Let’s face it… Covid-19 has left couples and wedding professionals in a real bad spot. It’s the beginning of July 2020 when I am writing this post and things change on the daily. But one thing is for sure, it feels like many Americans have simply given up the fight and are scrabbling to get “back to normal” while new the number infections soar.
When weddings are effectively made illegal, everyone loses. Couples are forced to postpone or cancel and wedding professionals are being asked for refunds they can’t afford to give. The bottom has fallen out from under all of us at once.
Wedding venues want to reopen out of fear of not being able to pay the mortgage and their staff, but gathering size limitations and social distancing are going to make that hard for a while and in some areas it is still against the law.
Planners are being asked to predict the future and offer solutions to unprecedented challenges we never expected to face. We are also stuck between a rock and a hard place – our clients and the vendors we partner with. We want to stand behind our clients one hundred percent, but we also need to protect our relationships with our vendors, many of whom are also our friends.
Photographers, DJs, Rental Companies… everyone is struggling and we all sympathize with the couples dealing with the hard decisions to reschedule, cancel, or elope.
I have been having these conversations since March, and I have had couples choose to cancel outright, elope with a small group of close friends and family, and reschedule to later this year or next year. We also have a few clients who have for the moment canceled, but plan to reschedule once they know more about the impact of the virus.
I want to share some of the advice I have given couples who have chosen each of these options for their own wedding, in hopes that it will help other couples make their own decisions.
I feel it is important to stress that it is an incredibly bad idea to move forward with a 100+ person wedding as planned during this pandemic, and even worse if you intend to do so without social distancing measures (which are nearly impossible at a wedding) or requiring masks.
Choosing to put more importance on your wedding is quite honestly selfish. Weddings are known already to be “super-spreader” events, where one person attends who has Covid-19 and it leads to 20+ people being infected. Weddings along with church events, festivals, reunions, and holiday parties are all examples of family and friends getting together to celebrate and it is no fun to celebrate, sing, dance, and dine together while 6ft apart wearing masks. But the choice to celebrate without these measures is a choice to put your enjoyment above the health our communities.
A defining feature of American culture seems to be placing your needs above those of your neighbors even when it puts your neighbors at risk. I recently saw a quote comparing choosing to not wear a mask when in public to drunk driving, and I cannot agree more.
Bottom line – do not hold a full-scale wedding during a pandemic. Full stop.
Ok, so what should you do instead? I am going to review four options that my own clients have gone with after we evaluated their specific circumstances.
When, Why, and How to Reschedule your Wedding During the Covid-19 Pandemic
Rescheduling your Wedding
Most of my clients have chosen to reschedule their weddings for a similar date in 2021. This is an easy logistical choice, but sometimes a hard emotional decision since it delays your wedding by a year which can feel like a long time in the moment. Rescheduling may come with additional fees or the need to replace vendors with a conflict on your date.
It is best to postpone your wedding if:
- You have a large guest list and you could not imagine cutting down your list to just a small number of people.
- You would lose a lot of money by cancelling the wedding.
- You want to keep the details of your day as close to the original plan as possible.
Cancel the Wedding
Least popular option for sure. The likelihood of losing a bunch of money is high since getting full refunds is basically impossible (read your contracts). At this point in time, expecting immediate, full refunds is not realistic since weddings vendors are small businesses with families to feed and rent to pay and many are losing 50-75% of their income this year.
The choice to cancel may be the best option for you if:
- You had a smaller budget to begin with or did not pay much in deposits.
- The logistics of rescheduling are too cumbersome and you would rather just cancel and review your options to plan a new event at a later date.
Micro-Weddings and Elopements
Whether you choose to reschedule or cancel the wedding, you may want to consider holding a micro-wedding with your closest friends and family or a more private elopement.
You should consider a Micro-Wedding if:
- Your venue is allowed to be open and you want to keep your wedding there but need to follow guest count restrictions.
- Your vendors will allow you to put your deposits toward smaller packages.
- There are time-sensitive reasons for getting married on your original date.
- You are able to select a group of 10-25 friends and family who you’d absolutely need to have at your wedding.
There is a fine line between Micro-Wedding and Elopement and some people use the terms interchangeably, but I do differentiate them slightly with my clients. Generally speaking an elopement has few (less than 10) to no guests, just the couple, the officiant, and 2 witnesses if required. Sometimes the elopement is accompanied by a larger party with friends and family at a later date or possibly a small restaurant gathering following the elopement ceremony.
An elopement is a great choice for you if:
- You decide to reschedule your wedding but still intend to get married on the original date.
- You have at-risk loved ones who would not be able to gather in a larger group.
- You want to get-away to someplace special for a private ceremony and to escape the monotony of work-from-home life.
How to Reschedule your Wedding
Once you have chosen how you want to proceed, you will need to notify your guests and your vendors and make the necessary adjustments to your vendor packages, timeline, floor plans, etc… Choose a few possible new dates if you plan to reschedule and run them by your venue, your family, and any vendors whose services you intend to keep for the new event. Once you have a date that works for everyone you will need to do the following:
- Update contracts to reflect the new date with all vendors, adjust service packages if needed, and pay any additional fees necessary to reschedule the event.
- Once date and venue are confirmed, notify all guests of the new date with a new Save-the-Date or Postponement announcement. You can find some nice ones over on Basic Invite or Minted, see below for some discount codes!
- Sit back and relax! (or more realistically, sit back and do your best to keep your anxiety at bay while the world outside is burning… or go out and protest police brutality, either way I support you!)
How to Downsize your Wedding
You may choose to downsize your original wedding plans to accommodate a smaller guest list, a different venue, or a shorter event timeline. Here are some ideas for downsizing:
- Cut your guest list to be within local established guidelines for gatherings.
- Switch from Buffet Meal to Plated or even ditch dinner entirely and host a cocktail party with appetizers.
- Switch from a bar to passed wine service.
- Shorten the timeline of your event to cut back on the total hours everyone is together and possibly at risk of spreading Covid-19.
- Negotiate smaller packages with your vendors (if your contract with them allows for changes).
General Common Sense Measures for Everyone to Follow re: Wedding Planning during Covid-19
Do not think for one second that this is just going to go away and not have lasting impacts on how weddings will need to be planned and attended. If you are planning a 2021 wedding, you need to be just as concerned about taking safety precautions and keeping the size of your guest list down.
We cannot know exactly how things will shake out in the next few months or even through 2021, but there are some basic common sense steps you can take now to help mitigate risk for the future.
- Wear Masks – Like now, every time you go out in public.
- Practice Social Distancing – Yes, again, now and every time you are in groups.
- Plan on inviting a smaller guest list of under 100 people to your wedding. And a best practice would be to actually have 3 lists, under 30, under 60, and under 100 guests.
- Ditch or combine engagement parties and showers.
- Hold off on sending save-the-dates and invites until you have a better idea of where, when, and who is invited.
- In fact, skip save-the-dates entirely if you want. This way you won’t have to “un-invite” anyone if you have to cut down your guest list.
- Plan on bringing extra disposable masks and hand sanitizer to your wedding and any related events.
- Create signs to encourage social distancing, hand washing & sanitizing, and mask wearing at your wedding.
- Make sure that your guests know that the venue may require them to sign a waiver affirming they have not had any symptoms or fever.
I know this is a lot to process and the decisions are not easy to make. We also still don’t really know what to expect out of the next few months. But I do know that we need to be proactive and adjust our plans to pandemic-proof them as much as possible.
And finally, one more reminder. Be kind. Be a good neighbor. Understand that this is a collective trauma and we are all feeling the effects of the pandemic itself and the economic impact.
If you need help with rescheduling your wedding or hosting a micro-wedding, feel free to get in touch with your questions.
Stay safe & healthy!
Ok, here are the links and discount codes I mentioned above!
Basic Invite – discount code: FolieaDeux
Minted – discount code: WEDPLFOLIEADEUX