SOS—you’ve learned that COVID-19 may affect your Big Day plans. The show could go on, so here’s what to do to make it work.
Your wedding day is supposed to be one of the most memorable moments of your life. However due to the COVID-19 virus epidemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have released new guidelines urging people to postpone any events of 50 or more people for the next eight weeks. Many couples who were planning to get married this year are finding themselves overwhelmed by the many obstacles. We spoke with some wedding industry experts to get some insights on how you can make the best of this troubling time.
“Every area of the wedding industry is being affected by the coronavirus. You can’t escape it,” says Slomique Harwrylo, owner of Los Angeles based event planning firm Carpe Diem. “From dream venues, floral artistry shops to entertainment, those in the business cannot escape the ripple effect of concerns and fears from couples who are facing the harsh reality that their wedding may have to be canceled or postponed. Guests may not show up; parents may fall in the category of concern due to their age.”
So how do you navigate during these uncertain times? If you are working with a wedding planner, be sure you are in constant contact.
“Wedding planners are desperately trying to manage an ever-changing situation and ease fears,” says Michelle Gainey of Lemiga Events in Atlanta. “That’s the greatest benefit of having a planner. With our critical thinking skills, vendor relationships, and ability to think practically and not emotionally, we can help our clients with creating the best possible outcome. Every case is unique, and I have to really evaluate each situation differently to make sure couples have the most positive experience possible.”
Vendors feel horrible, but at the same time understand the concerns and fear of couples.
“They are truly trying to meet couples half-way if they decide to postpone their services,” says Hawrylo. “Especially if they are available for the date the couple decides to select in the near future. These vendors would allocate your deposit to the future date without penalties.”
Smaller venues that tend to sell out every year may not be as accommodating, leaving couples rereading their contracts to see if there’s any wiggle room.
“Vendors are also concerned about 2021 and the financial impact that the virus is causing,” adds Hawrylo. “Couples who usually plan a year in advance, are holding out before booking vendors, until there is a control on the virus or health officials approve gatherings in larger crowds.”
Need some advice on how to deal with the stress of uncertainty? “Stay calm and keep a level head. This may seem extremely difficult, but it is so important in making clear and rational decisions,” offers Hawrylo. “Read and reread your contracts, especially for your wedding venue and honeymoon. Review all cancellation policies, just in case this becomes an option for you and your fiancé. Inquire about postponement versus cancellation, so you don’t lose your deposit.”
With travel restrictions now in place outside of the country and domestic restrictions sure to follow at some point, veteran wedding planner Jamésa S. Adams, lead heiress at Jayne Heir Weddings in Washington, D.C., strongly recommends the importance of insurance. “As it relates to travel, especially international, it’s best to not take the risk of exposing yourself to the virus and avoiding airports, trains and modes of transportation with large crowds,” she said.
Adams strongly recommends investing in trip insurance, which allows you to cancel, regardless of the reason. “Although trip insurance may not provide full reimbursement, it still puts you in a position where you are not subject to a complete loss of the funds spent for your trip or honeymoon,” she says.
With the entire country affected by coronavirus, what if your wedding or honeymoon festivities are in a hotspot? Adams stressed communicating immediately with the vendors. “If you have planned a destination wedding to Europe, you need to contact your vendors and understand what the options are as it relates to rescheduling your wedding for a later date in the year—pending it is declared safe to travel to that location. I would suggest the same for couples who may be planning to wed in Washington or California, as they have the highest number of confirmed cases in the United States at the moment.”
So, we know it is crucial to stay in touch with your wedding planner and vendors. What about the dress? With the bulk of manufacturing coming out of China, the wedding dress industry was affected from the initial outbreak. Delays are normal and unavoidable.
Bridal designer Dalia MacPhee feels a bit more prepared for what is happening. “The apparel industry was one of the first industries that got hit from COVID-19, so we are in a little less shell shock, although still very much affected.”
MacPhee has noticed the frustration many brides have felt, with the virus impacting wedding dresses not being delivered on time. “If a bride has already ordered her wedding dress, check in with the vendor immediately. Ask them where the dress is being made and find out the exact/latest possible delivery date. Let them know that you are completely understandable of the current world situation, but that you would appreciate the reality, so you can make other plans if necessary.”
If the dress is being made in China, chances are it may be delayed by a month or two because things are just now ramping back up, says MacPhee. But supply disruption will likely persist as factories navigate new virus protection measures. “If the origin is Europe or the USA, you are probably also looking at delays. It may be very wise to plan for backups, just in case. I have a friend who had a backup gown loaned from another friend, and a few weeks prior to the wedding when it was clear her dress would not arrive, she was able to get the backup altered and fitted perfectly to her.”
Other alternatives are to look at bridal houses with a large inventory as well as consignment retailers and dress rental companies, as they are best served to meet demands at this time.
Cancel or Postpone?
Many states have begun banning large gatherings in an effort to get better control over the spread of the virus. And the new guidelines urging people to postpone events of 50 or more people for the next eight weeks to “reduce introduction of the virus into new communities and to slow the spread of infection in communities already affected by the virus” is no doubt having you ask, “What do we do?”
The CDC offers some advice for couples who choose to go through with their celebration on the original date. “Events of any size should only be continued if they can be carried out with adherence to guidelines for protecting vulnerable populations, hand hygiene and social distancing. When feasible, organizers could modify events to be virtual,” the new guidelines read.
The decision to cancel or postpone for a later date can be difficult for a variety of reasons.
Katrina Fleisher, marketing and media director for Florida’s Royal Palm Events & Catering in Royal Palm Beach, FL, suggests couples stay informed on what is happening and practice good hygiene. “As long as risk is low in your area, you can hold your wedding as planned, but make adjustments and back-up plans,” she said.
Fleisher points out that rather than couples having a destination wedding, they should consider having it more local in their area. “Plan for out-of-town guests to join you via video. You could also broadcast your wedding/event on Facebook Live. We’ve had destination wedding couples ask us to help them with that.”
Fleisher asks her staff to wash and sanitize their hands even more than usual. “We’re doing additional cleaning in our restrooms and kitchen, and any staff member who isn’t feeling well must stay home.”
If you decide to go on with your wedding as planned, Fleisher recommends couples ask their venue and vendors how they plan to help keep you and your guests safe.
“Wash your hands often and avoid touching as much as possible. Encourage your guests to wave or bow rather than shake hands or hug. Hand sanitizer (or sanitizing wipes) as wedding favors is a nice idea as well—you can match your wedding colors or theme. And, of course, don’t share silverware or eat from the same plate as others.”
Fleisher’s husband, Bud Fleisher, aka “DJ Buddy Boca,” reminds guests to take care of themselves by washing their hands. “Just a few weeks ago, this would have been awkward. Now it’s reasonable and responsible,” he says.
Fleisher brings a second microphone for wedding toasts to the venue. “I have begun charging for an extra mini system (easily available at AMAZON or similar) that is great for clients to use for toasts.”
Fleisher recommends that couples ask their DJ to stick to dance floor hits. “The urge to snuggle up to ballads will be all but gone,” he quipped. “Make your first dance the only ballad by request. Luckily, today, most dances are free form and do not involve much contact. There will be no awkward need to say no to anyone that asks someone to dance.”
For couples wanting live music, a band is a great idea. But with the current global health crisis, musicians have to come up with alternatives to live performances.
“People hire us specifically because they want live music, and often, much time goes into the choosing of the pieces, the timing of the music and the overall emotional impact of the event that music helps to achieve,” notes Janice Mautner Markham, a violinist who performs with her string ensemble, The JAC Trio.
Markham works with couples to consider the variety of options. “Some plan to move ahead with having live music, with the goal to be vigilant in hand washing and keeping surfaces clean. This is the protocol doctors and scientists are suggesting if there is human interaction.”
Another idea: pre-taping the music for guests to hear.
“It’s not ideal, but in this current climate, most will agree that erring on the side of caution is prudent,” she explained. “A couple getting married in May has talked to us about having the music played live but having the entire wedding on Facebook Live so the guests would be able to view the wedding exactly as they would if they were there.”
She added: “Each engagement party and wedding will be a unique situation with different challenges as we continue to face this pandemic. It is clear we will need to take care to be sure that the health of our family, friends and those creating these memorable events are all taken into account.”
We know that each day, even every hour, brings something new as we learn more about COVID-19 and ways to deal with it. Many brides and grooms are having to make the tough decision to cancel or postpone their Big Day as the coronavirus continues to spread across the country. We urge you to listen to the authorities, talk to your wedding planner and vendors to see what options you have and what make sense for you and your family. Try to stay calm and know that your love, family and friends will see you through. And we have faith that you will marry on.