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 Sarah Burton of Simply Love Studio 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?
SB: When we all realized the world as we knew it was changing in March, we had to start doing what we, as wedding vendors do best, pivot. Although initially we didn’t have statewide rules and guidelines, we did the best we could. We helped couples change their entire wedding in a matter of weeks, even days for some. Some couples wanted to still have a private ceremony with their parents on the original date, and some opted to postpone the entire wedding because they still wanted their long-planned vision to come to life. We didn’t judge any of their decisions; we were just there to help them do what was best for them. Many couples that opted for the in-person, private ceremony did offer a virtual option for their guests. Their bridal party wore their wedding attire and their guests dressed up, as if they were going to the wedding day.
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?
SB: That’s a tough one. Every couple has a different situation. Central Kentucky hosts a lot of destination weddings, so for many, the decision to postpone was out of courtesy for their out-of-town guests. Many couples have spent the last 9 – 12 months preparing for their wedding day and honeymoon, looking forward to starting the next chapter of their lives together, and simply did not want to push their date out any longer. We recommend that all guests, bridal party, and vendors get tested the week of a wedding, as well as wear a mask to the ceremony and reception. All vendors in Kentucky are wearing masks at weddings, and in our personal lives, because we love what we do, and want to continue to share wedding days with our couples. Each venue has worked tirelessly with the couple and planner to make sure the guest count is within regulation and all “Healthy At Work” guidelines are being followed.
21c: How do you think wedding vendors are feeling about working during the pandemic?
SB: In the beginning we were all very unsure because of the unknown, but over time, many have become more accepting of the situation, and know what parameters we are working within, and how to protect ourselves at a wedding.
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?
SB: In my recent experience, the wedding guests that RSVP and show up at the wedding are there to celebrate the couple and enjoy the event. Although weddings look a bit different now than ever before, you can feel the love and joy in the air. Those guest that do not feel comfortable attending, simply are not.
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?
SB: Almost every couple has to make this decision and it’s hard. The couple’s ceremony and reception venue will give them their capacity numbers and they will need to make lists based on that number. However, we can see things change from month to month, so I recommend having a few lists, and I’ve never recommended that before. While the couple may want to have their immediate family in attendance, those guests, like grandparents, can potentially be some of the most vulnerable guests, so their attendance may not make sense. After immediate family, the next priority should be the couple’s closest friends, and those who would be part of their bridal party. A new addition to COVID weddings that I highly recommend, an invitation insert that advises guests that they should check the couple’s wedding website for any potential updates or changes the week of the wedding.
21c: What information do couples need to communicate to guests about their wedding in the age of a pandemic?
SB: Now that we are few months into the pandemic, we want to assume everyone knows everything, however this could be the first wedding that your guests are attending during a pandemic. It’s good to remind them to wear their mask, socially distance, remain at their table, and any additional guidelines the venue may enforce.
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?
SB: Often times the immediate family and bridal party have been around each other numerous times during the wedding week and are encouraged to get tested. With that, we are encouraging as many group photos to be outside and pre-planned as possible. We definitely see a lot less fun and goofing off photos at the moment, just straight to the point. This is just another reason it is imperative to have a seasoned photographer to be able to control the situation and to move quickly.
21c: What are some virtual ways to include friends and family who cannot attend in-person?
SB: In the beginning of the pandemic when vendors started pivoting and we had to hustle to make things happened, Zoom, Facetime and Facebook live were very popular, but now many professionals have upgraded equipment to enhance the virtual experience for guests. I watched a live stream a few weeks ago to see the technology a local DJ was using and felt like I was a guest attending the wedding. I didn’t know this couple, but actually almost teared up when they opened the door for the bride to walk down the aisle because the music was so flawless and the live-stream was so clear. The possibilities are endless for ways couples can include their guests that can’t attend. They can mail (or front porch deliver) to their guests some type of favor the week of the wedding, a custom cookie or cupcakes to eat while watching, a small bottle of cider and some toasting flutes for the toasts, some bourbon balls and Ale-8-One or anything that is local to the couple! We’ve said it a million times this year, love is not cancelled and it’s true. Vendors are here to make every couple’s wedding day possible the best way we know how!
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Featured image: Hunter & Light Photography