If you’ve planned a wedding or gotten married within the last 12 months, you’ve earned the well-respected title of COVID couple, which means you’ve very likely experienced more difficulties, stress, disappointment, and frustration than any couple that’s come before you.
It’s true that planning a wedding in the time of COVID-19 is truly unprecedented. No matter what stage of the planning process that you were in when life as we once knew it was entirely upturned last March, it’s safe to say you are in good company. Based on survey results from LendingTree, an estimated 63 percent of engaged Americans postponed their wedding as a result of COVID and one in four have canceled or postponed their honeymoon.
The couples who fared the worst of the scenario were undoubtedly those who originally planned to get married in spring of 2020, as even when the pandemic started taking shape, no one anticipated it lasting as long as it has, notes Wendy Kay, wedding planner at Birds of a Feather Events in Dallas-Fort Worth. “Many of those couples winded up moving their wedding to fall of 2020 and even spring of 2021, assuming that everything would be fine, only to have to postpone their plans entirely once again,” she says. “This takes a serious toll mentally, emotionally, and financially—for couples and vendors.” Kay has even witnessed some of her couples having to move their weddings for the third time.
Naturally, it’s a sensitive time for all members involved in the wedding sphere, but especially for COVID brides. “Weddings are such a personal and big life event and with COVID it goes one step further where the decisions you make not only affect your guests but your life and your future,” says Jamie Chang, owner and destination wedding planner at Mango Muse Events in Los Altos, California. “COVID brides, and couples in general, can't help but be really sensitive to their situation and everything happening around them and experience stress, anxiety, fear, and worry.”
Because of the sensitive nature of the situation, it’s important for friends, family members, and even mere acquaintances to be aware and cognizant of how they word and phrase certain topics surrounding weddings and marriage amidst the pandemic setting. Here are 10 questions that experts say should never be asked if you’re talking to a COVID bride.
Are You Just Going to Cancel?
The decision to cancel a wedding is certainly not taken lightly, so it’s important to recognize this when speaking to a COVID bride who may, or may not, be on the fence about carrying out with their wedding plans. “When couples are working as hard as they can to make alternative wedding dates work, asking if they’re going to cancel could make it seem as if guests are no longer interested in attending or celebrating or that it seems as though the event will never happen,” says Kate Ryan, owner of Gold Leaf Event Design & Production in New York City. “If or when couples decide to cancel, they will let you know.”
Are You Moving It Again?
It’s impossible to truly understand what you would do in a given situation unless you’re forced to make the tough decisions involved firsthand. This is especially true for the concept of planning a wedding in a pandemic. If you found out that a bride is postponing her wedding for the second, or perhaps the third, time, you might be surprised, but don’t bring that up to the bride. “It's already an emotional issue for the couple to move their date,” notes Chanda Daniels, creative director and owner of A Monique Affair in Oakland, California. “If you love them and you made it on all the guestlist for this new date, just be happy for them and recognize how challenging of a road it was for them to get to this point.”
Who’s Invited to the Wedding?
Narrowing down a guest list in the time of COVID is extremely challenging. Couples have to go to great lengths to determine which of their friends and family is worthy of the few seats available to witness their big day. For this reason, Daniels recommends against inquiring about who’s on the guestlist in any way. “You don't want to make a couple feel bad for not inviting you or anyone else and you don't want to add any extra feelings of guilt,” she says. “It's really easy to feel bad about who is invited and who isn't, particularly for a wedding during COVID, so don't put them in that position.”
Do I Have to take a COVID-19 Test Before Your Wedding?
COVID testing at weddings is becoming fairly commonplace, as couples figure out how to expand their guest list without putting any of their friends and family members in harm’s way. Whether or not you’ve been clued into a couple’s plans to incorporate COVID testing ahead of their big day, it’s not your place to push the subject. If you’re looking for answers in regards to what to expect on their wedding day, a better question to ask is: "What are the COVID protocols in place for me to attend your wedding?" Daniels adds that COVID testing will likely become the norm as we mend from this pandemic and to anticipate it unless you’re told otherwise when attending large-scale events.
Can I Bring a Guest?
No one wants to go stag to a wedding, but even prior to COVID, it wasn’t polite to request a plus one from a couple if you were not given the option. Given the current situation with the pandemic, and how couples have already had to go to lengths to narrow down their guest list to a very small group of important friends and family, it’s far from appropriate to broach this subject, notes Daniels.
Are You Waiting to Get Married?
Another question you shouldn't ask a COVID bride is whether or not they're waiting (or not waiting) to get legally married. “You don't want to make any assumptions on how they feel about waiting versus not waiting and you don't want to add your biases and opinion on them,” says Chang. “This is a very personal decision and there is no right or wrong answer, but many times people make an assumption and in turn, the question can make a couple not only doubt their choice but feel bad about it.”
Instead, she recommends asking the couple how they're doing and what they're thinking in a general sense so that they can choose to share or not share what they've decided.
Why Did You Wind Up Choosing that Plan?
When a COVID bride opens up to you about their wedding plan, it’s usually not with the intention of you asking them why they made those difficult decisions. Doing so, according to Chang, will automatically feel like a judgment is being cast, and, in turn, they may feel the need to defend their decision—and they shouldn’t have to.
Instead, Chang recommends being respectful and supportive of whatever plans they do have and respond in kind. “Whether or not you agree with their decision, you need to let them make it and feel good about it,” she says. “Don't take that away from them because it was probably a really hard decision to make.”
Will I Get My Money Back?
If you’ve put down a deposit to attend someone’s bachelorette party, shower or wedding, whether it’s for accommodations or attire, do not put pressure on the bride to give you an update on whether or not you can expect a refund of any kind. “Brides are not travel agents, nor are they responsible for the policies relating to change plans during this time,” says Ryan. “Making an already hard situation worse is what we hope to avoid!” Instead, she recommends directing this inquiry towards the hotels and airlines that you made reservations through directly to make any changes necessary.
What Restrictions Do I Have to Follow in Your State?
COVID safety guidelines and protocols are different across the country, so if you’re traveling to a wedding in another state, you may have a new set of rules to follow. For example, certain states require a 14-day quarantine upon entering, while others only require a negative COVID test. It’s important to do your own research to determine what the protocol is in the state in which the wedding will take place instead of putting the onus on the bride. “The couples are receiving the same information, which you can find on the CDC website,” says Ryan. “Don't make their responses more difficult by having them explain where their event stands.”
Did You Expect This to Happen Before Your Wedding?
As a result of COVID, so many weddings have lingered in the “planning period” for months longer than originally planned. “All the unknowns and uncertainties keep pushing the planning and in turn, the wedding back, and as you push the wedding back that means you're also pushing your marriage back too,” notes Chang.
This opens the door for so many life events to happen in between the planning period and the actual marriage certification itself. If a couple experiences a life event, such as pregnancy, the purchase of a new home, or perhaps a move across the country, don't ask whether or not they expected to have this experience prior to their wedding. The answer is very likely “no,” and it’s none of your business anyways.