In the “before times,” planning a wedding involved a good deal of certainty. Once deposits were down, you pretty much knew what was happening when. Sure, it was nice to have flexibility just in case something unexpected popped up, but even non-traditional “I dos” adhered to a general wedding checklist.
And then COVID-19 happened. Now, wedding planning has pivoted to take into account not only what type of venue you want and what color scheme you have in mind but also how you can involve your loved ones without compromising their well-being.
As you navigate the weird path that is wedding planning during a pandemic, here’s how you can get the big day of your dreams while keeping everyone safe.
Given the fact that both state and national regulations are constantly changing, it may seem like choosing a wedding date that’s toward the end of the year is a safer bet. But there are a couple potential problems with that line of thinking.
- Pandemics don’t disappear overnight. Stay-at-home orders could be lifted, or they could expand. A vaccine could mean we all travel freely in a few months or the airports at your island destination could go from open to closed in the blink of an eye.
- People are still getting sick. It’s not fun to talk about, but even mild cases of COVID prevent people from traveling and who knows who might test positive if you wait several months to get married.
- You’re not the only one waiting. All the couples who are putting off their wedding due to the pandemic will be rushing to book vendors once restrictions are lifted.
If you plan your wedding quickly and sacrifice some of the options that require a longer lead time, you’re more likely to have control over key elements like who can come and where you can have it. Sure, big venues and large crowds may be out of the question, but at least you’ll know what’s up rather than basing your master plan on a bunch of guesses.
Your current options may feel restrictive and that’s because they probably are — restrictive enough to keep everyone healthy so your wedding is about you and not about contact tracing.
If you’ve already rescheduled your wedding from 2020, keep your current date and get loved ones involved via digital channels. Videoconferencing is a popular option these days, or you can go live on social media to reach more people at one time.
Suggest that guests set up their own “viewing parties” at home. Depending on your budget, you can send out boxes of goodies such as paper plates, snacks, photo booth props, wedding programs, and even alcohol that goes with your intended theme.
While no group gatherings are completely risk-free, having your wedding outside can significantly limit exposure thanks to increased ventilation as well as more opportunities to remain socially distant. Backyard weddings can be simple, sweet, and perfect for smaller budgets, while rented tents can be decorated just like a ballroom.
Take advantage of the alfresco setting and use Mother Nature’s innate ambience to accent any store-bought decor. Position your altar in front of an existing garden and you’ll save on flowers, and any body of water (even a fountain) can play host to floating candles for an extra bit of romance.
Some safety measures will be out of your control, so talk to the people who will be tasked with carrying out the CDC’s recommendations.
- How often are they cleaning and sanitizing high-touch surfaces?
- What is their policy for sick/symptomatic staff as well as those who may have come in close contact with someone who has tested positive?
- Will guests have access to sanitizer stations and/or sinks for handwashing?
- Is there ample space to welcome guests without forcing them to form lines or crowd into a small space?
- Is there an option to open windows and doors to circulate outdoor air and otherwise increase ventilation?
- Will there be COVID-related signage in place to help direct guests and remind them of social distancing and other safety guidelines?
This may be the only time in history you can slash the size of your guest list and everyone will understand. Safety during a pandemic is a numbers game. Start with the most essential people (you and your soon-to-be spouse), then organize all potential invitees in groups according to importance. Remember, this isn’t personal — it’s necessary. You’re doing this because you care, not because you don’t.
Not all cuts will be initiated by the bride and groom. Any guests who would be classified as high-risk due to age or preexisting conditions should be supported as they put their health first. They will be missed, but their well-being comes before everything else. Extend the same kindness to out-of-town guests and international friends and family who likely won’t even have the option to fly in. Local guests shouldn’t have any issues with transportation, but they may not feel comfortable gathering in groups just yet, and that’s okay too.
The risk of contracting COVID (or any virus, for that matter) directly corresponds to how many people you’re exposed to. That’s why getting married with only two other people in attendance will always be safer than inviting 200. But even if you decide to forge ahead with a larger guest list, you can limit exposure in other ways. Start by seeing which vendors can pull double duty.
For instance, makeup artists may also be able to do your hair. See if your caterer offers bartending services. Talk to your venue about renting their furniture or using their in-house sound and lighting teams. The smaller your bubble, the safer everyone will be.
No one wants to play bad cop on their big day, but protecting your guests may require some education — and some pre-wedding laying down of the law. Start by outlining what unusual (in terms of pre-COVID, that is) requests you may have or provisions you’ll be making, such as:
- Requiring that guests wear masks
- Providing sanitizer stations throughout the venue
- Taking temperatures at the door
- Asking guests who are symptomatic the day of the event to stay home or at their hotel, even if they’ve traveled in from another state
- Changing seating arrangements to allow for social distancing
- Setting up virtual viewing for high-risk invitees who would be better served by staying at home
To keep guests in the loop, include a spot for email addresses on your RSVP cards. The ability to send out notices of last-minute changes ASAP could save a lot of stress and confusion.
And if you’re worried about guests ignoring safety mandates while you’re busy saying “I do,” we have a solution for that too.
If you think 2021 is a weird time to get married, you should’ve seen what couples went through in 2020. Or maybe you did, in which case you deserve hearty congratulations for arriving to the new year with your hair and your relationship still intact. The wedding industry has been hit hard by the pandemic, but there’s at least one silver lining created by all that craziness — professional wedding planners have become experts at arranging and rearranging ceremonies on the fly. They also know what regulations are in place, what you can and can’t do, and how to help deliver some of your must-haves without falling afoul of local mandates.
Do yourself and your guests a favor and hire a pro to take care of all those wedding details that can slip through the cracks even in the best of times. They’ll be able to advise you on what pandemic-specific tidbits to add to your wedding website and how you can enjoy your reception even if nobody’s allowed to dance.
At the end of the day, you deserve a wedding you’ll remember fondly for years to come. If that’s not possible in current conditions, it may be best to put off your ceremony and reception until you can invite everyone you want without putting them (or yourselves) at risk.
You can have a simple courthouse ceremony and hold the reception at a later date, or you can reschedule the entire affair. Change the date cards make it easy to give guests a heads-up, too. Before you make the switch, though, double check with your vendors; while many will understand given the circumstances, not all will be able to accommodate your alternative date or return your deposits.
For more help planning your wedding, check out our wedding inspiration boards.