pennywise » Sun Aug 09, 2020 2:20 pm

Update:

First, thanks to everyone who responded for your experiences, thoughts and suggestions.

Last week my daughter, future SIL, husband and I talked very frankly about the situation and our options. We are extremely fortunate she is a millennial Boglehead which is to say her hard line was as she put it "if we go ahead and you and dad are out all the money you're committed to spending, I won't be able to live with myself for the rest of my life." So she informed us that if we all decided to proceed and things go south, she and her fiance are insistent they will pay us back any money we might lose in a worst case scenario. (We wouldn't accept this of course) As she put it, as long as she marries him everything will be fine even if it is at the courthouse with just them and their parents, followed by a family takeout dinner. NB: these are the moments you know you've raised 'em right :wink:

That said we finally agreed the best option would be to talk to the vendor and be very honest about our concerns while asking what if any adjustments or options they can provide. Based on that discussion we could cancel by the next deadline for 25% cancellation penalty based on contract amount, wait till December and risk a 50% cancellation penalty or continue with our plans and contract intact.

When I talked to the catering manager she immediately informed me that at this point they are providing a 20% credit adjustment for lower than guaranteed numbers on both hotel booking reservations and food/beverage minimums which will be credited automatically based on not meeting the projections in the contract as written. So for example instead of being liable for the cost of a minimum of 80 guests as the contract stipulates, our guarantee becomes 64 guests.

And if the actual guest count is lower than the amended minimum the hotel will provide upgrade options at our discretion which may include more expensive meals, upgraded bar, signature cocktail, wine service with dinner, late night snacks, additional desserts along with the wedding cake etc. In other words, the hotel will use money that would been spent on X (-20%) guests to provide a more lavish wedding experience for the smaller number.

She also immediately reserved the lawn of the resort as a back up venue. That's hugely reassuring since we now have a guaranteed all-outdoor wedding site. They are already getting married on the beach, so if pandemic rules on social distancing are still extensive we can have the reception under the stars...spring in the Florida Keys is a pretty nice time to do that.

I was also pleasantly surprised to find out that a previous catering manager had incorrectly calculated those cancellation penalties by including service/tax expenses which aren't charged. So the penalty figures dropped by a significant factor, about 30%. This means that in a worst case scenario if we do need to cancel the outlay while substantial is less painful.

Last but not least she invited me to come by and observe a wedding held this weekend to see how they are managing events. That was extremely informative and reassuring: the hotel is following all safety protocols including requiring masks. I saw banquet tables set up with only 5 per table instead of 10, and tables separated by at least six feet etc.

We all feel very reassured by the immediate concessions offered and by actually witnessing a pandemic wedding at our venue. While life is still uncertain and worrisome, we are going to continue our plans and hope for the best while preparing for the worst.

For us, unless it's an outright cancellation, that will probably be a wedding with only the groom's immediate family and a large boisterous group of the Florida bride's family and friends. We estimate that alone would be 50 people which will still mean we have a warm happy celebration in a beautiful place. Worst of worst situation: we lose our deposit and since fortunately we are not borrowing money nor raiding our savings accounts, that's a risk we can afford to take.

c1over8
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Re: Wedding Finances during COVID

Post by c1over8 » Sun Aug 09, 2020 3:10 pm

pennywise wrote:
Sun Aug 09, 2020 2:20 pm
When I talked to the catering manager she immediately informed me that at this point they are providing a 20% credit adjustment for lower than guaranteed numbers on both hotel booking reservations and food/beverage minimums which will be credited automatically based on not meeting the projections in the contract as written.

...

We all feel very reassured by the immediate concessions offered...
You should review your contract to see what is required for a valid modification before putting too much faith in these concessions. Often contracts require changes to be made in writing and signed by both parties. Even if you are willing to take the catering manager at her word, I would be concerned that this catering manager won't be employed by the venue at the time of the event and the next catering manager/person in charge won't take your word and honor whatever you say the old catering manager promised you.

000
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Re: Wedding Finances during COVID

Post by 000 » Sun Aug 09, 2020 3:24 pm

Look up "Force majeure" and "Unjust enrichment".

Topic Author
pennywise
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Re: Wedding Finances during COVID

Post by pennywise » Sun Aug 09, 2020 6:14 pm

c1over8 wrote:
Sun Aug 09, 2020 3:10 pm

You should review your contract to see what is required for a valid modification before putting too much faith in these concessions. Often contracts require changes to be made in writing and signed by both parties. Even if you are willing to take the catering manager at her word, I would be concerned that this catering manager won't be employed by the venue at the time of the event and the next catering manager/person in charge won't take your word and honor whatever you say the old catering manager promised you.
Great points, I quickly sent the catering manager an email thanking her and listing each specific adjustment or upgrade she promised us. And since she is our second catering mgr so far I won't be too surprised if she's not the one who actually ends up staffing the wedding.

While as you point out a verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's printed on :wink: , at least now we have a time stamped record of the discussion and specific details of what was stated in August 2020.

Topic Author
pennywise
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Re: Wedding Finances during COVID

Post by pennywise » Sun Aug 09, 2020 6:34 pm

000 wrote:
Sun Aug 09, 2020 3:24 pm
Look up "Force majeure" and "Unjust enrichment".
We discussed force majeure at a meeting with the catering mgr in June. It was honored for the weddings this spring that were cancelled because the hotel was closed; customers were given full refunds. We are assuming, though of course no one knows for sure, that the spring 2021 worst case scenario will not include a complete mandated shutdown-solely based on the fact that despite the pandemic now firmly at the level of uncontrollable spread in the US, there has been no legislative or citizen inclination to reinstate the most constrictive option. And of course a mandated shutdown would invoke force majeure and we would then get a full refund. A more plausible scenario in which the previously expected guest list is whittled to a small complement is more likely, I suspect.

I am not familiar with unjust enrichment but if I understand Professor Google correctly, we would have a civil claim should the hotel not provide a wedding after we pay all contracted expenses. Again, nothing is impossible however I do not believe the large multinational hospitality company we are dealing with has or intends to invoke a corporate policy to completely swindle customers, so I am trusting the vendor will continue to honor their commitment.

There's also the possibility that they may be forced to go out of business and if that occurs I presume we would be among the unsecured creditors and unlikely to recoup any of our payment. Again, I am trusting the company will still be a viable business entity 7 months from now-only time will prove whether COVID continues to wreak havoc.

For us the bottom line is that we are choosing to roll the wedding expense dice in an uncertain situation. Worst case, we lose it all. I certainly hope not and should that occur we would certainly be very upset. But it would not materially affect us in the short or long term and for that I"m profoundly fortunate and grateful.

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