Navigating the Now: How Real Couples and Wedding Pros Are Planning Today

Wedding pros and brides discuss the uncertainty of now.

covid couple

Photo by Samm Blake

As someone who pushed her own wedding from May 2020 to June 2020, eloped, and now has the coldest of cold feet when it comes to picking a new 2021 date, my only wish is for a crystal ball that will tell me the day it becomes safe to host a ‘pre-pandemic-style’ wedding. 

Knowing the possibility of that is about the same as throwing a party here in Los Angeles right now (hilariously impossible), I’ve decided to consult the next best thing: wisdom from some of the industry’s most plugged-in pros on the future of weddings, from when to how to the silver linings we can cling to while we await permission to gather again safely. 

Most are optimistic about being able to gather in some way by the end of 2021, and all have become quite creative in finding solutions for couples to continue to plan for a dream wedding, even if it requires a little more flexibility and patience than anticipated.

Below, thoughts on everything we discussed—from the stresses of picking a new date and finding a new dress to planning for future safety protocols that are still up-in-the-air.

A New Date

Planner Layne Kula of Penny Lane Creative is optimistic that some level of group celebration will be possible in spring 2021. "With the announcements and success rates of vaccines and the recently approved at-home rapid testing, we are definitely starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel," she explains. "I think that we will start to see smaller outdoor celebrations as early as spring, with the hope that we'll start to return to the celebrations that we've come to know and love by late summer and early fall of 2021.” 

For destination weddings, though, the horizon may be a bit further out. "For destination and international weddings, a lot of our clients are postponing to 2022 for peace of mind," Kula says. Other experts agree on fall or late 2021 as a reliable time to plan for a larger gathering and pushing destination weddings even further out. 

As far as picking a date with complete confidence goes, planner Frankie Podrat of Frankly Weddings supports the idea of fall 2021 being cautiously reliable but says, “Personally, I think spring and summer of 2022 will be safe again. That said, there are so many unknown variables with this virus. Vaccines are leaving our summer 2021 very unknown.”

The Guest List

Most experts are recommending against setting a guest list in stone for 2021 events, especially if committed to dates earlier in the year. Floral designer Jessica De Corse of Ella Mah is seeing clients plan for smaller guest lists with the hope of adding more to it later as restrictions loosen.

Santa Barbara postponed-bride Holland Mervis says she is anticipating trimming her previously May 2020 and now July 2021 guest list if needed. “Last year, we were planning for around 160 people, and now we will probably be cutting the list based on what the county will require, which I’m totally prepared for," she admits. "Nothing is definite of course with everything up in the air, but if I had to guess, I imagine we will be having a wedding without our out-of-state friends and family, and without those who will still feel uncomfortable in a large group.” 

The Micro Wedding

While some are choosing to cut their guest lists for the time being, cool-girl fine jewelry designer Anna Sheffield says she is seeing an overall shift in client perspective. “Many people I know don't feel safe with the idea of going back to huge gatherings, so I imagine smaller gatherings will be a choice for many of our clients," she says. "Perhaps that even means multiple ceremonies for people with families abroad or friend groups in multiple cities.” 

Podrat shares this sentiment, suggesting that with the constant fluctuations on restrictions and public health updates, “most clients will rethink the traditional wedding, and many will likely forego altogether, trading in for a micro wedding.”

While not being able to plan for a larger gathering on the date they choose in 2021 feels, for so many couples, like a worst-case scenario, those who choose to move forward with a micro wedding have been surprised by how joyful it was. Floral designer Christina Yan of Bellevue Floral Co welcomes this trend.

"Micro weddings are a welcome change in my book and a wonderful way to celebrate with those who mean the most to you," she explains. "It takes the pressure off of couples and allows them to really indulge in a dream wedding, whether it be the florals, venue, or dress, that they couldn’t have afforded if they had needed to host 150 guests. These intimate events feel extra special and meaningful.”

Future Safety Protocols

One of the biggest unknowns that will realize as wedding parties become possible again will be how couples will navigate COVID-19 safety protocols.

“These events may see the roll-out of overly cautious vendors, pre-ceremony rapid testing, clients asking guests to quarantine to protect elder guests, masks, and more so people can celebrate safely but continue to move forward with their lives," Kula says. "It means pre-vendor testing to keep our clients and their families safe. It means providing masks, sanitizing stations, to make sure that no stone is left unturned. It means proposing different approaches to food service—for example, individual plated options vs. buffets or family-style until things return to normal, and shifting table assignments and layouts to accommodate families and 'pods' that are staying or traveling together."

In addition to adjusting the number of guests, postponed-bride Holland Mervis is ready to modify the guest experience to accommodate county advisories and guest comfort. “I’m just going to go with whatever the county guidelines are," she says. "Nobody knows what it will look like in July 2021, and at this point, I’m not worrying about anything yet. If the county tells us we need to have masks or sanitizer stations, then it is what it is. Honestly, I’m just going to leave any hard decisions up to our planner!”

Silver Linings to Keep in Mind

Until the gathering restrictions become unnecessary due to public health recovery, there are some silver linings and general reminders to keep in mind.

As for keeping it all together amid the uncertainty, Podrat reminds those with planners to rely on them. “We make suggestions based on what is safe for all. And if that means we postpone the date a million times (exaggeration, but close), then we do it with a calm vibe. The wedding will happen—and it will still be the best day ever, no matter what the party becomes. The biggest change may be physical contact and limited dancing, but, honestly, the entire reception can be managed safely if you are smart and creative.” 

Yan also recommends focusing on the core beauty of it all. “Remember that at the end of the day your marriage is about you and your spouse," she says. "Whether you celebrate with 10 guests or 100, your love will always endure. I think moving forward, it’s really just about shifting mindset.”

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