Wedding Planning During COVID-19
Updated: Jul 23
Every wedding, in its planning stage, presents its own unique challenges and considerations, but planning in the time of COVID-19 really is unlike anything else.
The regulations change day-to-day, and state-by-state, and that means no matter where you’re planning to have your wedding, or where your guests will be traveling from, you’re bound to have complications. It’s a lot of moving parts in the best of times, and figuring out how to proceed now, can feel insurmountable.
Adding to the challenge is the fact that there isn’t really an industry-wide precedent for how vendors should react in times like this. That means you may be left wondering what options you have, what questions to ask, and whether the choices offered by your unique vendor are actually accommodating enough.
To shed some light on what steps you can take and what you can expect in this unreliable time, we’ve partnered with some of our favorite vendors in the wedding industry: florists, photographers, and event space coordinators, to hear their best advice for how to proceed with wedding planning in the age of COVID.
1. If You’re Changing the Date…
This is happening a lot at the moment. Many March, April and May weddings were cancelled, and a lot of couples, especially those with long guest lists, or elderly family, are considering cancelling their summer and fall affairs, too. So, what does this mean for couples, and for wedding vendors?
“I am allowing brides to reschedule to a 2020 date without any penalty, but not 2021.”
-Nicole Castonguay, Nicole Castonguay Photography
Nicole explained how if every 2020 bride were to reschedule to 2021 without penalty, she would, in effect, lose an entire years’ worth of income. That’s an impossibility for nearly any business to endure. It’s not that you can’t get married in 2021, but in all likelihood, rescheduling that far out will result in losing your deposit. At that point, it’s more like a rebooking, than a reschedule. Hutton House has a similar take.
“We’re working closely with each of our clients to reschedule their wedding to a future 2020 date. Whether that means considering a Thursday wedding for a full weekend of celebration, an intimate Sunday brunch wedding, or maybe a gorgeous winter wedding, we are passionate about creating the best wedding day possible for our clients and developing a Plan B they are just as thrilled about."
-Nicki Gavin, Hutton House
“Rescheduling has been very easy for us. We have a large design team, so 99% of the time, the dates [couples want] have been open for us.”
-Melissa Stratton, Sadie’s Floral
The Takeaway: If you need to reschedule your wedding, it is reasonable to expect that your vendors will offer an alternative date range for little-to-no cost. Start with your on-site vendors, such as the actual venue, and the photographer who has to be available on your new date. Other vendors, like florists and caterers tend to have more flexibility. They can be among the second tier of phone calls you make.
Try to keep your cool, and remember, if a vendor tells you there is a penalty to schedule into next year, they aren’t trying to be difficult or dishonest, and they definitely aren’t trying to take advantage of the COVID crises. There’s a good reason a date that far into the future might incur an additional fee or a forfeited deposit.
To avoid disappointment, make sure you’re communicative with your vendor about those aspects of your wedding that are truly most important to you. As Hutton House demonstrated, vendors can be very creative in how they accommodate changes, without sacrificing any of the joy or beauty of your original plans. Be reasonable, be communicative, and be open. You may be pleasantly surprised by the options these pros come up with.
2. If You’re Thinking of Cancelling Everything…
Hire a photographer and choose an area that isn’t normally so available. Arrange to have dramatic full-length images taken as your e limitations to their big day, are cancelling the events themselves. A lot of these couples are going to courthouses, or deciding to shelve it all until further notice. Only you know what’s right for you. Some people just want to be married, and having a reception simply isn’t as important as the legal certificate. Other couples can’t imagine getting married without their world of friends and family present. Either situation may cause you to want to cancel everything, until you can do it exactly the way you want to. What can you expect if you decide to cancel your wedding?
None of the vendors we spoke to could completely refund a deposit. While that seems like a bummer, there’s actually good reason behind the penalty...
Deposits cover behind-the-scenes work. They allow businesses to do individualized planning that makes your day a success. That includes time a vendor spends with you during initial meetings, or time they spend replying to your emails, sourcing unique design elements, conceptualizing your wedding’s aesthetic, driving to and from locations, or even photographing and editing your engagement shoot.
There are a lot of components to these businesses that couples don’t often get to see. These services aren’t billed hourly. They are included in package prices. When a package is cancelled, it’s the deposit that allows a business to recoup for all the time they’ve already spent
While losing a deposit can feel disappointing, knowing it’s what helps ensure the business will still be around to accommodate you when you are finally able to have your celebration, helps to take the sting out.
The Takeaway: Most deposits are nonrefundable. Check your individual vendor’s contract to see if there are exceptions. If losing your deposit is a major issue, consider rescheduling, or changing the scope of the job, rather than cancelling completely. Even a private courthouse wedding, for example, deserves to be commemorated with a few timeless, professional images. By seeing if your vendor can change the workload, you may still be able to get something of real value, without forfeiting your deposit.
3. If You Have to Change the Wedding’s Size
This is a really personal decision.
“I truly believe this [pandemic] has sent a wave over Brides and Grooms, to really bring out the intimacy of a wedding day, which, as a photographer, really brings the magic and fire. It’s all the more reason to have pictures. If a wedding is small, you definitely need photographs to bring your story and day to life.”
-Becky Markfort, Markfortography
The Takeaway: Even when restrictions are lifted, some guests, especially those in their twilight years or with underlying health issues, may not feel safe to attend. If you are worried about throwing a big wedding in the age of COVID, embrace the intimacy of a smaller wedding. You and your partner will never regret the one-on-one time you actually got to have with each other on your wedding day. If you are someone who loves a big celebration, consider throwing a reception months after your wedding, when restrictions are lifted and everyone feels ready to travel.
4. If You Want to Go Ahead with Your Wedding this Very Moment…
There are a million reasons to go through with your wedding, even during these strange times. A wedding is a day; a marriage is a life. You don’t have to delay your marriage for a day if you don’t want to. If you are someone who is ready to get married now, go for it!
A wedding during COVID, no matter how small, can be incredibly beautiful. It might just be you and your husband. (There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that!) Consider doing it in a field, a picturesque park, or an empty plaza. Take advantage of the diminished crowds.
Hire a photographer and choose an area that isn’t normally so available. Arrange to have dramatic full-length images taken as your
photographer snaps away, socially-distanced from you. Then go home as a married couple, and celebrate your accomplishment: your marriage, your optimism and your enduring commitment to one other, and to the future, even in the age of COVID.
The Takeaway: Getting married during COVID does have some unique perks… you are guaranteed to have all of each other’s attention, all day long. Not many brides and grooms can claim that! Not only is getting married during this pandemic going to be a wonderful story to tell later, but the images taken on your legal wedding day will make great invitations to a big, post-COVID reception if you choose to have one down the road.
5. Final Advice
“Remember that your love for each other is what makes this day so special. Although the date or circumstances may be changing, your planning can continue virtually, and when all of this has passed, being able to gather your family and friends together again will make your celebration all the more special.”
-Nicki Gavin, Hutton House
“Breathe. It is intense and we are all feeling this stress along with you. You’ve got to go with your gut. Trust you make the right decision for you, and your families.”
-Melissa Stratton, Sadie’s Floral
The Takeaway: As you work with vendors to make changes to your wedding plans, know that they are doing their best to navigate these times, too. They don’t have a playbook. This hasn’t happened before, and they genuinely do want to make you happy. The best thing you and your vendors can do, is work together. A wedding is a team effort. And while these times are tough, remembering you’re all on the same side can go a long way to alleviating stress, and attaining the wedding of your dreams.