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 Dana Kadwell of C & D 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 struggle!
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?
DK: I think this is the best part about COVID. I know that sounds odd – but sometimes we are forced to stop and really think about what we want, what we need, and what is truly important. For some, the idea of re-thinking their wedding was not an option – and that is ok! But for others, they realized that they didn’t need the 250 people. What they really wanted was their closest friends and family there. These clients took their big wedding and made it into an intimate occasion, leaving no detail out. We have seen some of the most elaborate dinners with wine pairings, insane florals, and the best personal details for their guests. They loved their day and in the end have said it was more than they ever thought it could be – even if we weren’t in a pandemic!
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?
DK: Our biggest push is mask wearing and quarantine groups. We use the phrase “masks when mobile!” and ask that all guests sit with who they are quarantining with. They sit together for ceremony, cocktail hour, and the reception. We also recommend the normal safety precautions of plexiglass barriers for service, hand washing, and general social distancing if possible. However, other than when you see people up and walking around – it looks like a normal event with people laughing, drinking, and eating. We also do temp checks and health questionnaires at the door so we can contact trace should we need to.
21c: How do you think wedding vendors are feeling about working during the pandemic?
DK: Nervous and exhausted! You never know the crowd you will get. At the core of who we are as planners – we love people, we love to celebrate, and be the sense of calm on wedding day. But in these times, it is hard to be calm. It is equally hard and equally great for the events that are smooth and filled with kind people who are just there to stand by their friends who have already been through so much.
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?
DK: Yes- people are nervous. But also think that people can self-regulate. We have all had to make hard choices during this pandemic, and we all have to assess our own risk in going to get groceries, getting a haircut, or attending an event. We can not and will not advise anyone to push their guests into attending. We instead talk them through it when Aunt Sally can’t come and it upsets the them. We try to talk through empathy, grace, and understanding. Ultimately if a large portion of their guests feel that way- we encourage them to think about rescheduling or just going virtual with those people. Our biggest piece of advice is to have them rank what is important. Is it 1. Guest count, 2. Certain guests HAVE to be there, 3. Time of year, 4. Immediacy or 5. Day of the week. If it’s guest count and time of year – they need to push their date out- with the understanding they may not get a prime day of the week. If it is guest count and day of the week- they need to be prepared to pay a lot in reschedule fees. If it is certain guests have to be there and immediacy – then a small intimate gathering is what I would suggest. I ask them to pick their top two and then we move forward from there.
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?
DK: Think about how you would feel 5 years down the road. Will John from the office still be in your life? Probably not. Will Uncle Bill be – yes. I tell them even in non-COVID times to make 3 lists: ‘Have to’ (i.e. – you will be disowned if they are not invited), ‘Love to’, and ‘Like to’. For COVID, I have them take their ‘Have to’ list and talk with each and everyone one of them. Figure out their stance, see if they are risk adverse, and talk about options.
21c: What information do couples need to communicate to guests about their wedding in the age of a pandemic?
DK: I suggest giving them a breakdown of current state restrictions – i.e. mask mandates, 50% capacity in restaurants, bars close at 10pm, etc. I also suggest they figure out what the restrictions for flying will be and make sure guests are prepared to be temp checked and have to wear a mask the entire flight.
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?
DK: We allow masks off for formal photos. For candids, you will see people in masks – and I just think that is a part of their story! This pandemic is going to be a part of every person’s story. Down to the baby born in a pandemic, the mom who gave birth in a mask, and the couple that danced with masks on- it is something we won’t forget. We encourage to have some fun with it – get branded masks, or matching masks – embrace where we are currently – it is all we can really do. And just like we all take that selfie with a mask on to commemorate the year we have all had- clients do the same thing. They will have the gorgeous picture with all their bridesmaids smiling and then say “mask up!” to take a silly picture and commemorate the struggle it was to get where they are. Every client that has had to deal with this has been through hell and they deserve a metal – especially the ones that have been so kind and gracious! I think it will be something really neat they show future generations – very much how we look at pictures from the 1912 pandemic.
21c: What are some virtual ways to include friends and family who cannot attend in-person?
DK: Zoom is so great- we also have dine private Facebook groups with a live feed. There are some really great vendors can help navigate this!
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Featured image: Hunter & Light Photography