Planning a wedding during COVID-19

COVID-19 wedding

COVID-19 wedding | photo by Jack Robert Photography

By: Katie Williams, owner + principal planner of Katie Williams Events.

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How has the pandemic impacted your work so far + how has the nature of your work changed?

COVID-19 has impacted so much more than the obvious big picture items of the hospitality + special events industries. Of course, venues, catering companies, and restaurants have been temporarily closed, employees at these places have been furloughed or even laid off entirely, and the floral industry has been in complete shambles with no outlet for their beautiful flowers. But, I think the public is probably aware of most of that. However, what we have experienced, and what we know our industry peers have experienced, even more so than what is covered in the media, is so much more involved and much deeper than that. COVID-19 has changed everyone’s day-to-day practices and has cut deep emotionally + mentally for our team, our peers, our industry and couples looking to tie the knot right now.

As a wedding planning company, our team consists of myself (Owner + Principal Planner), a Lead Planner, and four Associate Planners. What we do as planners and the service we provide is crucial, not only for the couples + their families, but also for the industry peers and vendors we work with. Planners help connect the wants + needs of the couple with the realistic options and plans that a venue or vendor can offer to make the couples’ dreams come true. We are problem solvers + logistical masterminds most of the time - it’s not all just picking out pretty flowers + tasting yummy cake. Fortunately for us, because of the service we offer, we have not experienced a drop in business or a stall in our productivity. In fact, we have been busier than ever. However, what we are so busy with is drastically different than our “norm.” We have postponed 22 weddings from this spring/early summer, and the postponement process consumes about 50% of the time we would normally spend each week planning, designing, meeting with couples, working with vendors, etc.

Our team has worked overtime most weeks since mid-March in order for us to postpone + rearrange all impacted weddings, as well as continuing on “as normal” with planning for our fall/winter and 2021 weddings. A postponed wedding isn’t simply a date change for us - we work with every venue and vendor involved to ensure contracts are updated + plans are rearranged for both the couple and vendors. And the most important thing of all, we act as a sounding board and a soft place to land for our couples and our vendors when they need to vent, to cry, or to just have someone to listen to them during all of this.

If a couple is waiting to decide whether or not to postpone their wedding, what factors should they consider when determining when or how to make the call?

If a couple is still deciding whether or not to postpone their wedding, they should consider the following:

  1. When is your wedding date and will your venue be open and willing to host your wedding on that date? Right now, certain venues are not willing to host weddings until August, at the earliest, so you should immediately reach out to your venue to determine when they will be reopening for weddings + what their policies are.
  2. Does your venue have capacity policies in place if they are reopening for weddings? Will this impact your overall plans and the vision you had for your day? If you have invested a good bit of money in wedding design, and capacity policies have altered your vision + design plan, it may be worth it to consider postponing until you can have the wedding you’ve dreamed of.
  3. Deciding to postpone is also about priorities. Wedding design + vision may not be a huge priority to some couples. To others, it may. There is no shame in that. We truly believe that every wedding is a unique expression of the couple + their love, so we want to remind people not to feel guilty or shameful for any reason you may want to postpone your wedding.
  4. What are your health risks? Do you have many family members and/or friends who are at high risk for contracting coronavirus? If those people were not in attendance at your wedding, would you be upset by this? Even if your venue is open + allows weddings again, if not having your high risk loved ones present will negatively impact your day, you may want to consider postponing.
  5. And then of course there is the financial impact to consider. Most venues + vendors we work with are not applying any fees or charges to the couples to move their wedding to a new date. All money paid up until this point is just being applied to the new date. So, you should certainly discuss the finances with your vendors first, but for the most part, you shouldn’t face any financial troubles by simply postponing with your vendors + moving the date.

Are there any unexpected costs that couples are incurring as a result of postponing or cancelling their wedding plans?A couple may incur unexpected costs if they decide to postpone past a certain point in relation to their wedding date. For example, most floral designers need to place floral orders anywhere from as early as 30 days out to three weeks before the big day. Flowers are perishable items, so once money has been spent in ordering them, that money is non-refundable. The only major financial loss our couples have experienced thus far has been in floral costs if they postponed their wedding after their wedding flowers had already been ordered. Thankfully, no labor costs or deposits were lost, they were reapplied to the new date.

Another area where a couple may incur some costs from postponing would be with their invitations. If you have already mailed invitations, you will need to send a change of date card (but you can also do this digitally to save some money) to let your guests know about the new date with a new way to RSVP. Some of our couples who prioritized their beautiful invitations have ordered a completely new suite. Many stationers are offering a discount to reprint for a new date, so it hasn’t been the full cost paid again, but there has still been some financial impact there. Otherwise, we haven’t seen many financial implications for our couples when they postpone.

Now, if they cancel their wedding or change vendors for whatever reason, they are going to face some financial loss. Canceling on a venue or any vendors if they are open + willing to host/serve/produce your wedding, typically means, per most contracts, the couple is not entitled to a refund. Now, that may mean no refund of just the non-refundable deposit or that could mean no refunds of any money paid. That depends on the terms of the contract. If a couple is cancelled on, then the couples might be entitled to a refund. Again, that will be determined on a contract-by-contract basis, but we have found most venues/vendors who are canceling on couples for reasons relating to COVID-19 are offering full refunds.

What is the timeline for most spring weddings that have been rescheduled?

All of the spring (and even some summer) weddings that have rescheduled have primarily moved into fall 2020, with a sprinkling moving all the way into 2021. Out of the 22 we postponed, seven moved to 2021 and 15 moved to late summer or fall 2020.

What is the most creative/unique thing you’ve seen a Greenville couple do as a result of the coronavirus?

Our couples who postponed have all stayed pretty close to their original plans so that nothing felt too different for them (more so than it already has). The consensus between most of these couples is that they just don’t want COVID-19 to really be a part of their memories if they can help it. But, we have had some couples still hold their small, intimate ceremonies, and those have been so special and meaningful. One of our couples had their friends park in front of the church where they held their small ceremony, and everyone cheered for them when they came out. It was so sweet and a surprise for the couple!

What is the most creative/unique thing you’ve seen a local vendor do as a result of the coronavirus?

Uptown Entertainment has really jumped to offer services to help those couples who will have guests wanting to attend “virtually.” They are offering virtual wedding kiosks, which we thought was so innovative + awesome!

What have you learned from helping folks plan their nuptials during this unusual time?

We have learned that the most important thing is that our couples get to tie the knot with their person, no matter what it takes. We work with some of the most amazing people, and they are so resilient + strong. Throughout this whole process we have experienced so much grace and generosity of spirit, time, and service from our fellow vendors as well. Our Greenville events + hospitality community is so special and tight-knit, and we just feel all-the-more honored and prouder than ever to be a part of it!

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