Planning a Wedding During COVID-19
Listen, let’s all agree we’re not celebrating New Year’s this year. I’m just saying, last year there was lots of cheering and ‘whooo hooo 2020’ and well… you know where that got us. 2020 hasn’t treated us well, and I’m just throwing out there the idea that we should, in fact, consider letting 2021 prove itself before we celebrate it at all… 😉
You’re engaged! Yay. Wait, not quite what you expected right? Ya, if it makes you feel any better, none of us saw this one coming either.
What. A. Year.
To begin with, planning a wedding is one of the most overwhelming experiences you’ll find. Add a terrible, worldwide pandemic in the midst of it all and it’s almost beyond belief. But as we are now well underway in this extremely difficult situation, I wanted to give you some very specific tips on planning a wedding through the COVID-19 pandemic and what you can expect. Please note that I’m writing this for my Cleveland, Ohio area brides and the information here is based on our current mandates and orders.
As a company, we currently are not traveling and to try and keep up enough to write something helpful for every area would be far too large a task anyway. However, if you are in a specific destination or planning to head to that destination and have a question, drop us an email, we love helping if we can.
- Social Distanced Seating: This again varies from venue to venue but the seating needs to be a certain amount of feet from the next chair to stay in compliance, this is connected to the original rules that went into effect for catering, and most likely your venue is going to be an expert on how exactly they must comply with this one.
- Same household at the table, and no more than 10 people. This is a new addition and this is the one that is going to take a lot of thought. The order states that “no more than 10 people seated at a table, and those people must be from the same household”. For weddings, this is going to have the biggest effect on the number of people you can seat at the wedding. This is essentially a small wedding order. Let’s say you have a room that generally seats 100 guests, but using proper social distancing you can only fill it to 60% capacity, now, using that same table layout you’ll need to only seat households together per table which means that you may be closer to a 30%-40% capacity depending on your guest list. So out of the 100 people you were planning on inviting, you now have room for 30. Again, this is going to be entirely dependent on your venue and what their capacity is.
- All guests must wear masks at all times except while actively eating and drinking.
- Guests must be seated at all times: No congregating at the bar or other areas at any point. No socializing or activities in open congregate areas. Traditional wedding reception events such as first dance, toasts, tossing the bouquet, and cutting the cake are permitted otherwise this is a seated event.
- All vendors must wear masks and PPE at all times.
- No buffets or family-style food service: Guests must be seated and food must be plated.
- No passed hors d’oeuvres: Guests must be seated and food must be plated.
- No Dancing. Again, with the exception of special dances such as a first dance.
Things to consider
- We’re still in a pandemic. I wish we weren’t for so many reasons, mainly the horrible loss of life and terrible devastation this virus has caused. But we are, and as hard as it is to face that, your very best chance at being as stress-free as possible is going to be having a very realistic view of what you want your day to look like. If you’re just absolutely set on a completely traditional wedding, with not one mask within your sight… your best bet might be to postpone your wedding for a bit. I know that can feel devastating but if you truly have a vision of what you want, then it’s worth waiting for!
- Have 2 or 3 plans. If you’re feeling a little more flexible than that I would highly recommend having 2 or 3 plans for your wedding day. I know that sounds a little extreme but… um… 2020. If your wedding is far enough away and you want to go for the big more traditional wedding, plan it! But also have a guestlist for 50 guests, and an idea of what it could look like, what the special moments you would include that you wouldn’t be able to have otherwise. Thirdly, plan a version for immediate family members only. As you get closer, you’ll begin to see which one is the obvious choice and you’re ready to go, smooth, and stress-free.
- Grandma. Remember that weddings are family affairs and some of our most honored guests tend to also be the most vulnerable of our population. Think through your choices, talk with your close family, and make decisions that you feel strongly comfortable with. Also, understand that some people just won’t come if you’re doing a more traditional wedding, and that’s ok! Stay focused on what this is all about, marrying the person of your dreams. Just because they’re not attending does not mean they’re not celebrating with you, they just may not be in person.
- An intimate wedding doesn’t mean a dull wedding. Some of the most extravagant drop-dead GORGEOUS weddings I’ve ever been to or photographed have had less than 10 people in attendance. Intimate weddings can be done so beautifully and open up so many options that a guest list of 200 simply cuts off. If you’re one of our brides, clearly I’m talking with you about all your options but believe me when I say I have about 1,000 ideas, some of them quite out of the box, (and all my brides are now shaking their heads in agreement and laughing at me) and I’m more than happy to share thoughts of all kinds.
- Tented weddings. Tented events are extremely popular in places like California where I’m from because we don’t have all the gorgeous old historic wedding venues as we do here (thanks earthquakes). But here in Cleveland, I’m pretty sure every time I say tent you all think we’re going camping… ha! I promise, they look nothing like those types of tents. These are basically gorgeous pop-up venues you can put anywhere you need to. Tented events are great ways to have a much larger wedding while still being prepared for Ohio weather. You have an outdoor event which is much safer and you can get a much larger space, but still totally open air, and (my favorite part) it’s a completely blank canvas!
- Split your wedding. Have your beautiful intimate wedding now and then have a crazy amazing party with all your friends when it’s safe! This is something that many people choose early on and it’s still a great option. AND it gives you another reason to wear that dress again… #winning
Things you might not know
- Vendors face fines and jail time. Unfortunately, as vendors, we’re faced with a lot of the responsibility of enforcing and following the rules even when those around us aren’t. For vendors in Ohio, breaking the rules can mean close to $10,000 in fines and even a few months in jail, not to mention the reputation of our business. As I’ve joked with a few of my couples when I’ve had to share we couldn’t do something they wanted to do… “I love you guys, but not enough to do jail time for you”… 😉
- Back yard weddings are actually illegal. Many people don’t know this but unless your event is less than 10 people, a backyard wedding is not allowed. The reason for this is there aren’t always professionals there to keep things on track, and who are aware of all the current regulations. Consider this: If it starts raining (I see you, Ohio!) and all of your wedding guests (say 40 people) decide to move inside a house together… none of the above requirements are being followed it can easily become a super spread event. It’s easy to see why something like this would be regulated.
- Take time to think things out well, and make a great plan. There is a way to celebrate in the midst of this crisis but ignoring it and hoping it will go away is not the answer. The repercussions are just too great. Here is a true story for you… A party with 81 people, which violated the venue’s social distancing requirements and states covid orders… (the venue was later fined $12,000) From that celebration came 37 positive cases, health officials identified 334 contacts with a total of 270 people connected to the event that had to quarantine. Eight schools had positive cases related to the party and 35 schools have at least one student who was affected by the event. The repercussions of not thinking things through can be massive.
- As a general rule, please know that as a company, our policy can be boiled down to this: We are here to help. Although this has become a little more of a ‘normal’ at this point than any of us ever could have imagined way back in April, it is still just plain… hard. I have helped talk couples through not 3 plans but 10 plans as things have changed and evolved this past year. I’ve strategized with vendors, I’ve calmly asked other vendors to be really kind to my couples (using my nice but REAL firm voice haha), we’ve had endless Zoom calls, and idea sessions, and ‘what if we did this instead’… In the midst of all of that, we moved the vast majority of our weddings to 2021. We didn’t charge additional retainer fees, or Saturday booking fees like many were doing and, yes, that will result in a solid revenue hit for us this year, and next year. But here’s what I know… people are what’s most important. I learned about photography from my grandmother and her number one focus in life was treating people well. Business comes and goes but people matter in the long haul. I know this year has been so hard on all of us, but I promise if we can just keep working on being kind and caring for each other, really thinking through things, and coming up with beautiful plans, with intentionality behind them… it will be perhaps even MORE beautiful than the original design.
I’ll end with this… just a quick note of gratitude here for couples who knew that as a small business, life was hard this year. Thank you to those who took the time to leave us reviews, referred their friends our way, had the means to make payments ahead of time, upgraded collections, and called out of the blue to order albums from weddings that happened years ago. I deeply, deeply, appreciate your support.