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Wedding Planning + Social Distancing: The Pros Weigh in on What to Do During COVID-19

Local wedding experts discuss how coronavirus impacts your wedding plans. 
By: 
Lara M. Burnap & Meg Bartley
Covid-19 Wedding planning advice with bride and grooms shoes and bouquet.

As concerns about COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, spread across the globe, the Centers for Disease Control recommends people avoid crowded places and maintain distance from others. While it's far from the biggest COVID-related concern, this pandemic will affect couples with upcoming nuptials. Oregon Bride asked local wedding experts how they're responding, whether you should postpone your wedding and other words of industry wisdom they have to share during these uncertain times. 

How are you working with your couples to make this decision about whether or not to postpone their weddings?   

“At Bridal Bliss, we have been in communication with all of our couples planning an event in 2020 (and beyond). Those who were planning for the festivities to take place before June have mostly pulled the trigger and either postponed or a small number have cancelled all together.  

"Come June, we are suggesting our couples create a contingency plan and hold tight a bit. Obviously, the decision is theirs, but with invitations not having to be sent until 8-10 weeks prior to the wedding, there is no reason to make an immediate decision. We are keeping ourselves educated with coronavirus and COVID-19 updates, holding a potential future date and continuing to plan. Each wedding is different and depending on the details and logistics, some may likely be able to go on and others not.” Nora Shiels, Bridal Bliss 

“We are staying in open communication with all couples and taking it day by day as information and official recommendations are released by the health department and local officials. We want clients to know that we are here for them and will do everything in our power to keep their vision for their dream wedding intact.” Lauren Carr, Artemis Foods and Everett West 

“First and foremost, we listen. This is one of the most momentous days of their lives interfacing with an unprecedented situation full of unknowns. We want to hear from our couples. We want to hear their priorities, their concerns and their ideas. And then we do what we can to help. Using some creative thinking, flexibility and integrity, we have been and will continue to do everything we possibly can to find a happy solution for our clients.” Rita Paolo, Private Event Sales Director, The Oregon Golf Club 

For every couple we have been working diligently on back-up plans. This takes some control back and a sense of ease. We then have a deadline to decide what’s “next” to be sure they still have the special day they deserve!” Carisa Smith, Adornment Events 

"For weddings in June and beyond, we're collecting information from venues and vendors to give our couples the most relevant information, so they can make informed decisions. It also comes down to their guests. Who can't you have your wedding without? Are you OK with a smaller guest count? How many guests are traveling? A lot goes into these decisions, but we're recommending that weddings in June and beyond wait to reschedule until we have more information.” Bree Denman, The Indigo Bride 

Should couples postpone for the time being? Or should they reschedule and pick a new date? 

“This is such a hard question, as it really depends on the wedding and the couple.  At the very least, a new date should be held just in case it will have to be postponed!” Nora Shiels, Bridal Bliss 

“We have seen both and also had clients so committed to their date, they are holding strong. There isn’t a right or wrong answer here, just do what feels right for you both, your families and friends and then commit to that decision. Be flexible and don’t forget to enjoy the process—it’s your wedding!” Rita Paolo, Private Event Sales DirectorThe Oregon Golf Club 

We recommend that couples with weddings before June 1st postpone at this time. By making that decision early, they can give their guests ample notice, give their vendors ample notice, and avoid the stress of having to make last-minute changes in the week or two before their wedding.  

Selecting a new date now is most likely the best way to go, as opposed to an undecided postponement. There are many people in these situations, and also new couples getting engaged every day seeking future dates for their wedding. By securing a date now, they can ensure they don't have to wait too long, simply because all the dates have been taken.”  Lauren CarrArtemis Foods and Everett West 

“The question I ask is what is the percent of the guest count traveling to Oregon. This we see as a potential 'fall off' from the guest list and have to be OK with those people not being able to attend depending on current status. For example, if your 75-year-old mother is traveling from the East Coast (and can’t see the day without her like my one couple), let’s move dates now as that is a deal breaker.” Carisa Smith, Adornment Events 

Right now, we're rescheduling all weddings through May for dates later in the year. We're recommending that later weddings wait until 1-2 months out from their date to consider rescheduling, so we can wait and see what happens.” Bree Denman, The Indigo Bride 

“If your wedding date is scheduled before May 10th and you want to have more than 25 people in attendance then you'll need to reschedule per the state of Oregon.  After that date, it's really up to each individual unless the state (or city) extends.” Jordan Gladow, Blum Floral Design  

This is a great question, and there’s not a blanket answer for all 2020 weddings. I think we—wedding professionals along with 2020 engaged couples—are all holding on to hope that the dust settles on the Covid-19 situation before it impacts more future wedding plans. Of course, some have already been affected, but our best advice is to stay calm and informed and don’t feel rushed to make any big decisions until you have to. With the situation continuing to develop hour by hour, the key to alleviating all of our worst fears could be just one breakthrough, one headline away! Hang on to hope, friends, and try your best not to worry. 

That doesn’t mean we should blind ourselves to the situation though. We can be wise without overreacting. Couples with spring weddings, it may be a good idea to start considering contingency plans. Again, don’t pull the trigger until you have to, but having a plan in place is a good idea. Any true wedding professional is prepared to work with you if you need to reschedule your date. If you have a wedding planner, they can help with the logistics of a contingency plan. If you don’t have one, many are offering special services to help couples without planners manage rescheduling. Consider reaching out to them! The investment may be worth its weight in gold. 

We’re hopeful that summer, fall, and winter weddings won’t be adversely affected by coronavirus. Time will tell, but we really don’t think couples with weddings then should worry just yet. Again, stay informed and if the situation continues or worsens in the months ahead, consider making contingency plans.” Jake and Anna Tenney, Sweetlife Photography 

How are you supporting your clients if they choose to reschedule or postpone? 

“Our team is trying to support our clients and fellow wedding pros as much as possible through this crazy time. We have been working around the clock communicating with our clients, trying to reschedule dates and check vendor availability.  For those that choose to reschedule, we are sending out emails/texts/phone calls/printed cards to keep them updated and give them time to potentially cancel travel plans.” Nora Shiels, Bridal Bliss 

“The Oregon Golf Club is a strong partner for our couples and is committed to finding new dates for those wishing to do so. In addition, we developed a new ceremony and reception space called 'The Vineyard' which is entirely outdoors and can operate independently from the clubhouse and Rose Pavilion in order to offer additional and equally picturesque venue options for our couples.”  Rita Paolo, Private Event Sales DirectorThe Oregon Golf Club 

“We are waiving our date change fees in full, offering clients the full use of their deposit payment towards their event on a new date.” Lauren CarrArtemis Foods and Everett West 

“People that have planners really have someone supporting them with a team of vendors and serve as a hub of communication through all of this hardship. We are happy to be there for them! We are working hard with venues and vendors hired by couples with options on moving dates. Trying to keep that carefully selected vendor team intact. Then just having a deadline to activate those backup plans with all onboard.” Carisa Smith, Adornment Events 

We are reaching out to venues and vendors to find a date that works for the highest amount of people. Rescheduled 2020 dates tend to be Sundays, Fridays or Mondays, because that's what the venues usually have available at this point in the year. This also helps the vendors make those dates work, because we have more availability on those days. Really, we all want to do everything we can to make these weddings happen! So, everyone is doing the best they can to accommodate and make it work." Bree Denman, The Indigo Bride  

“If you need to reschedule your wedding or start making a contingency plan, it’s extremely important to reach out to your vendor team BEFORE choosing your new date! It may take a bit of coordination to find a new date that works for everyone, but the goal is that no one involved—the couple or any of the vendors—would suffer financial loss as the result of rescheduling or postponement. We’re all in this together and there are paths forward that can limit financial hardship for the small businesses you’re working with while still having the wedding day of your dreams! On behalf of most wedding small businesses, we humbly encourage couples to reschedule within the same calendar year if it’s safe to do so and allowed by law. 

We can’t speak for all businesses but for us, rescheduling within the same calendar year is no big deal, and there are no fees or penalties. For us it’s truly as simple as just changing the date on our calendar. Thankfully we haven’t had any clients needing to reschedule yet, but if that day comes we want to make it as easy as possible. Most photographers only work with a relatively small handful of couples each year—around 20 for us—and each one is so incredibly special. We’ll do everything we can to be a source of calm, support, and encouragement.” Jake and Anna Tenney, Sweetlife Photography 

“For clients who are postponing or rescheduling we're respecting any payments made thus far and will re-apply it to the new date.  That said, we need a minimum of 2 weeks of notice as that's the least amount of time we can cancel flower orders without penalties from our growers and suppliers.” Jordan Gladow, Blum Floral Design 

If couples choose to cancel and instead elope or head to the courthouse, what kind of penalties do they face with contracts? 

“Wedding professionals have been mostly flexible, especially if the couple is looking to reschedule to another date.  Cancelling is another ball of worms. Most (if not all) retainers are not refundable, and depending on the date, some final payments may be due as well.  Everything should be clearly laid out on each vendor contract, so that is the first place to look!” Nora Shiels, Bridal Bliss 

With events (both weddings and corporate events) being forced to cancel in the coming months, we are in a difficult position making sure we can stay afloat financially during this crisis. We are unable to refund deposit payments and must retain any payments made. In order to make the most of that, we encourage postponing in lieu of canceling, so that their full payment can go towards their new date.”  Lauren CarrArtemis Foods and Everett West 

“Most people are just losing deposits and OK with that. Vendors that have 30 day out or 60 day out clauses in contracts are trying their best to waive them based on the nature of all of this. Most vendors as small businesses don’t want to lose their sweet couples and would prefer to work with them in any way possible to keep dates.” Carisa Smith, Adornment Events 

“Retainers are non-refundable so instead of cancelling altogether I recommend downsizing orders. That way you can still carry a bouquet and have some arrangements delivered to your home for an intimate celebration. We can also use the flowers ordered to make deliveries to your friends, family or donate to hospice. We'll simply drop deliveries off on front porches to avoid human contact during this time of social distancing. It is important to note though that we certainly need to work within the constraints placed by our local government so things may change if stricter shelter in place laws are put into action.” Jordan Gladow, Blum Floral Design 

What advice would you give couples faced with this decision? 

“I just feel so bad for all of these couples. My best advice is to create a contingency plan, and then sit tight. We are all in this together and the wedding community has really shown up in trying to support all of our couples.” Nora Shiels, Bridal Bliss 

“Talk to each other, listen to the little voice inside that knows all things and figure out your options. Go from there. Move forward from that place and you will make the right decision.” Rita Paolo, Private Event Sales Director, The Oregon Golf Club 

“The most important thing we encourage couples to remember is that this time will pass. While we don't necessarily know when, how or what that will look like, we will eventually come out on the other side. By postponing to a later date, couples can keep their loved ones safe, allow us to keep our staff safe, and still have the wedding of their dreams, just a little later in the year.  

For some couples, their specific wedding date is memorable or special and they don't want to lose that. We totally understand that! In those cases, we encourage a small ceremony/elopement on their original date so that they get to keep that special day as their anniversary for years to come. Celebrate that momentous occasion in a big way a little further down the road, or even as a one-year anniversary party. 

Most importantly, we encourage couples to keep the big picture in perspective. It can be very hard to let go of specific plans, especially when they have spent so much time and money towards making those plans a reality. Remember that weddings are about saying 'I do' to the most important person in your life. The party can come later and will be every bit as special, possibly even more so as a celebration of weathering this storm. Lauren CarrArtemis Foods and Everett West 

“I would say we are all with you. The one thing I know more than anything is the Portland Wedding Community is full of kind, heartfelt artists and professionals. We want nothing more than to see you happy. Not all of this community may make it out of 2020 without closing doors. If at all possible, collaborate with your vendor team and see what is possible before moving your date to 2021 or canceling all together. This will allow those small businesses to navigate through this to see 2021. No matter what is decided or works for you best - I’ve seen kindness, flexibility and gratitude within Portland and our couples and I’m proud of that.” Carisa Smith, Adornment Events 

“For the first time in our lifetimes, literally everyone on the planet is battling the same enemy and talking about the same topic. Even your friends who ignore the news typically are aware of what’s going on! In a big way, our world is united in a common cause and our best hope is to stand together (well…6 feet apart…but you know what we mean). Friends, let’s seek the greatest good for each other. That’s our best advice. Let’s find the win-win solutions so no one has to lose. Let's plan beautiful and safe celebrations, even if that means rescheduling. Let’s write and witness incredible love stories that persevered through adversity. And let’s keep the small businesses we all know, love, and trust from insurmountable financial hardship. 

How?  

1) Don’t panic, and don’t rush to make a decision to reschedule until you have to. None of us know yet what tomorrow will hold, let alone this summer, fall, or winter. It may actually be good news! 

2) If you’re having a spring wedding, it’s wise to start making a contingency plan by contacting your vendor team and coordinating a backup date. Try so hard to not to lose any of your vendors along the way! Again, they are all small businesses who need your wedding to put food on the table. 

3) If you’re having a summer, fall, or winter wedding, hold fast. Stay informed, but don’t start down the road of rescheduling until you have to. Your wedding is still months away! A lot can change between now and then, and hopefully for the better. 

4) If you do need to reschedule, support your wedding vendors by choosing a new date they have available within the same calendar year, assuming it’s safe to do so and allowed by law. Rescheduling within the same year poses little-to-no problem for most vendors. Postponing until the following year, however, could have significant financial impact." Jake and Anna Tenney, Sweetlife Photography  

“I think the most important thing to remember is to stay calm, collect information and give yourself time to make decisions when it comes to postponements and cancellations. Please feel free to ask your vendors for their advice and policies. This is a challenging time as we're all navigating how to promote health, keep our businesses afloat and simultaneously ease the stress of our clients during what should be the happiest time of their lives. We're in this together and we will figure it out.”  Jordan Gladow, Blum Floral Design 

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