In a pre-pandemic world, wedding timelines were fairly concrete and predictable. Once you got engaged and committed to a date, that timeline started to unravel, with your wedding vendors guiding you along the way with detailed instructions on exactly what to do and when to ensure that you would be perfectly prepared for your big day.
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Then the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States in March 2020, and wedding timelines went out the window. But not all at once.
“No one knew what would happen, and we definitely didn't think we would be where we are today,” shares Kia Marie, a Chicago-based wedding planner and founder of Kia Marie Events. “In the beginning, the normal timeline was pushed back for a month, then two months, then three months, but by July, we started encouraging all of our couples to postpone to 2021.”
The average engagement length in the U.S. is between 12 and 18 months.
By late spring and early summer, Jeannette Tavares, creative director at the Washington, D.C.-based planning company EVOKE DC, was encouraging many of her clients to postpone to 2021, and some even 2022. “Once they made their decision, we allowed them some space to wrap their heads around the new timeline of wedding planning," she says. "For those planning micro weddings in 2020 and into 2021, we picked up closer to the intimate wedding date to help them plan their smaller celebration."
Even though Brides editor Samantha Netkin originally thought she and her fiancé wouldn’t have to alter their March 2021 wedding date as a result of the pandemic, her tune changed as the virus continued on into the summer. “The reality of our indoor 300-person event grew more and more unfeasible, and, after going back and forth with our families, we decided to cancel our March date,” she says. “Since then, we’ve considered a couple of different options, like having a civil ceremony on our original date and planning a backyard wedding for the fall of 2021.” For now, the couple is considering pushing their big day to the spring or summer of 2022, more than two years after their January 2020 engagement, but have yet to establish a solid plan. “We’re certainly hopeful that the vaccine will bring some clarity but we’re not basing our wedding on it,” she adds.
A postponement was not in the cards for Lee Bridges, a newlywed in Atlanta. After getting engaged in April 2020, Bridges and her fiancé Elwyn began planning a 200-person wedding in January 2021 but realized it would be "nearly impossible" to pull off amidst the pandemic. “The dress was designed and the florist, band, venue, and photographer were booked, but, after much discussion, we realized something was tugging on our heartstrings telling us the plan did not feel right,” she admits. The couple decided to scrap their original plans, instead opting for a small, 30-person ceremony in Red Lodge, Montana with only immediate family and their wedding party in September 2020. “It wasn’t what we had initially imagined—it was far greater,” she says. “We would not trade the simplicity or the intimacy of our wedding weekend for anything different!”
With news of a vaccine and plans for its distribution, couples are regaining hope for weddings in 2021 and beyond. Marie believes that the "standard planning timeline" is starting to resume as, she says, the bulk of the uncertainty is in the rear-view window. “Based on a general planning period of at least one year, most couples getting engaged right now will be setting dates for 2022,” she explains. “Sure, there will likely still be some differences between, say, a happy-go-lucky 2019 wedding and one in 2022, but they won’t be nearly as disruptive as what we’ve seen this year and expect in early 2021.”
With that in mind, she is encouraging her new clients and inquiries not to pause their planning. “Even if a couple wants to delay picking their official date, that doesn’t mean we can’t start the fun stuff—brainstorming about the design, talking to potential vendors, expanding the venue search, et cetera,” she says. “Let the excitement build towards your wedding a little longer than normal, and, when the date finally arrives, let loose and enjoy everything you and your planning team worked so hard to create.”