By ANGELINE JANE BERNABE, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — When Tavi Kaunitz and Tom Lerner had to postpone their May wedding due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was stressful and upsetting for the couple, who had spent nearly a year planning their dream ceremony.
“We’d already been in the throes of planning, and you just get excited for it,” Lerner told ABC News’ Good Morning America. “That time was really tough and stressful.”
Kaunitz and Lerner, from California, are one of many couples from all across the country who were planning on getting married in 2020, but instead quickly had to pivot, decide on a new date and rethink what their celebrations would look like.
“There was a lot of disappointment and a lot of fear about what their new wedding was going to look like,” said wedding planner Victoria Holland, founder and CEO of Victoria Ann Events in Los Angeles, who worked with Kaunitz and Lerner. “For my weddings that were in May, I told them they needed to make a decision sooner than later because we needed to come up with a plan B. I think the best thing was [for us] that we were at the first line of defense right away.”
The couple rescheduled for April 2021.
Event planners Neha Shah and Amanda Mendez of Blue Lotus Insights in Orange County, California, took a similar approach by creating multiple backup plans for their couples with bigger weddings.
Shah had a list of several alternative options for couples to cut down on guest lists or pivot to an outdoor wedding versus an indoor one.
While most of their couples postponed their weddings until next year, Holland, Shah and Mendez are all starting to pick up planning again with their clients, as 2021 is just around the corner. Unfortunately, with the timing of a COVID-19 vaccine still in flux, couples still have many questions.
Wedding planners are being asked by their clients how the wedding industry is going to look in 2021, but “unfortunately we know as much as anybody else does at this point that we don’t know what’s going to happen,” Shah said.
Shah’s main piece of advice for couples planning a wedding is to prepare for any roadblocks that could happen due to COVID-19.
To help other couples who have postponed their wedding to next year, Shah, Mendez and Holland all shared their top tips on what to consider when planning their special day.
Here are their top 10 pieces of advice for couples who have postponed their weddings to 2021:
1. Check to see if events are being rescheduled near your venue
Holland’s first piece of advice for couples who have postponed their weddings to next year is to see when events in the city you’re having your wedding have been rescheduled to. Check the city’s visitor bureau to get an idea, she suggested.
“A lot of couples here in Los Angeles get married in Palm Springs,” said Holland. “You definitely don’t want to pick Coachella weekend for your wedding or Stagecoach weekend for your wedding because a lot of hotels are completely booked and restaurants [too].”
2. Research your local ordinances
For couples who have opted for a smaller wedding in 2021 and are having the event in their backyard, Shah suggests taking a look at your local ordinances. Different counties have their own set of rules and regulations and some counties might be more relaxed or strict than others when it comes to loud music, gatherings and more.
“If you know your local ordinances, and then are able to move around those ordinances within different counties, that can also be really helpful,” she said. “With that comes safety tips. Those counties will recommend what the minimum and maximum safety tips are, which will help you navigate your wedding day itself.”
3. Ask your vendors for referrals
One of the big things couples are experiencing after they’ve postponed their weddings is having to pick out new vendors, so Holland suggests couples ask vendors if they have any friends or people they know that they can refer you to.
“If you’re looking for a photographer and your original was this beautiful, light and air, and you’re looking for another one that can do that same style, ask [your photographer] them if they have any referrals,” said Holland.
4. Ask your vendors about their deposit policy — and negotiate
Planning a wedding is stressful, and one of the things that can be daunting for couples to do is putting deposits down for a wedding that may or may not happen next year amid the ongoing pandemic.
“We understand very intimately that it’s money that’s being put down and you don’t know if that money will come to fruition or those services will come to fruition because we don’t know what 2021 is going to look like,” said Shah.
Ask what the deposit, postponement, cancellation and refund policies are for all your vendors. According to Shah, many vendors are agreeing to smaller deposit amounts because they also understand the uncertainty of planning a wedding during these times.
5. Read over contracts with your vendors
Holland suggests thoroughly reading contracts for each of your vendors and make sure all dates match on each contract to avoid any mixups from happening.
“Read all the addendums that are in the contracts because sometimes there’s things that you might not really want to agree to,” she said. “Once you sign on that dotted line, you’re locked in.”
6. Safety first! Sanitizing stations, matching masks and more
Now more than ever, it’s so important to stay safe. Mendez suggests that guests wear masks at next year’s wedding celebrations and hand sanitizing stations are made available for them throughout the venue. One way to make this stylish is to custom-make hand sanitizing bottles that fit with your decorations and even custom-make face masks for your guests.
“This is the time that we’re living in right now, so you got to make the best of it,” she said.
Another addition that Shah suggests couples consider for their weddings next year is to have a COVID compliance officer. Many film productions in Southern California have designated a COVID compliance officer who will do a quick assessment of guests and perform temperature checks before they enter the event.
7. Ask your guests to take COVID tests
While it may feel strange to ask guests to take COVID tests before attending your wedding, Holland said it’s not an odd question to ask.
“Don’t feel funny about asking your guests to get COVID tested,” said Holland. “Depending on what your situation is, you can try to take some of the costs of a COVID test. You want your wedding to be enjoyable and the best way for it to be enjoyable is to know that everyone is healthy.”
8. Think of new ways to serve food
How to serve food in a safe but celebratory way is one of the things at the top of wedding planners and caterers’ lists. With buffet and family-style meals in limbo, Holland has seen caterers use covers for food that go with the decor, individualized hors d’oeuvres and pre-made drinks where there are less hands on the food or drinks that are being picked up.
9. Create smaller guest lists in case you need to scale down
Although couples are considering smaller weddings with a limited guest list these days, it can be tough for couples whose cultures celebrate the occasion with people beyond their immediate families. So, if the time comes that your wedding needs to shift to a smaller event, Shah suggests that you prepare smaller guest lists.
“Let’s come up with 25, 50, 75, 100 person guest lists. Specifically, when it comes to saying only 25 people and then scrambling to cut people makes it a little harder,” said Shah.
10. Take a deep breath
While this time can be stressful, Holland is reminding couples to take a deep breath.
“Don’t get yourself crazy about what you originally thought your day was going to look like,” she said. “Enjoy the engagement portion, which a lot of people don’t get to do because they get right into wedding planning.”
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