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  • Olivia De Santos

How to Plan a Wedding With Covid In Mind

A guide to wedding planning during another wave of Covid

A second wave. Our worst nightmare in the wedding industry.

Our hearts dropped worldwide as another wave of weddings were cancelled, postponed or cut down to impossible numbers.

We are grieving your day as much as you are. For everyone attempting to plan a wedding right now, trust me, I am right there with you. It has been a journey in 2020 to learn how to work with suppliers and continue the progress of wedding planning without ultimately harming our couples or partners long term.

I am doing my best to do the best for everyone. As a destination wedding planner, it's tough to know what to do. So in this article, I want to share my personal steps forward to planning during a pandemic.

We'll cover how to approach your guests as you plan, when to stall your planning, and how to proceed to plan your wedding with caution.

Disclaimer: This is a new situation for me too. It is constantly developing. The way that I personally have decided to deal with wedding planning during a pandemic may not be the same as another wedding planner's policy. This is just how I have decided it attack the situation.

Phot by D10Photo

Reading the room

One of the most, if not the most, important aspects of your wedding planning are your guests.

You want them to have an amazing time celebrating your love with you. If they are travelling from across the world, it's a big expense and inconvenience, so there is pressure to have the very best event you can possibly have.

Of course, wrapped in all of this is the question of safety.

Now, it's important to note that people of different cultures and sensibilities are taking the Covid situation very differently.

You have some people who are extremely cautious, sheltering in place even if not government mandated and generally feeling quite anxious about the whole thing. These people are unlikely to travel until there is a vaccine. Point blank.

Others are far more comfortable with the state of the world and see wearing masks and washing their hands as a normal part of life. They have adapted to the way things are and, whilst it may be annoying, it's not going to stop them from living their lives.

I am personally in the latter camp. I haven't stopped my life for the fear of Covid. But it is important to recognise that:

1. I am young

2. I am healthy

3. I live a relatively solitary life anyway e.g work from home, live in the disconnected countryside etc

The first thing you need to do is to ask your guests how they are feeling.

Are they nervous about Covid? Are they nervous about traveling?

If you feel your guests won't be fully honest with you, you could make a survey using Survey Monkey or Google forms to get anonymous answers from your guest list.

You want your guests to be as open and honest about their concerns as possible.

Photo by Marni V Photography

When to push the breaks

If you are trying to decide whether to postpone your wedding again or how to proceed, my best advice is to follow the mood of your guests.

If your guests are all in, they will likely keep that energy, even through a second or potential third wave. They are excited to travel and have the time of their lives celebrating your amazing day!

If your guests are overwhelmingly anxious and don't want to attend, you have some hard decisions to make.

You have a couple of options in this case:

  1. Determine what percentage loss of guests you would accept. For example, if half of your guests don't attend, would you still go ahead?

  2. Ask your guests if they would prefer a further postponement Maybe if you move your wedding to later in the year or to the following year, your guests may feel more comfortable.

  3. Cancel altogether Which of course we want to avoid as much as possible!

Photo by Luisa Starling

How to plan with caution

If you decide to keep going with your wedding planning, here are a few tactics I am using to be as savvy as possible during the process.

Keeping your ear to the ground

This one goes without saying but I mention it because of the complexities of destination weddings.

In a destination wedding, you are dealing with at least two countries; where you are flying from and where you are flying to.

Because I work with very international couples with family and friends all over, we often have to keep in mind several countries at once.

In a Covid context, this means taking stock of the restrictions in all of these countries.

My advice would be to limit your watching of Covid news. It gets very heavy very quickly if you are checking every day. I personally have designated times during the week that I allow myself to check the Covid situation worldwide.

Photo by Rita Santana

Negotiating deposits

It's been a tough year for wedding suppliers. The question of deposits and refunds is a very tough thing to face. Most wedding suppliers are small businesses or freelance businesses where one deposit refund could be quite devastating.

Having said that, I understand that as you go forward, you want to be as frugal as possible so not to lose a ton of money if you are forced to cancel.

I completely understand both sides.

My personal philosophy on this is the create a meeting in the middle between client and supplier. Here are some ideas:

  1. Asking for a delayed deposit payment In this scenario, you book the supplier but negotiate that the deposit is paid at a later date. This deposit can then be non-refundable

  2. Requesting a lower deposit payment Some suppliers may allow you to pay a lower deposit payment or to spread the deposit payments over a period of time. The supplier then has the right to retain any payments up to the point of cancellation.

  3. Negotiating a refundable deposit up to a certain date This is a tricky one. Usually deposits are non-refundable and with good reason. However, recently I have managed to negotiate refundable deposits up to a certain date. For example, for a wedding in May, I negotiated that the deposit is refundable if the wedding is cancelled before January 31st. If We cancel after that, the supplier keeps the deposit. A cancellation before then, the supplier would give a full refund.

Something so important to understand is that I am not advocating for being unreasonable.

In all of these scenarios, I aim to treat the supplier with respect and come to an arrangement together. Approach from a place of care and consideration.

Your suppliers have every right not to accept those terms as well. Please be reasonable and respectful in your negotiations.

Photo by Phil Drinkwater

Pacing your planning

Another tactic I have been using whilst planning my 2021 weddings is to use every drop of time I have.

If you have a weekday wedding, there is a good chance that availability of suppliers on your chosen date is quite high. Weekday weddings and low-season weddings are always less popular. Therefore you have more choice of suppliers.

My advice is not to rush through your planning.

If you have a Saturday wedding in high season, you need to have your core suppliers booked to feel more at ease.

If you have a low-season or weekday wedding, drag out that time. Take your time in researching and booking suppliers. This extra time you have is a gift. It means you don't need to rush and pay a ton of deposits immediately. You can stretch the timeline of your planning a little further whilst continually reviewing the pandemic situation as you go.

Photo by Piteira Photography

Communicating with guests

So… do you send invitations out?

Hmm good question!

Generally, I think you should send out invitations around the same timelines as always: 8-6months before the wedding date for a destination wedding.

However, I do advocate for giving your guests more time to respond to the invitation.

Check with your caterer when you need final numbers and menu choices decided by. Some caterers in Portugal only need final numbers and details 2 weeks before the wedding date.

In that case, I would put the RSVP date minimum of 4 weeks before the wedding. I know we generally want to know who is coming to the wedding way before 1 month before, but I think guests need more time and security to decide in these trying times.

With my couples, the compromise has been an RSVP date of 8-6 weeks before the wedding day.

Photo by Piteira Photography

I hope that this blog was helpful for you!

I'll end with saying that I understand how tough this is. It's tough for me too. I had never postponed a wedding before 2020. I have now postponed 11 weddings.

I am learning and growing with the times too so if I learn any new tactics and ideas, I will be sure to share them with you.

Come and find me on Instagram and let's keep talking about this.

Wishing you all the best,