Days before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged Americans to postpone or cancel gatherings of more than 50 people, Robyn Macy, 29, and her fiancé, Andrew, were already downsizing their March 21 wedding.
The original plan: 180 people at a venue in Tarrytown, New York, black-tie dress, with a wedding band coaxing people out onto the dance floor. The new plan: 25 people in Andrew’s parents’ living room, twinkle lights strewn about, dinner and a homemade cake, no dancing. The guest list is capped at the couple, their immediate families, the rabbi who’s officiating, bridal party and best friends. Everyone will still wear their tuxes and gowns.
Like many other couples around the country, Robyn and Andrew are postponing their larger celebration, which will now take place in August.
But they didn’t want to wait six months to tie the knot.
“Even this feels a bit Prohibition-y,” Macy said in a phone interview on March 17, “because Trump just said no gatherings of more than 10 people.”
Planning a wedding is stressful on its own. Re-planning it while a pandemic is unfolding is a whole new level of stress. To help couples cope, The Knot and Wedding Wire launched a 24/7 hotline staffed with wedding planners and experts. Callers are asking things like: “I have a wedding in June. Should I postpone?” says Kristen Maxwell Cooper, editor in chief of The Knot. “Or: I need to postpone because it’s in three weeks. How do I start?”
Some people just want to be heard, Maxwell Cooper says. “Couples understand that there are bigger things at play, but it’s still a disappointing thing. Sometimes they just want someone to tell them they’re allowed to feel disappointed and upset.”
To Macy, the chaos of this moment has been clarifying. Her mantra to her fiancé has been: “As long as I get to marry you, I don’t care.”
“The whole point of this is to marry your person,” Macy adds. “At the end of the day, if you get to do that, you’re winning.”
Here’s what couples are doing, and professionals are suggesting, to amend wedding plans.
Weddings are all about bringing people together, which becomes tricky during a period of social distancing. Susan Cordogan, founder of the Chicago-based event planning company Big City Bride, suggested using technology to help include those who can’t attend in person.
“We’ve had the best man read the father’s toast, and had the toast live-streamed,” Cordogan said of past clients. Virtual guest books and prerecorded speeches can help, too.
When it comes to food and drinks, she advised skipping communal and self-service options like buffets, though the recommended alternatives of individually plated options are more expensive.
Obviously those who were planning weddings in Ohio of more than 300 people will have to postpone or cancel. But even those beyond July should come up with a Plan B, suggests Maxwell Cooper, so talk to your vendors. “You may not have to execute a plan B, but come up with one,” she says, starting with brainstorming a backup date and then letting your guests and vendors know.
Vendors have been extremely accommodating, Maxwell Cooper notes, and couples will need to be flexible as well. That might mean rescheduling what would have been a Saturday wedding for a Thursday, Friday or Sunday wedding.
Make it smaller (or private)
Bree Ryback, a day-of wedding coordinator in Washington, reminds couples that they always can go to a courthouse and get married. A wedding reception is “a party; you can move parties,” she said, adding that the District even allows for self-uniting marriages, in which one partner acts as the officiant. So even if you and your partner are self-quarantined, you still could get married—and celebrate later.
Sarah Yates, 25, and her fiancé Byron, 26, had been planning a 130-person wedding for March 28 in Laguna Beach, California. They decided to postpone the big celebration until July. But in the meantime, they planned a wedding with nine people (themselves included). On March 28, Sarah and Byron, along with their moms and best friends, planned to drive from Laguna Beach four hours north to Morro Bay, where Sarah and Bryon got engaged 15 months prior.
“This whole process of not being able to have the wedding that you planned for 15 months is the best reminder of why you’re getting married in the first place,” Yates said in a phone interview in mid-March, adding that she and Byron have become so much closer in having to be flexible and make these big decisions around their nuptials. “Getting married has such a bigger and deeper meaning than one day. … I could get married in a laundromat; I don’t really care,” she added.
In the event that they can’t drive up to Morro Bay, the couple said they would just take some cool pictures around the house and gather a few core folks in their backyard. “We have plan A through Z and backwards,” Yates said. “The big thing right now is: We’re still healthy; we’re OK. There are bigger things in the world.”
Adam Ezring and Heather Foster, who live in Washington, had planned a May 3 wedding in Italy but are postponing until August. “We had some friends propose that we just get married in D.C. and do a one-year anniversary trip to Italy. But we’re not ready to give up on our dream wedding yet,” Ezring said.
Adam Sontag and his fiancé are in the process of rescheduling their April 4 wedding in New Jersey. They don’t have a new date yet, but Sontag reports that their venue and photographer have already offered to be flexible. “We want to feel good about everyone attending doing so when they also will feel good about it,” Sontag wrote in an email, adding that postponing the wedding “relieves some of the incredible stress of this moment, as we can now go back to just being worried about this moment, rather than how it will affect our wedding.”
While postponing, you can still mark that special day
While shifting to a later date, Maxwell Cooper still encourages couples to find a way to celebrate the day they had intended to get married. That could be by making a favorite dish and opening a bottle of wine you’d been saving for your honeymoon. Or watching a favorite movie or show together.
When Ezring and Foster were planning their wedding in Italy, they didn’t even know wedding insurance existed. They found just two providers that covered Italy: One had an update on its website saying it doesn’t cover cancellations because of the coronavirus, and the other didn’t respond to a request for comment. “Even if we had bought it, it would be debatable about whether it would be covered,” Foster said.
Borales notes that most wedding venues in Washington require the hosts to take out liability insurance. “We always suggest to get insurance,” Borales said, which typically runs $300 to $600. However, it’s unclear whether wedding insurers will cover the costs of events canceled due to the coronavirus. “This is not something any of us have really had an opportunity to work through,” she said.
—Lisa Bonos | The Washington Post