Let’s face it… planning a wedding in normal conditions is stressful, but doing so in the time of a pandemic takes things to a whole other level. We’re here to help provide some guidance for those who are in the midst of planning their big day while also navigating this “new normal.” We spoke with local wedding planner Kate Petach of Blue Dahlia Events to get her take on planning a wedding in the time of COVID-19. So shake off your pandemic planning woes and remember you’re not alone in this.
21c: This time has forced many couples to cancel or rethink how they want their day to look. Have you worked with any couples who decided to reimagine their day – maybe swapped their big wedding for something a little more intimate or kept the date and opted for a virtual-only celebration?
KP: Yes, nearly all of our clients from 2020 had to postpone, cancel, or re-imagine their weddings in varying degrees! Some of our clients decided to shift to something more intimate now with a bigger party in the future, completely shifted gears and just scaled down their event to a small minimony (with a virtual component), or postponed to a future date where they hope things are a bit less restrictive.
21c: How do you help your clients decide if they should move forward with their wedding plan? What “rules and regulations” have you recommended to keep guests and vendors safe?
KP: Ultimately, I want our clients to feel like they are having a wedding that they are excited about and are comfortable with. I’ve found that talking through possible options with my clients gives them a peace of mind—regardless of the direction that they head. Being in the industry, I’m able to suggest alternatives for venues, formal traditions, and other aspects of their wedding they may not have originally considered. Safety and comfort are of utmost importance right now, so encouraging mask wearing, lots of hand sanitizer, temperature checks upon arrival, and adequate social distancing suggestions have been some of the ways we’re trying to help everyone stay safe.
21c: How do you think wedding vendors are feeling about working during the pandemic?
KP: It’s an interesting mix of everything. Ultimately, most of us are small businesses and we rely on each wedding to help us survive. We all love what we do and we want to keep doing it! However, there have been some concerns as some weddings haven’t been as diligent about following guidelines for safety. This is particularly concerning as it puts the vendors at risk for future weddings and spreading it to their families. We are all doing the best we can to manage our responsibilities to our clients while keeping those around us safe.
21c: Have you gotten a sense from wedding guests of increased anxiety around attending? If so, how are you advising clients to help reduce this?
KP: Yes. I think that the biggest piece of advice is communicating the safety precautions being set in place. The more information a guest has, the better they are equipped to make a decision that is best for them regarding their attendance. I’ve also been encouraging our clients to have an open mind about whether a guest decides to attend or not. Each person’s level of comfort is totally different and recognizing a bigger event may not be the best choice for all of their guests.
21c: Many couples are having to reduce the size of their guest lists – either because of social distancing regulations or just the concern of having larger groups together. What tips do you have for reducing the guest list?
KP: Start with the must-haves. Family and special friends are at the top of the list. Then, if you still have a little capacity, think about those people that are currently involved in your relationships. This may mean your mom’s cousin gets the cut, but you’ll want to be surrounded by people that are cheering you on day-to-day! Given the circumstances currently, most guests completely understand that guest lists need to be counted. Just let everyone know as soon as possible so they aren’t holding the date if they aren’t going to be invited to the more intimate ceremony.
21c: What information do couples need to communicate to guests about their wedding in the age of a pandemic?
KP: Utilizing wedding websites have been so helpful in communicating with guests. As we all know, the situation can change from day to day so giving guests access to consistent up-to-date information via a website is an easy way to reach most everyone. Also, as noted before, safety precautions and plans for future dates are helpful for guests! Any travel precautions or notes (i.e. local mandates) are very helpful for guests that may be traveling from out of town, as well.
21c: Capturing the big day when masks are involved. Are you finding that couples are leaning into having photos of their wedding with masks being very much a part of it? How have you been working with photographers to navigate the new challenge of capturing their special day while also keeping everyone safe?
KP: This has honestly been one of the biggest aspects of concern for many of my clients! They do not want all of their photos to be masked. I’ve leaned into the expertise of our photographers when managing this with our clients. I’ve seen bridal party photos socially distanced, shifting family portraits to the front stairs of the church (to reduce indoor close contact), and shifting the focus of the photos from large group photos to more portraits of just the couple. I’ve also encouraged the clients to lean into the craziness of the situation and to do some masked photos—even if it is tongue and cheek.
21c: What are some virtual ways to include friends and family who cannot attend in-person?
KP: The most obvious option is to live-stream the event and the formal events of the big day! Hiring a videographer can help capture some of the intimate highlights of the day that can also be shared later. One of my favorite ways that I’ve seen clients include their guests is to send their special guests small floral arrangements of their wedding flowers to help feel the guests included. Or, if they are local, to go meals from the reception for those want to take part but from a distance!
Featured image: Hunter & Light Photography