11 Philly Planners Share Their Smart Tips for Pandemic Wedding Planning
The biggest takeaway? Be flexible.
The Philly wedding industry learned a lot in 2020 as professionals and couples dealt with the ramifications of COVID-19. Planners helped duos reschedule, then do it again. They figured out how to quickly downsize, move venues, social distance, serve food safely — in a matter of days, sometimes even hours. And vendors and couples comforted each other, reminding all of us of the beauty of love, no matter what. As much as we’d like to think 2021 will be different, right now it looks like many of those lessons will be put to good use again as the pandemic continues. Duos and vendors must potentially think about once more changing the big celebrations that have already been postponed to early this year, or begin putting together the pieces for future weddings. Here, 11 planning experts share their insights and advice for 2021 and beyond.
Arielle Fera Events
Arielle Fera, owner
For couples with a spring or summer 2021 wedding: Keep your goal on the real meaning of marriage! If you rescheduled your big wedding to 2021 and didn’t tie the knot in a smaller event last year, we encourage you to keep the new date. We are working with our clients to come up with a creative Plan B. We have witnessed so many immensely meaningful intimate gatherings that we are able to offer firsthand knowledge of how amazing a wedding of any size can be.
Future: For 2022 couples, we’re planning weddings with their original intentions in mind even as we ask them to think about how they might pivot. This is different for everyone. Some couples are set on saying “I do” in 2022 despite all regulations, so we’re preparing backup plans for smaller events at the same time as the initial celebration. That means making sure COVID language is in all contracts, looking at venues that can facilitate large events but also have intimate settings available, and coming up with Plans A, B and C so we can make decisions quickly as regulations change.
Clover Event Co.
Caitlin Maloney Kuchemba, owner and principal planner
For couples with a spring or summer 2021 wedding: For couples who have postponed from 2020 to 2021 who did so not only for safety concerns but also because they wanted to have a big celebration, we are recommending they reschedule to 2022. That should hopefully ensure they can have a larger event. For those who feel they’ve waited long enough, we’re advising them to be prepared for possible, inevitable pivots — changes in guest count regulations, venues, food and more. They should also expect to see many COVID-19 protocols still in place, including mask-wearing, screens around the bands, and intimate seating assignments.
For newly engaged couples without a date: Look at 2022 or beyond to avoid uncertainty. If an intimate celebration speaks to a duo, they may choose to move forward with a 2021 wedding. In either scenario, one of our top tips is to choose a venue with the most flexibility. For example, finding an outdoor venue located outside Philly is going to give couples more adaptability in regard to regulations than a fully indoor space inside the city limits. We have also seen a growth in the at-home wedding trend. With venues booked earlier than ever before and with regulations changing so abruptly, couples want the security of knowing that the venue is within their control.
Confetti & Co.
Sara Murray, CEO and creative director
For couples with a spring or summer 2021 wedding: Be flexible. It’s clear that couples are itching to have the celebration they’ve been patiently waiting for and that rescheduling once more seems like another massive feat. With that said, we’ve been advising couples to work with us and have backup plans! Our biggest goal is for everyone to gather safely. To avoid any potential super-spreader events, we’ve been candid in noting that the safest way is to urge guests to self-isolate beforehand.
For newly engaged couples without a date: Even if it feels early, right now is a good time to secure all your vendors! COVID has been heightening bookings, and there’s a need to get things locked in, since dates from previous years have been pushed back. Even if you’re planning far out, it’s good to get your dream team finalized ASAP so you have the most options.
Elegant Events Planning & Design
Donielle Warren, owner and lead planner
For couples with a spring or summer 2021 wedding: For us, it’s all about helping couples get creative. Even with all of the current restrictions, we’re able to assist them in having beautiful weddings that include as many of their family and friends as possible. We’re planning weddings at outdoor venues and in private homes, where couples can welcome more guests than at an indoor venue. Plus, live-streaming will include friends who are unable to attend.
For newly engaged couples without a date: Getting married is still possible. I can’t emphasize this enough. Our team adores seeing how in love and dedicated our couples are, and we make that the foundation of their fantastic weddings, no matter what slight adjustments must be made.
Jen Supper, director of special events
For couples with a spring or summer 2021 wedding: I am keeping in constant communication with these couples. It’s important to make sure they’re informed so that when decisions need to be made, they don’t feel overwhelmed. We’re also keeping our guests updated. Invitations will look a little different this year, as we need to give out more information than normal. Kaleidoscope has teamed up with a company offering rapid COVID testing on-site for guests and vendors. We’re hoping this provides peace of mind in moving forward.
For newly engaged couples without a date: Plan as usual. Know that there might be modifications, but ultimately, this industry is filled with creative people who are all working tirelessly to design the weddings of your dreams. Be cautious when reading contracts, and ask questions for clarification. All vendors are here for our clients and are trying to be as accommodating as possible.
Lovehaus Events & Design
Andrea Petrucci and Laura Bonadonna, co-owners
For couples with a spring or summer 2021 wedding: Our tip is to ask yourself: What is the most important thing to us for our wedding? Is it to have that big day with all of our friends and family? If so, postpone; we’ll make sure this is still exciting. Maybe it’s to be married on that special date. So we reduce the guest count and potentially move to a new location. It’s about your love, so make the decisions that feel right for the both of you.
For newly engaged couples without a date: Stay excited, be optimistic, and have a solid support team! Our job is to take away the exhausting tasks. We are also emphasizing that our couples should create an accessible website where guests can RSVP or check for updates regarding state mandates. We miss that little RSVP insert; however, logistically, it’s the best way for couples to be in constant communication with their guests.
Akua Darko, owner and lead planner
For couples with a spring or summer 2021 wedding: The safety of your loved ones is important, so be intentional with your guest number, and don’t be scared to lower it.
For newly engaged couples without a date: From where we stand, the future of weddings looks bright, and celebrations in grand style will be back sooner than we think. Hire a planner, and trust the process so that the team of professionals can make it happen.
Sara Rea Design
Kate Boyle, event designer
For couples with a spring or summer 2021 wedding: My number one tip for new clients who want to get married this year is to start small. It’s much easier to build up an event than to downsize. Send a save-the-date to your closest friends and family, but hold off on the full guest list until things are clearer. Another note: Pursue a venue or caterer that has backup or open-air options. Jeffrey A. Miller, for example, has lots of tented venue options.
For newly engaged couples without a date: We’re only taking new clients who are planning on micro-celebrations or willing to start small. I would love to say I think that later this year will be safe for large weddings, but I’m not 100 percent sure and don’t want to take on anything I fear might not be safe for my team. We’ve also started doing more design and day-of execution without on-site day-of coordination. With smaller events, we can help clients create their aesthetic and then let them enjoy it with their friends and family before coming back later to break down. This seems to be the best of both worlds.
The Styled Bride
Susan Norcross, owner and wedding director
For couples with a spring or summer 2021 wedding: Ask and ask again, then ask again: It’s good to be in constant contact. There are no wrong questions. Large events aren’t looking doable, so I’m advising those who want to get married no matter what to think about options — decreasing the guest list, changing the style, more dinner party, less dance party. Additionally, I’m asking whether they would move the wedding — depending on the venue, many caterers can cook off-premises, and we can look at using a family home. There are different guidelines in place for Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, so knowing the particulars of where you’re getting married and what is allowed is key.
For newly engaged couples without a date: Get the wedding space and ceremony location (if it’s not at the venue) settled ASAP. Then we can book the team (a.k.a. professionals for music, photo and video, floral, hair and makeup). As spring and summer couples are postponing, dates will fill up quickly. While it seems like a lot to do so early in the process, you’ll feel happy knowing you have the team you wanted locked in!
Tiffany Chalk Events
Tiffany Chalk, owner and lead planner
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For couples with a spring or summer 2021 wedding: Be optimistic, but revisit your guest list. Consider out-of-town guests, and explore the option of a hybrid wedding (with virtual streaming). And stay abreast of health and safety guidelines for venues and social distancing. You also want to make it clear to your guests that you care about their safety.
For newly engaged couples without a date: Keep an open mind, but be flexible with dates — and budget. Hire a wedding planner to keep you focused and take the burden off you for pandemic planning. Stay conscious of COVID-19 restrictions, particularly in regard to venues. It will save you time and money. Keep your focus on gathering inspiration, virtual venue-prospecting, and the guest list.
Trilogy Event Design
Randi Martin, chief event planner
For couples with a spring or summer 2021 wedding: Talk to your venue to confirm your max guest count before you finalize everything. If you have to eliminate a significant number of people, make an A list and a B list. The A list will equal your max guest count and include those you can’t imagine having your wedding without. Everyone else goes on the B list. Due to USPS delays, add an extra month to your stationery timeline. Order invitations five months before your wedding, and mail them 10 to 12 weeks ahead. The RSVP date can be six to eight weeks before the wedding to be safe. Or eliminate the RSVP card and opt for electronic replies.
For newly engaged couples without a date: Plan for intimate occasions through late fall. The vaccine may not be available to the general public until May, and there’s a waiting period before the second shot. Plus, it will take several months for enough immunity to develop. Be prepared for virtual venue tours and video meetings with professionals. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, consult with your wedding planner and take a day off. Take your time. Use this slow period to enjoy being engaged. Create a wedding website together to share your love story. Have date nights in the living room. Grow your commitment to spending the rest of your lives together.
These interviews have been edited for clarity and length.
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