Wedding Planning During a Pandemic
In an ever-changing world of regulations and new information regarding COVID-19, we have found that there are very few resources and answers out there for brides and grooms trying to get married during a Global Pandemic. Constant attempts to reschedule their weddings cut down their guest lists to adhere to social distancing rules and hearing the word “no” one too many times has forced a lot of couples to make decisions they never imaged they would be making while wedding planning, yet here they are.
That being said, we wanted to provide somewhat of an outlet for couples planning a wedding right now, so we’ve interviewed a number of highly acclaimed wedding professionals, planners, venues, and real-life couples going through it all to put it all into perspective and maybe give a little advice on the way. Disclaimer: Every couple has had different experiences - good and bad, and every venue or wedding professional has a different set of guidelines and protocols they abide by.
Let’s start with wedding venues because that seems to be the most important part of wedding planning during a Global Pandemic according to the couples we have interviewed. For that, we brought in the big guns, the incredible team at The Addison in Boca Raton - who in the true form are following safety protocols, but never losing sight of what a glamorous wedding day is all about.
Photo Credit: Munoz Photography, https://www.munozphotography.com/ - Courtyard Wedding Ceremony in 2019.
This is what they had to say…
”This pandemic has definitely posed a challenge for everyone, in some shape or form. Navigating the situation has been tricky, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution for any individual or business. It’s important to see things from both the perspective of the clients, as well as the businesses. We are living in an unprecedented and historic moment in time. Every couple, family, and even vendor has a unique set of circumstances they are dealing with. Some couples may be nervous about lower guest counts, family members with higher health risks, or being at risk of infection themselves. Some may decide that postponing or canceling their event is the only option, while many brides and grooms decide to commit to getting married on their original date, no matter what. Alternatively, some venues are no longer able to host the event – so neither party has a choice. Throughout the planning (and adapting) process, it is important for every event host and vendor to fully understand their contract commitments (many contracts cover all the “what ifs” in what is called a force majeure clause), and it is up to both parties to decide how flexible they can (or want to) be, beyond the contractual obligations.” -
Melanie De Vito, Marketing Director at The Addison in Boca Raton, www.theaddisonofbocaraton.com
As businesses begin to re-open and find their feet again, the health and safety of the community must be the number one priority. Venues and vendors are being forced to comply with new government restrictions and CDC guidelines. The restaurant dining experience has changed tremendously and events have also had to adapt. It can be a very stressful time for a newly engaged couple, and in times like these, perspective is everything.
If a venue is open and a couple stays the course of their original date, the wedding may not be executed exactly in-line with the original vision. But with a little positivity and creativity, there is an opportunity to create a very special, sentimental, and memorable life milestone that may even be better than planned. Since The Addison has re-opened (operating at 50% restaurant capacity, following all government mandates, and exceeding CDC guidelines) the team has witnessed some beautiful solutions pop-up and an overall elevation of the guest experience. Here are some ideas...
FINE DINING SERVICE
Being a Five Star Diamond awarded restaurant, The Addison has been practicing fine dining standards since the beginning. In order to thrive in a world focused on cleanliness, it is imperative that the food industry elevates its standards to include these practices and earn customer trust. In addition to the recommendations published by the CDC, some of the ways The Addison as practiced safer and more elevated service is by focusing on highly personalized table-side service, eliminating buffets, putting out individual salt and pepper shakers, and butter dishes, continuing French-style bread service, etc.
FASHIONABLE FACE MASKS AND SANITIZING FAVORS
Just because a mask is functional, that doesn’t mean it cannot be fashionable! Many couples are having custom bride and groom face masks made, as well as matching masks for their guests (with the couple’s name and date printed on them). We’ve also seen custom hand sanitizer bottles and towelettes made for the guests.
Instead of station-style food service, we’ve seen many more requests for individually sealed food items. For example: Instead of displaying a “Harvest Table” overflowing with exposed gourmet meats, cheeses, vegetables, and spreads, serving individual and beautifully packaged charcuterie boards makes for a more sanitary experience.
BRACELETS AND BUTTONS
Even in an intimate family setting, every guest has a different comfort level in relation to the pandemic. Some family members have been in close proximity to each other already and some have not. Some weddings have offered buttons or bracelets for guests to wear, that politely remind everyone around them that they are practicing strict social distancing.
The pandemic triggers a lot of feelings and different points of view in guests and families. We love seeing when couples honor the historic significance of this time period and past. (We are a historic venue after all!) Some couples dedicate time during their photoshoots to recognize the extraordinary circumstances in 2020. Couples have been getting creative, recreating images from weddings that took place during the 1918 Spanish Flu. Some even add a little humor! We cannot stress the importance of photography and video for the events taking place in 2020. These are images the next several generations would be interested to see!
Virtual events cannot replace on-ground events, but some couples incorporate a virtual component for those family members that cannot attend. Some venues and caterers (like the Addison) can also offer to-go versions of the meal selections for their virtual guests to enjoy in the comfort of their own home.
With restaurant capacity limits and small group seating arrangements, gatherings have become more intimate. Some may see this as an obstacle, but many couples (secretly) welcome the opportunity to reduce their guest list to those who truly matter. Reduced capacities can also give the couple opportunities to utilize their budget for enhancing their selections. With an intimate affair, brides and grooms can focus on what matters most – the person waiting for them at the end of the aisle and the celebration of their marriage.
The Addison: OUR WEDDING | Shelby and Nico | 8.2.2020 | THE ADDISON
Video Credit: Timeline Video Productions, https://www.timelinepro.com/
The Addison has such an incredible team of wedding professionals and were able to quickly pivot their business model and collaborate on how to keep their couples and the integrity of the venue their first priority. Unfortunately, we can’t say the same about other venues around the country. One of Lindsey’s best friends was supposed to get married in Vermont this October and unlike most wedding venues, they are not making the re-planning process easy for them at all. In fact, they’re making it 10x more complicated and 10x more expensive, despite what their “contract” states. It’s sad to see this happening, but they aren’t the only ones. There are a lot of businesses taking advantage of struggling couples and individuals during this time.
We understand that a lot of businesses in the wedding industry haven’t been making money lately, but a lot of these couples haven’t been making money either, which leads us to our next topic, who’s ready to just GET AWAY from it all?
We’re also seeing a lot of couples canceling their weddings all together to have small private ceremonies on their own, elope, or change it up completely and have a destination wedding. The most popular destination wedding we’re seeing is Mexico, and there’s no better experts to interview on this topic than Travel Agent and Destination Wedding Specialists: Laura Marshall & Mitch Toren (Owner) of TripGuy.com.
Photo sent to TripGuy.com from one of their honeymooners that finally made it to Jamaica after rescheduling three different times.
"I just want to show up, walk down the aisle, and have fun with my friends and family.” Words I’ve heard on one too many occasions in the last six months. As a travel agent, I’m seeing an uptrend of brides & grooms who probably never even previously considered a destination wedding, but as a result of Covid & the implications its restrictions have caused for their local venues, the idea of a stress-free destination event all the sudden becomes that much more attractive.” - Mitch Toren, Owner of TripGuy.com.
TripGuy.com wedding at UNICO 20º87º Hotel Riviera Maya.
This "Covid Effect" seems to have actually provided a positive new aspect for the destination wedding industry; TripGuy.com is working with couples who are fed up with their US venues; whether it's dealing with last-minute ceremony cancellations or newly enforced restrictions, or even the threat of not being refunded their original wedding deposits, despite their actual event being canceled outside of their control. This has stripped the fun and excitement from the entire wedding-planning process; a time that is supposed to be memorable and special. This has inspired couples to consider a completely different recourse to celebrating their love; via a destination wedding celebration.
TripGuy.com is seeing both sides of it; they have several wedding groups who were already in the final stages and they were forced to rebook their destination event, some only days before they were supposed to hop on the plane. Their goal has been to make the rebooking process as seamless as possible for the wedding couple and their guests alike. As destination wedding experts they want everything to remain the same despite the drastic changes our industry has endured in the past six months. They aim to provide professional advice and expertise in their field in efforts to assist couples with choosing the best venue for their vision, and thus to help make the entire wedding planning process as smooth and enjoyable as possible.
The wedding dress industry was another business heavily affected by the lockdown, and Wonderland Bridal, a wedding dress boutique right here in South Florida felt the pain when closed their doors for 8 weeks during the stay-at-home order. During this time they couldn’t see any customers in-store so they had to be creative and figure out new ways to generate revenue. While the designers featured in their boutique don’t allow online sales of their dresses, they promoted other items and services on social media such as storage and preservation boxes for gowns, bridal accessories, and discounted bridesmaid dress samples with curbside pickup. It was all about figuring out a new way to communicate with new and existing brides which were done through virtual appointments through Zoom where potential brides were able to view the dresses in-store on mannequins. Once the shelter-in-place order was lifted, those appointments were scheduled and they rescheduled appointments with brides whose appointments had to be canceled during that 8 week period.
“We have noticed that the bride shopping for gowns at this time are serious about buying. Brides are coming in ready to find a gown for their upcoming weddings, whether it be at the same venue they planned but on a different date or a simple and intimate backyard wedding on the original date. Either way, we are determined to give our brides the best shopping experience Wonderland Bridal is known for and helping them remain excited about their special day, cheering them on reminding them that at the end of the day, they are marrying their love.
- Patti Nachmann, Co-Founder of Wonderland Bridal www.wonderlandbridal.com
These are the guidelines they are following to promote a safe shopping experience for their brides and working environment for our staff:
· Operating strictly by appointment only and at a limited capacity to accommodate social distancing.
· All appointments are limited to the bride and two guests. No exceptions.
· All customers are required to wear a mask.
· All staff members will also wear a mask.
· They provide all customers with hand sanitizer or kindly ask them to wash their hands upon entering the store.
· Only their staff is handling gowns and helping customers into them.
· They are cleaning and sanitizing store surfaces and fitting rooms after every appointment.
· At this time they are not allowing any outside food or beverage in an effort to reduce the spread of germs & cleaning time.
· They respectfully ask anyone showing symptoms of illness, to reschedule their appointment.
This couple, Heather and Evan Esteves decided to keep their original date and get married at the beginning of the pandemic. Heather wore this beautiful dress from Wonderland Bridal and cut their guest list down to 10 people to make it work, and it certainly did.
PHOTO CREDIT: Meagan Puett www.meaganpuett.com
We wanted to interview as many wedding-related businesses as possible to see how their brides are handling planning a wedding and buying a dress during a Global Pandemic, and this is what the Owner of Lauderdale Bride had to say about how their business is picking up now that the lockdown has been lifted.
“Because of the shut down and social distancing all our brides from March through this October have postponed their weddings with a few exceptions. The good news is that people are still getting married, and while in lock down couples get cozy and want to be more committed. So brides are back in full swing getting married 2021 and 2022 is going to be great and love is in the air.” - Daria Karll, Owner of Lauderdale Bride www.lauderdalebride.com
Photo Credit: Lauderdale Bride at The Addison Photo Credit: Michelle Lawson Photography www.michellelawson.com
We spoke with the Bridal Hair and Makeup Artists at Face2Face Studios, and their hair and makeup artists are now taking appointments and scheduling weddings with protocols that involve sanitization before and after every appointment on the day of the wedding, disposable makeup products, brushes and accessories, and masks are required for any and all makeup artists working under that team.