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The information and links in the article about planning a wedding during the COVID-19 pandemic pertain to people in the United States. If you are in another country, please follow your national and local guidelines regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. 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. Edited Aug 17, 2020.
How could the Coronavirus (COVID-19) effect your 2020 or 2021 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?
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’ve always dreamt about 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 months 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 2020/2021 Wedding, in the midst of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Should we Postpone?
So what now? If your had originally planned for a full scale 2020 or early 2021 wedding, you may be getting closer to your big day and feeling reluctant you can move forward as originally planned due to COVID-19.
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 imagined 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 for Planning Your Wedding during the COVID-19 Pandemic
So, I’m going to make a few suggestions and share some ideas for how to deal with this COVID-19 crisis as it pertains to your wedding. 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. Would a lot of your wedding guests be coming from another “hotbed” country or state? Is your area experiencing a lot of Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases leading up the the months before your big day? 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. Outdoor or Open-Air Festivities
- Research has shown that increasing the air flow or being outdoors majorly decreases the spread of the virus. So, if your venue has any outdoor spaces available for the ceremony or reception, it is definitely safest to stay outdoors. If rain is a worry, consider renting a tent for the reception. Many venues like barn or farm-style buildings have an option to open up big sliding barn doors or garage-style doors. Originally, these were included or added into the buildings to offer great views or fresh air. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, features like this in a venue are crucial! If your venue doesn’t have any option for allowing significant outdoor airflow, you could absolutely look into switching the venue. I realize this seems like an extreme measure. However, if it comes down to either making this huge pivot, or cancelling/postponing the wedding all together, most couples would make a venue switch in a heart beat!
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. We’ve had plenty of couples in 2020 decide to scale back their wedding size, but Live Stream the ceremony to the full original guest list. This allows your out-of-town or more vulnerable guests to refrain from attending, while still joining in on the experience.
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. If you signed the original contract before COVID-19 came in like a wrecking ball in March, you’ll want to see if your vendors are adding any pandemic related provisions. Before the coronavirus pandemic was a thing, a date change in the event industry would often result in forfeiting the deposit. But try not to panic just yet! If postponing due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19), most vendors are allowing this at no or minimal penalty. Check with your vendors to see if they’re making any exceptions to their policies due to the pandemic. 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, be billed for the time and materials spent, or be bound by other contractural obligations.
3. Scale Down the Guest List
- Before COVID-19, a common wedding guests count we used to see was 150-200 people. However, you might still consider scaling your event size way down (please also double check HERE to see if regulations have changed, as well as your state and local governments). We’re of course hopeful that things will look a lot more stable by 2021, 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 would definitely make sense for you to scale down the guest list and cut out international and cross-country guests.
The Intimate Wedding You’ve Always Wanted
- 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 fewer guests. For instance, if you originally planned for a fairly budget-friendly meal in your catering package for 150 guests, but you choose to cut the guest list to around 50, see if you could switch to a more luxurious dining experience for your reception.
I remember when I was planning my wedding many years ago, I felt obligated to invite people on the outskirts of my true family and close community. There was pressure to invite people I worked with, people my husband worked with, people who go to our church who we weren’t actually very close to. Basically, anyone who I ever had a conversation about the wedding with, I felt obligated to then invite. Over a decade later, I can tell you that at least half our guests list has absolutely no connection with us anymore. We don’t work at the same places, we haven’t kept the same distant acquaintances. Only your close family members, and core friend group truly matter. COVID-19 is the perfect excuse to cut out all those obligatory invites. I can promise you, you won’t miss them!
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, and check HERE to see details on larger gathering and events. 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. Request that your guests wear masks any time they’re indoors and in any scenario where social distancing isn’t possible outdoors. Explore options for your guests to be distanced more than normal in the ceremony and reception seating (you can still allow family units to sit close to one another). Ask your venue and/or your planner for ideas on how to communicate to guests what is expected (ie. masks, flow of traffic, etc). Your venue and your caterer might have ideas on how to keep guests from getting congested in one area or another. 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. 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 note 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.
Planning Your 2021 Wedding
If you’re planning a wedding around COVID-19 for 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 numbers will be coming down significantly. However, it would be wise to ask your vendors how they would handle the situation if this pandemic remains prevalent. Be sure to carefully read all contracts before signing, to make sure you feel that a vendor’s pandemic-related postponement or cancellation policies are reasonable.
Another thing to note is that many event vendors don’t allow a package to be scaled down once you sign the contract. This is because vendors might turn down other business on or around your wedding date to accommodate for the size of package you’ve booked. However, almost ALL wedding vendors will allow you to add on to your package later (within reason). Check your contract for required timeframes. For this reason, you may consider booking vendors like caterers and florists for a smaller guest count than you expect. That way, if COVID-19 causes you to scale down or scares many of your guests away, you won’t be locked into a package that is way over the number of guests who RSVP.
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 and/or wear a mask any time in public. 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 if you’ve decided you don’t feel comfortable attending.
If you do plan on attending an upcoming 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, wear a mask when in public, avoid close contact and touching, cover coughs and sneezes, and stay home if you’re feeling 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.