How to Guide | Wedding Planning During a Pandemic

Wedding Planning During the Pandemic

Wedding Planning | Our How to Guide For Dealing With Postponements & Wedding Planning During a Pandemic!

Ohhhh Corona, no one was expecting you and you are our least favorite subject. However, here we are addressing the virus in the room. Couples globally are facing the COVID-19 pandemic….alongside wedding planning… while also taking the correct actions and navigating this always-evolving scenario. I think most would admit it is proving to be challenging for many. Like you, we are making daily decisions through the lens of how to best keep our couples, family, as well as ourselves safe and healthy. Wedding planning was labor intensive task before coronavirus became a common phrase. Now in the midst of a pandemic, couples may feel like they’re spending even more time making sure they have a memorable day that they will enjoy, without putting their loved ones at risk.

As Arizona wedding photographers, we are heavily involved in all things weddings and COVID is no exception.  There are roughly 2.5 million weddings that happen each year in the US. With Coronavirus cancelling all large public gatherings of people, that leaves hundreds of thousands of couples across the country who have to adjust their dream wedding days. There are twice that amount of couples currently perched on the edge of their seat waiting, watching, and hoping that the world starts to gather together again. 

First thing, remember you’re not alone right now. So many other couples have been impacted, countless weddings have been postponed, and we know it’s a challenging time for so many. We want to be here for you every step of the way. If you’re just starting to your wedding planning or you’re now in the phase of having to postpone your wedding, hopefully this blog will help you in some way through this process.

It’s an unpredictable time for all and the question of what’s next in regards to wedding post COVID-19 is faced by couples, wedding pros and even guests. As states reopen, some with stringent guidelines, a new normal for how ceremonies and receptions are held will require everyone to adapt. Board certified counselor Dr. Mark Mayfield says our society will likely redefine how group gatherings are held, at least until more information or a vaccine is developed. “We can look forward to going back to these events, but they’re going to look different,” he speculates. Wedding pros, especially planners, are now talking about the possibilities surrounding weddings amid and after COVID, and the topic of enacting “COVID-compliance” measures at future nuptials.

The Big Choice | Wedding Planning

We couldn’t share this post without mentioning the solution that some couples are taking by choosing to elope and plan a celebration later. Elopements today can be as simple as a trip to the courthouse, or one of Arizona’s epic locations. There are so many great places to get married that are social distancing friendly! Many of America’s National Parks can be such a great place to share your vows while having a gorgeous backdrop. We work with our couples to find the perfect location to get married and this has been the backup plan for many couples who have had their venues cancel due to the pandemic. For example, check out Katie & Steve’s Sedona Elopement and how we can’t believe this day was their backup plan!! We have helped multiple couples reschedule their entire wedding to an intimate elopement at an AirBnB, we often joke that if we weren’t wedding photographers, we would love to be wedding planner! 😉 

intimate elopement wedding in sedona

If you’re looking for a Grand location or something more secluded, there are locations all around Arizona we could take you that would knock your socks off! Check out Shelley & Maxwell’s Epic Sedona Engagement Session. Keep in mind, that most National Parks require a permit to get married there and you run the risk of not being able to get married if you try to go without. Permits can take 3 or 4 weeks to arrive so keep that in mind if you are moving to wedding plan B! Talk to your photographer about the location and they are more than likely going to know the permit information. We have a list of locations all around the world with rules and regulations for shooting there! 

Sedona Arizona wedding photography stephen and melissa

It can be hard to wrap your mind around an elopement when that wasn’t your intention from the beginning. You have watched your friends and family have these wonderful big weddings which have undoubtedly shaped your own vision of the perfect wedding day. You spent hours trying on dresses that the crowd of guests would swoon over and months wedding planning. Maybe you spent hours scrolling pinterest and dreaming of the perfect bridesmaids dresses and flower combination. You even convinced your fiancé to shave his beard. (hahaha)  You did all of this and now you don’t want to see your efforts go to waste. 

With the pandemic shaping the world around us, it allows for every couple today to have the opportunity to write the rule book for future couples to follow by. This pandemic is not the first one and will certainly not be the last one for humanity to go through. It does not have to steal your day, the goal of the day remains the same, to marry your best friend. With an elopement, are are simply altering the method of transportation. We could talk for ages about planning elopements because we love them for their own simple and intimate reasons, you can read all that about here.

Sedona Arizona wedding photography stephen and melissa

Together But Apart

In the few weddings we have been to since the start of COVID-19, it is clear that people have different views on social interaction. Allowing your guests to voice their standpoint on social interaction without the awkward conversation has to be a primary concern for every wedding big and small. We’ve seen a growing trend in color coded wristbands to indicate guests’ tolerance for social interaction. Those wearing green bands give and receive hugs, those with yellow allow for people to come within 6 feet of them but avoid personal contact, and red wrist bands say that we love you but please keep your distance.

Expect some changes if you were planning for a buffet style meal for your guests as well. At this point all catering and venues have safety measures in place and we have not seen any allow buffet style serving. Venues with full kitchens can still safely plate food individually, with food delivered to your table just like many restaurants are doing today. If you hadn’t thought about it until now, food trucks may be a great option for your wedding too if there are food and beverage challenges at the venue.

Seating during your ceremony and reception may change as well. In the past, the choice was up to the bride and groom of how and where to seat people. With the pandemic, this choice must be passed in some extent to the guests. Table sizes could be reduced if the venue has the proper set-up. Instead of 10 person tables, expect to see 2, 4, or 6 person tables spaced apart. The lockdowns and stay-at-home orders forced us all to choose quickly the few people we would huddle down with. We could see more couples to make room on their RSVP’s to allow for guests to choose which cohort of guests they would like to party up with for larger tables. It’s a great way to keep your guests comfortable with the person sitting next to them. 

Dance Floors 

Another area of concern at weddings is the dance floor. While wedding planning, think about the amount of people coming, the amount of space, and if the venue is indoors or outdoors in an open area.  It is hard to dance while wearing a mask since your own sweat will soon have you feeling like you’re being waterboarded by a professional interrogator. We could possibly see rows of individual or couple-sized dance floors which are spread out for social distancing. Line dancing will look a lot like your yoga class with everyone spread out too, but that won’t stop the fun! Some couples may opt to avoid the dance floor altogether in favor of other group activities that can be done separately.

Where the dance floor at the wedding was once the center of attention, we may see it competing with other events. Consider including other ways for your guests to interact, engage, and have fun. Things like the shoe game that many couples play at their wedding can still be done separately but together. We’re calling it now, but there is a huge opportunity in the wedding industry for social distancing-friendly entertainment. Even more of an opportunity exists if they can include your virtual guests in attendance as well.

Dancing during wedding reception - wedding planning

Virtualize Like A Boss

Perhaps the biggest area we’ve seen growth in, virtualization is a way for guests to attend your wedding who may not normally attend. If you were planning a big wedding full of everyone you care about, this is perhaps the most heartbreaking part. You invite everyone you know because you want to see their smiling faces and tears rolling down their cheek as you say your I do’s. Getting over this heartbreak can be lessened with a little shift in mindset. First, with larger weddings in excess of 100 guests, quality time with the people you care about is actually hard to come by on a wedding day. Consider this… If the average reception is 5 hours and you have 100 guests, you may only get about 2 minutes of time with each guest (on average) after you spend time on toasts, eating dinner, special dances, and a cake cutting. Smaller weddings just mean more quality time with the people you care about most!

Your older guests who are the most susceptible to the ill-effects of human contact are most likely to avoid large gatherings. It is a harsh reality to face that your elderly guests’ chances to see you in-person are more limited as time goes on. For that reason it is important to be able to remember to take the time to spend with them during this milestone in your life. Some couples opt to make in-person visitations after self-quarantining for two weeks after the wedding. You get quality time with these loved ones and they get to congratulate you in person. Of course, by then, if you hired a great photographer, you’ll have a gallery fully of images to show off!

Live-streaming Your Wedding

Live-streaming your wedding is by far the most adopted changes to weddings we have seen in the coming months. Many Arizona wedding photographers and videographers are adding this to their list of wedding photography package options. Some of these guests may not have been able to make your wedding in person, but it’s important to try and make your wedding as fun for them as you can. Virtual guests tend to drop off after the ceremony if they’re just watching a live feed of the reception from afar. Drive engagement for your in-person guests to interact with virtual guests by having the meeting room details posted on every table. Your in-person guests can use their own cell phones to join the meeting room during the reception. If you have someone at your wedding assigned to moderate the virtual meeting, consider how you may include them in your planned events like the shoe game to keep them entertained. Polls, conversation starting questions, song requests and games are a simple way to keep your virtual guests having fun. One great thing about virtual meeting services like Zoom is the ability to record your virtual meeting and save it to watch later! This would make a great date-night for any newlywed couple!

cell phone during wedding reception

Your Wedding Will Be Amazing!

Of course, these are just a few ideas to consider as you trail blaze your way to wedding success. The sky’s the limit with what you can do. If you have a planner, talk with them about your ideas and be open to their recommendations. Your creativity during these times will only be applauded if you keep your guests’ best interests in mind! If you are solo wedding planning, you got this! One thing has been proven over and over again throughout history. When humankind is pressured, we somehow find a new sense of ingenuity to achieve our goals. Your wedding is going to be so much fun and you will be able to look back on it and say that you made the best of the situation. You gave others something beautiful to focus on during a time of turmoil. Most of all, you chose to start a life with someone else and no matter how you do it, life is so much better when you have a partner to go through it with!sedona elopement engagement photography cathedral rock engagement wedding planning for the first look

| Wedding Planning when I’m thinking about postponing my big day |

Deciding whether you want to postpone is a big decision to make while wedding planning during a pandemic and there are many things and should be taken into consideration when postponing. We know how overwhelming it can be so here are a list of things to consider. It may not be possible for you depending on the flexibility of your vendors and the earlier you have that information, the better. Depending on each vendor, their guidelines for rescheduling may be different. Some couples have been able to postpone without losing much of their investment, while others are kind of stuck in a holding pattern based on how far their wedding is. In order to make the decision that is best for you, your wedding, and the safety of all of your guests, consider taking the below steps.

  1. Consult With Your Wedding Team: First, we encourage couples to speak with your entire wedding team—your wedding planner, the venue, catering team, DJ, video and photography team. Anyone who will be involved in the day should be involved in this conversation. Get their policies, a potential back-up plan and have alternate dates in place sooner in case regulations or your outlook shifts. The goal is to have all of your loved ones safely attend your big day so everyone can celebrate you. Try to think about changing a date as just that—picking up your wedding and simply moving it to a date that feels good for everyone involved so everyone can safely celebrate.
  2. Recognize Your Priorities: When postponing a wedding, chances are slim that your entire plan and team will be able to be carried over without any changes, and you’ll have to consider any extra fees that may be associated when determining whether to move to 2021, but in general you’re aiming for the least amount of changes and financial impact as possible.
  3. Determine Non-Negotiatables: Speak with your partner and consider what your non-negotiables are, and how they will influence your ultimate decision. For example, are you willing to scale back from a large wedding with 250 guests to a backyard wedding with 50 guests? Are you okay with not being able to hug your guests or dance close to them? How many elderly family members would be attending and does anyone have to travel in?
  4. Consider Your Guests: Just like the availability of your venue, if your guests have made travel plans, you need to think about how much time they’ll need to make adjustments.  If your guests are primarily local, it may be easier to make your decision closer to deadline. Keep in mind that invitations should really be sent at three months to allow for an RSVP deadline of eight weeks before the wedding date.
  5. Hire a Wedding Planner: Wedding Planning us a huge process no matter how efficient of a person you are. If you don’t have a planner, enlist the help of an expert with some one-on-one consulting. Many planners offer this on an a-la-carte basis. Some will offer it out of the goodness of their hearts. We can’t say this enough, planners are worth their weight in gold, especially when you are trying to keep track of multiple vendors, and conversations. They are there to help!
  6. Decide on a New Date: This step involves two layers—speaking with your immediate family and VIP guests and your vendors. Try focusing on a season, versus a day or month and before confirming the new date, try having 80 to 100 percent of your vendors confirmed. Why? If you are able to get all but your hair and makeup artist on board, it is probably best to lose that $500 deposit and reserve the date that you want the most. Figuring out your priorities early on will help you more easily make these decisions.
  7. Expect Extra Fees: Be prepared to pay extra fees or lose a portion of your investment. As this pandemic continues to affect all aspects of our economy, venues and vendors will likely become more rigid in their policies as well. When planning your wedding, make sure you have a set budget and an account for any new fees that may be required.
  8. Keep and open mind. It’s okay if your rescheduled wedding looks totally different! Yes you were hoping for a Saturday wedding in May, but now you’re looking at a Thursday Wedding in November. While it’s okay to be disappointed, feel the feels…and then try and look at the bright side of things! In 10 years you won’t remember what day of the week it was on, but how to handled the day…like a boss! and at the end of the day, you’ll STILL be married to your best friend. See? Silver linings abound.
  9.  Celebrate the original date. Yes, do it! You should find fun ways celebrate your original date! Set up a virtual happy hour for the wedding party on Zoom or cook an elaborate dinner with your soon-to-be spouse (complete with a cutting cake!). Just because we’re socially distanced doesn’t mean celebrations are canceled—so do something that brings you joy.

Take a look at these adorable postponement wedding announcements by Minted!

One last thing, we want you to take a deep breath right now. Even though it’s chaotic and emotional and scary and out of your control right now, you WILL get through this. Yes, it sucks having to adjust your wedding planning, but it really helps to keep things in perspective! (Remember those silver linings we talked about earlier?) You’re still madly in love. You can still have a fabulous celebration once this pandemic blows over. And you’ll have a heck of a story to tell your grandkids.

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