An old adage wedding planners have heard repeatedly is “expect the unexpected.”
Unfortunately, while wedding planners are famously prepared for the unexpected, no one could have predicted a global pandemic wreaking havoc for everyone planning a wedding.
For any wedding planner or couple preparing to say “I do,” planning a COVID wedding was all new territory. More than a year after COVID appeared on the planet, planners and couples are still learning how to adjust and plan a wedding during COVID.
Here’s the good news: it can be done. With careful consideration, lots of flexibility, and an insurmountable amount of patience, a COVID wedding can still be an event full of joy and celebration.
Get on the Same Page
First, have an open and honest conversation with your clients, and be sure they’ve had one with each other. A COVID wedding will come with compromises. Both partners should learn how much the other is willing to forego before it makes better sense to postpone.
Another delicate conversation will be about your compensation as their wedding planner. Often, but not always, the wedding planner’s payment is 10% of the wedding budget. During COVID, however, that total budget is subject to change based on mandates and other COVID-related downsizing.
Communicate and execute a clear plan so everyone’s expectations align from the beginning. No matter what adjustments will need to be made, clear communication is key.
The Wedding Planner’s Role
In most cases of uncertainty, couples look to their wedding planner to help navigate their more difficult decisions. A wedding planner is known for having the answers and finding solutions. A global pandemic, however, is an unforeseen challenge you’ll be working through together.
Your clients may also ask for your advice on how to plan when restrictions may look different six months or even a year from now. Be honest: you cannot guarantee what future guidelines may look like, but you can follow the developments together and act accordingly.
How to Prepare for a COVID Wedding
Wedding planners should listen to both national health officials and health officials in the city or town, county, and state in which the wedding will take place. Mandates and guidelines can differ even in neighboring municipalities. These can also be at odds with national policies.
Venue sales managers are tremendous resources as guidelines change. Be in constant communication about what the venue is doing to ensure guest safety. Always ask about quest requirements for safety.
Some venues might require all in attendance to be tested on-site, have proof of a negative COVID test, or be asked to provide vaccination certificates. The best tactic is to provide any requirements to all guests ahead of time to manage expectations.
Rules and regulations should be updated on the couple’s wedding website. Be sure to include the date the update is being posted so that guests know the information is current.
Vendors, Contracts, and More
By now, your clients likely signed all or most of their vendor contacts already. Stay in constant communication with vendors. You should quickly communicate all mandates that affect vendors, including if they’ve postponed the wedding is postponed. Some vendors may have a fully refundable contract, while others may not. Ensure your clients have reviewed each agreement carefully.
Suppose your clients do not have a wedding website. In that case, they can easily create a Facebook group with all guests. This group will be dedicated explicitly to important wedding information, including COVID guidelines, transportation details, timelines, etc.
Apps like WithJoy.com can make important announcements to the entire guest list. WithJoy can also build a wedding website and manage RSVPs. Collect and share photos and more. Encourage your couple to reach out to guests who are not digitally connected.
If you are planning a destination wedding, the couple should also be informing the guests via their website, apps, texts, or calls to clarify the destination’s specific guidelines. For example, they may like to explore and dine within the destination during their downtime. As a courtesy, let them know if most restaurants or attractions require face masks, etc., so they can pack properly.
Your bridal emergency kit is going to look a little different this year. Be sure to have extra face masks and a lot of them. Your couple and the bridal party may go to a location to take photos at a site that requires face coverings, even if other places may not. They can also absentmindedly leave them behind at locations.
Emotional Support During COVID Uncertainties
For couples moving forward with their wedding instead of a postponement, this will be a very sensitive time. We expect far beyond the common emotional stages of wedding planning. Wedding planning is stressful enough, but planning a wedding during COVID is incredibly demanding.
And it will be emotionally taxing on you as well. Be sure to practice self-care and surround yourself with your support system throughout.
Final Decision Date?
While wait-and-see is a true test of patience, having the foresight to prepare for any scenario will greatly serve you and your clients.
Make sure your couple already a date selected as the last day to decide if they will postpone. This is to allow guests adequate time to prepare and make, or cancel, pricy travel arrangements. Check with the venue to see how they manage postponements regarding the contract, deposit, etc.
Before the final decision date, talk with your clients about a contingency plan. For example, will they regroup and have a micro wedding? Will they elope? Will they have a backyard gathering with just their nearest and dearest and broadcast the event virtually? Having a predetermined plan in place will allow you to spring into action.
What to Expect for 2021 Weddings
Vaccination rates and mitigation efforts are headed in the right direction in many destinations. However, health officials are monitoring new variants and their impacts regularly. Therefore, couples should be prepared to modify their guest list should there be a need.
Couples should have more than one rendition of their guest list. With this, they can act quickly if they need to downsize. Should they need to reduce by 10 percent or more, having a modified list at the ready will make the decision-making process considerably easier.
Familiarize yourself with the COVID policies of each vendor and inform your clients of these before they sign contracts. While they’ll only be working with these vendors for one day, as a planner with industry relationships you’ll want to be sure everyone understands the agreement. You don’t want to don’t burn any bridges.
Protecting your reputation, especially during challenging circumstances, is paramount.
How to Plan a Post-COVID Wedding
No one can say what 2022 will bring in terms of COVID. One thing is for sure: vendors and venues are at maximum velocity. The onslaught of weddings that were postponed in 2020 and 2021 will carry over to 2022. These are colliding with the number of weddings that would unfold in a typical year.
Many wedding planners are scrambling to find venues with available dates. As a result, couples may have to compromise on dates. Be creative, or rethink their plans if they do not want to wait an even greater amount of time.
Stay Focused on What is Most Important
Learning how to plan a wedding during COVID has been baptism by fire for most wedding planners, but as wedding planners are some of the most organized people around, couples will turn to you for guidance.
Pay attention to continued COVID developments. Keep the lines of communication open at all times with your couple. Remember, always be flexible, and know when to make difficult decisions. You’ll ned to remind them why they are getting married in the first place. Then be there as they navigate this process for better or worse.