Whether you are a newly engaged Bride or anticipating your day in a few months time, chances are you have been anxiously watching the news and wondering, “What the hell am I supposed to do?” You are not alone friend. There are hundreds of thousands of people in your shoes asking that same question. Not sure if that helps, but it hopefully changes the “why me” narrative you may be spinning in that pretty little head of yours.
The truth is, no one really knows what to do. Being a Wedding Planner in North Florida for the past 10 years, I compared it to the never ending hurricane watch (read: the hurricane that never was, Dorian). That was the best thing we could compare it to but it is incomparable. With a hurricane, we can see it coming, anticipate it’s arrival, hold on tight while it hits, and the day after, open our doors and assess the damage. Unfortunately in the case of Covid, we have been holding on tight since March with no real end in sight.
Don’t read that last line like a death wish, because it isn’t. Covid will be around for a while but nothing (as of now) is stopping you from celebrating. Our country is slowly reopening and the idea is that we can begin opening our doors an inch at a time, too.
I am writing this note to you, yes you, today because I feel as though we all feel better when there are goals for us to achieve and bullet points to check off. I am a HUGE list writer. Just to give you a reference point, I will write something down I have already completed JUST to mark it off. So here is a list, a few bullet points, a guideline for all you sweet couples that are planning during Covid. It is no easy fete, you are warriors. Think about how satisfying saying I Do will be now? Amiright?
1.Change your mindset and create a new range of expectations
Somewhere over time, big weddings with huge guest lists became some sort of a sign for ‘status’. That status means nothing to Covid because it literally touches the richest of the richest to the poorest of the poor. So change your mindset and create a new range of expectations for your day.
Who is telling you that your wedding now has to be in a backyard, can’t be formal or black tie, that it is now an ‘elopement’ because it is under 100 guests.
You can still have a beautifully, elegant, wedding day with gorgeous flowers and rentals, and a photo booth, you just may need to lower your guest list to achieve those things. Why is saving money a negative thing?
2. Make a new guest list
This is crucial. My best advice to all current planning couples is to make a guest list that is no more than 50-75 people (including them). Why? Because that is typically the core group that would include their wedding party, their spouses, parents, close family members. The people you are probably already quarteining with. This is an achievable number that everyone can agree to because the fact of the matter is, if you want to get married on the date you have chosen, you have to make some sacrifices.
NO ONE WILL QUESTION WHY THEY WERE NOT INVITED. This is quite literally your get out of jail free card. You know those coworkers you feel like you ‘have’ to invite? NOPE. Your parents friends who you only see every summer? NOPE. Your future husbands weirdo college buddies that he talks about nonstop but you haven’t actually met? NOPE.
STOP putting so much pressure on yourself to match these unrealistic ideals of what weddings ‘were’ and START setting yourself up for success and create what realistic ideas your wedding be.
If your wedding is in 2021: I would say, use this same method but make a secondary list of those folks you would want to come. If the month before your wedding everything looks good to open that door up another inch, call 10, 15, 20 of those folks and ask them over the phone. Think about how joyful that person would be to get that call from you!! The fact that people want to celebrate has not changed and if they feel comfortable to come and are able to, they will show up with bells on.
Reorganizing your guest list in this way and only inviting the core group is the best way to protect yourself in the event we have to go back to square one. Calling Aunt Jo and telling her that they no longer can come is a lot easier than calling 10-15 people you may not have ever met to tell them the wedding has been postponed. Save yourself.
3. Contact your venue
This may seem like a no brainer but the truth is, couples have been sitting on the idea of postponing their weddings until it is too late OR have been avoiding the conversation of ‘what will my wedding look like because we want to move forward?’. Becoming an adult means that you have to start growing, making big and hard decisions, and most of all having really difficult and sometimes uncomfortable conversations. Remember the talk to come to a decision on budget? Don’t worry, I am not going there today…I’ll save that for later.
Having uncomfortable and difficult conversations doesn’t mean you are giving in, it means you are educating yourself and preparing yourself for any possible outcome. You should change your perspective on that right now. You will become so much strong mentally and emotionally once you start allowing yourself to have these conversations.
Contacting your venue needs to be your highest priority because they are like the bus driver. They open the door to let you on and open it to let you off. Ask them these questions:
- We are thinking about having our wedding still on our chosen date, what would that look like?
- Will our guests be temperature checked at the door?
- How will social distancing work during the ceremony and reception?
- Is there a capacity at your venue and what is that number?
- How many guests will be sitting at the table (in anticipation of your seating chart)?
- If we cannot have our wedding at your venue on our chosen date, what do we do then?
There are so many other questions that the answers to the above list will then provide, but this will get you started.
4. Reach out to guests and make them aware of the precautions you will be exercising
The easiest way to do that is to include what I have been calling a ‘Covid Card’ in your invitation suite. It can explain what steps and precautions the venue will be implementing, how you and your future spouse are feeling, and of course encouragement. Here is an example of one my couples have chosen to use.
If you are working with a custom stationery designer, lucky you! They will be your biggest ally. With your smaller guest list, request less invitation suites. If you have already paid a deposit and the new expectations mean you will be spending less than anticipated, ask them to utalize those funds in a couple of different ways:
- ask them to design the covid card and include that in the suite
- utilize the overage of funds to put towards thank you cards
- utilize the overage of funds to put towards your Holiday cards
Not only that – but ask them the possibility of creating a virtual or e-invitation, similar to a PDF file that you can drop into an email! It will have the same information and be a nice transition for those guests you called and invited over the phone! This way, you still have a beautiful heirloom invitation that will be exactly how you envisioned, save money, and keep your expectations achievable.
5. Speak to your vendors
There is a chain of command when contacting your vendors and I encourage you to move from your highest investment first. Think about it this way, talk to those you *must have* for your wedding day to be a success first.
I have created a simplified way of getting out information and I will update this blog to share that as a template so that you can copy and paste it into your own Google doc. Streamline communications with all of your vendors, reach them at the same time, ask them their availabilities and blackout dates, share your proposed new range of dates or new protocols, allow them to see the other responses. This is also a bit of accountability. Ask them what your final payment is, when that is due, and if there is any flexibility in reducing the contract because you may not need as many or as much of the initial service base.
Most of all understand that many of your wedding vendors are small business owners and will not have the ability to return any non-refundable retainers that you agreed to upon signing their contract. I gotta rip that bandaid off, but I won’t get on my soapbox on that topic.
WEDDING VENDOR CHAIN OF COMMAND
- Hair and Makeup
- Wedding Cake
- Photo Booth
- Signage and Details
So what happens if you do have to postpone your wedding OR change your plans last minute?
It has happened and will continue to happen until Covid is behind us. But my best advice is to be prepared and educated. It is always a safe choice to purchase wedding insurance before signing ANY contract with any wedding vendor. That should include liability insurance as well as cancelation and postponement insurance. While Covid is a ‘preexisting condition’ and you would not be able to claim it, there are still many other factors that COULD happen and insurance will save your behind. For instance, just last week the wedding venue for my August 2020 client canceled on them and issued a full refund because some of their staff and member base tested positive for Covid and they could not ensure the safety of the rest of their staff as well as their older population member base with a destination wedding coming from all over the US. Don’t think that having insurance/cancelation/liability coverage means that you are willing something bad to happen. What if $300 policy could help you save $25,000? That’s what I like to call a WIN-WIN-WIN scenario.
Reach out to your vendors again and do it ASAP. Tell your guests as soon as possible! I recommend creating a Facebook group that will send a message to all your guests at the same time rather than being bogged down in a ton of calls or texts.
I also recommend going back to your stationery designer and asking them to create an electronic information card explaining whatever is happening.
In the event you are able to move forward with your same date, just smaller OR you had to postpone your wedding after you had already sent out your invitations, look into adding the RSVP option to your wedding website. No need to worry about sending out another round of invitations and spending that money again. Simplify your life and the process in order to find the possibility of joy!
There is much more I want to share, but I think I am going to make it a downloadable brochure. Once I have done that, I will update this post and share the two links.
Thanks for following me all the way to the bottom of this post, it was a long journey but I hope a helpful one!