Seven experts weigh in, guiding on how to plan amidst high unpredictability. OP Picks — Jun 30
Wedding planning can be a stressful time in general, but with a global pandemic thrown into the mix, couples are faced with more and more difficult decisions than ever before. This season, virtually every large event is tasked with a postponement or shifting to a smaller, intimate ceremony (like Olivia recently reminisced). However, no matter what you choose, remember that your special celebration will still happen—perhaps in an even more joyous way than initially imagined.
With much weighing on bride and groom-to-be's hearts and minds, we spoke with seven A-List wedding planners ranging from the east coast to the west coast, stateside, and abroad to create a mini guide for navigating 2020 and 2021 nuptials. Here, the professionals explain what to do should one need to 'change the date', design tips, small party ideas, and where to even begin for newly engaged couples. Refer to these expert opinions as you move through ever-evolving circumstances, ultimately leading to informed choices that will work best for you and your loved ones.
For 2020 and 2021 weddings, the most critical thing to establish when planning is a realistic postponement timeline (if you choose to do so) or the factors required for altering details. Sought-after celebrity planner Mindy Weiss, whose clients have included the Biebers and the Westbrooks, suggests contacting vendors for availability and then, "Make the decision as soon as possible, alerting your guests right afterwards. That'll give enough time to reschedule any travel and change their plans." Notable East Coast-based consultant, Bronson van Wyck, agrees, "I suggest moving fast as the 2021 social calendar could be jam-packed. Venues, bands, and other vendors are continually updating their calendar with requests, so it is best to give them a heads up." To Paris-based event designer Lucas Somoza, the photographer's availability is a key aspect. "Everyone's priorities are different, but images are the only element of the day that lasts forever. I'd happily organize a wedding on a Friday rather than a typical Saturday if it meant securing the couple's photographer of choice."
Other factors like weighing how many guests are allowed under current restrictions or if many are traveling from out of town are necessary to consider. A discussion with the venue is a good starting point, according to Manhattan-based Creative Director and designer Tracy Taylor Ward. "Talk about the safety measures they are taking to guard against COVID-19. Maybe they can't hold the same size event on your original date, but they can host a small celebration instead. Are you comfortable with this, or would you rather be patient and wait to host your original guest count? Assess what makes the most sense for you," she says. Jung Lee, founder of the luxury event group Fête notes, "If there are important family members who are at high risk, the decision becomes clear to postpone. Be informed, realistic, and prudent. Generally, we are backing into when we need to put the invitations into production, which gives a deadline of a minimum of three months before the original wedding date [to make the call]."
When it comes to alerting guests on new updates, event planner Fallon Carter who specializes in destination weddings, advises, "Ultimately be as over-communicative as possible because you are bound to receive questions. We recommend electronic communications from here on out because it's the easiest and quickest." Weiss agrees, too. "The fastest and the most effective way to alert your group is via a digital announcement, using a service like Paperless Post or other email-based invitation company. Keep in mind, though, if any wedding guest doesn't use email, a personal phone call is important."
Another essential tip is to update a wedding website as soon as possible. Ward says, "Step one will be to call, text, or email your bridal party and immediate family. Step two will be to update your wedding website. Step three should be mailing or emailing a 'Change The Date' with the new information and reminding guests to visit your website for all pertinent info." If sending a printed mailer, van Wyck suggests, "Make it personal. You want your guests to know you are thinking about (and missing!) them as much as they are thinking about you." Somoza notes that traditional, formal stationery and e-vites are possible with a similar design aesthetic based upon your invitation suite, and Lee concurs, "Everything surrounding your wedding, even a postponement should be reflective of your style and grace."
"Have empathy for everyone involved in your replanning process, especially yourselves!"
Vendors and Contracts
In light of current events, booking flexible vendors is something newly engaged couples should seek. "Always, always, always check to ensure there is a clause [in the contract] about the possibility of a change in event date. If there isn't—write one! Should you need to postpone an event, your vendor should transfer any deposit paid to the new dates. Have empathy for everyone involved in your replanning process, especially yourselves. Most vendors are very understanding during this time, but still, always be prepared," says van Wyck.
Weiss notes, "I've recently changed my contract to reflect the current times. We now have a different cancellation and force majeure clause in which the client and I mutually agree on a cancellation fee." Carter recommends getting even more specific with COVID-19 specific language. "Define where your deposit will go towards should you need to reschedule and ask questions about safety measures and staff numbers. Negotiate smaller deposits, the option to reschedule at least once without any fees, or even a full refund if COVID-19 spikes and requires a cancellation."
Investing in an experienced wedding planner, if you haven't already, is also something to consider to alleviate stress. "They will be able to help you navigate the process, and in the long run, save you money and time," says Lee. Somoza agrees, "Planners review contracts with a fine-toothed comb, and have privileged relationships with vendors. They'll be in the best position to help you negotiate changes and cancellations."
Weddings Reimagined: Mini-monies and More
Although this wedding season is different than we are used to, many couples are making the best of the situation by opting for Zoom weddings, elopements, mini-monies (miniature ceremonies of 15 or less), and even micro weddings (approximately 30 guests) to honor their big day. In fact, Carter recently founded a new venture this year called the We Do! Collective to specialize in these reimagined, smaller celebrations. How can a couple decide what's best for them? "It goes back to what's most important for the couple and their flexibility," says Carter, "If a certain 2020 date is what they want, a simple elopement with the parents might be best. For some couples, it's all about timing as they want to be legally married this year to start a family or buy a home. However, if they are dreaming of a 150 guest party, dancing on a beach in Jamaica, it's best to pursue postponing." Somoza shares his experience: "A few of my clients who didn't want to prolong their engagement have decided to proceed with a very small civil ceremony. It's a modern and positive way to honor your families and beloved friends, celebrate your union, and not have wait too long until officially becoming married." Lee agrees with that sentiment, "The small/micro wedding has been wonderful because it strips down to the core essence of what's important for the couple, without the usual stress."
According to Weiss, it's possible to do both if within budget, "Consider legally getting married on your date with a small ceremony and then host a lovely celebration next year." And what about digital-based weddings or smaller, intimate ceremonies? "There are some silver linings to a virtual event, as you might be able to invite guests who wouldn't normally be able to attend," notes van Wyck. Yet ultimately it's about what's right for each person and scenario. "There is no right or wrong approach! It is truly more of a gut feeling," continues Ward, "Some clients of ours are excited to host what we've coined a 'Micromony,' and they are hosting about 10% of the original guests plus taking all necessary precautions to adhere to social distancing mandates. If possible, host these events outdoors. And for the time being, DJs and jazz trios or string quartets are popular options for entertainment, instead of a large dance band."
New Season, New Décor?
Beyond exchanging vows, a big part of a couple's wedding vision surrounds the celebration's atmosphere and décor. So, if an original summer ceremony has shifted to January, should the colors and florals change, too? Lee remarks, "Wedding décor should be evergreen, like designing your dream home. What speaks to your sensibilities and brings you joy is what should fill the important spaces of your wedding. For example, if you were planning an all-white summer wedding and now your wedding is in the winter, it can still be magical. Rework details like instead of linen fabric, add velvet and silk— similar in feeling yet appropriate and practical." The go-to party planner of stars like Oprah Winfrey and Uma Thurman, Preston Bailey, agrees, "I believe very strongly that you should base your wedding colors of your taste, not necessarily a season. If your favorite flower is a spring peony or a lilac, still use them somehow!"
Carter notes that couples may need to be flexible based on the availability of floral deliveries and weather, in this new environment, but that beautiful blooms and tablescapes can brighten up smaller or at-home events, too. Try online rental companies like Social Studies to secure curated place settings for the party of your choice or work with a planner to do so. She says, "I've been finding that many couples are much more lenient during these times and will often select florals within the same palette if the original choice is out of season. Other tweaks might be a change to the menu based on fresh, seasonal ingredients, so work with your caterer to decide what's best."
You will still get married, it's just a matter of being patient for your perfect moment. This, too, shall pass.
Staying Excited, Remembering the Love
Marriage is a major milestone for many, after all, so feeling disappointed about a change of plans or a reimagined big day is perfectly understandable. How can a couple stay positive and celebrate their love while continuing to plan? Lee notes, "While this time of uncertainty is frustrating and stressful; it can also serve couples well to decide what they truly want. The best weddings are the ones that authentically reflect their love." van Wyck recalls, "We love to know about our clients' hobbies, passions, pets, and hangouts to incorporate as inspiration. Music is also something you can always continue working on—write down a list of special songs you want to hear on your special day!"
In terms of mental health, Ward (whose firm is also offering free consultations for couples during this time) shares, "Allow yourself to go through all the feelings you are naturally going to feel, take a break from everything for a couple of weeks, but then pick yourself up and keeping going, and checking off to-dos from your list. The process of accomplishing things really does wonders, as does eating well, meditating (try Headspace!), and working out." Carter agrees, "I always say pick days where you'll talk about the wedding, and then pick days for date night or wellness activities like taking a walk in the park. This way, you'll stay excited and not overwhelmed by the process." And finally, Bailey shares his wisdom noting, "This is a time to be extremely adaptable. You will still get married, it's just a matter of being patient for your perfect moment. This, too, shall pass."