12 Smart Ways Philly Wedding Pros Are Helping Couples Change Weddings Impacted by Coronavirus
Advice and assurance from the front lines of celebrations halted by COVID-19.
Behind every soon-to-be-married Philly couple is a team of wedding vendors (no matter how large or small) doing their part for the duo as they celebrate one of the biggest days of their lives. That has never been more apparent than now, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The virus’ global impact has been felt significantly in the wedding industry, as many folks make plans to postpone, hold smaller celebrations and otherwise navigate the current climate to keep their friends and family safe, and still commemorate their union.
Here, we’ve compiled a list of unique ways local vendors are working with clients; while every couple is different and it’s a case-by-case basis, there is much to learn from these professionals who are facing the impacts right along with you.
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Our plan of attack: Halting bookings of future summer/fall weddings until postponed clients have been taken care of
The on-site hair and makeup company wants to ensure its current clients are handled first, and is rescheduling March, almost all of April and a few May weddings that have been postponed. “I am continually checking in on my brides who have had to postpone and who fall into the possible timeline,” says owner Stefani Burket. She suggests that clients who think they might be impacted prepare now. More than anything, however, she wants you to breathe. “You’re not alone: There are brides everywhere… having to reschedule such an important day,” she says. “Stay organized and start inquiring! Reach out to artists you had previously tried to book with who were [full] for your original date to see if they have your rescheduled date open. Try to book as soon as possible when you find an opening. … Instagram is a great tool for finding local artists.”
Our plan of attack: Spearheading an initiative to bring together local vendors to help clients
Caitlin Maloney Kuchemba and her team have started a group chat and are holding virtual calls with fellow professionals to cultivate a list of best practices and figure out how to emotionally assist clients. “We have also been discussing our commitment to [ensuring] that every couple within our network still gets the wedding they are envisioning,” she adds. “Even if one or more of our clients’ previously selected vendors are booked for their newly postponed date, we are working together as a community to find equally talented vendors as replacements.” Clover’s also set up a postponement process on its website, and Kuchemba recommends that those who haven’t yet rescheduled be proactive. “Begin gathering email addresses for your guests so that you can update them at a moment’s notice,” she says. “We also suggest emailing them now to address the elephant in the room and let them know you’re monitoring the updates.”
Our plan of attack: Upgrading impacted clients who were not previously full service to that tier free of charge
The boutique event planner offers various packages to its clients, from full-service planning and design to design direction only to essential planning six weeks before the wedding to custom offerings. But the team wants to make the process as easy as possible for couples who are affected by coronavirus. “We figured: We’re quarantined here at home; we may as well use the time to help ease the transition… as we know this is truly an unprecedented happening,” says Sara Murray, owner and creative director. She also suggests hiring professionals to help lessen the burden. “If you don’t have a planner, it’s never too late to add one,” she says. “We can help you to reschedule and help you… pick up the pieces.”
Our plan of attack: Offering complimentary reschedule cards to clients’ guests
The design and branding company wants to “bring back the reason why [you’re] getting married to begin with,” says CEO Meghan Papiano. The cards, she says, are “humor and love filled.” For example, HOC created one for a couple initially getting married at the Fairmount Park Horticulture Center. “They are such a fun couple. I wanted the rescheduled card to reflect their personalities.” The cards are now offered as digital downloads on the Cate By HOC website. Otherwise, her team is working with any date clients need to reschedule—she doesn’t want them to cancel. “If you need help with new vendors because some aren’t going to work out, there are plenty of talented [options].”
Our plan of attack: Encouraging clients to postpone so they don’t lose their retainer
Tatiana Kraft-Jones and hubby Erich are taking the first step and reaching out to clients within the next few months to encourage them to reschedule. “We even reached out to everyone else for the year because just checking in is important,” she says. The floral company is suggesting dates from August onward, and is, for now, moving all money paid to the new date. (Typically there is a rescheduling fee.) If you are considering rescheduling, she says that couples should first speak with their families to find out when parents and grandparents (and other important guests) can make it. And, why not try for a weekday wedding? Fall weekend dates are likely already full. “After all of this, your guests will understand, and, honestly, probably enjoy a celebration, no matter the day of the week.”
Our plan of attack: Sending our 2020 availability to April and May couples
Husband-and-wife team Michael and Melissa McManus offered dates through February 2021 to their clients who have had to reschedule or are considering postponing spring weddings. Melissa notes that the team has quite a bit of availability for impacted couples. “We are also listing our associate photographers’ availability in the event we are not available for their new date, [and] they have flexible availability as well,” she says. She adds that couples should consider alternate days—if the wedding was planned for a Saturday but now will be on a Friday or Sunday in a different season. “In the grand scheme of things,” she says, “you’re going to get married and no matter what day it falls on, your loved ones will be right there standing with you.” Another tip: Work with your vendors, because they need you too.
Our plan of attack: Introducing live-streaming services for weddings
Videographer John Morgera introduced the platform in an effort to let clients share their day with those who can’t make it to their wedding because of the coronavirus. “We’re also going to do a same-day teaser edit (about one minute) for all of our couples to share with people who can’t make it,” he says. For couples interested in utilizing this service, he suggests checking with the venue on Internet connection. “The more secure the connection is, the less likely there will be an interruption to your stream.” He also notes that those who are in attendance—no matter how small the group—should be kept off WiFi. Otherwise, Morgera has a few other things in the works: He’s allowing couples to rebook free of charge, and is willing to just do live streaming for couples, or partner with other video teams.
Our plan of attack: Booking up to six weddings a day to accommodate new dates
The on-location hair and makeup firm and salon had 152 weddings booked for this year. But because of the coronavirus, there have been 16 cancellations and counting. The team is handling this by adding more weddings in one day; typically, the company only books three. Now, they’re taking on five or six. “We’ll start as early as 4 a.m., work back-to-back weddings, travel to all of their locations and squeeze as much into one day as we can,” says owner and executive stylist Ashley Leoncini. “We can reach out to other companies and hop on each others’ weddings… to get these brides accommodated.” The team is also switching deposits to clients’ new dates.
Our plan of attack: Opening our outdoor elopement ceremony space a month early
Alisa Tongg, celebrant and owner of Promise Ridge, was working with a couple—who had initially planned to get hitched at Excelsior in Lancaster—on their new wedding plans when it hit her. She could open her alfresco space early to accommodate couples who have had to postpone their larger celebrations but still want to say “I do” on their original date. “Couples [should] consider adding an elopement or microwedding (10 people or less) in the meantime, especially if they have to reschedule their date far into the future.” Duos getting married in March or April will most likely have a valid marriage license, she says, and many officiants are making themselves available for legal signings and elopements. While Promise Ridge events are typically capped at 20, she’s following the CDC guidelines and cutting capacity at 10. “If it adjusts down to five, we’ll make another adjustment,” she says.
Our plan of attack: Sending clients a list of full 2020-2021 availability to reschedule together
The photographer credits fellow lens artist Haley Richter for sharing a tip: Create Google doc; send it to those who are considering rescheduling; and mark any soft leads or bookings so they know what isn’t available. “Collaborating will result in less miscommunication,” she says. Pressing pause on accepting new clients for later this year and early 2021 has also been among her initiatives, in addition to trying to apply her retainer to future services. “The retainer in my contract is typically nonrefundable; however, I’m trying to extend grace when possible.” For couples navigating this process, she suggests checking out A Practical Wedding, which has an on-demand service to help via phone. And local vendor Bloom With Us is offering free video consultations. She has a tip for vendors too: “Please hold space for marginalized folks planning a wedding. For example, for those who grew up LGBTQ+ and might not have expected to have the opportunity to get married, it can be even more brutal to have this taken away unexpectedly.”
Our plan of attack: Quickly creating postponement or cancellation JPGs and donating a portion of the proceeds to the Red Cross
Stationery pro Jill Ryder developed a way to help clients who need to let their guests know of changes to their wedding in a snap. First, she’ll talk to the couple (or host), find out the theme (including look and colors), the tone (whether it’s serious or funny) and craft a quick, simple but pretty design. The images can be posted to a website or included in an email. It’ll cost $100 (plus Pennsylvania tax), but a portion of your funds will go toward the Red Cross. Payments will be due before she begins work, and she will turn the piece around in 24 hours. Requests must be made via her email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Her advice? “Having to postpone your wedding is an unbelievably disappointing event that replaced an incredibly joyous one, but good times WILL return for all,” she says. “Think of it this way: Now you have more time to dream up more ways to make your—just a little bit later—wedding even more unforgettable.”
Our plan of attack: Offering the elopement package on the weekends
Previously only available Monday to Thursday, the expanded offering allows couples who have canceled their larger weddings to still elope. “We are experiencing both an influx in cancellations and reschedules, but also last-minute bookings,” says owner Monica Welsh of her intimate chapel. No matter what, she advises: “We are all in this together. Every bride, groom, photographer, venue, florist, catering company and planner are feeling the effects. Not to mention every small business and restaurant. Keeping the lines of communication open and exploring other options is going to keep you sane.”
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