There are so many unknowns when it comes to what life will be like in the next few months or the next year in light of the coronavirus pandemic. And for couples planning a wedding, this predicament is extremely problematic.
Many are finding themselves in a strange holding pattern as they grapple with the decision over what to do next. Do you go ahead with your chosen wedding date even though COVID-19 guidelines will ensure that it will hardly go as planned? 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?
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There’s no easy answer, according to wedding experts. “COVID-19 has not gone away and will not go away until we have a vaccine or treatment, which will take time to create and test and is also not a guarantee,” says Jamie Chang, owner and destination wedding planner at Mango Muse Events in Los Altos, California. “While pushing your wedding date further out is difficult and very emotional, it does give you a higher probability that, come your wedding date, you'll be able to have the wedding you want with the people you want.” If nothing else, she says pushing your wedding date out may help you avoid having to postpone it again, perhaps even more than once, which in and of itself is incredibly stressful, time-consuming, and exhausting for everyone involved.
If you’re uncomfortable with uncertainty and risk, postponing further into the future is likely the best course of action. If you’re comfortable with last-minute changes and adjustments...you can get married a bit sooner.
When faced with these difficult decisions, Kate Lerman, owner of Chicago Vintage Weddings in Chicago recommends handling everything in terms of priority—a.k.a., figuring out what is most important and going from there. “If you’re uncomfortable with uncertainty and risk, postponing further into the future is likely the best course of action,” she says. “If you’re comfortable with last-minute changes and adjustments, like not having a dance floor and handling shifts in venue capacity regulations, you can get married a bit sooner.”
But if you’re postponing your wedding, 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 early 2021.
Especially if your downsized wedding is going to be located in either of your hometowns (or close to it), Chang suggests pushing your wedding out only slightly—to early 2021. While cutting down your guest list is not an easy task, doing so makes it more feasible to handle COVID-19 restrictions, including social distancing measures and spacing tables far apart. “This will allow more time to plan which will be necessary for all the additional logistics given COVID-19,” says Chang. “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'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, we will not only have a reliable vaccine or treatment, but it will also be readily available so guests and vendors have easy access to it,” 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 on the size and extent of the celebration, pushing your wedding date out a year is a wise decision. With the hopes of a vaccine in the not-so-distant future, this will make travel easier, less scary, and will hopefully not require a quarantine for anyone involved.
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 current COVID restrictions, especially regarding travel, Chang recommends pushing your wedding out to early 2022 at least. "The chances of there being a working and reliable vaccine or treatment are relatively high, but also it’s more likely that at this point in time most people will have access to it," she says. That said, she notes that, even with a vaccine or treatment, people may still be hesitant to travel. "So pushing your date farther out gives them time to get comfortable with the idea of traveling so they'll attend," she adds.
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 hopeful vaccine in place, the world will likely have settled from all of the chaos that ensued in 2020 at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. 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 gives both your guests, the U.S. and your destination country time to get comfortable and get travel back to ‘normal.’”
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.