On a call with NYC wedding planner Jennifer Brisman, I asked bluntly how the hell people are supposed to deal with Coronavirus uprooting their long-planned weddings. And while listening to Brisman steadily explain her checklist, I felt an unexpected sense of calm wash over me. I’m not sure why I was so shocked, because if there’s anyone who can handle a crisis with grace, it’s a wedding planner.
Brisman, ever-multitasking and remarkably cool, reminded me that event pros are some of the most agile, accommodating and professional people on the planet. This remained even more true after speaking with my own wonderful wedding planner, Johnna Van Dien of Great Events Chicago. Together, the two experts guided me through planning a wedding in the midst of the Coronavirus, and frankly, their advice rings true for so many situations beyond just postponing your walk down the aisle.
1. Be informed, make a decision and move forward
Yes, this strategy is great for planning a wedding in the midst of a pandemic, but, as Van Dien says, “It’s also just how I live my life.” You need information to make smart decisions, so start there. Collect it. Research it. Analyze it. With COVID-19, our ways of life are changing rapidly, sometimes on an hourly basis. Stay informed on local, state and national laws on public gatherings. From there, you can make an informed decision. We are by no means confusing “informed” with “easy.” Any decision you make will not be free of complications, challenges or difficult feelings, but if you’re trying to get out of the murky gray area, you’ll need to come to a decision. Only then can you move forward.
2. Consider your date
A wedding that’s supposed to happen this weekend will have totally different stakes than a wedding planned a that's couple months away. For those who have events in the immediate future, you’ll be at the top of your wedding planner’s and venue’s list. Brisman points out that the landscape could be very different three or four months from now, so there's nothing to be gained from making changes ASAP—especially since weddings in the near future are probably going to get priority when it comes to rescheduling. This is an instance where it’s worth being patient and seeing how a number of situations evolve.
3. Be communicative and collaborative
Whether your wedding is tomorrow or in two months, Brisman has one major piece of advice: “Couples really lean on their venues and vendors [in order to] partner with them. Collaborate with them and be understanding.” Executing an event for 250 people, Brisman told me, probably warrants 20 to 25 waiters, 20 to 25 back-of-house staff members and a banquet team. There’s also travel and transportation (even on the ground) to be considered, all of which requires a cascade of communication. “If you are facing a challenging situation, take a breath, schedule time to communicate with your wedding and event planner or with whoever’s running point (venue or caterer),” Brisman advises.
4. Don’t make demands
Overall, Brisman advises her clients to be flexible. Don't make demands because, well, things are unprecedented and there’s no roadmap to this situation. And keep in mind that the entire wedding industry is focusing on the clients’ whose events are scheduled to take place during March or April. If your wedding isn’t for a few months, chances are your wedding planner or venue will tell you to hold tight (if they don’t offer up other options immediately).
5. You know your guests better than anyone
Van Dien asks her clients, “Will the wedding be what you envisioned? Will your guests be stressed? Will the energy be there?” Maybe it’s a bit off from what you envisioned—that’s fine! You’re a pragmatist. But will your guests have the desire to get down on the dance floor or even do the hora? A wedding celebration is as much about the guests’ experience as it is about yours. If they’re having a bad time, it very well could rub on you, too. Van Dien had one client postpone her wedding because, logistics aside, “No one felt like having a party.”
6. Plan to have no plan
If there’s anybody who can plan themselves out of a hole, it’s a wedding planner. And for Van Dien, her plan is to be ready to change course at any time. Take it each day at a time. Today your is wedding on? Great. Tomorrow your venue offers a December date? Go back to #1 on this list—gather your information, make a decision and move forward.
7. Consider alternatives in the meantime
Lots of couples with weddings on the horizon will feel like they’re in limbo, which stinks. But there are small ways to take control in the midst of chaos. If you have to postpone, Brisman suggests hosting a socially distanced event on Zoom, Google Hangouts or Skype. Think about filming your first dance from your living room and sharing it with family and friends (yes, you should break out the wedding dress and tux). Get your bridal party together for the toasts that you were so looking forward to. You can even do a “Cloud Wedding,” a virtual run-of-show of the entire event. Things might not be going according to plan, but it is possible to celebrate your marriage in even the strangest of times.