While wedding planning has always been considered a stressful endeavor, engaged couples now have multiple extra layers of complications due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Questions that would never have previously arisen – Is it safe to invite my grandparents? How can I make sure guests are socially distanced on the dance floor? Will I need to wear a mask during the ceremony? – are now taking center stage. However, as no solution or option will work in every case, every couple will need to decide how to best proceed given their own circumstances.
Although the list of possible wedding adjustments is endless, we’ve outlined a few below – along with some of the corresponding considerations. However, if you have questions, a wedding planner can help to better outline more decisions that will need to be addressed to cover your specific situation.
Downsize. Already sent out invitations for your original guest list of 200 guests but now need to take it down to 50 (or sometimes even 10 depending on your state, venue, and level of comfort)? 2020 is probably the only year in recent history in which guests won’t be completely shocked to receive a withdrawal of their invitation. And if they aren’t immediate family or very close family friends they may even breathe a sigh of relief. Guests often don’t want to be forced to make the tough decision between staying safe at home and offending the couple-to-be. So your smaller guest list may actually be a win-win.
Whenever possible, consider making personal calls or mailing handwritten notes to alert guests of this change of plans. For all other cases, you can find templates and wording online for suggested mailed or emailed “un-invitations.” And as with the other options, communicate with your vendors as soon as possible. While you may have already paid for a much higher guest count, vendors may be able to assist or apply your payment in a creative way – like a much fancier menu for 50 guests as opposed to your single entrée option buffet for 200. Along with your lower guest count, don’t forget to apply the social distancing measures mentioned below.
Spread out and stay safe. Do your state and venue allow you to proceed with your current guest count and original date? If you’re one of the lucky few who can carry on (mostly) according to plan, get ready to apply social distancing practices to guarantee that your guests stay happy and healthy.
Wherever possible, consider hosting the festivities outside. The great outdoors allows for an extra level of protection not available when in an indoor and poorly ventilated space. If a move outdoors isn’t possible (and even if it is), plan to update your floor plan. If hosting a seated dinner, plan to group guests by family or household unit. Get rid of any areas that can cause grouping – like tables with seating charts and/or escort cards (hello, wedding website!), large dance floors (consider allocating more, smaller areas), or single bar locations (transition to passed drinks, drink orders by tables, or multiple bar locations – possibly with plexiglass in place depending on your caterer or bartender’s requirements). Updates may also need to be made to your dinner plans. Plated meals may be the safest option – when seating guests by household or family unit – but additional measures can be put into place to make just about any option work depending on your caterer. For example, a buffet can be transitioned so that servers are making plates as the guests move through the line by table – with everyone else seated until they are called.
More than anything else, make sure that you’re overly communicating with guests and vendors. Touch base with your vendors early and often to find out what safety measures they’ve put in place and what they require on your end to make sure that everyone working the event is considered. Your venue, caterer, and even photographer will require more communication than most as they’ll be especially involved in making sure that all of the planned social distancing measures are put into place and actually followed. Signage at the wedding is also of utmost importance to make sure your guests know the plan and stick to it.
Finally, make sure that guests and vendors know that they’ll need to wear masks. Perhaps consider providing masks as a quirky favor that you’ll definitely be telling your grandkids about one day!
Marry now, party later. Want the perks of married life but prefer to hold off on the celebration of your dreams? Then this is the option for you. You’ll be able to decide between 1.) hosting a “micro-wedding” with your immediate family present to witness and 2.) taking it to the courthouse with your partner (where available). Many wedding planners are now providing clients with options for beautiful yet very intimate ceremonies followed by a cake cutting that allow for gorgeous pictures while accounting for a future, larger reception.
Move online. The Zoom wedding is a great idea – especially when combining it with any of the above options. Need to downsize your wedding list but still want to include all those additional guests? Invite everyone to witness the ceremony via Zoom. Moving forward with your original plan but adding in social distancing measures? Provide an online option for older guests or those who may not feel comfortable interacting with a crowd at the moment. Eloping but want to include those you love most? Send out a link and have everyone celebrate with you virtually!
Reschedule. While this sounds overwhelming to many, it’s the option that most likely allows you to move forward with the wedding you’ve been planning in your mind all along. Although future dates definitely aren’t guaranteed, a late 2021 date may provide more security if you’re hoping for a wedding with 50+ guests. However, if this option suits you best, make sure to get in contact with your contracted vendors as soon as possible. Dates for 2021 are filling in quickly, and your vendors may already be booking further ahead than usual.
Also, be sure to review any signed contracts to get an idea of how a postponement can affect your plans and whether money already paid can be applied to a new date. And if your invitations have already been sent, get in touch with guests immediately. For original dates that are further out, consider a Change of Date notice – much like a Save the Date. Many invitation providers are providing e-versions of these notices for free, while physical copies may incur an additional fee. For those original wedding dates that are closer at hand, start making those calls and/or sending those emails right away.
Planned your original wedding but need a little help with social distancing measures? Need to postpone and want some help rescheduling? Many wedding planners are now offering packages to help out with exactly these scenarios. Don’t be afraid to ask for a little help, as the impact of the pandemic to weddings and large-scale events is huge. However, a little professional assistance may help to make an overwhelming task less so.
And more than anything else, plan to stay flexible and communicate. Whether it’s with confused guests, overwhelmed and overworked vendors, or even your partner, remember that everyone is in this together. While the pandemic may have negatively impacted your plans, the unique circumstances incurred will allow for incredibly unique memories. Perhaps your wedding will even take on an increased sense of meaning and emotion on your big day – in whatever form it may take.