The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends cancelling large gatherings and social distancing, especially from older relatives – two details that are largely related to wedding events. Read expert tips to help ease your planning woes.
Planning a wedding can already be a stressful process, but when wedding planning and a worldwide pandemic combine, it can be extremely difficult for brides to stay calm. The news surrounding the impact of COVID-19 around the world continuously changes, so it’s important to stay safe, informed, and as relaxed as possible to ensure you’re making the right decisions for the health and wellbeing of not only you and your soon-to-be spouse, but also your friends, family, and loved ones.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends cancelling large gatherings and social distancing, especially from older relatives – two details that are largely related to wedding events. The latest guidelines from the CDC and US government suggest avoiding social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people if there is minimal or moderate spread in your community and canceling events of any size if there is substantial spread. Newsweek reported on April 11th that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the nation could return to a "degree of normality" by fall. On MSNBC's The 11th Hour, Fauci shared that he hoped by November things would be under such control to have a real degree of normality. Depending how far into planning you may be, your desired wedding date may need to change – or the date you’ve already set may need to be postponed.
“First things first, do not panic,” shares Courtney Pickens of EastCoast Entertainment, a full-service entertainment company that books 6,500 events around the country each year. “While the current situation is unprecedented, the vendors you have booked are likely seasoned event professionals. They are accustomed to solving challenges and working under pressure. Lean into them, and together you will be on your way to a fantastic Plan B.”
Since travel is risky right now – especially if you’re planning a destination wedding and/or honeymoon out of the country, be extra cautious and ensure you’re buying trip insurance or purchasing tickets with an excellent refund policy. If you’re celebrating your nuptials outside of the US, it’s best to postpone as the CDC is recommending that people avoid nonessential international travel – especially to most European countries, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Iran, and China, where a Level 3 Travel Health Notice is in place for widespread ongoing transmission with restrictions on entry to the United States.
“Since I mainly do destination weddings, I would say that because of the border restrictions and uncertainty regarding their reopening all around the world, I would suggest to postpone the wedding to Spring 2021,” confirms wedding planner Kim Ahonoukoun of KA Mariage, a planning firm with offices in South Florida, New York, and Canada. With the uncertainty that lies ahead, it may also be a good idea for couples who have not yet gone on an international honeymoon to hold off until more is known – or at least ensuring the refund policies and travel insurance coverage will help ease any tension should the need to reschedule arise. “All of our April and May weddings have been postponed,” says Toby Kassoy of Santa Monica, California-based floral design company Lilla Bello. “We have a couple in June who we are staying optimistic about, but most people are playing it safe and postponing to late summer, fall, and even into 2021.” Since this is a global pandemic, it’s unfortunately affecting every bride, groom, wedding guest, and wedding professional around the world. “The fact is, there is no one-size-fits-all method for navigating difficult situations like this one,” affirms Eddie Zaratsian of Los Angeles event design company, Eddie Zaratsian Floral & Event Design.
“COVID-19 has side-swiped the event industry and all of our incredible clients. It’s an industry which is solely devoted to social gatherings,” shares Toby Kassoy. “The year 2020 was looking bright. Our first two quarters were filled nicely with weddings and celebrations of all kinds! Flowers were being ordered, staff was being hired, and clients were growing excited as their big day was approaching. [And suddenly], every wedding and event for the next eight weeks was cancelled... Please know, we shed our own tears, and we all understand the surreal nature of what’s going on, and we are all impacted by it. But here’s the thing, we will get through this. Your celebration will happen.”
Most wedding and event experts are staying hopeful that summer weddings may still go on; however, it’s important to stay informed of the latest details and keep your loved ones informed as well. If you do choose to change your wedding date, wedding professionals encourage using the term “postponing” as opposed to canceling. “Hopefully, life will get back to normal in the coming months and we will all get back to celebrating special milestones with beautiful, meaningful events,” says Eddie Zaratsian. “Try to encourage rescheduling instead of canceling, [and] collaborate to find a date that works for as many vendors as possible.”
Those who need to reschedule should do so as soon as possible. “What I can be sure of is that all the earlier postponements of the year will be competing for the same fall and 2021 wedding dates, and if you wait, they will have a head start on dates you may want for yourself,” admits Los Angeles- and New York-based photographer Maya Myers of Maya Myers Photography. “There are only so many weekends available, and you may be faced with the decision of perhaps rescheduling your wedding for a weekday… They say Wednesday is the new Saturday!”
In addition to the issue of which wedding dates will be available, couples nervous about having their dream wedding team should also take a look at their contracts to ensure they’re protected. “Most contracts state that if the wedding date changes and the professional is not available on the new date, then the contract is broken and retainers are non-refundable – but again, this is new territory to us all, so being transparent and flexible will hopefully keep everyone happy,” suggests Maya Myers. “Review your contracts, communicate your needs, and be flexible with what [your wedding professionals] can offer you. This is no one’s fault, not yours or theirs, and if you are sensitive and trust that they are doing the best they can do for you while simultaneously keeping their business afloat, then good things will happen!”
Everyone – brides, family members, and wedding vendors – are all working through new procedures and standards during these uncertain times. Work together, while staying apart in these times of social distancing, to overcome these difficulties that everyone is facing across the globe. “Some professionals are partnering up with other colleagues and companies. If they have an associate they trust, consider having them be there for you instead,” suggests Maya Myers. “If they are open to a contract transfer then have your planner try to facilitate that.”
For venues, photographers, creative professionals, and even bands who get booked up quickly, it’s important to be open to alternatives. “To guarantee success, both parties should exercise a bit of flexibility,” says Courtney Pickens. “At EastCoast Entertainment, we have more than 150 exclusive artists. Perhaps you find that the artist you originally selected is booked on your new date. Our entertainment agent will work with you to find another amazing artist who is available… working with a larger agency allows for greater flexibility and options when things go awry.”
If you aren’t working with a wedding planner, now may be the time to hire one! These wedding professionals will not only help you orchestrate a gorgeous event, but they’ll also help to ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible throughout the vendor hiring process and make adjustments if needed. While they may not have had to deal with this particular situation in the past, they’re well-equipped to handle many issues that arise throughout the wedding-planning process. “The first call needs to be to your event planner,” urges Toby Kassoy. “They will manage all your vendor communications and take on the monumental task of re-coordinating your entire wedding.”
With so much uncertainty, it’s of the utmost importance to make sure you’re protected and think on your feet over the course of the foreseeable future. “Think outside the box, be creative, and turn it into an adventure. Your vendor team wants to make it the best day ever for you,” assures Toby Kassoy. “[Also], purchase wedding insurance! It will take the personal feelings out of losses of expenses such as deposits. Peace of mind, at a pretty low cost.”
While purchasing wedding insurance is always recommended in case the worst happens, in light of the pandemic, couples should absolutely take a closer look at their insurance coverage options. Not all plans may cover something such as this, but brides who are experiencing it now and have not yet purchased insurance should look out for options that will keep them protected.
“In full transparency, we are all dancing in new territory. We are scared for our loved ones' health, we are nervous for our businesses, and we are heartbroken for our couples,” shares Maya Myers. “The thing that doesn’t change however is the fact that it is our job to make your dreams come true, and we love our jobs, so with that you can be assured that we stand committed to our role in your wedding. We will support you through the changes that may arise with your plans and one thing is for certain, you will get married. You will celebrate your love for each other and your loved ones.”
If you’re putting pressure on yourself because you’re worried about what your guests will think, don’t even worry! Speak with your loved ones, don't be discouraged if traveling friends and family ultimately choose not to attend, and take it day by day. “By now, the entire modern world is aware of the seriousness of this pandemic. You have probably already been contacted by at least half your guests, if not more,” notes Maya Myers. She suggests calling your attendees if you’re having an intimate wedding or sending hand-written notes or even a letter via the email. “This will help you all stay connected and it will allow you to express to them how important their presence is at your wedding. People will understand.”
For now, focus on what you can control: prioritizing your health and wellness during these times. Check in with your vendors, follow local guidelines, and try to stay as patient as possible while preparing for what’s to come. Use your extra time at home to gather inspiration for your upcoming wedding day, listen to music to find your “first dance” song, and spend quality time with the person you’ve chosen to spend the rest of your life with. Speak with your wedding professionals on the phone or via video chat – and do the same with your loved ones. We'll all get through this together, and once we do, we can’t wait to see photos from your wedding day!
This information is accurate as of April 12, 2020. The Inside Weddings team will make every effort to update this story with accurate information as soon as it becomes available, but we encourage our readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDC, WHO, and their local public health department, as well as consulting with their wedding vendors. For more on COVID-19, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here, and the World Health Organization here.