As couples are faced with rescheduling weddings or re-imagining their big day, we reached out to a few photographers around the state to see how they and their couples are doing.
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Here’s what the Oberports had to say.
The Oberports—Emily and Bobby—are a married photography team based in Charleston. They specialize in weddings, elopements, and portrait sessions. Inspired by beautiful light, genuine emotions, and old films, their work highlights personal connections and the gorgeous scenery of West Virginia. After 11 full time years of wedding photography, their couples know them as easygoing, professional, and experienced storytellers.
Q: Are your brides postponing or canceling? Have you been in touch with all your brides in March, April, May and June?
A: So far, all of our couples have postponed. On Friday, March 13, we sent emails to all of our April and May couples to proactively send our support and let them know we have waived rescheduling fees so we can be as flexible as possible to work with everyone to find a new date as needed. We waited about 10 days before emailing our June and July couples once we got wind that some of them were already considering rescheduling.
Q: Are you having a difficult time rescheduling because you are already booked on the couple’s new date? How are you addressing rescheduled couples?
A: A few couples did select dates we were already booked. Thankfully our second half of 2020 still has Friday, Saturday, and Sunday dates open in every month, so between those dates as well as tons of 2021 dates, we are hopeful our remaining couples will be able to find a date that works for most vendors. We are so heartbroken for all of these couples – planning a wedding one time can be incredibly stressful, but to have to re-plan everything and coordinate between different vendors, all while processing the disappointment and grief of losing that perfect day you’ve been dreaming of? It’s devastating and emotional.
Q: Are you accepting new clients right now?
A: It’s a lot to navigate on the vendor side, too. In order to support our already-booked clients, we made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend all wedding bookings for the remainder of 2020. This means we’ve had to turn away referrals from other photographers and inquiries from couples who lost their original photographer due to their date change. We so wish we could help everyone out, but after lengthy discussions, we both agreed that pausing bookings for now is one of the best ways we can accommodate all the couples who have already booked with us. At the end of the day, our contracted couples are our priority. We are still trying to figure out how long we will keep bookings paused for this year, but it will likely be through May. On the business side, we have to look at a lot of, “what if” scenarios. “What if we help out this photographer by taking on this referral, then more of our clients need to reschedule and that date was the only one that could have worked for them, and we booked a new client instead?”
We are still booking new couples for 2021, though (we just booked a 2021 wedding today), and we’re hopeful that people will see the light at the end of the tunnel and be even more excited to celebrate with their loved ones after months of quarantining!
Q: How do you foresee this affecting you in the short term and long term?
A: One way we are trying to be flexible is to give our clients the option to split their contracted time with us into two days – an elopement sooner and a reception/party later, but so far our couples seem more interested in moving the whole sha-bang to a later date. And the elopement element would have to be after some of the Stay At Home restrictions have been lifted, so it’s hard to plan for even that right now. We’re trying to do our part to lead by example and take these restrictions seriously as a non-essential business. But splitting up the package into two days is another option for our couples. You have to find some creative solutions in these extreme circumstances!
In terms of how the coronavirus will affect our business in the short and long term, we really don’t know what to expect. Money is, of course, a huge concern. Losing two bookings to dates we weren’t available for means we are losing significant income we were expecting this year. It’s been the hardest month in our 12 years in business. We honestly never imagined that everything we’ve worked so hard for for over a decade could just disappear. When you decide to primarily work in the wedding industry, you think, “hey, people will always get married! We’ve picked a solid, recession-proof career!” Except, well – it’s not! But in the same way that we are continuing to send money to our barber, hair stylist and our favorite local restaurant servers/bartenders, we are just hoping that the vast majority of our couples will be taking our availability into account when finding a new date. We all have to be as flexible as we can be to make this work.
Q: What do you think Covid-19 affects the industry going forward?
A: Industry-wise, it’s going to be really interesting to see how everything unfolds. We don’t imagine the restrictions will be lifted overnight, so it’s really a guessing game to figure out what months are “safe” for rescheduling and what that even means- will they only allow weddings of 25 guests or less at first? Then 50, and so on? Given the seriousness of the situation, our best guess is they will ease up on restrictions slowly, which could possibly significantly impact guest lists for a long time. The good news is that we’d imagine weddings and funerals will be some of the first types of gatherings that will be phased back in, since they are such major life events. And after so much time cooped up away from loved ones, we expect weddings to feel very different once we’re able to go back to them.
Living through a traumatic event like this really makes you think about what’s most important in life, and weddings are just such a joyful, beautiful celebration of those things. We think hugs will last longer, there will be even more tears shed, and people will be more present. Everything is so uncertain right now, but when we imagine weddings after the coronavirus, all we can picture are days full of incredible, raw emotion. One of my daily mental exercises is to daydream about a post-COVID19 wedding, because I know they are going to be the most feel-good days of all time after what we’re living through! All we can hope is that couples who are planning, or re-planning, or getting ready to plan a wedding right now can also hold onto those hopeful daydreams.
Q: How can people best support you right now?
A: As for how people can support us right now – honestly, the best way to support the entire wedding industry is to comfort and support couples who are planning (or re-planning) weddings right now. In order for this industry to thrive post-coronavirus, people are going to still need to get married! In terms of photographers in general, it helps when couples postpone instead of canceling, and purchasing portrait sessions to be redeemed later is also a great help. Some photographers have asked their couples to stick to their original payment plan to keep money coming in right now – that’s a nice option but we haven’t asked it of our own couples just yet. Another way to support us and other wedding vendors affected by COVID-19 is to write reviews! If you’ve already used a wedding vendor in the last few years and had a great experience with them, reviews can be a great way to help those businesses bounce back from this rocky coronavirus scenario.