While brides are saying goodbye to the traditional mega wedding, wedding planners are working to accommodate the changing scene due to COVID-19.(Photo by Composure Studios for Grayhouse Atelier Events)
Luxury wedding planner Rachel Johnson orchestrated this wedding held in March, early in the pandemic before stay at home orders. (Photo by Joseph West)
Some traditions can survive the worst of the pandemic including a romantic bouquet with lilies of the valley. (Photo courtesy of The Events Company)
Social distancing for weddings can be obtained with careful orchestration by a seasoned wedding planner. (Photo courtesy of The Events Company)
Creating wide open spaces is key to a wedding with social distancing. (Photo courtesy of The Events Company)
Before the pandemic, wedding guests were numerous and seating side-by-side was the norm. (Photo courtesy of The Events Company)
If the party tent is large enough, the social-distancing guest count can go up, at least as far as the ever-changing government regulations go. (Photo courtesy of The Events Company)
Even in a pandemic, a bride can have her wedding cake for an unveiling, then later served according to health protocols.(Photo by Composure Studios for Grayhouse Events Atelier)
We don't think we will be seeing these lavish wedding affairs for hundreds of guests until the pandemic subsides.(Photo by Composure Studios for Grayhouse Events Atelier)
The guest list was limited for this wedding reception dinner, the entire event orchestrated by wedding planner Rachel Johnson of Two Be Wed. (Photo by Joseph West)
The couple takes their first dance at their wedding in March before stay at home orders. (Photo by Joseph West for Two Be Wed)
With COVID-19 escalating, hospitals filling and uncertainty reigning, brides and wedding planners find themselves treading unchartered waters that were rocky in March and have now become a tsunami of anxiety. Weddings scheduled for any date post March 2020 have mostly been canceled or reimagined as virtual nuptials. So much for the grand wedding plans with 500 guests packed into churches and country clubs.
“Since March, we have managed more than 15 postponements and one cancelation . . . The shutdown has crippled the entire hospitality industry,” says Natalie Dawley, owner of the luxury wedding planning firm Two Be Wed.
The tales of cancelations are daunting. Dawley points to clients that decided to cancel their 350 person wedding with more than $100,000 in non-refundable deposits. “Their hearts changed and they did not have the same vision” she says.
Another client an Italian-American bride was devastated because 40 of her guests from Italy were unable to attend due to U.S. regulations forbidding entry to Europeans.
“We encourage couples to set a new date for the late fall/winter 2020 and/or spring of 2021 and not just one date,” says Richard Flowers of The Events Company. “Have two or three back up dates and be flexible. This pandemic is ever changing, along with all the rules and regulations that follow.”
He currently has a wedding that was originally planned for a ballroom with 300 or so guests. Now the couple is getting married at the bride’s home with only a dozen family members.
“They are having a nice family dinner and then after dinner having the wedding ceremony followed by a first dance via playlist, a small wedding cake from a local baker, and champagne. They plan to have a larger celebration with all friends and family at a later date.”
Two Be Wed had a three day Indian wedding extravaganza which had to be postponed because the groom, working in the medical field, was unable to leave his base in Miami for the wedding. That was three events planned at three different venues with myriad vendors involved.
“My position on wedding dates has changed from being hopeful in the beginning when Covid-19 started to being more cautious with date selection now that the pandemic has no ‘end date’ in sight,” says luxury wedding planner Jim Gray of Grayhouse Events Atelier. “It makes no sense for an engaged couple to select a date that is possibly going to be during a time when the pandemic is still active. My suggestion is to simply plan for mid to late 2021 in hopes they won’t have issues with their date.”
One of Gray’s couples moved their November 2020 wedding to November 2021.
As all four luxury wedding planners agree, flexibility is key and as Flowers says, “The greatest challenge (during the pandemic) is the unknown.”
When Less is More Wedding
The expectation among these experts is that many brides will opt for smaller weddings in terms of the number of guests. When maintaining the same budget, a wedding with 20 or 30 socially-distanced guests offers more bang for the buck than the same budget that was established for 250 guests.
“Whether it is a lowered head count or a location and layout revision due to a different season than their originally planned date, we are adjusting as necessary to keep the integrity of each event intact with these edits,” says Keely Thorne of Keely Thorne Events. “The vast majority of weddings have taken a hard look at their head count more than anything and are becoming more aware of that being the most likely adjustment we will have to make.”
Flowers goes as far to suggest that large “carefree” weddings are a thing of the past as brides opt for more intimate and malleable arrangements.
“For a smaller wedding, the beauty will be in the details,” Thorne says.
A New Coronavirus World
A wedding taking place today during the height of the virus commands many accommodations that couples, and their wedding planners, would never have imagined only six months ago.
“We now have to think about alternatives for food and beverage service, staffing wearing masks, the flow of event, socially distanced floor plans and seating charts, sanitizing stations, cake reveals in place of cakes displayed, larger dance floors and so much more,” Dawley says.
Likewise, Flowers says of the changing wedding landscape, “We will continue to see the more intimate weddings, smaller guest lists. More formal seated dinner parties focusing on toasts and special dances. Even toasts have had to change to pre-poured champagne with glass covers or champagne splits with a wrapped straw.”