by Lisa Beth Miller
Local bride Andrea Gillis, a former wedding professional herself, knew the importance of being super-organized about planning her wedding to her fiance, Marty. The worldwide health emergency known as COVID-19, however, offered an unprecedented challenge to her meticulous plans.
“We wanted to get married in our neighborhood, at a beautiful manor home, which is actually managed by the local city government. Due to all of the virus-related closures, the facility has cancelled all weddings up to May 4th. Things kind of started to unravel on March 18th. After speaking to my location’s representatives, they offered us a refund. With everyone pushing back their wedding dates 3-6 months out, I just couldn’t reschedule for a later date. I was afraid all of my vendors would cancel on us,” Andrea explained.
Venue and caterer were the two biggest concerns for the couple as they navigated toward a new plan on their originally selected date. “I freaked out for sure! We came up with a plan B, C, and D just in case one wouldn’t work. Restaurants are no longer booking events. Hotels are no longer booking events. But then I realized I actually knew of a great location that would be closer to our family in Leesburg,” Andrea added.
The couple’s trusted wedding vendors definitely assisted in calming nerves and pointing them in the right direction. Two of the vendors got Andrea in direct contact with the owner of what became her new venue, A Wedding Loft in Leesburg, VA. After just 15 minutes on the phone with Barbara Kriss, Andrea’s anxiety was calmed, and she had a brand new wedding plan.
“The new plan is to have a private ceremony at A Wedding Loft and dinner with our immediate family and close friends only. Luckily, I had not sent out the wedding invitations! I ordered new ones, and they will be in the mail by the appropriate deadline. The new venue is super bright and cozy and is a blank canvas to make our dream wedding vision become a reality. I’m very excited for this change and feel so much better-having something on the schedule. I am so grateful that my vendors helped me to figure this out,” said Andrea.
Vendors from all areas of the wedding industry are proving to be invaluable resources. Fabienne Laveau, also known as The Wedding Muse, provides all levels of wedding planning, design, decor, and florals.
“If there was ever a time to discuss the value of planners, this is it. The rescheduling process is complex and involves reaching out to all vendors, as well as assisting with choosing a new date. It involves other details, such as the most efficient way to get the new date out to guests. No one knows exactly how long this will last, so it is not always just a matter of finding a new date. So far, we have had a total of six reschedules, with two more likely to happen. We have a couple whose entire guest list was scheduled to travel from South America. That alone created some logistics that were hard to plan for, including things happening inside their country. The decision to switch dates was painful and difficult. Not only did we assist with the re-planning, we were able to provide support by being available, sensitive, and responsive. We are no longer just doing checklist items with our couples. We are involved with them on a much more personal level,” explained Fabienne.
“So far I have had to reschedule all of my brides up until May. However, I did have one bride I was able to provide hair and makeup to in the midst of the crisis. Her wedding was on March 16. During the actual time of getting her hair done, she found out that her venue could no longer accommodate her due to Maryland requiring restaurants to close at 5 p.m. She also found out her gathering could no longer be larger than 50 (the approved number at that time). She had such an amazing attitude throughout it all and made it work and was still married that day!” said Amy Stansfield of Looking Glass Beauty in Leesburg, VA.
Some aspects of re-planning a wedding are easier to deal with than others. “The venues have for the most part been decisive in making the decision for the couples, which simplifies that part of the issue. The most challenging aspect is to support the couple’s decision while not telling them what to do. We see some industry things happening that are not fully understood by the client and we are working to be as sensitive as we can, while also giving solid advice and insider information,” stated Fabienne.
“It’s been challenging dealing with everyone’s emotions and anxiety. Our hearts hurt for both vendors and engaged couples. To plan something for so long, to be so excited, and then, BAM! this happens… it’s just unreal. So we’ve been doing everything we can to look for all the positives in this awful situation. We’ve been telling our creative community that this is not permanent, that it’s the famine to the sure to come feast,” added Barbara.
For both brides and wedding vendors, the key is clearly to take a deep breath, remain calm, and figure out what exactly may need to be changed. Each expert, however, has a different focus on accomplishing this tricky task.
“I give the same advice in this scenario as I give for planning in general. Always think of your guests. You can’t go wrong if you think of them first. In this instance, it means thinking of their health and safety. My other advice is also very important. Stay ahead of this, do not drag your feet in making your decisions. If in doubt, reschedule. The trickle-down is going to make fall 2020 and spring 2021 very competitive; vendors are going to be overburdened and spread thin. If you want to get the best vendor choices at competitive market pricing, act quickly. There will be a limit to resources,” advised Fabienne.
“Use this as a time to look at your to-do list. Focus and knock out the smaller tasks that you may not have had time to do before. But if you are up against the clock, for whatever reason (deployment, marriage license expiration date, religious reasons, baby on the way, whatever it may be) we understand that going to the courthouse may not be what you pictured your special day to include. So we are offering an alternative solution – intimate wedding ceremonies with services at a smaller price point,” added Barbara, explaining the services offered by A Wedding Loft. “Planners, coordinators – they will be the best investment you’ll make in helping with any rescheduling anxiety. If you haven’t hired one yet, you should really consider doing so. They know what needs to be done and they can help you with such ease, professionalism, and understanding,” she added.
“Even though counter-intuitive or seen as a luxury item for some, I would recommend that any couple who has not done so hire a credible and experienced wedding planner. No matter what stage you find yourself in, a good planner can help. Planners have great access to any resources you might need and know how to shortcut to vendors. Reach out to your other vendors as soon as possible and ask for their policies and availability for rescheduling,” stated Fabienne in agreement.
“My words of wisdom would be that if you can, keep your date and do something small. Then plan your large celebration for later! Your love shouldn’t be put on hold because your party has to be put on hold. You can still get your hair and makeup done and put on your gorgeous dress! It won’t be what you planned and its totally okay to be sad about that. But it will still be a beautiful and special wedding!” concluded Amy.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic is a frightening and uncertain situation, it should absolutely NOT ruin your wedding. With a little creativity, calmness, and advice from the pros, couples can absolutely find the right solution. The most important thing is the health, safety, and sanity of all involved.