Exactly How to Adjust Your Wedding Timeline Due to COVID-19
Updated: July 17, 2020
One significant consequence of the coronavirus pandemic has been the mass postponement of spring and summer and, soon, fall and winter 2020 weddings. As couples 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 simply had to reposition their nuptials ahead. As one wedding planner has said, "It is a giant game of chess."
As gathering precautions continue to vary and evolve per state, most to-be-weds are now concerned about fall weddings and beyond. "I feel for couples: this is supposed to be the happiest time," says Jung Lee, founder and event architect of Fête Events New York. "With that said, people more than ever need to see hope, celebration and togetherness in a place where they feel safe."
Key advice for those who've set or have rescheduled 2020 wedding dates is to be informed and proactive regarding next steps. "You must plan and move forward," Lee advises. "Set a date [if it applies to you] and tell your guest list. Everyone will understand and it'll help them better prepare."
Many pros are currently encouraging couples who still want to marry in 2020 to limit the size of their weddings and to move the ceremony and reception outdoors or to add on tents to keep the health and safety of guests at the forefront. Meanwhile, couples who want to postpone to 2021 are now being encouraged to consider weekday weddings. The reasons for this are straightforward: the majority of your chosen vendors will be available on a Monday over, say, a Saturday. By selecting a Thursday, Sunday or Monday wedding date, guests will have the flexibility of enjoying the welcome dinner and other festivities before and after the nuptials without scheduling concerns.
If you plan to proceed with your wedding in 2020, there are factors to consider regarding the safety of you and your loved ones. "I do encourage any weddings going forward to still implement healthy situations," says event planner JoAnn Gregoli of Elegant Occasions. "Have hand sanitizer stations around the venue and gift hand sanitizers at each place setting. I also would have monogrammed masks as a favor, just 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 August Dates, What to Do
The Move: Proceed with minimonies, microweddings and small outdoor ceremonies; Postpone in densely populated regions or highly-impacted areas
As certain states are easing group gathering restrictions and the coronavirus continues to take hold across others, couples are encouraged to be vigilant about local changes and to be prepared with backup plans. "For weddings taking place in the metropolitan area, it is advised couples move the party to 2021," says Gregoli. "We are encouraging them to, instead, host a small, 50 person [or less] wedding. Furthermore, with the surge of viruses increasing around the country, moving to another hotspot is not a good idea."
Due to the nature of COVID-19, planners have worked with couples since the spring to reserve multiple backup dates. "I've secured two to four backups options for my couples," says Lee. Along with contingency plans, Gregoli recommends couples review anything they sign from this point on. "Make sure all contracts now have a COVID disclaimer, so that all deposits can be moved to the new dates with a possible mention of a third move," she advises.
Finally: After postponing or as you continue to watch the situation, you must notify your guests with a change-the-date alert or up-to-date postponement plans. Communicate all updates in a way that is presented with clarity and mindfulness. Be respectful about the updated plans and express gratitude to all those guests who've already booked flights, hotel rooms and more as your backup plan unfolds.
Going digital, the planners say, is "the most effective way to" pass along any relevant information. The Knot Editors recommend creating a specific FAQ page on your wedding website to relay any updated information. Finally, here's how to address vendors as the situation remains challenging. We encourage couples to exercise flexibility and patience as many small businesses have been impacted by the health crisis, as well.
Original September/October Dates, What to Do
The Move: Proceed with minimonies, microweddings and outdoor ceremonies; Postpone in densely populated regions or highly-impacted areas
As climates become more moderate in September and October in certain regions, planners recommend considering outdoor tented weddings or alternative outdoor options for ceremony layouts. "We can create a standalone outdoor venue, and can make the tent larger than needed to meet the needs," Gregoli says. "If you proceed, then plan an outdoor event by all means. If the venue can erect the tent, that is what I am encouraging people to do. That way, you do not lose your deposits. If that is not an option, then you must push the wedding back to 2021."
Again, keep in mind that the situation could shift or evolve. Before you sign contracts, review them carefully and make sure your chosen vendors are flexible with rescheduling or postponing down the line with COVID-specific phrasing.
In the interim: Continue marking off your checklist items. Check in with your respective attire companies (dress boutiques, tuxedo rentals and bespoke services) to see if they will still meet all deadlines for delivery or pickup. Finalize those alterations and secure travel and lodging plans if they've since changed. If you're finalizing décor and more, we recommend withholding date stamps from favors and other insignia that could possibly be obsolete.
Original November Dates, What to Do
The Move: Monitor until further notice; Proceed with minimonies, microweddings and outdoor weddings if deemed safe
As you monitor the ongoing pandemic, there is something you can do to get ahead. Keep planning and work on your relationship first and foremost. As you continue marking off checklist items, consider new ways to personalize your nuptials ahead. As previously mentioned, withhold from including wedding dates on your décor if they have yet to be printed and it wouldn't hurt to touch base with your attire companies as well.
"Everyone is hoping that we will be starting to see some light at the end of what has at times seemed a dark tunnel," says planner Jennifer Johnson of St. Barths-based planning company Epic Presentations. "What we need to remember is every celebration has taken on more meaning in every way. I would not plan for a full scale wedding in November but still stay with the micro wedding or possible destination elopement concept. Again, there are still multiple ways to celebrate and incorporate guests into the event."
Across northern and Midwestern states, weather conditions will begin to evolve, while many unknowns will filter into the decision-making process. This is the year you and your partner will be required to exercise much flexibility in addition to being routinely solution-oriented. Over a million couples have dealt with a similar situation of having to postpone their nuptials. Keep in mind that even if this means a delayed party, you are still welcome to kick off your marriage with a minimony.
Original December Dates and On, What to Do
The Move: Postpone depending on location; Proceed with outdoor weddings and/or monitor specific regions
The most vigilant of couples are now concerned about weddings this winter and beyond. If you've secured a weekend fall date, then know that you're in a good place. Continue marking off those checklist items, however, because this fall already appears to be an even busier season for vendors.
With colder climates comes a whole slew of challenges for couples who've originally planned ceremonies and receptions in indoor spaces. "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."
"The most important thing that we are all looking at is the safety of ourselves, our families and our guests," Johnson agrees. "All events moving forward will depend on these factors. If it looks like people are clear to travel freely I believe they will."
"I am encouraging my couples to plan an outside wedding in other areas of the country where they can install a tent," Gregoli muses. "Tented weddings can be held safely and with a good amount of social distancing available."
If that isn't an option for you given your location, talk to your venue immediately about postponing the nuptials. "If you've deposited for indoor venues for the winter, you may have to push it back," Gregoli adds. "Indoor dining is not opening for the foreseeable future in the NYC area."
In addition to outdoor alternatives, Johnson and her peers in destination wedding spaces are open to last-minute scheduling requests should travel be deemed safe again. "There could be last minute events that will pop up in many destinations, say the Caribbean and Mexico, for quick travel," Johnson concludes. "Events are going to need experienced planners to cover all the bases of safety and sanitation. Many 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."
Regardless of your original wedding date, 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 acknowledges. "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 July 2020.