2020 has been a crazy year! This may be the biggest understatement of all time. As I look back on my social media statuses and goals I had in early 2020, I thought it was going to be "the best year ever". Thankfully, I think we were all blissfully unaware of the challenges 2020 would present us all. As we look to 2021, we are starting to see a glimmer of hope in the form of COVID-19 vaccines. A question I have been starting to get a lot from my couples is, "What do I think the vaccine could mean for weddings in 2021?" Honestly, I am VERY optimistic and I think the vaccine is going to be a game changer for weddings in 2021.
Many of the questions I am starting to receive center around whether or not couples should consider postponing their 2021 weddings. As always, this is a difficult question to answer and really depends on your wedding vision. I believe flexibility in 2021 is still going to be key.
Early 2021 Weddings
If you are getting married in January, February, March or April; it is widely believed that restrictions as they are today (December 2020) will still be in place. The first people who will be getting the vaccine are healthcare workers and senior citizens living in congregate settings like assisted living facilities and nursing homes. The vaccine is not projected to be available to the general public until late Spring. If your wedding is in the early months of 2021, I would ensure you know what the restrictions are in your venue's locality, since restrictions can vary significantly by state and county. Reach out to your wedding venue and make sure you have a clear understanding of what your event will look like and what restrictions will be in place. Assess whether or not you are comfortable proceeding with these restrictions in place at your event. One thing I will add: I have worked with many couples in 2020 who had to pivot and reimagine their weddings, and no matter the guest count they still had the "Best day ever!" Many of them actually preferred their smaller and more intimate weddings as it allowed them to prioritize around more personalized celebrations for those in attendance. However, this is a decision you and your partner should make together and feel comfortable with.
May & June Weddings
If your wedding is in May or June, I would advise my couples to hold tight. The waiting game is never fun. It may be a stressful couple of months as you watch the news and see how things will play out leading up to your wedding. For some couples, the inability to plan and stress of the uncertainty can be overwhelming. If you are someone who is not going to be able to sleep at night worrying about your wedding or the stress is starting to affect your relationship, it may be best to postpone and save yourself a rocky couple of months. In 2020, many of my couples expressed that most of the joy and happiness that usually comes along with the months leading up to their wedding had been taken away or overshadowed. They had to forgo bridal showers, engagement parties, and bachelor and bachelorette parties. If you feel like your wedding is shrouded in sadness and stress, postponing until a later date may be advisable so that you can have all of the moments of joy and celebration that would normally accompany your impending nuptials. This being said, I do feel cautiously optimistic about weddings occurring with far fewer restrictions and closer to "normal" in May and June.
My biggest piece of advice is to hold off on printing or sending any wedding invitations until there are some clear signs what your wedding will look like. If you send invitations too soon when things are still uncertain with the virus, you may get a lot of premature declines and guests who simply do not respond.
Some compromises that you may need to make are:
Reduced guest count
Masks worn at all times when guests are not eating and drinking
Socially distanced dance floors
Assigned cocktail hour tables
No buffet style food (I think this one should be observed all throughout 2021)
The most important advice that I can give is to ask questions! You or your planner should be in direct contact with your venue to understand what restrictions they have in place. It is critical to have an open dialog with them in advance so you understand how you may need to pivot your wedding in the weeks and months to come. It is always better to prepare for the worst case scenario in advance than have to scramble right before your wedding and make knee jerk decisions.
Summer, Fall, and Winter 2021 Weddings
Many health professionals are signaling that late May to early June may be the turning point for this virus. At this point in time, health professionals are projecting that by late May to early June those who want to get the vaccine will be able to get it. This is really good news for anyone planning a wedding from that time period forward. With this being said, we still have a long way to go and many things can happen between then and now. The distribution logistics for this vaccine are very challenging and anything could happen. If you are planning a wedding in the Summer, Fall, or Winter of 2021 you should start to open the dialog with your partner about how you would feel if certain restrictions are still in place.
These are some questions you should begin to ponder with your partner:
Would you be willing to cut your guest list?
If yes, who will you cut? I would suggest going through your guest list and creating an A, B, and C guest list.
Social distancing measures:
What did your venue do in 2020 to distance guests?
Are you okay with how your venue set up their weddings in 2020 to make them safer?
What compromises are you willing to make?
Venue considerations & safety measures:
Are you willing to seat tables by household and have smaller more spaced out tables?
What is your venues total capacity?
What is the total number of guests you can have if the capacity is at 75%, 50%, or 25%.
Does the total capacity include your vendor team?
What measures is your venue taking to make sure their staff is creating a safe environment?
Are you willing to have masks at your wedding?
Are you willing to change up the service style to minimize congregate areas like bars, food displays, displayed cakes and desserts?
Does your venue have outdoor spaces you can utilize in different ways to reduce the risk of transmission among your guests? Example: dance floors outside, reception fully outside, etc.
In order to put guests at ease you may want to ask that only guests who have been vaccinated attend your wedding.
You may still want to offer a virtual option for those who may not yet feel totally comfortable in a congregate setting.
As much as your wedding is about you, making your guests feel comfortable is so important. I would suggest keeping safety considerations in mind all throughout 2021. I would think of fun ways to decorate a hand sanitizing station, inventive and safe ways to serve food, and creating open spaces throughout your event that allow guests to spread out.
There is no right or wrong answer about what to do when it comes to planning your wedding in 2021. Using 2020 as a guide, I would suggest that couples should expect the unexpected and be willing to make small tweaks to their events to make them as safe as possible. Stock up on those mini hand sanitizers now (the most popular wedding favor of 2020!) and keep the end goal in mind: marrying to the love of your life. Everything else will fall into place.
Stay safe everyone, and I can't wait to see all of the beautiful and unique weddings 2021 will bring!
If you need help planning your wedding or rescheduling your existing wedding; I am here to help. You can check out my wedding planning packages here. Also, if you just want someone to talk to please contact me. I know how alone you can feel during these times and I'd love to try to help you!
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Owner & Lead Wedding Planner
Kolena is a wedding planning professional with over 10 years of experience. She owns and operates Blue Sapphire Events a boutique wedding planning firm based in Arlington, VA.