Wedding planning across the globe has changed drastically due to the pandemic, and we’re not just talking about the rise of micro weddings or the ten-person “mini-mony.” A newfound uncertainty has led to a very different approach when planning a wedding in 2021 or 2022. And we’re all for it. Here’s why.
Planners and couples alike are planning with fresh eyes, with new questions in a world that is unknown and often unpredictable. And while planners are trained professionals in rolling with the punches (inclement weather plans, a behind-the-scenes snag in set up, etc), the pandemic has taught us all one thing: you really just never know. Now, we are asking for stronger contracts, creating potential rescheduling back-ups plans, and understanding how much financial exposure is on the line for our clients at any given time. We’re leaving no “worst-case scenario” stone unturned. We are working with vendors who have been empathetic, adaptable, and understanding through this situation. And while this has always been a part of our jobs, it’s more important than ever.
Another big plus? People are craving love, connection and shared meaningful time together more than ever before. Celebrations and large gatherings will happen again, and when they do, they will be more anticipated, more meaningful, and more memorable than years past. We cannot wait.
So, for those of you planning for the future, we’ve narrowed down the ways our pre-pandemic planning approach has changed for the better. Here’s everything you’ll need to plan with post-pandemic confidence:
1. Prepare for Competition & Snag Your Priority Vendors Early
Hundreds of thousands of 2020 weddings have been postponed to next year and beyond. This means vendor availability is extremely limited. While we always recommend taking some time to enjoy your engagement and talk through your priorities as a couple (and we still do), if you want a Saturday wedding in 2021, it’s best not to wait too long. Craft your list of priority vendors, and set up site tours, and zoom calls with your favorites. Be prepared to make decisions quickly and trust a vendor if they tell you they have someone else interested. It’s likely not a sales pitch. 2020 was originally the busiest wedding season we had seen in ten years. With almost all of these weddings moving to next year, 2021 is shaping up to be the same for many creatives in our industry.
Alternatively, while you may be ready to dive in, be patient with your prospective vendors during this time. Many staff members are still furloughed, hotels and venues are working at 20-40% capacity, or vendors are managing a new normal home-work balance, so call schedules can be limited.
2. Hire a Planner
Any planner that planned an event in 2020 has a newfound knowledge of contractual postponement policies, cancellations policies, and force majeure policies. We’ve spent countless hours going over contracts, amendments, new payment schedules, talking to legal teams, and more. It is likely that a planner will already know the policies of many vendors you are considering, and how these vendors already approached 2020’s COVID pandemic. They will guide you through it with a sense of ease because they know what to look for. A planner is no longer a luxury. It is a necessity for a smooth process.
3. Look Into Larger Venues
While gathering regulation numbers in Massachusetts is still TBD at this time, we recommend selecting a venue with a capacity that is above your guest count. This allows for more space for guests to explore, lounge, dine, dance, and feel comfortable. While in the past, we’ve suggested venues ideal for the estimated guest count, we recommend selecting a venue that has capacity for about 20-30% larger than your maximum guest count. ie: if you are planning on 200, a space that fits 250-275 may be a good bet. And, larger space allows for more seating – ie: if we are advised to have fewer people per table, you will need more tables. We also recommend renting a larger dance floor if you can. We are still unsure how layouts and food/beverage will be affected next year, so for now, it is better to plan for more space than exactly enough. You can always fill that extra space intentionally. Add a few cozy nooks, like lounge chair and coffee table vignettes for individual after-dinner seating. Also, a venue with an outdoor component is a major plus for comfort, space, and movement.
4. The Tented, Private Estate Wedding is on the Rise
Experts say the virus is less likely to spread when guests are outside, so we are already seeing a massive rise in the tented, private home event for 2021/22. Honestly, who doesn’t love a private estate wedding overlooking the ocean, mountains, or the backdrop of your childhood home? Another plus, if it is on your family property, there will be no venue competition and dates are unlimited for a backup plan if needed. Just remember, it is key to reserve your infrastructure early. As above, work with your tent company to anticipate a tent (and dancefloor) that is larger than the “normal” size and reserve sooner than later.
5. Ask Your Vendors about their Cancellation/Rescheduling Policies Upfront
The most emotionally challenging part of 2020 for couples was trying to decipher postponement policies and risks of cancellation, all while having to make decisions to postpone or stay the course during a major global health crisis. So rather than wait to discuss with your vendors, these questions must now be at the forefront when booking. Some important questions to ask prospective vendors:
-How did the vendor handle COVID postponements/cancellations this year?
-How would they handle postponements/cancellations if COVID happened next year?
-Can they speak to what they have done to innovate, adapt, and be flexible during the pandemic? (Any flexibility with minimums? Changes to dates? New services in light of this?)
-What are refund policies on travel changes if the vendor is from out of town?
-Be sure to understand deposit policies – are they non-refundable or are they transferable? Are there any rescheduling fees?
6. Embrace Change & Creativity
Our industry is working tirelessly now to understand how the pandemic may forever change food and beverage service. But that certainly doesn’t mean it will be any less hospitable. On the contrary, new guidelines may actually create even more attention to detail in the service industry, with more ways to luxuriously treat each guest. For example, perhaps cocktail hours will now boast mini charcuteries boards, individually plated and passed to each and every guest to enjoy. Perhaps we will see more servers passing drinks so no lines form at a bar (or perhaps no physical bar at all). Honestly, it actually sounds amazing not to have to wait in line for drinks! And while buffets and family-style meals may no longer exist (or remain less prominent until a vaccine comes around), this is truly a chance for your catering team to get creative with their cuisine and beverage programs. How about individually passed oysters atop a vodka shooter, or individually served mini cakes? While some traditions may be tough to let go of at first, don’t underestimate the power of our industry to be creative when it comes to exquisite service.
7. Embrace Connection & Purpose
Now, more than ever, your friends and family are craving connection. Plan purposeful and meaningful ways for them to connect at your event. Don’t be afraid to create new traditions. At the rehearsal dinner, perhaps each guest brings a photo of your memories together and shares it with the group. Or find a way to virtually stream the ceremony for older guests who may not be able to travel. Perhaps A/V can create a way to connect with them on camera live onsite. As you think about the purpose of your event, new traditions may emerge. Of course, the purpose is to get married, but it also serves as a vehicle to reunite groups and share memories of joy and love as one new family.
8. Set A Contingency Budget
While we are extremely hopeful for a vaccine soon, it is never a bad idea for a contingency budget (pandemic or not!). Pad your investments with a bit of flexibility, and set a certain amount of money for “unknowns” in your overall budget. The extra amount will allow you to rest assured that you are prepared for anything that comes your way.
9. Some New & Required To Do’s
We recommend that all of our clients do two simple, easy things to stay prepared and organized.
-Get event insurance. Currently, there is no coverage that covers pandemic cancellations or postponements. However, cancellation coverage exists to cover you if other big changes occur (weather, vendor bankruptcy), and always worth having. Check-in with your homeowner’s insurance company for their special event plans or try a company like WedSafe.
-Collect guest email addresses upfront. As you are making your guest list for the event, be sure to record email addresses along with regular addresses. In the instance of having to make a quick change, having a full email list handy will make a world of difference when having to communicate quickly to all 200 of your guests.
And finally, regardless of where this new way of life takes us, what matters most is your new partnership and your new family. Plan with all the joy and emotion that you would at any other time. Your day will be beautiful, memorable, meaningful – and now, you will be smarter and more prepared than ever.
Thoughts or questions? Leave a comment and we’ll be sure to answer here, or on our Instagram page.