Planning Through COVID-19: A Guide

By: Alyssa Glorioso

The wedding that you’ve been carefully planning won’t happen the way you envisioned (and frankly, a few months ago, expected it would).  All you’ve been building toward is being shifted. In an already emotional and stressful process, this is so much more than you bargained for in planning your wedding. And you’re allowed to be upset about that.  But luckily, this is not the end of the story.  

I recently heard someone describe this time as one of anxiety but also hope.  And how much do we need hope these days! In this period of “not quite the light at the end of the tunnel” and several weeks in, I think we also need the practical: how do we navigate the process today? 

How do we approach decisions and plans from a healthy mindset today?  I called on several other wedding professionals and small business owners to share what they’re seeing in this market and their thoughts on moving forward as best as possible.     

The best thing you can do is continue to plan your wedding.

Leandra Brown, a DC and NY photographer, shares what she’s been seeing with her couples:      “The good news is, the year isn’t over and you still have options. One option is moving your wedding date to the Fall.  If you’re considering moving your wedding date to next year, you’re competing with couples who have already planned to get married in 2021. Photographers tend to book weddings twelve to eighteen months  in advance. So keeping your wedding in 2020 will give you a better chance of working with the amazing vendors you had your heart set on.” 

For the first time in history (at least our life times), 2020 couples and 2021 couples are competing for the same dates. 

What this means for you?  In this current season, there’s understandably quite a bit of movement in the calendar and some businesses are still seeing a high volume of inquiries.  

Laura Henderson, a makeup artist, is receiving inquiries for fall 2020,  rescheduled weddings from spring brides that want to move to fall, and brides that are still dreaming of a spring wedding and want to reserve a date for spring 2021.  Many other vendors as well are seeing couples try to move to fall 2020 and into 2021.  

But why is now a good time?  Life is at a slower pace. In the slower hum, it can be a great time to dedicate to planning, while you have a little extra time in your schedule (theoretically).  But, I realize this is easier said than done. As a planner, I am in this trench with you — trying to move forward, and trying to be kind to myself when I don’t make the progress I want to.  

We also have been given a new perspective in these altered and simpler times.  A shift in perspective means that I’ve been re-evaluating my priorities ~ and the same can apply to wedding planning.

Many businesses and shops remain “open” so that they can serve you. 

I’ve been truly inspired by the innovation I’ve seen in the wedding and event industry. From a baker hand making and delivering donuts, to florists fashioning arrangements (Placed in your car trunk to respect social distancing!), we are all navigating these uncharted waters together. 

I don’t say this to put a plug in for my fellow entrepreneurs, but that we exist to serve you. 

On postponing your wedding: 

So what if you’re in the camp of having to reschedule (or the twilight zone and not sure if you should “hang tight” or postpone? Lauren Harbin, a fellow D.C. area wedding planner, shares the game plan she’s using with her clients who’ve had to postpone their wedding date.

 “Look at the current federal/state and local mandates for your area. If your wedding date falls within certain guidelines prohibiting events it’s an easy decision to change the date. For couples right outside the guidelines, I’ve been advising we reach out to their venue to see possible dates available in late summer or fall and then narrow down to your top 2-3 dates from that list. Once we have those dates, I reach out to the rest of their vendor team and we create a matrix of everyone’s availability. Best case scenario we have the same team, but next best yes we have the majority of the team and can find alternate vendors for those unavailable. Finally, I ask the venue if there are any rescheduling fees.”

For many vendors, availability is not just about if the date is open on the calendar. For Taylor Tobias, of Taylor Rose Photography in particular, “You are not only competing for specific dates, but also to be one of the 10-12 weddings that I accept annually.”  Couples probably have heard this, but we wedding vendors have a max of 52 weekends or slots a year — but many of us so that we can serve our couples well, accept anywhere between 10 and 30 weddings a year.  We’re not major corporations, and our major resource is ourselves. 

A case for thinking differently 

In the midst of the postponements and re-booking, Rob Jinks, a photographer, is encouraging his prospective and current clients to think differently.  Consider a Friday or Saturday or even a weekday for your celebration!  While peak Saturday dates will be in high demand, consider what about your anticipated celebration is most important to you and focus on that.   

Rob is known for photographing adventurous couples in epic locations like Shenandoah National Park.  I can’t imagine a more amazing celebration than one surrounded by panoramic views and your loved ones.  Planning a weekday celebration allows you to choose your dream wedding venue, with more dates to choose from and the weekday rate.  

Trends we’re seeing for future weddings: 

Whether it’s a reduced guest list or elopements with a small gathering, many wedding vendors are  anticipating more intimate celebrations in lieu of larger gatherings.  

In the midst of postponements, it seems like there will be a delayed low season.  November and December of 2020 will likely be busy (typically the end of wedding season).

Ali Rae Haney, also a photographer, “has noticed a lot of brides postponing weddings from prime spring dates to prime fall dates. ‘Prime’  in our industry typically means a Saturday. If it’s the bride’s goal to maintain the same wedding day team of vendors she has already chosen, I suggest picking a Friday or a Sunday when vendors are more likely to have availability. 

Furthermore, it’s considerate to those vendors because if they don’t have a wedding booked for that “prime” date, they’re still able to make the same income they would have made before.” 

A few tips and must-do’s: 

So, how do we learn from these times? 

Arli Quinn, a photographer in Richmond, Virginia,  has the best advice: “Although it’s disappointing and heartbreaking and stressful, try not to lose the joy or excitement in marrying your partner! It’s still an exciting time and you should still celebrate that!”  

Definitely get that event insurance including a cancellation policy.  Check with your vendors, especially the venue on what their contract stipulates, and what your options are for rebooking if need be. 

With businesses, shops, and restaurants indefinitely closed, we all know that the hospitality industry is taking a hit.  An immediate way to support your community?   Carla Pressley, a DC area makeup artist recommends:  “If you want to help our community, I would encourage people to book their 2021 weddings with vendors now.”  

Hire a planner. “If it feels overwhelming, hire a planner to help you reorganize the wedding. They can take care of working with the vendors so you don’t have to, you have enough else going on!”, says Taylor.  

We all have to take care of each other.  

Ali expresses the situation perfectly:  “Just like you, we have never encountered a pandemic before. Many of us are checking and double checking contract language and our availability. We want to help each of our brides, but this time in history is one-of-a-kind to all of those alive. So while we try to find the best ways to serve you, allow us time to think through the options and keep an open mind when we present those options.”  

I want to end with a few words of encouragement.  While your celebration might look a little different (or later)  than you thought, you will be able to have that celebration you dreamed of. Taylor reminds her couples on what’s waiting for them on the other side:  

“Having a huge celebration is still worth having – one of the sweetest aspects to a wedding is being surrounded by all of your closest friends and family in one place. This might be the only time everyone can meet each other, and the only time in your life that they’ll all be together to celebrate this milestone in your life!”

So I’d love to hear. How are you approaching each day? What are you doing to take small steps to move forward and stay rooted in hope? 

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