Updated: Getting Married During the COVID-19 Pandemic…
First of all, I am deeply concerned for the well-being of others and in no way want to imply otherwise. I’m also aware that this virus is a big deal and deserves to be treated with respect. It’s spreading rapidly and because there is not yet a vaccine/treatment, there are deaths occurring, which is terrible. But just because the bigger picture is our main concern, it’s also terribly unfortunate that this pandemic is occurring as you’re preparing for the biggest day of your life. You’re well within your rights as a person who has been excited for this day for your entire life to feel like it’s unfair/untimely/unfortunate. Take time to feel sorry for yourself. You heard me. Feel badly that it’s happening at all, but also that it’s happening NOW. It stinks…and it’s okay to say that it stinks and it’s okay to feel badly about it. BUT…after you’ve worked some of those feelings out of your system, try your best to focus on the fact that no matter what happens, you’re marrying the person you chose for a reason. You will get through this together and at the end of the day, you will be married! The truth is, this is a hurdle for you as a couple and it’s hitting on this, the biggest day you have shared together so far. Think of it as a good indicator of how you will handle life’s challenges together. Prepare, keep calm, and focus on each other.
Potential Impacts This Will Have on Your Big Day
Fewer Out-of-Town Guests
This will likely be the biggest impact. With the travel bans, fear of being in close quarters with people, etc., it’s going to cause a great deal of travel stress/delays/cancellations. At this particular date (and it could change at any minute), I would say to expect none of your out-of-country guests to attend, 10-15% of your out-of-state guests to attend, and roughly 20-30% of your in-state-but-out-of-town guests to attend. These are just my predictions based on some research, but obviously each wedding will be different. It’s difficult to know exact numbers, but you will see a decrease in attendance from these guests. No need to panic, but if your date is rapidly approaching and you haven’t heard from them since before March 13th, I would recommend reaching out and asking what they plan to do. The more accurate your guest count is, the more you can avoid unnecessary expenses and stress. **Sample email to guests below**
Fewer Guests Overall (Even The “In-Towners”)
Even those whose only travel consists of a short car ride will have some reservations about coming to your wedding. The reality is that there will be many people who fear being in close quarters with large groups of people. Weddings are notorious for getting large crowds into tight spaces. This is going to cause concern for some guests. An average wedding typically sees about 65-70% of their invited guests in attendance (based on my experience). I sincerely hope I’m very wrong, but I would predict to see guests counts over the next few weeks/months to be closer in the 40% range. I expect many people to cancel, even if they’ve already RSVP’d. I know this is a hard pill to swallow and can potentially cost you money, but it’s a reality I want you to be prepared for. Better to prepare for it than to be disappointed walking into a less-than-full ceremony space. The only thing you should focus on in that moment is the smiling (maybe even crying) face at the end of the aisle. On a small positive note, if you haven’t already paid your final balances, your costs could be significantly lowered by a smaller guest count.
Your Wedding “Products”
There is very real possibility that some products used in your wedding will be made unavailable during this time. This can unfortunately include certain foods and flowers. Again, there is no reason to panic—please remember to stay flexible and patient with your vendors. They are doing everything possible to get you what you want/need for your wedding. Flexibility is going to be key—if a certain flower is unavailable due to the fact that it can’t be transported, ask for your florist’s expertise on what flowers might have a similar look. If your caterer informs you they’re out of an ingredient, take their suggestions on which ingredient to sub in or which food item to change altogether. I assure you, if you’ve hired the right people, they are going to take good care of you. You might lose out on a particular fabric that’s being special-ordered, perhaps the wedding favors you wanted are no longer available…these things will happen. If your wedding is still months away, I would recommend ordering the items you can now because “better safe than sorry” comes to mind. One report on wedding dresses being ordered from international designers is to expect anywhere from a 2-6 weeks longer delivery time because of slower production times. Do what you can to get things ordered when you can. Keep in mind that being flexible is going to be key in the remaining time you have to plan your big day!
Again, travel is a concern right now. Depending on where you are planning to travel for your honeymoon, you might already be experiencing a ban on travel or a significant concern about the place you were planning to travel. Insurance is a must if it’s not too late! If you’re still in the booking process, I highly recommend purchasing the refundable tickets, getting traveler’s insurance, and preparing a plan in your mind about what you would do if you were “stuck” at your destination for a significant period of time. Refundable tickets should be refundable under any circumstance, so that is your best plan of action if you are deciding to move forward with travel. Ask the questions about what is and isn’t covered under the insurance. Be prepared for the consequences if you proceed with your trip. Be mindful of the CDC recommendations and travel bans in place.
If you can’t make the traveling work, consider a staycation for now, complete with extra splurges you wouldn’t normally do for yourselves. Then maybe save up a little more and consider an even bigger honeymoon trip for your 1 year anniversary!
Potential Vendor Cancellations
I’m hopeful I’m wrong on this one, but there is the possibility of vendors backing out due to safety concerns. Vendors are people too, people with families who they could be concerned about in a very real way. Hopefully none of your vendors will cancel, but if they do, you want to be prepared. In my experience, wedding vendors are the best of the best—they know how important this day is and believe me, if they can be there, they WILL be there. If a vendor, a vendor’s family member, and/or their staff contracts the virus, however, then you would obviously want them to stay away. Go ahead and touch base with your vendors about their plan for virus now. Send an email versus calling them so that they have some time to think it through and not just answer on the spot (they might not answer as thoroughly/accurately without time to process and respond). Hopefully, they have a plan in place. If it’s a photographer, maybe she has her second shooter as your main tog and another photographer as a plan b for the second shooter. If it’s your caterer, maybe she can refund you and provide you with another caterer’s information who is available that day. Whatever the case may be, it’s better to ask now and have in mind what they plan to do than to be surprised a few weeks or days before your big day. **Sample email to vendors below**
What You Can Do to Ease the Pain
I had previously mentioned insurance. At this time, most insurance companies are not taking new policies. If you have event insurance already, please read through the limitations. From my understanding and research, the insurance will NOT cover issues related to the virus. *Read through your policy and if you’re unsure, please contact your insurance company about the specifics about what is covered and what isn’t. I always think it’s a good idea to get event insurance for weddings, but I realize it is more than likely not an option right now.
Food. This is going to be a concern for most. If it’s an option, opt for the plated meals versus a buffet. If that’s not in the budget, doesn’t work for your venue, etc., then try to do a serviced buffet instead of a self-serve buffet. People will feel way more comfortable with a caterer wearing gloves scooping mashed potatoes on their plate than they will with Uncle Bob who just coughed into his palm 10 minutes ago and now has his hands all over the tater spoon.
Sanitize. Plan to have sanitizing wipes available by seats, tables, buffets, bathrooms, wherever. You can also get small hand sanitizers as your favors for your guests and have them ready for your guests upon arrival. I found some super cute customized sanitizer labels HERE.
Steer into the skid. Send out an announcement or post something on your website about what you’re doing to help with people’s concerns. Mention the plated meal, inform them of the sanitizer favors, discuss your caterers’ plan to be over-the-top with their sanitary procedures (most caterers are hopefully already doing all these things already). Ease their fears prior to the big day.
Rescheduling. This is the big one. I know it would normally never even cross your mind to reschedule, but the realization is that it might be a good idea. The CDC is highly recommending all events with over 50 guests be cancelled/postponed. Let’s start with the “cons” of rescheduling. Finding the new date that works for you, your venue, and all your vendors is going to be the largest obstacle. Ask your planner to help you reach out to your venue first and then navigate through your other vendors. If you find a date that works for you and your venue, but some of your current vendors aren’t available, the reality is that you may have to cancel those vendors and book new ones. This is rough—for both you and the vendor. You may have to lose a deposit, but hopefully vendors have some flexibility on other payments. My personal policy during this time is to void the contract, keep the deposit (because I’ve held the date, likely turned away other business, and have already worked hours preparing), but I will refund any other monies paid and not hold the client responsible for any remaining payments. Most vendors have something similar in place. If you have a planner, hopefully the vendor rescheduling & search will be as painless as possible. Another “con” is that your guests may have already purchased flights and/or hotels. The reality there is that most are probably considering cancelling those regardless, so I wouldn’t let this alone be a deterrent for you. Now it’s time for the “pros”. You can have the day you’ve dreamed of without all this newly added stress/worry. You can have all the guests there (normal rate of expected guests). You can have the assurance of your vendors. Lastly, you get more time—I don’t know about you, but I feel like there is no such thing as too much time to plan for anything. This is an unbelievably difficult decision and I’m so sorry you’re in this position.
Uninviting. I would never in my life think this would be something I would recommend, but here we are. If you think moving your date is just not going to happen, you might consider changing it to a “family only” wedding. I don’t recommend hand-selecting who to invite and who to uninvite because this could potentially cause way more relationship issues with friends and family than you would ever want to encounter, but if you decide to do “family only” then I don’t think anyone could fault you for that. this obviously isn’t helpful if you have a super large family, but if your combined family members equal around 40 or fewer, this is a very good option for you (I say 40 because I’m keeping vendors in mind as well). **Sample email below**
Other than those actions, all you can do is focus on the most important thing–you are marrying the love of your life. No matter what happens with your guests and/or vendors, you will still be married at the end of the day! Whether you do it now, later this year, or even next year, you’re still getting married. Whether you have 10 or 10,000 guests, the end result is the same. You are taking vows with your spouse in front of loved ones. You will spend the rest of your lives together. You will remember the guests who were able to be there with you. You will look back at your wedding with fondness and love, as it should be.
***Please note that with this ever-changing situation, I will try to update my blog with recommendations as they come.***
Sample Email/Message to Guests:
We are so thrilled to have you attend our big day! We are aware of the health concerns happening right now and wanted to let you know that we are doing everything we can to help prevent the spread of illness at our wedding. We plan to implement extra sanitizing precautions at our wedding and are highly encouraging everyone to wash their hands, use hand sanitizer, sneeze/cough into your elbows, etc. The safety and well-being of our loved ones is very important to us!
It will mean the world to us if you are there for our big day, but if you have a compromised immune system, if you are experiencing any of the symptoms of the COVID-19 virus, or if you are not feeling well in anyway, please know that we not only fully support your decision to refrain from coming to our wedding, but we implore you to do so. If you decide you are unable to attend for any reason, please email/call/text us—having our final accurate guest count is so important for all of our vendors to help ensure we get the best day possible. We sincerely hope to see you at our big day! Please let us know if you have any questions/concerns!
With Love and Well Wishes,
Sample Email/Message to Vendors:
We are so excited to work with you on our big day, but have a growing concern over the COVID-19 virus. We intend to proceed with our wedding as planned, but are very aware that this may impact our big day. Can you please answer these questions at your convenience to help us prepare?
- Can you please tell us what procedures you have in place if you and/or your staff contract the COVID-19 virus?
- Do you have someone in mind who will be able to fill your position if you contract the virus?
- The final date that you need to have our final guest count is set for ________. In light of events, is that still the final date or is there any flexibility on that (we respect the fact that you may not be able to alter that date due to many factors including ordering supplies)?
- Do you have any other thoughts/plans in place with this pandemic?
Again, we are very much looking forward to having you be a part of our big day, but would greatly appreciate any information you can share with us about your thoughts/plans regarding this pandemic. Thank you so much!
Sample Email/Message to Guests if You’re Lowering Your Invitees
We are extremely sad to announce that due to the current health crisis, we have decided to limit the number of guests at our wedding. We have decided to have only our families in attendance. This decision was not made lightly…we were so excited for you to celebrate with us! We feel that our obligation to keep our friends and loved ones healthy is taking precedence over our desire for a big wedding. We can’t tell you how much it means to us that you were planning to come celebrate our marriage and we know that you would be there if you could. We are excited to share the photos/video with you after the big day! Please stay safe and healthy!
With Love and Well Wishes,