To everyone who is hoping to get married this year during an unprecedented global pandemic, we see you. Like having a big sister, sometimes it’s nice to hear from someone who has gone through a difficult experience first. Here, brides and vendors share their wisdom on how they are handling planning weddings in the midst of COVID-19, reassuring you they’ve been there and want to help guide you through. Thanks for persevering.
Grace Riley, bride from New Madrid, Missouri
“Our wedding was originally scheduled for April 4. We got the call March 20 that our venue was shutting down due to the state-mandated closure. The first and only available 2020 date to reschedule at my dream venue was December 26. We got a call a few weeks later that a new available date had come open, October 3. Thank you, Jesus! We took it as fast as our venue could offer it. We are so thankful this date became available, and we are now planning our ‘once spring, then winter, now fall’ dream wedding.
“My biggest piece of advice would be to become adaptable. We have grown up in a wedding culture that teaches us it is ‘our big day’ and nothing is going to get in the way of that. Clearly, it can. I would also advise brides and grooms to have plan B, C, D and even E. Postponing our wedding was one of the most mentally- and emotionally- draining things I have ever experienced. It took several weeks for me to feel anything but bitterness and disappointment. Those two feelings do not mix well with wedding planning, and that is exactly what I had to get back to when we got our new date.
“Normally, I am someone who pays attention to who does and does not show up for me (in any aspect). These are different, uncertain times, and you cannot fault anyone for how they choose to cope. I believe we are all doing the best we can. Just like some people don’t understand brides and grooms moving on with their big days this year, I cannot understand how you could fault a couple for trying to make the best of this terrible situation. I think we all have to show each other grace during this time. Some people are not going to feel comfortable coming to celebrate you, and that is okay! I would tell guests to reach out to the couple and explain that although they would love to be there, they just do not feel comfortable. As brides and grooms planning a wedding during this madness, I promise they will understand. They, too, are having to make some tough decisions. Just be honest and transparent; that is all anyone can ask for.”
Allie Zeller, bride from Jackson
“After getting engaged, we immediately started dreaming of our winter wonderland wedding and planned for it to take place December 19, 2020. With all of the uncertainty in the world, we started brainstorming the idea of moving our wedding up to August 15, 2020, in hopes things would stay safe throughout the summer. When I talked to our venue, photographer, caterer and many more of our vendors, they were all available to switch to our new date, so we decided it was meant to be. We chose to move our wedding up because we know we are ready to start our lives as husband and wife, instead of waiting even longer.
“Though planning a wedding during a pandemic has been stressful at times, I’ve seen a lot of beauty in the process. I have realized the most important and beautiful part of a wedding is the actual marriage and love itself. There have most definitely been bumps in the road, a few tears and uncertainty about how the day will look, but knowing I found my person to go through it with makes everything else not matter. I’ve learned not to get caught up in the look of the day, but rather to keep falling more in love with Matt and the life we’re creating together. Life is messy sometimes just like this pandemic, so I have stayed focused on 1 Corinthians 13, ‘Love Conquers All.’ My advice to other brides is to stay focused on the certainty of your love and do your best to enjoy this time. Because in the end, it is true: love does conquer all.”
Linda McKinnis, wedding designer and planner, Design Exclusive, LLC
“The new wedding trend during this pandemic seems to be to plan a smaller, much simpler and low-key wedding. Guest numbers have dramatically downsized. What used to be the norm of 250 to 300 guests has now shifted to about 100 guests or so. Many of our 2020 weddings have been postponed and moved to 2021. A small number of our brides have actually kept their original wedding dates and opted for an intimate ceremony with only immediate family. They are still planning a later reception to celebrate with friends and family when things return to normalcy.
“The typical wedding food buffet has changed to plated dinners or served dinner lines. Having two bars instead of one is another growing option to help with social distancing guidelines. Seating charts are strongly recommended and help limit people from being seated too closely. Adding a note card in your invitations about possible and alternating plans is recommended, as well. Updating your wedding website would be a great way to offer possible changes. Offering hand sanitizer is a must. Some of our couples are even giving personalized mini hand sanitizers as guest gifts. Special orders are limited now due to shipment from other countries. An outdoor tent celebration is a popular trend.”
Debbie Statler and Tessa Seabaugh, Ladders & Lace in Perryville, Missouri
“We had several weddings this past spring that chose to reschedule due to the pandemic and a few that went ahead as planned with proper social distancing and safety precautions. So far, we’ve only had two that completely canceled. We have also had a few last-minute bookings because the venues the couples had reserved were unable to provide adequate social distancing. Because we have plenty of outdoor space for seating, we were able to accommodate.
“We have definitely seen a surge in bookings for next year with couples who have postponed their weddings this year. With that in mind, anyone planning an event for next year should be looking at getting a date secured soon. The pandemic has added a few additional things to the list of what to look for in a venue. Couples should inquire about the venue’s ability to abide by social distancing requirements as well as be aware of cancellation policies.”
Teresa Blankenship, caterer at The Southerner in Cape Girardeau and Tractors in Jackson
“Everyone is re-thinking service and food presentation to eliminate the need for guests to gather in small areas and use the same serving utensils. We are doing a lot of pre-made mini appetizer plates and pass-arounds. Multiple stations with various small plates spread out around the venue and team service buffets are also popular. Many couples are offering masks on their guest book tables and hand sanitizers as party favors.
“When you talk to your caterer or wedding planner, let them know what you really want and what you are concerned about. There are so many creative solutions that in most cases, the things that are important to you can still be done with some minor modifications. In fact, many of the things we are doing now are so popular I expect them to continue long after the pandemic is over! Many of our couples are downsizing and are loving the more intimate affairs. Another trend is having a preview time for guests that are more vulnerable and would like to come but not comfortable with being in group settings. Couples are inviting these guests in to see the venue before the other guests arrive so they can feel a part of the day when everyone is discussing the décor, etc., after the event.”