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UPDATE: March 23th, 2020
In the article below, published on March 16, 2020, I give some recommendations on how to handle your 2020 wedding during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. At that time, the White House was recommending no gatherings over 10 people for a period of at least 15-days along with self quarantine and social distancing of everyone not working in an essential industry. I think we all hoped that after that 15 days, many of the restrictions would be lifted. However, restrictions nationally and in many states continue to get more strict, and the most up-to-date information suggests these restrictions could last months, not weeks. Please take this into consideration while reading the below article, and making decisions for your Spring or Summer 2020 wedding.
The information and links in the article below pertain to people in the United States. If you are in another country, please follow your national and local guidelines regarding the COVID-19 outbreak. If you are in the United States, please check national and local guidelines and mandates, as well as the CDC‘s most recent information.
Original Article Published March 16, 2020
How could the Coronavirus (COVID-19) effect your 2020 wedding? Postponing or Cancelling the wedding?
So you’ve been planning your wedding for months. You’ve booked your vendors and paid deposits, have a rough guest count, and have dreamt about the perfect wedding day for you and your fiancé. Then all of the sudden, this dark cloud called the Coronavirus (COVID-19) seemly put a halt to normal life as we know it. So now what? How do you move forward with your wedding during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?
I’m sure you’ve been continuing to plan and trying to move forward with every day life as cautiously as possible, while also seeing things rapidly get more and more serious. On March 15th, the CDC released THIS ARTICLE, recommending that large events of more than 50 people be cancelled or postponed for the next 8 weeks. That would be March 15, 2020 – May 10, 2020, a HUGE chunk of the Spring Wedding season. The very next day, March 16th, the president held a press conference calling for all Americans to avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people and to limit discretionary travel over the next 15 days (see The President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America).
Your Wedding is Important!
First of all, if you are a bride, groom, or parent, I just want to validate your feelings. I’m sure you’re going through a whirlwind of emotions, feeling like the perfect day you had planned is being threatened and you’re completely out of control. I’m sure there is a twinge of guilt, when worrying about your big day while lives are being threatened by this illness. But I just want to say that is completely normal. Your wedding day is important, and I feel for you.
We’re all worried and tend to sometimes think more about the personal impact of an event like this, rather than the global impact. It’s human nature and a completely valid reaction. You might be encouraged by the fact that the entire wedding industry is concerned and sharing ideas on how to help during this time as well. While social media can often be an extremely judgmental and brutal environment, in the last few days I have seen SO MUCH encouragement, unity, generosity and understanding from others. We’re all in this together, and we’re going to come through this!
How to handle a Spring/Summer 2020 Wedding, in the midst of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Should we Postpone?
So what now? If your wedding is planned anywhere between March 15 – May 10, you have some decisions to make. First, a little pep talk about changing some aspects of your wedding:
I get it! It’s hard to imagine anything different from what you’ve been planning for months. However, as a bride, during this Coronavirus craziness or not, it is in your best interest to FORCE YOURSELF to accept that everything is not going to go 100% as you plan for your big day. Things happen. The weather might be crazy. A vendor might turn out to be awful. A close friend or family member might not be able to make it. That perfect song you chose to walk down the aisle to might get accidentally switched.
As a wedding florist in Chattanooga, I have worked on over 100 weddings, and I can tell you from experience, the brides who have chosen to be easy-going and accept things as they come enjoy their day MUCH MORE. Again, I know this is a super difficult situation you’re dealing with. But as difficult as it may be, this might be the time to start wrapping your brain around the fact that your big day may look a little bit different than you originally expected. And THAT’S OKAY! What matters most is the love you have for your fiancé, and the commitment you’re making between one another.
Suggestions from a Pro
So, I’m going to make a few suggestions and share some ideas for how to deal with this crisis. However, I want to explain very carefully that I KNOW that every couple will have a very unique set of circumstance to consider when making decisions on how to move forward. Are a lot of your wedding guests coming from another country? Or another state? Is your area experiencing a lot of Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases? Were you going to have a lot of elderly guests or people with compromised immune systems? These are serious questions you must consider when deciding how to move forward with your big day!
1. If You’re Planning a March Wedding…
- Does you date will fall within the 15 days where President Trump has recommended gatherings of 10 or less (March 16 – March 30)? You basically need to decide to move forward with more of an elopement-style wedding, or postponing your ceremony all together. If you choose to do an elopement-style ceremony, consider Live Streaming the ceremony to all your guests. You may also explore the option of rescheduling the reception for a later date so your guests can come together a few months from now to celebrate with you.
2. Live Streaming Your Wedding
- I can’t take credit for the idea to Live Stream your wedding. My friends in the Chattanooga wedding industry at Treatheway Media posted this offering on their Facebook page and it seems genius! However, if you’re not in the Chattanooga area, definitely check with your area videography and/or audio-visual businesses.
3. Talk to Your Vendors about Postponing and Your Options
- If you’re considering postponing or scaling down, definitely check with your vendors. You’ll want to take a look at your current contracts, while also checking with them to see if they’re making any exceptions. Some contracts (including ours), will allow changes to your original package. However, a date change would often result in forfeiting the deposit. But try not to panic just yet! This Coronavirus (COVID-19) scenario isn’t really anything we’ve ever seen before. Check with your vendors to see if they’re making any exceptions to their policies due to the recent events. In my area, I’m hearing that a lot of vendors are trying to help their clients figure out a date change, while encouraging their clients not to completely cancel. Be prepared that if you do decide to completely cancel your event, you may forfeit the deposit or be bound by other contractural obligations.
3. Consider Scaling Down the Guest List
- If your wedding falls after the 15-day time period of recommended quarantine (10 people or less), which would be after March 30th, you might still consider scaling your event size way down (please also double check HERE to see if regulations have changed). With this scenario rapidly changing, we’re not quite sure what later Spring and Summer weddings will look like. However, we should still keep in mind that the CDC has recommended smaller events (50 or less) through May 10th. We’re of course hopeful that things will look a lot more stable by summer, but it seems very likely that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) will still be at least a minor factor to consider. Depending on where you are in the planning process, it may make sense for you to scale down the guest list and cut out international and cross-country guests.
- I mean, scaling down the event size could be a dream come true for some brides. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met with a bride in our initial planning meeting and they share a small rant about how they truly wanted a very small and intimate affair, but their parents or future in-laws pressured them into having a big shindig. If you lower the number of wedding guests, but encounter some wedding vendors who won’t allow you to lower the package you signed up for, you could also request that the package be modified to offer a more up-scale experience for your guests. For instance, if you originally planned for a fairly budget-friendly meal in your catering package for 100 guests, but you choose to cut the guest list to 50 or less, see if you could switch to a more luxurious dining experience for your reception.
Take Extreme Measures to Prevent Coronavirus (COVID-19) Spread!
- If you choose to move forward with any size wedding in 2020, explore every opportunity to prevent the spread of germs. Check the CDC websites for the most up-to-date information and tips on how to prevent disease spread. Also check with your venue to ensure hot water and soap be available in restrooms and kitchens. Check with them to see if additional hand sanitizing stations could be added throughout the venue. Offer plenty of tissues for your guests during the ceremony, and I would definitely recommend contacting your caterer to see if they have any additional suggestions. They may have ideas for modifying the menu to avoid all finger foods. They may also suggest that food not be served buffet-style, since that would involve your guests all touching utensils.
What If You’ve Already Sent Out Invitations?
- Considering traditional wedding etiquette, it would be a complete faux pas to redact an invitation for any reason other than a cancelation or deferment. However, as mentioned before, we’re in a very different time, facing a global pandemic that we’ve never seen before. If you decide to postpone, be sure to communicate all the details to your guests. If you choose to scale down your guest list after invitations have been sent out, the process is a little more touchy. I would recommend a heart-felt email to each wedding guest, letting them know that your top priority is protecting the health and wellbeing of your loved ones and community, and that you have made the difficult decision to abort your original plan for a full scale wedding, and to opt for a more intimate gathering of just close family and a few friends. Of course a letter or a card with this message in it would be more formal, but we need to take into consideration that this could present an opportunity for virus spread.
Planning Your Late 2020 or Early 2021 Wedding
If you’re planning a wedding for the fall of 2020, or sometime in 2021, it seems that there is every reason to hope and believe that we will have seen the worst of this virus, and that life will be going back to semi-normal. However, it would be wise to ask your vendors how they would handle the situation if this pandemic remains prevalent.
Also, we may experience longer lasting effects to the economy. As you’re planning your wedding budget and booking vendors, I would recommend doing a little self assessment of the source of your wedding budget. For instance, if you’re a bride whose parents are paying for the wedding, what do they do?
It would be wise to have a conversation with them now to see if they anticipate economic effects on their income from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Some industries will not be negatively effected. Some may even boom through this season. However, there will likely be some who are adversely effected, and those industries can probably anticipate the struggle now (i.e. the restaurant and retail industries).
Communicate honestly together as a couple and a family, and make adjustments if necessarily. I would also suggest communicating honestly with your vendors, and I always recommend to my clients leaving a little wiggle room in your budget while planning. You can almost always increase wedding packages, however, most event contracts won’t allow you to decrease your package total after booking.
Invited to a wedding? How to handle the Coronavirus (COVID-19) as a wedding guest?
If you have been invited to a wedding that’s coming up and you don’t know how to RSVP, my first recommendation is to use extreme wisdom and caution. You have to make the right decision for you, to protect your health and those around you. If you’re older, have a weakened immune system, or are the caretaker of someone who does, it is highly recommended that you self-quarantine at this time. If you’ve already RSVP’d yes, you do NOT need to feel obligated to follow through with that commitment. Contact the bride or her parents as soon as possible to let them know why you won’t be attending.
If you do plan on attending a Spring/Summer wedding, please be vigilant in following all CDC recommended practices. In short, wash your hands often, avoid touching your face, use hand sanitizer if hand-washing isn’t an option, avoid close contact and touching, cover coughs and sneezes, and stay home if you’re sick!
If a wedding you planned on attending gets canceled or postponed last minute, or if your invitation gets redacted, please be understanding and compassionate. In this uncertain time, we have to lay down our judgmental tendencies and understand that each and every one of us is just trying to navigate and make the right decisions. Please understand how devastating it might be for the couple to make the difficult decision to cancel or postpone. Consider sending them a gift from their registry anyway, taking into consideration that they’re still starting their lives off together, even if they didn’t follow through with the traditional wedding day as expected.
Ultimately, I want to urge you to stay up-to-date on what national and local officials and the CDC are recommending or even mandating when it comes to large events. (If you are outside the United States, please check with your own national and local guidelines.) And you’ll definitely want to check in with your venue and other vendors to see what their thoughts, ideas and suggestions are. We’re all trying to figure this out and navigate as best we can, so be understanding and patient with your vendors, guests and family members. I truly hope they extend the same courtesy to you. Emotions can be running high. But we can all come together (whether it be literally or figuratively), and celebrate love in a very special way.
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Lang Floral Designs is a premier wedding florist in Chattanooga, Tennessee. We do wedding and event flowers in the surrounding areas of East Tennessee and North Georgia, and we also love providing brides everywhere with useful ideas and information for their wedding day. For a better idea of all we can do at your wedding, click here. Contact us today if you’re interested in hiring us for your wedding or event.