Weddings in the time of COVID

Tricia Dever makes it her business to see that other people have fun. Literally. Dever is the owner of Always Eventful, a company that specializes in helping people plan some of the most important days of their lives, particularly weddings.

Tricia Dever makes it her business to see that other people have fun.

Literally.

Dever is the owner of Always Eventful, a company that specializes in helping people plan some of the most important days of their lives, particularly weddings.

“It started when I was little; I was always interested in everybody’s wedding,” Dever said. “I used to make notes about them.”

After teaching for a couple of years at Southgate School, Dever got a job as a special-event planner at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, followed by a job at Glenmoor Country Club as a wedding coordinator.

“When I worked at Glenmoor, I was their primary coordinator,” she said. “After I did a couple hundred, I felt pretty prepared to do this on my own.”

She launched her own business in 2004.

Dever said that, like everything else, the COVID-19 pandemic has had an adverse impact on her industry. 

“Obviously, everything was canceled until June until the governor gave the OK for events of 300 or less,” she said. “Most of us did not have a wedding until late June or early July.”

During that time, Dever said she planned about six “micro weddings.”

The guest lists, she said, went from 250 guests to about 100.

“They were intimate,” she said. “They were smaller but still beautiful and meaningful because the core people there were closest to that couple.”

Dever said some couples have rescheduled their weddings for 2021.

“Those people wanted the full party, the fairytale,” she said. “What that will look like is still to be known.”

Though Dever’s primary business is weddings, she also plans and coordinates other social gatherings including birthdays, corporate events, Bat and Bar Mitzvahs and private parties during Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival Week.

“Those are a lot of fun,” she said.

Dever said she coordinates all aspects of an event, from catering to entertainment and security.

“I’m a full-service planner,” she said. “It’s all going through me. Typically I’m the person who’s making sure everyone is in the right place, at the right time. My role is to make sure everyone else knows their role.”

Dever said she’s had some memorable requests, particularly for wedding ceremonies.

“I’ve had it all,” she said. “It just depends on the actual event. I’ve had to rent horses, and elephants for an Indian wedding. I had a bride from Pakistan who wanted a seven-foot cake with fireworks. We figured out how to do that. I’ve hired bellydancers. It’s a load of fun. It depends on what the bride’s focus is and what she wants guests to remember.”

Dever said she especially enjoys planning ethnic weddings.

“Jewish weddings are some of my favorites because there’s so much meaning in the ceremony,” she said. “Ethnic weddings are always fun.”

Dever said it’s still possible for families to experience a good event, provided they have a plan. 

“They have to do it smartly and think through every aspect of that day,” she said. “If alcohol ends at 10, what are you going to do to keep your guests engaged? You have to think through the timeline to make sure you’re engaging couples and guests, and that you have enough space. At a lot of my weddings, we did ‘micro-tables’ in addition to a micro-wedding. They were uniquely set for a number of guests.”

Dever said some weddings also distributed decorative or color-coordinated face masks.

“At one wedding, they gave out bracelets,” she said. “Red was for ‘stand back,’ yellow for ‘I’m OK with talking’ and green for ‘hug me.’ I will say my biggest piece of advice is: If you want it to stay safe, it comes down to the hosts. If they aren’t wearing masks and being safe, people are going to follow suit.”

Dever said coordinating events require a lot more thinking and planning than before the outbreak.

“I definitely recommend assigned seating and assigned seats—with names,” she said. “It gives your guests an extra layer of calmness.”

Dever said having a “Plan B” is a must for couples who want outdoor weddings.

“Before you book the venue, you need a plan B,” she said. “Some brides will roll the dice and throw a tent up, but you just can’t throw up a tent. They’re all booked for graduation parties. You have to think through a contingency.”

“Weddings that are even more tricky are those in a family yard or a family space because you have to think about bathrooms, a catering tent and parking. Are you going to have a valet? Those weddings do have a lot more details you have to think through.”

As for new wedding trends, Dever said there are no rules.

“People are getting married in all kinds of venues,” she said. “A lot of people are using barns, but ballrooms are still popular. I think the trends are leaning toward a lot of fun.”

Dever said dueling piano groups, for instance, have become enormously popular and are very hard to book.

“They’re phenomenal, and it’s different than a band or a DJ,” she said. “I noticed this year that indoor-outdoor access is critical, as in a patio or veranda. Cigar bars are becoming more popular with grooms and groomsmen.

Dever said other popular trends include late-night food, food trucks and ice cream trucks.

“I think in the last 10 years, weddings changed so much. Things just kept going,” she said.

Now in business for nearly 17 years, Dever said she’s earned clients’ trust, which helps them to remain calm.

“I had hundreds and hundreds of brides,” she said. “I’ve been really blessed. I don’t know if I’m just lucky. Sometimes, you have a ‘momzilla,’ but for the most part, I don’t have that problem. They trust me. I tell them a wedding is like a huge ball at the top of the hill; once it gets going, you might just as well enjoy the ride.”

Dever said that, ideally, a year is enough time for planning a wedding, but it’s still possible to plan a nice affair in less time.

“You can do a wedding in three to four months as long as you’re booking quality vendors, especially if you’re open to a Friday or a Sunday,” she said. “The Northeast Ohio wedding circuit is like a team. There are great vendors out there … The issue with 2021 is weddings are going to be very clustered next year.”

Dever said owning a business has been a rewarding experience that’s enabled her to spend time with her children.

“I just love seeing the final product,” she said. “I love it when I open the door to a bride and let her see the room for the first time. I think it’s a combination of all the planning and watching them having a wonderful day.”