After spending months and quite possibly years planning your wedding, the last thing you want is something unexpected to change your plans. That’s something a lot of couples are facing this year and going into 2021. Unfortunately, it’s an issue amongst many engaged couples as COVID-19 prompts business closures and rules are set in place about the number of people that can gather in a public space.
This is the situation Stephen and I found ourselves in this year as well as my couples I photograph for and many couples alike planning a wedding amongst COVID. Our plans must have changed 3-4 times. We were dealing with the changes of COVID as well as Stephen’s mom health, so everything felt two-fold. We’ve decided to have three (yes THREE!!!) ceremonies. We had our commitment ceremony with Steve’s family so his mom could be apart of our union. She passed just a few weeks prior to when we had planned our Minimony, which included our parents and siblings outdoors and physically distanced with masks. Our possible third event will be later on once this passes with family and close friends.
If your wedding is coming up soon, you may be faced with making a decision of whether to postpone until the virus spread has significantly decreased, and/or plan for a smaller more intimate wedding and modify plans to safely distance yourselves and your guests. I’ve put together some tips for how to plan your wedding with COVID-19 since I understand what this has been like first hand as a bride planning my wedding this year, and as a photographer serving other couples.
Tip 1: Pay attention to the news
It can definitely be stressful to watch the constant updates of closings and hospitalizations, and that much definitely took it’s toll on me in the beginning. I had to take a step back at one point to keep my sanity, but keeping an eye on the latest coronavirus news is critical to decide on what to do about your wedding day. As of March 15, 2020, the CDC recommended the cancellation of weddings for eight weeks in the U.S., and travel to most European countries as well as many Asian countries has been severely limited. As you know, this has been extended and has been on-going for much longer than any one of us would have anticipated. As restrictions and closings continue to happen, you may not even have a choice but to postpone. I would be sure to keep an eye on the changes in your area locally and regionally.
Tip 2: Become aware of cancellation policies
Whether you are planning your dream wedding locally or just taking a trip across the country, take a look at cancellation policies and become aware of the deadline for cancelling and rescheduling your flights, hotel or airbnb reservations as well as venues and other vendors. Before you get caught up on the details of your contract, reach out to your vendors. Find out from them first hand to see what their policies are under this current climate. One of the things I found was that my vendors and venues would have never anticipated or planned for a pandemic, so the language may not be in your contract or they may be making exceptions at this time.
Once you find out, add a reminder in your calendar to alert you and your partner so that you can decide on travel plans by a certain date, modify guest counts, or quite possibly change your date. The last thing you want is to end up paying fees or losing a money on a last-minute change of plans.
Tip 3: Consider wedding insurance
This is one thing I wish we had known about when starting our wedding planning. If your wedding isn’t until later in the year, there’s no reason to cancel right away. However, you may want to look into getting wedding insurance to cover some of your costs in the event you do have to cancel. A wedding insurance policy can keep you from losing money on your vendors and venue when circumstances happen beyond your control.
Tip 4: Plan for a smaller guest list
While it may be challenging to make this decision, this is the first decision you may have to make. I found making a rule first, like “no children” cut down our guest list significantly or no dates for singles. Also, use your wedding website to stay in touch with your guests and provide them with any updates. If you’ve already mailed invitations, contact your guests directly by phone or email if you have to make the tough choice to uninvited them so they can hear it from you first hand and to make sure they find out.
Be understanding if guests choose not to attend your wedding day and plan accordingly for a smaller ceremony and reception. You may want to plan a virtual ceremony for guests who cannot attend in person.
Tip 5: Order favors and other items well in advance
Many bridal gowns, favors and other items are made overseas, so currently shipments are backed up. If you are planning on ordering anything from outside the U.S., be sure to order well in advance and understand that the normal shipping time will probably be doubled. Or play it safe by opting for locally sourced items or shopping for a wedding gown off the rack from your local bridal salon. I would also avoid having your date personalized on any items in the event your date changes.
Tip 6: Talk with your vendors
It’s important to stay in conversation with your vendors throughout your decision-making process. Ask for their recommendations and policies for hosting a wedding during COVID. Explain your reasoning if you have to postpone or cancel your wedding, if you decide to. We spoke with our venue coordinator and she was very understanding as they were accommodating to our requests. All of our vendors have been accommodating, and luckily we found dates that suited them as well as us, so we were able to hire some vendors twice! If possible, consider having your wedding—local businesses definitely need it right now.
There were a lot of things that happened as we didn’t plan for in this season of our life, but so far it has been so good and even better than we may have expected. I’m not saying you ought to do the same as Stephen and I, but I am suggesting you do what makes sense for you and your circle of friends and families. As you’re deciding whether to continue with your wedding day, the most important thing is to follow CDC and local and federal government guidelines. While it can be frustrating and disappointing to change plans or postpone your wedding, the priority is keeping you and your guests safe and healthy. We were planning on a more intimate wedding from the start, but due to unforeseen changes in Steve’s mom’s health and with the threat of COVID, we found this plan suited what we wanted; to get married around our original date, have his mom present and have her blessing, and to celebrate with our friends and families. I hope these 6 simple tips help you in navigating your wedding planning amongst COVID so that down the road we can tell our stories of our pandemic weddings.
If you are feeling stuck on planning your wedding during Covid, Contact Me.
Photos of Stephen & I by Melissa Engle Photography