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The NEW Wedding Planning Primer

August 4, 2020

COVID-19 has changed EVERYTHING when it comes to wedding planning for the foreseeable future.

It’s no secret that 2020 has seen the events industry turned upside down due to COVID-19. With postponements, cancellations, limits on how many can gather, and even straight up bans in some areas, planning an event couldn’t be more difficult right now. Difficult? Yes. Impossible? No. Let’s talk about wedding planning in a world with COVID!

While there are definitely new obstacles to overcome, we’re here to help give you our best tips on how to make this experience less stressful, and even give you some hope that you can plan confidently! After all, especially in the middle of adversity, we need to hold onto the things that make the human experience beautiful and worthwhile!

"Where couples are running into snags is that by choosing a date first, they aren't able to get all of the professionals together they hope for."

1. Picking a specific date is no longer the first thing to do.

It’s going to feel like it, especially when you have so many wedding professionals that will ask you “which date have you chosen?” The reality is that wedding pros are asking this more than ever because our calendars are filling up so much further in advance. The pandemic has displaced many 2020 events into 2021 currently, and likewise there are couples who were already planning for 2021 that are now jumping on dates faster in order to keep their plans. Where couples are running into snags is that by choosing a date first, they aren’t able to get all of the professionals together they hope for. Now, you may say, “That could have been a problem before too”, and you’re not wrong, but that problem was mostly for prime/popular dates (i.e. 10-10-2020). Now that’s happening for every in-season Saturday in 2021. 

So, what to do? 

First, assemble your team!!

Captain America Calling the Avengers to Assemble. Assemble your wedding planning team!

Choose your DJ, Venue, Photographer, Videographer, and Officiant first. These are the professionals who’s availability will be limited most by the dates on the calendar. Caterers, bakers, florists, and decorators can often times handle multiple events a day, so their availability is often times at a greater capacity for a specific date. Now, if you’re working with someone highly specialized in any of those other professions prioritize them as well. 

After you’ve chosen the core professionals where you’re going to want a specific person/professional(s) at your event, then start a spreadsheet/calendar where you can find out what dates line up for everyone’s availability. If you want you can do this with all of your professionals, but it may be easier to do this in bite-sized groups.

When you have that date that lines up for your core professionals sign contracts and put down your deposits/down payments.

2. Buy event insurance.

Yes, such a thing DOES exist, and yes, you should purchase it as soon as you have your date set with your professionals. Generally speaking, the earlier out you buy your policy the lower in price it’s going to be. Do you think the prices of these policies were cheap when the COVID crisis was upon us with the lockdowns? Absolutely not. Were they likely an affordable price last year at this time? Most definitely. Get your policy right away. 

Make sure the policy covers pandemics, which maybe goes without saying, but read your policy before buying/signing. 

Why buy event insurance you may ask? The biggest reason is that it will cover your wedding investment should you be forced to completely cancel. Make sure you read and understand your policy to know under what circumstances a cancellation would be covered, and what your coverage would be. Obviously the thing you’re doing here is covering money you’ve spent on securing professionals and services. Depending on your contracts with service providers you may not be entitled to any refunds, and that’s where the insurance may be able to step in and help you recoup some of that loss. 

Business woman signing a contract to get her wedding planning team together!

3. Book the rest

Anyone else that’s a must have for your date, get them reserved, and make sure they’re part of your event policy if you need to record them on it. Then TAKE A BREATH!! (even if it’s just a baby’s breath . . . ok no more bad jokes – promise)

A woman in a blue dress holds a branch of baby's breath. She can take a breath from wedding planning.

4. Determine your guest list

You may have already worked on this part, and of course you’re going to invite certain family and friends. This is one of the biggest challenges of planning a wedding, and it shouldn’t really be done until this point. The reasons why are:

  1. The guest list is the BIGGEST and BEST way to control your budget.
  2. You don’t want to be in the position of having your guest list determined before your budget. It will only cause stress.
  3.  You don’t want to be in a position where you can’t afford quality wedding pros because you can barely afford to feed & accommodate your guest list. Get the pros first, then see what you have left to determine how many guests you can afford.

Until we figure out a way to get the pandemic under control, guest counts are going to be a challenge. We may want to have 200 guests at our wedding, but there may be restrictions to only have 50. Due to this circumstance there are two choices:

  1. Determine the top 50 guests that will have priority.
  2. Perpetually postpone your date until restrictions lift to the point of being able to gather your desired number.

There’s no other way to put it – the situation caused by COVID straight up sucks. Here’s some tips on how to handle this:

  1. Send out your save the dates as you normally would. Include, in your own words, that final invitations will be subject to rules imposed by either the venue or government action.
  2. Send your final invitations in waves.

There was a wedding invitation that made the news in England. It appears this wedding invitation was a result of a couple trying to do the best they could with the uncertainty of what their guest count could be due to the pandemic. Unfortunately it was blasted by social media comments. Sending the invitation out in waves would have kept from offending guests in the B & C categories. Here’s how:

  1. Instead of cards that need to be mailed back, create a QR code that links to a website to collect your RSVPs. Make sure it’s printed with instructions. This way it’s extremely easy to get your replies quickly. 
  2. Prioritize your guest list into your A, B, C, D, etc. groups PRIVATELY. We recommend each group consist of 50 guests. Obviously group A will include your wedding party, close family, and a few friends. These are also the guests that are most likely to be replying in the positive to be there.
  3. Send your first round of invitations a bit earlier than you normally would. Also make sure there’s a clear deadline for when you need an answer that gives you time for each phase of invitations and RSVPs. 
  4. Include a question in your RSVP as to the guest’s preference for attendance should COVID restrictions arise. If the disease is spreading more are they less likely to want to attend? If so then there’s your list of guests that will not only understand, but welcome being excused from coming. 
  5. If current restrictions, for example, limited your guest count to 100, you invite rounds A & B, and get 80 positive RSVPs, then you can invite your next 20 from group C. If you get a restriction that later limits  you to 50 you can go back through your RSVPs, see who would likely not come due to covid, and send them a message of thanks for their support & willingness to come, but, due to restrictions, have to prioritize space for your closest family members. 

Do you have suggestions or ideas of what to do in this situation? Leave us a comment!

Picture of Alton Olson

Alton Olson

The founder of SoundFire DJ. Alton is an established wedding professional in Northeast Wisconsin, and influencer in DJ trends and entertainment.

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