Exactly How to Adjust Your Wedding Timeline Due to COVID-19
One significant consequence of the coronavirus pandemic has been the mass postponement and rescheduling of 2020 weddings through 2021. As couples continue to navigate group gathering restrictions from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and varying state guidelines, some to-be-weds have dealt with double-if-not-triple postponements, while others have repositioned their weddings into minimonies, microweddings and more. As one wedding planner has said, "It is a giant game of chess."
As gathering precautions continue to vary and evolve per state, both couples are vendors are further concerned about weddings into 2021. Key advice for those who've secured or rescheduled 2020/2021 wedding dates is to be informed and proactive regarding next steps. This includes postponing sooner than later, or communicating health and safety measures frequently to loved ones. "You must plan and move forward," advises Jung Lee, founder and event architect of Fête Events New York. "Set a date [if it applies to you] and tell your guest list. Everyone will understand and it'll help them better prepare." If you're postponing your wedding or exploring options for a new date, first look at The Knot Rescheduler Tool, which allows couples to plug in up to 15 vendors for their availability amid COVID-19. It really is that simple.
If you decide to proceed with your original date, we encourage couples marrying into 2021 to limit the size of their weddings and consider moving the ceremony and reception outdoors. Finally, of utmost importance: couples must keep the health and safety of guests at the forefront if they're hosting a wedding during the pandemic. According to The Knot 2020 Guest Study, half of guests are still attending a wedding in person through December 2020--and that is naturally accompanied by caution. "Keep the size of your wedding as small as you can," suggests celebrity wedding planner Stefanie Cove of her namesake firm. "Invest in rapid COVID tests for all guests and staff to be responsible. Finally: There are certain states that won't allow sizable weddings, which means you may need to move locations or dates."
Couples who now want to postpone through 2022 are encouraged to keep planning; while others should consider weekday weddings. The reason for this suggestion is straightforward: the majority of your chosen vendors will be available on a Monday over, say, a Saturday. Again, use the The Knot Wedding Date Rescheduler to help facilitate the process.
If you plan to proceed with your wedding in the months ahead, primary factors to consider are largely centered around the safety of you and your loved ones. "I do encourage any weddings going forward to implement health situations," says event planner JoAnn Gregoli of Elegant Occasions. "Have hand sanitizing stations around the venue, and gift hand sanitizers at each place setting. I also would have monogrammed masks as a favor. It's a nice touch for those who wish to mask up. Make it fun, but make it safe."
We spoke to multiple pros about further prioritizing your checklist now, based on your original wedding date. As you navigate this tricky time, let this advice guide you so that you can make a decision that works best for you and your loved ones.
In this article:
Original November 2020 Dates, What to Do
The Move: Postpone depending on location; Proceed with minimonies, microweddings and outdoor weddings if deemed safe; Communicate with guests as COVID cases increase
COVID-19 cases are on the rise across the country, meaning couples should be hyper alert about the possibilities surrounding their nuptials going into the winter. Across the American South, the Upper Midwest United States and other regions around the country and globally, weather conditions are evolving and, as anticipated, coronavirus cases are steadily on the rise. You and your partner may be confronted by much need for flexibility (e.g. moving the wedding outdoors, providing rapid testing kits, pursuing other ceremony formats), in addition to being routinely solution-oriented.
One big way to respond to the ongoing uptick in cases is to communicate often with your guests and provide expectations for health and safety measures routinely with attendees. Utilize your wedding website and that FAQ page, especially now leading into your intended date. Over a million couples have dealt with a similar situation of either having to postpone their nuptials or pivoting their original plans. Keep in mind that even if this means a delayed party, a minimony has been a popular choice for 2020 to-be-weds.
Original December 2020 Dates, What to Do
The Move: Postpone depending on location; Proceed with outdoor weddings and/or monitor specific regions; Communicate with guests as COVID cases increase
Couples are now concerned about weddings this winter and beyond. As currently seen across the country, colder climates create a new slew of challenges for couples who've planned for indoor weddings and receptions. "Winter weddings are completely unknown especially with indoor dining in Metropolitan areas," says Gregoli. "You can plan a winter wedding down south, but know the hot spots are in that region…I am encouraging my couples to plan an outside wedding in other areas of the country where they can install a tent. Tented weddings can be held safely and with a good amount of social distancing, if available."
If that still isn't an option for you given your location, talk to your venue immediately about postponing or proceeding with an elopement or a minimony. "If you've deposited for indoor venues for the winter, you may have to push it back," Gregoli clarifies. Talk to your vendors about health and safety options, social distancing layouts and possible rapid testing kits for all guests. "Events are going to need experienced planners to cover all the bases of safety and sanitation," says Jennifer Johnson of Jenn Events. "[Some] events will be planned in one or two months or less, not a year out. Contracts, contingency plans and postponement stipulations will be a staple for all events."
Original January/February 2021 Dates, What to Do
The Move: Postpone depending on location; Check the fine print; Proceed with outdoor weddings and/or monitor specific regions; Communicate with guests considering post-holiday COVID cases
Stay on top of communication with your vendor team, as they're just as focused on health and safety measures as likely you. Across the American South, weddings are still on the calendar especially at venues and locations where social distancing and outdoor layouts are more feasible. "Now is the time to focus on keeping your guest safe and COVID-free," says New Orleans-based planner Michelle Norwood. "These health and safety details will matter most. For example: If your heart was set on a cocktail style reception, it's now time to revamp your service to a seated, plated dinner."
Depending on your guest count, you may or may not have to make additional adjustments. Stay alert about local changes, considering an uptick in cases expected through the winter globally. If you are keeping your guest count as-is, says Norwood, it's time to carve out more space between loved ones. "Get creative with the floorplan," she suggests.
"If you're wanting to keep the same location, check with your wedding venue first for available dates," says Texas-based planner Ashley Mason of Saunter Weddings. "January is a winter month so many venues consider it as off-peak season and will offer lower rates. Moving to a peak season date or weekend option may bump up the rate so the sooner you touch base with your space and wedding team, the better."
Another tip from Mason is to check your guest list and create a modified list as a possible contingency plan. "When it comes to the current circumstances, people are understanding if you have to reduce your count," she notes. "If your wedding isn't at a private residence, cutting back the invites may be out of your hands, which generally goes over better as an explanation to guests. Venues have to follow the set regulations of the county and state they reside for capacity. Having that secondary list on hand will help you feel prepared. Let your guests know that things are subject to change, so they can prepare too."
Original March/April 2021 Dates, What to Do
The Move: Monitor closely; Revaluate in December/January; Postpone all large, indoor weddings; Keep planning; Set up your wedding website FAQ Page; Communicate with guests and vendors
In some regions across the country, these two months are particularly mild and pleasant for outdoor weddings. "Take advantage of the spring weather and take it outside," says Norwood, as she points to couples with weddings in the American South. "New Orleans, for example, is beautiful and has wonderful spring weather in March."
"April is already a popular month for most places. Moving to a new date within these months is like prime real-estate for your wedding vendors," says Mason. "Think about what about what you've planned and the order of its importance to you, especially when it comes to your vendor team. You may have booked your favorite photographer, picked a dream location or based the whole wedding design on the prettiest seasonal flowers. Consider what matters most to you and base your new date on those factors."
If your event is in an area with unpredictable weather in this season, again be proactive and protect the occasion in advance. "If your venue is indoors but has an outdoor space option or even an atrium room, reserve it just in case or negotiate it into your agreement for potential needs," says Mason. "Outdoor events with open air are generally safer for everyone and you want your guests to feel comfortable. It may be more flexible in terms of how many people you're allowed to have in comparison to being indoors."
In addition to keeping a close eye on the ongoing landscape of the pandemic, proactive planning for "pods" of families will help ease the stress later leading up to your wedding date. This includes safely preparing for everything from seating arrangements to transportation. Review our 2021 trends for fresh ideas and inspiration—make your day beautiful (but safe). During this time, you should set up a general FAQ page on your wedding website--free on The Knot--so that you can clue loved ones into precise expectations for the day as you expect RSVPs. Again, communicate often with vendors as the industry has come up with numerous solutions for pandemic events, such as individualized hors d'oeuvres, bistro-style entertainment, mismatched seating arrangements and welcome boxes.
"January will really tell a lot," Mason notes. "Put some protections in place for yourselves. Research wedding insurance if you haven't already. In times like these, it could be your saving grace if things don't go as you've planned."
Original May 2021 Dates, What to Do
The Move: Monitor closely; Reevaluate in January; Postpone all large, indoor weddings; Keep planning; Set up your wedding website FAQ Page; Communicate with guests and vendors
As with March and April, the Northeast and West Coast will experience likely favorable weather conditions in May. "I would keep your wedding date in May and re-evaluate in January to see how things are improving," Cove says.
If your wedding date remains, proceed with caution and continue to check in with your venue about guest capacity and more. "We have several weddings in May 2021, and the team reduced the amount of guests on shuttles to allow them to feel safe while in transit from location to location," says Norwood. "We're also seating families together to cut back on exposure to new people. This includes getting rid of the kids' tables and seating them with their parents."
Vendors are requiring that guests from different "pods" be seated with enough distance. "If we are absolutely forced to have tables where guests don't know each other, we've changed the layouts from 8-foot tables to bistro seating to allow guests to feel safe and secure while attending our events," Norwood notes.
A decor consideration to plan for is a clear tent given rainy potential across the country. "If you want to keep the festivities outdoors, secure a tent with coverings, optional side walls and flooring throughout. A clear tent still allows you to invite nature in without being subjectable to its elements," says Mason. "Switching from an open-air layout to a tented event may call for a reduced guest count, so that tables can maintain a safe distance."
Original June 2021 Dates and On, What to Do
The Move: Monitor, Reevaluate months before; Keep planning; Communicate with vendors and guests
With an ever-changing outlook of the pandemic and the looming possibility of a vaccine, not much is known about how May 2021 and on will look just yet. "COVID will forever be a part of us and how we move forward with events," says Norwood. "Know that if you're getting married with us, we're working relentlessly to ensure you have the wedding of your dreams. It will still be beautifully executed, while your guests and all vendors remain safe."
"I would still suggest being careful into summer and fall 2021 weddings, especially if you can afford investing in rapid COVID tests for guests and staff," says Cove. "I also think guests may still be concerned to fly or gather in large groups. Hosts should do everything they can to provide a safe environment. This includes making hand sanitizer available, adding extra space between tables, and choosing a venue that is spacious with fresh air flow."
"Stay in constant conversations with your wedding team, invited family and friends," echoes Mason. "The best way to do that is by updating your wedding website and direct communication if needed. Remember: we are all in the same boat, especially your vendors. Revamped weddings [minimonies and microweddings] can be just as amazing and everyone will do their best to make sure you still have an incredible wedding day."
Regardless of your original wedding date or your postponed wedding plans, ultimately, what every couple can do in this moment is reassure themselves that a wedding will happen. "Every person is unique with what they can handle emotionally," Lee concludes. "But it's important for couples to now go with the flow, because the world has changed. Your love and togetherness is not going to change. People have to stop saying 'canceling.' It is about making adjustments to your wedding day. You can't cancel love."
Published March 2020. Updated November 2020.