by LA BELLE FETE
We are planners – curators of all things beautiful. Excellent foresight is carved under our belts, and we have surpassed several challenges in the past because we planned for all possibilities. But COVID-19 is something we could never have expected – and its aftermath to the weddings and events industry has been monumental. Since last year, we have received massive beatings – all suppliers, hotels, event places, couples, and clients. It has been a seesaw ride – up and down, without anywhere to go. But with every thrust of the hips and rock of the plank, we have become familiar with the weight and eventually have learned to find the balance.
We live, we learn. And like any skill you polish over time, you become better through experience. We have become the compass that leads our clientele in the right direction. If it’s any consolation, as the pandemic has disrupted the whole world, we have morphed to adapt. The road is still rough and hard to navigate – from ever-changing regulations, lack of vaccines, and the ever-evolving scenario as the pandemic unceasingly spreads and mutates. But like a professional driver who has grasped the enormity of the roadblocks, we have studied the winding roads as we acquired new skillsets to have a smooth ride despite the humps and bumps.
The unstable situation, sudden changes, and health concerns naturally take away the joy in planning events. Hence, we aim to help one another at this difficult time as we share some tips that can help you alleviate stress and put back the bliss in wedding planning amid the pandemic.
Be *very* prepared but realistic when it comes to creating your guest list.
As much as we want to encourage you to stick to intimate events with few guests because that’s the safest and most ideal scenario, we do not want to clip the wings of those who dream of a bigger celebration. Weddings only come once in a lifetime – and that is still true whether there’s a pandemic or not. Moreover, in the past months, big celebrations have been successfully held given that safety protocols and conformity to guidelines (and capacity) were strictly followed. The truth is uncertainty flashes in bold letters. But with the massive vaccine rollout, the future seems brighter.
We urge you to create three sets of guestlist. These sets suggest the type of wedding you would like to push through at a given time. Timing is, of course, one crucial element at play. Say you firmly decide to get married next week, by hook or by crook; you have a ready list on who to invite and the size of the crowd that will eventually solidify all other vital decisions. In a different scenario, when the government eases restrictions, you can push for a wedding on a large scale quickly with the highest level of safety implementations.
The first list suggests a smaller gathering with 10-20 guests. You can name this set the VIP or PRIORITY LIST. Think of the non-negotiable people you would like to be there – your families and critical suppliers, and list them down. For the second set, the VIP+ LIST, you may include your closest friends. This set can consist of up to 50 guests. The third one is the DREAM LIST. It categorizes a more significant celebration with the number of guests you initially thought of inviting. It can include plus ones and family friends. On the other hand, we still encourage you to choose your guests wisely regardless of what list they’d fall under. You can cut the guest list based on easy eliminations.
Do you need to invite parents’ friends out of courtesy even if you do not know them personally? Eliminate.
Do you have to invite acquaintances or friends you haven’t talked to in years because you are afraid to hurt their feelings? Eliminate.
Do you have to say yes to all plus ones you barely know because one friend will bring her girlfriend? Eliminate.
You may start with the first list or the VIP list, and you may add guests based on their significance in your lives. This is how you begin creating the three lists.
We want to highlight that while we are hopeful, preparedness is the key to glide through the changes and avoid disappointments. It also aids in aligning expectations and helps you come up with a sound decision. Should you go for a smaller wedding now, invite the VIPs, or wait it out until you can go for the DREAM LIST? Note that there is another option to wed now and celebrate later if you do the first (from micro wedding to sequel wedding). Again, the possibilities are limitless; you just have to plan efficiently.
Pick a safe, most comfortable, and most flexible venue.
You already win the game when you find a venue that will lift off all the possible stress you may encounter on top of what you have on your plate. At this point, all plans should be malleable. Look for a place that can accommodate the lists mentioned above – whether intimate or grand. The horror stories in the past months wherein couples had to move venues in less than a week because of venue problems, such as late notice that they couldn’t use the space anymore, or no suppliers would be allowed, or there were no other options as a fallback are true. They happened.
It would be best if you ascertain red flags before you sign a contract with the venue. Do they have different spaces to provide if the main hall/ballroom isn’t possible, like a restaurant or open space? Can they accommodate rescheduling? How soon can they inform you of changes in their guidelines (both internal and agreement/permit with LGU)? Are they responsive? What are the current restrictions (e.g., no musicians, no suppliers, no photos, no wedding preps, no program, etc.), and are you okay with those? How high is the level of safety (protocols) they implement?
Prepare a thorough health and safety plan.
Getting married is a milestone that is worth fighting for. But like any action or decision made during this time, we need to always bear in mind our moral and social responsibility. You do not want to remember your special day with regrets and stress if it exposes people to the virus. Just as you carefully curate the details of your wedding, you should prepare a safety scheme. Send safety reminders to guests who will attend your event (about social distancing, mask-wearing, sanitizing, honest declaration, etc.). Temperature checks and health declarations are also staples nowadays. Another facet you may want to explore is ANTIGEN or RT-PCR testing. It is not a 100% foolproof license to be cavalier. Still, it indeed eliminates a high percentage of possible spread of infection if you find out early on that some people who will grace your event are COVID-19 positive and may infect others. Signages will also help to remind them not to let their guard down during the event. The same also applies to your suppliers, who should practice the safety protocol at all times. The venue and/or caterer should also present a plan on how they disinfect their space and items, prepare their food safely, and implement health checks with non-guests (e.g., hotel guests not part of the event but go inside the premises). Consider a layout that enhances the guest experience while accommodating physical distancing. Likewise, foodservice should also be on top of mind. Traditional buffets and self-serve food stations are a no for now. It allows us to lean into plated meals, small-plate, chef-attended stations, or pre-packed grab-and-go dishes in custom boxes. Photo sessions should also be planned accordingly as well as the wedding program.
Nothing can beat human touch and interactions. But if there’s one thing that the pandemic proves – if there’s a will, there’s a way. With the rise of virtual meetings, planning efficiently no longer requires us to risk going out and exposing each other for hours. Wedding planning is still happening merrily right now. Our inboxes are still full, and our days are filled with countless meetings and liaisons with clients. The blissful vibe is up in the air. But now, we plan safely, efficiently, and wisely in the comfort of our homes while face-to-face meetings are still on hold. Most suppliers are also conducting virtual appointments and getting to know couples, their requirements, and style just comfortably as they would in person.
Wedding professionals find creative ways quickly to provide solutions to our clients. Now more than ever, the powerful collaboration among suppliers and clients is front and center. As times go by, more and more ideas will come to fruition – from the planning process, decors, program, layout, food to the tiniest wedding detail. True enough, our industry is a realm of creativity.
Trust the beautiful process.
The structured “wedding timeline” is taking the back seat for now. But it still proves to be beneficial to follow the progression of the whole wedding planning sequence based on importance and proper timing. Do not rush, as haste can be a waste. There’s an immense difference between preparing vis-a-vis rushing. Imagine asking to print 100 sets of invites on the first day of planning, then only changing the date and cutting down the guest count later on, or booking an expensive luxury bridal car only to realize later on that you will have your wedding at home.
Similarly, it is also not wise to delay decisions. Have an honest conversation with your partner about plan B (C, D, E…). Getting on the same page as your future spouse can help you cross out impending troubles.
Everything is novel, but you still need to put your trust in your wedding planner and vendors as they guide you with the ebb and flow of the whole process. Perfection is nowhere in sight at the moment, but appreciation and optimism can make a huge difference.
Hire a Wedding Planner.
Event planners are the new pandemic specialists. With thousand obstacles we had to resolve in the past year, we have become the non-negotiable wedding essentials, which was long overdue. But it doesn’t come with pure joy and pride. We have seen how our clients are swallowed whole by the pandemic conundrum. And we had to master the cosmic plans as fast as we could so we could provide the saving hands that our clients need at this time.
Staying up to date and being on toes with perpetually changing and confusing guidelines together with all the expected wedding hullabaloos can be supremely stressful if you do it by yourselves.
A wedding planner is extremely instrumental in monitoring these changes, creating backup plans, and resolving all issues that may arise – from making necessary arrangements regardless of the guest count, booking and choosing the perfect venue, to devising and implementing a safety scheme. And it will all be done while you plan safely and enjoy the beautiful process.