If you’re trying to plan a wedding during COVID-19, our hearts go out to you. The uncertainty is ongoing, and whether you’re re-planning a wedding you were forced to postpone, trying to work out how to go ahead even with the existing restrictions, or just dipping a tentative toe into the wedding planning water for the first time under these difficult circumstances, it’s overwhelming, to say the least.
No one knows this better than the nation’s wedding planners, who have been working with their clients throughout this unprecedented situation to help them find solutions and focus on what they are able to do to move forward. So we spoke to five of the best in the business to get the lowdown on their biggest do’s and don’ts of planning a wedding during COVID-19 – no matter what stage of the process you’ve reached so far.
From speaking to suppliers to remembering self-care, here’s their totally invaluable advice. In fact, you might want to bookmark this page…
- How Many People Can Attend a Wedding? The Latest Coronavirus Rules Explained
- Why It’s Okay to Feel Sad About Postponing Your Wedding
- 20 Surprising Things Real Couples Have Learned About Their Relationships in Lockdown
DO: Be Realistic with Your Date
‘Not even the government has a crystal ball to tell when large gatherings, including weddings, can open up again for sure. I’m suggesting to all clients to plan for spring (starting in April) 2021 at the earliest,’ says Mark Niemierko of Niemierko Events and Weddings. ‘But if you want to be 99% sure and not have to postpone your date you really should be considering dates for 2022.’
‘If you still aren't sure about next year and don't yet have a date, go for 2022,’ agrees Charlotte Ricard-Quesada, founder of La Fête. ‘Believe me, you don't want the uncertainty and stress if you can avoid it. If you already have a date, make sure that you are transparent with your suppliers, this can only play in your favour if things need to be changed.’
DON’T: Bury Your Head in the Sand
‘As much as I am positive, I would say that being overly optimistic is not the best right now,’ Charlotte admits. ‘Unfortunately, in a time where you should be enjoying this process, you need to be particularly realistic and be honest with yourself. Keep your communication channels with your partner and suppliers open. Do not bury your head in the sand – nothing will get done – and that would be the worst!
‘My couples don't have trust in the government, and are starting to become disillusioned, which is so sad. It's really tough to stay positive and realistic at the same time; to see the light at the end of the tunnel and look forward to it. You just have to think that it will get there in the end.’
DO: Figure Out Finances
‘Budget planning should be your first port of call regardless,’ says Chenai Bukutu, founder and principal planner of ByChenai Events. ‘Once you know what finances you have to work with and confirm any family contributions, you can start to research suppliers who fit your style and budget.
‘Avoid making any big financial outlays, especially if you haven't bought any wedding insurance, which can be difficult to get right now as many insurers are not offering any. By all means pay deposits to secure your suppliers but be clear on their terms and conditions around postponements and cancellations – now is not the time to avoid reading the fine print!’
DO: Work on Your Guest List
‘You can curate your list down to what I call the “have to be there or pull the plug” list: the guests who you can't imagine your day without,’ says Pink Palms' Ashleigh Li.
If your date is fast approaching and you want to maximise the amount of people you can still include, ‘one way of getting to see more people on your wedding day is separating family and friends into separate bubbles and invite each bubble to a different part of your day,’ she adds. ‘Within the bubbles, keep people who are already seeing each other together and remember you need enough space to allow for social distancing. Outdoor spaces will be really beneficial, so explore any outdoor options.’
DO: Reach Out to Suppliers
‘COVID-19 has meant a lot of postponed weddings, and for many suppliers the next year has double the number of weddings than normal to accommodate this – so don't miss out on getting the photographer you want or securing the next best,’ says Chenai.
‘If your wedding is in 2021, I would recommend getting in touch with suppliers soon: the earlier you start securing dates and bookings with your favourites, the less you'll need to worry about their availability vanishing as a result of postponed weddings getting shuffled,’ advises Valentina Ring, Head of Storytelling at The Stars Inside.
DO: Focus on What You Can Do
‘Most dress designers and boutiques have put perfect precautions in place, and most smaller boutiques were one bride at time already so it goes without saying you can shop in confidence and safety,’ says Mark.
‘You can move forward with flower consultations, tastings and more so long all socially distanced and hold your food tasting al-fresco (weather permitting). Many other suppliers can be engaged and consulted virtually via email, phone or, if you are very on trend, ‘Zoomed’ – from photographers to stationers to entertainers. With hopefully more free time, as not socialising as much, or perhaps no commute to work if working from home, in many ways there is no better time to get planning your big day.’
DON’T: Book Without Checking the Terms
‘You do need to ensure your vendors have added in a clause in their terms should your wedding date need to be moved should the pandemic interrupt your planned date,’ Mark continues. ‘Each vendor will have different terms, but typically they should be agreeing that should your new date be within a certain time frame there is no additional charge to move the date. However, should there be a charge, find out what that will be.’
Valentina notes: ‘Many suppliers who can are currently offering couples more flexible terms, with later deadlines and more lenient refund policies.
'When speaking to your suppliers, make sure you’re very clear on what their policy on postponement, cancellation, or guest list reduction would be in the event that any of this is needed, and how the consequences change if these contractual revisions are triggered by you, them, or the government.
'If you do make any payments now for your wedding, try to use a credit card where possible, as you may be able to claim some money back if the services are not rendered. Check what you are entitled to with your credit card company. ’
DO: Look into Insurance ASAP
‘If you don't yet have insurance, now is the time to cover your wedding date. Be very careful of what policy you purchase and what you are covered for – be thorough and take your time speaking to experts,’ Valentina warns.
‘Being familiar with the small print in your supplier contracts and your insurance policy is definitely a good idea right now, as is keeping everything in writing. If you’re feeling particularly uncomfortable or unsure about a specific situation, and amicable communication hasn’t been enough, then do seek out legal advice.'
DO: Account for the 'New Normal'
‘If you are moving from a registry office to a reception venue, you need to be thinking of PPE at all venues,’ explains Ashleigh. ‘You can also look at planning your wedding breakfast with your caterer to carefully design meals that reduce cross contamination, so feast style meals might not be an option this year. Your caterer can also advise you on how to seat families in households together, and how they plan to serve wedding breakfasts.
‘I absolutely love the idea of having a couple’s cake just for the two of you, one that doesn't get shared amongst guests. Make it like a statement piece of art, and you can still do your cake cutting if it's important for you – but doing it alone might be much more special.’
DON’T: Leave Postponing Too Late
‘If you are still deciding whether or not to postpone, I would recommend making your final decision with ideally no less than 3-4 weeks to go,’ Valentina stresses. ‘This is the time you would usually need to submit final numbers to caterers, venues, flower orders, and so on. Family and friends will also need to rearrange their travel and accommodation plans at this stage.
‘If you think a postponement might be necessary, get in touch with your vendors right away to discuss a contingency plan: what dates can they do, what financial repercussions are there, and so on. If you are postponing, try to look at dates that are out of peak season and on weekdays, so that you’re more able to re-book all of your suppliers for the new date.’
DO: Be Polite and Understanding
‘When approaching your vendors about the possibility of postponing, do be mindful that many small businesses are currently facing severe financial distress and uncertainty and the very real possibility that their livelihoods and families might be at risk,’ Valentina adds.
‘Having said that, every single supplier in the wedding industry is doing what they can to make this process less stressful and heartbreaking for you – and will help in whichever way possible. They are on your side, and are riding this emotional rollercoaster with you, learning together through these dark and unchartered waters.’
Ashleigh concurs: ‘Avoid getting into negative communication with your suppliers at all costs. You don't want a dampener on your day after the year we've had! Keep it open, light and honest.
'Also, something that's important to know: I know seeing your suppliers posting on social media whilst waiting for a reply from them can feel a little rude, but most wedding suppliers schedule their social media - so they don't actually post right then, it's all pre-planned. Sometimes knowing this can relieve a little anxiety!’
DO: Create a Wedding Website
‘Avoid any extra stress: create a wedding website if you don't have one already and use that to keep your guests updated,’ Ashleigh suggests. ‘It saves contacting them all individually and there's been so much change with restrictions lifting etc. that there may be a few changes you need to tell them about. With a website, you just make one update and they can check it as and when they like.’
‘When it comes to your guests, I would recommend having a fun and easy-to-update website where you can keep your guests in the loop,’ agrees Valentina. ‘This way they can share in the journey with you, and also not call or message you with the same questions for you to deal with.’
DON’T: Get Wrapped Up in Other People's Opinions
‘Please do what suits you both and don't listen to other's opinions! Wedding planning is guaranteed to get opinions flooding your way from absolutely everyone you know. Given how stressful 2020 has been, please put yourselves first and re-design your day the way you both want it,’ Ashleigh insists.
'Quite a few of my couples have not only changed dates, but changed venues and even countries! And all of them have said how the wedding they are now planning feels much more 'them'. If you are planning to get married this year, putting your marriage over and above everything else just shows how strong the love is.’
‘You will have a different perspective of what is important and that is a wonderful place to be,’ echoes Chenai. ‘Take time to consider your vision for your day, given what we have all experienced during this pandemic. Remind yourselves of why you want to celebrate in this way, think about your guest numbers, for example, and the people you really want to share this moment with – then go about creating a vision that is uniquely yours and truly personal to your story as a couple.’
DO: Be Aware of Ongoing Change
‘The biggest obstacles my couples are facing is uncertainty and lack of clarity from the government around weddings in general,’ Chenai reports. ‘I’m pleased to say I've been able to support them with the mechanics of postponing and ensuring suppliers, however we are at the mercy of the ever-changing guidelines which is making a lot of clients anxious – especially those who had already opted to reduce their numbers and have a smaller wedding.
'We haven't entirely overcome this anxiety, but there have been some brilliant resources such as the Plan to Postpone support group for couples which has been excellent at helping couples navigate this stressful time.’
‘Make sure you're also checking in regularly with the legal/religious body involved in your ceremony, if there is one, so you can keep in the loop regarding changing legal guidelines and deadlines,’ says Valentina. ‘If you had given notice and then postponed your wedding, it may be that this will have expired by the time your new date comes around, so you’ll need to do that again. Speak to your vicar/priest/officiant, your local council, and your wedding planner about navigating the new deadlines that may be triggered.’
DO: Be Kind to Yourselves
‘The most important advice I can give right now is not to underestimate how draining and difficult it is to keep a positive, level head while planning a wedding right now,’ Valentina continues. ‘Make sure you keep checking in with yourself about how you're feeling. If you feel like you need to take a pause from planning because you’re not in the right headspace, that’s absolutely fine, and, equally, if you do feel ready to move forward, then that’s wonderful too.
‘Make sure you are looking after yourself, so you can stay motivated and strong. Staying mentally and emotionally well at this time is vital and I encourage you wholeheartedly to try to find a little time every day to care for you and your loved ones. Make this period feel productive if you can, and take breaks from wedding planning too – keep to your routine but introduce new, fun, rewarding things centred around self-care.
'Try changing your mindset: it's not about what you have to do, but rather what you GET to do. Make a note of things you're grateful for each morning, and think about what you can do today to have something new to be grateful for tomorrow.’
DO: Remember the Bigger Picture
‘Take a deep breath and remind yourself that you can do this,’ she concludes. ‘With some patience, courage, ingenuity, and flexibility, you’ll still be able to have the wedding you’ve always dreamed of.
'Treat this as an opportunity to prioritise the things that mean the most to you. And if you need to take some time to process, that’s absolutely fine. It’s completely understandable to feel emotional about postponing your wedding date – you might be feeling confused, sad, disappointed, or angry, and all of that is real and valid. No one could have anticipated something like this affecting your wedding, and you are not alone in fighting the emotions that have resulted from it. It’s okay to feel the way that you’re feeling.
‘As you plan, keep your eye on the end goal, and try to use your energy positively and productively. Stay alert, but don’t let the news overwhelm you with negativity. Remember that your friends, family, and suppliers are there for you and you will get through this together.’
Want to know more industry secrets? These planners reveal the 9 things that could go wrong on your wedding day and how to avoid it.