Weddings look different this year due to the pandemic and, as a result, couples are responsible for proper communication and planning to ensure the health and safety of their guests. However, that’s not to say their big day has to be any less special — with a few extra precautions in place and a reliable team of event professionals, weddings can be just as fun and meaningful as they’ve always been.
If you’re wondering what needs to be added to your wedding to-do list this year, look no further. We’ve gathered the best advice about safety measures from wedding professionals to help you celebrate your love safely and respectfully.
Keep your website updated.
Wedding websites have been a popular way to communicate with guests for years, but in light of COVID, many couples have created their websites out of necessity to notify guests about pandemic precautions and facilitate livestreams of their events.
Samantha Leenheer, principal planner and designer for Samantha Joy Events, encourages couples to be detailed on their website in regards to COVID: “You will want to ease any stress that your guests have by creating a COVID page on your website that addresses all of the local restrictions and special protocols you are taking for them while staying current on any changes. Let them know how the facility is being cleaned, what parts of the day masks are required, and if you are taking temperatures upon entry.”
Stay tuned into local guidelines.
Since the situation is always evolving, it’s essential to stay up-to-date with the latest updates in regards to your locality to ensure you’re remaining within regulations. “You must make sure you are aware of any local regulations that may affect event flow and guest experience,” stresses Juls Sharpley, founder of Bubbles & Bowties. “I think when you’re planning further out (like couples who are planning now for late summer or fall 2021), it’s easy to feel like you don’t have to make plans for COVID guidelines to be in place, but you DO!”
Sharpley continues: “Work with your planner and/or venue manager to understand current regulations, regulations from the previous event season, and really do your research on what they expect regulations to look like at the time of your wedding date. Plan around that and then, IF things happen to loosen up, great! You get to relax a little bit and open up your event in whatever ways possible!”
Build extra time into your timeline.
Social distancing and other pandemic-specific guidelines can impact the flow of your event day, so make sure to cushion your timeline to accommodate for any unexpected delays. Laura Maddox, owner of Magnolia Celebrates, explains: “Because COVID requires less people to be in spaces together simple things like riding the elevator down to the lobby from your hotel room can take a bit longer. Or your hair and makeup stylist may need more time to sanitize their materials between girls. These are items you don’t necessarily think to factor in but can be the difference between having time for all your pre-ceremony pictures and not.”
Plan to take proper precautions.
Regardless of how your city is handling the pandemic, it’s wise to plan for extra safety measures to limit the risk at your wedding. Kristin Wilson, CEO of Our DJ Rocks, shares a few ideas for protecting guests, stating: “Couples should be responsible for custom and additional signage, all guest communication, providing hand sanitizer at the tables, and any other take-home safety items like super cute branded masks for their guests. It’s also a great idea for couples to ask their guests prior to arriving to do a self-health check with a temperature screening, and ask anyone who is feeling sick to stay home.”
Wilson elaborates, adding that vendors will also have their own responsibilities: “Their vendors should be responsible for a high level of cleaning standards – during the event vendors and performers should sanitize all equipment (ex: microphones, instruments, photo booths) before and after each use. Vendors should also provide disposable or one-use-only items when possible. Proper PPE should be a minimum requirement for their staff so that all guests feel safe and protected when interacting with the different vendors.”
Provide self-serve food and beverage.
In some cases, you’ll need to look to your vendor team to support social distancing measures and create a safe space for your guests. This is particularly prudent when it comes to serving food and beverages. Fortunately, this is an excellent opportunity to get creative with serving methods.
“Working with the caterer and bar service to ensure there will not be high-touch areas for any food or beverage items will further ensure necessary precautions have been taken,” suggests Mara Mazdzer, owner of Fuse Weddings. “Rather than charcuterie boards where all guests cut and serve with the same knives and tongs, consider individually-served charcuterie cones instead. As guests arrive for the ceremony swap a self-serve water station for bottled water or passed beverages instead. Sliced cake that was originally planned for a buffet could be served tableside.”
Create a system to facilitate guest interactions.
Everybody has their own comfort zone in relation to COVID, so expect that your guests will each want to draw their own boundaries based on their health risks and lifestyle. Lizzy Liz Chan, wedding planner and designer for Lizzy Liz Events, recommends a system for communicating these feelings: “The couple should provide colored wristbands for guests to wear to indicate the comfort level of their social distance with other guests.”
Chan elaborates: “For example, red means, I will stay at my seat, please stay far away! Yellow, I’m good with an air high five and conversations and Green, I’m comfortable with a hug and good conversations. Provide your guests with personalized face masks and personalized hand sanitizers for the safety of your guests. We had our DJ reminding the guests that if they heard this specific song, it’s time to wash their hands/sanitize their hands. It worked out really well!”
Skip the traditions.
While there are some traditions you may hold close—like a first dance or a grand entrance—there are others that should be left out for safety purposes. Jamie Chang, online wedding planner and creator of Passport to Joy, provides a few examples: “I would not recommend doing a garter or bouquet toss during COVID as both the gathering of people and exchange of a high touch item is not the safest option. If one or both of those events are important to you, an alternative is to send the person you’d like to give it to after (or even send an unused one before) the wedding. Or if you like the chance aspect, you could also play a socially distant game where the winner gets the garter/bouquet.”
Additionally, Chang suggests skipping family dances: “Unless the couple and parents have been vaccinated, I would also not recommend having any special parent dances. Although these are really special moments, the extended close contact is not worth the potential risk. Share a private moment together during the wedding instead or postpone the dance to your anniversary reception or sequel wedding when things are safer.”
Beyond these to-dos, focus on the beauty of your wedding and how meaningful it will be to finally say ‘I do’ to your partner. Although your wedding might not be exactly what you pictured, you can certainly have an unforgettable celebration with your nearest and dearest loved ones.
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.
We’ve partnered with OFD Consulting to bring you this great advice from their collective of wedding professionals.