As we’ve surpassed the year-mark of living in the midst of a global pandemic, so much has changed, but so much has also seemingly stayed the same. This is especially true for couples planning a wedding: the pandemic has made each step of the process extremely problematic.
Over the course of the last year, countless couples have found themselves in a strange holding pattern as they’ve had to grapple with the decision over what to do next. Do you go ahead with your chosen wedding date but downside your guest list? Or do you postpone with the hopes that you'll be able to have the wedding of their dreams—with no social distancing rules and a full guest list—down the line?
Meet the Expert
- Jamie Chang is the owner and destination wedding planner at Mango Muse Events in Los Altos, California.
- Kate Lerman is the owner of Chicago Vintage Weddings, a wedding planning company in Chicago.
- Kayla Percy, MSN, MPH, CPNP-PC, RN, is a consultant for Hess III Consulting and pediatric nurse practitioner at Chiricahua Community Health Centers.
This time last year, there were so many unknowns, including how long this pandemic would last and whether or not it would ever cease to exist without effective vaccines. Even once vaccination trials were well underway, there was no certain knowledge of how quickly they would be manufactured and administered into the arms of civilians.
“Today, the vaccines approved for use in the United States have proven to be effective and are quickly becoming accessible, which means that brides and grooms can actually begin planning their weddings,” says Kayla Percy, a consultant for Hess III Consulting and pediatric nurse practitioner at Chiricahua Community Health Centers. “However, those who have chosen to have their wedding sooner than later may still need to take precautions such as social distancing, mask-wearing, and increasing hand hygiene.” All of this, Percy explains, will depend on how many guests are vaccinated and high-risk guests.
Postponements are still happening, but not to the degree that they were last spring. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel and many couples are choosing to move forward with their 2021 dates even if it means making some changes to those plans,” says Kate Lerman is the owner of Chicago Vintage Weddings, a wedding planning company in Chicago. “These days, we are making backup plans for different guest counts, looking into outdoor options whenever possible, and still counting on social distancing through summer.”
If you are still planning on postponing, how do you know how much time you should push your wedding out? The best advice will truly depend on your circumstances. Here’s what wedding planning experts—who, at this time, are relying on their experience planning events and the information available—are advising their clients to do based on their situation.
If you're having a downsized wedding in the U.S., push until summer 2021.
Especially if your downsized wedding is going to be located in either of your hometowns (or close to it), Jamie Chang, owner and destination wedding planner at Mango Muse Events in Los Altos, California, suggests pushing your wedding out only slightly—to summer 2021.
“This allows time for everyone to get the vaccine (both your guests and the U.S. population) which will ease restrictions and it allows time for travel to become easier and less scary,” she says. “This will also hopefully allow time for states to better control the virus and infections to decrease allowing for restrictions to ease a little more, which means you may be able to have a slightly larger wedding or a wedding with a reception or an indoor wedding because it's safer to do so.”
If you have assigned seating, Percy suggests keeping vaccinated people at tables together. For the unvaccinated, she suggests keeping them seated with their household members or declaring a “COVID-19 bubble.” "Make sure there is plenty of space on the dance floor for people to social distance—and avoid buffet style, where guests are serving themselves,” she adds.
If you're having a hometown wedding in the U.S., push until late 2021.
If you’re getting married in your (or your partner’s) hometown where the majority of your guests are not traveling, there are fewer variables involved. If you’re OK having a smaller wedding and accepting that many guests will not feel comfortable attending in-person, you can go along with your plans.
But if you don’t want to deal with COVID-19 restrictions, Chang suggests pushing your wedding out until at least late 2021. “Hopefully by late 2021, guests and vendors will have had full access to vaccinations,” she says. “This will allow events to get back to ‘normal and allow you to have the wedding you want without restrictions.”
If you're having a semi-destination wedding in the U.S., push until late 2021.
If you're having a semi-destination wedding in the U.S. where the majority of your guests are traveling and you don't want to deal with COVID-19 restrictions, it’s a wise decision to push your wedding to late 2021—at least. With many local governments requiring people to quarantine for up to 14 days upon entering a certain state, asking guests to travel, even a few hours, is asking a lot right now.
If you want to have the wedding you originally planned, without sacrificing the size and extent of the celebration, pushing your wedding date out a year is a wise decision. "Once vaccines are fully administered, and we’ve hopefully reached a state of herd immunity, this will make travel easier, less scary, and will hopefully not require a quarantine for anyone involved," Chang adds.
If you're having a destination wedding in the U.S., push until early 2022.
A destination wedding means that pretty much everyone is traveling to participate in your wedding celebration. In regular circumstances, this is asking a lot of your guests, albeit for the important purpose of celebrating your nuptials. Given the COVID-19 restrictions, especially regarding travel, Chang recommends pushing your wedding out to early 2022 at least.
“Until the vast majority of the population has been vaccinated, there is still going to be risk involved, so it’s important to be clear and upfront on what your plans are so guests can make a decision for themselves whether they feel comfortable attending,” she says.
One way she recommends doing that is by requiring guests to be vaccinated or to have a negative test to attend your wedding, as it will put everyone more at ease. Another is talking to your vendors about their COVID policies and procedures and the status of vaccinations and sharing that with your guests, and, in turn, sharing with your vendors what you are doing on your end to make your wedding safe.
“Planning with COVID restrictions still in mind is going to be important to make sure everyone feels comfortable—just because a guest is vaccinated doesn't mean they're ready yet to share food, hug, or dance,” says Chang. “Just because a vendor is vaccinated doesn't mean they want to work a wedding with unvaccinated guests and no masks or social distancing.”
If you're having an international destination wedding, push until mid-2022.
If your wedding was originally intended to take place internationally, and that’s something that you would still like to follow through with, it’s best to push your wedding out to at least mid-2022. With a vaccine in place, the world will likely have settled from all of the chaos that ensued in 2020 and 2021.
While life may not have resumed “normally,” per se—or, how it was pre-pandemic—the new normal will be much more stable than life today. Still, you should go into the planning process with the knowledge that many of your guests may still be hesitant to travel internationally—not to mention that not all countries will necessarily be in the same place as the U.S. at the same time, notes Chang.
“There may still be some restrictions to travel there,” she says. “Pushing your date this far out allows time for not only your guests and the U.S. population to get the vaccine, but the country you're traveling to (and the world!) as well.”
Remember, pushing your wedding out doesn’t have to mean waiting to get married.
It's important to remember that even if you push your wedding farther out to be able to celebrate sans COVID restrictions, you don't have to wait to get married.
“Getting married now is a great option and allows you to not only celebrate now but start your married life together—and then you can celebrate fully when it's safe to,” says Chang. "This also not only removes the pressure and anxiety that comes with having to wait but gives you something happy to celebrate which we all could use right now.”
Editor's Note: We will continue to update these recommendations, which were made by planners given their experience planning events and the information available at this time, as more information becomes available. For more up-to-date guidelines, check the CDC and your state's website.