2021 Wedding Planning Advice From APW Couples

Helpful tips from 2020 newlyweds

Hindsight is 20/20 as they say, right? 2020. GET IT? Anyway. Last March we were all introduced to the concept of the Pandemic Wedding. In the beginning of Pandemic Times the general vibe was “WTF, how is this ever going to work?” but as we know to be true, humans are resilient AND creative. And if there’s anything APW couples proved last year, it’s just that. They found ways to do the damn thing, pandemic be damned. 2021 wedding planning advice graphic

In the beginning, we saw a flood of postponements and cancellations, because let’s be honest, no one knew what the hell we were dealing with yet, and we all hoped this would be over in two weeks, or… like two months, MAX…right? Wrong.

So overnight couples were forced to reimagine what their wedding day was going to look like. Gone were the plans for that 100+ person dream wedding and delicious passed appetizers. Suddenly folx were looking down the pipeline of micro-weddings and elopements, accompanied by COVID-19 safety plans trying to figure out if they’d need to adjust their plans accordingly (HINT: they did.)

By April, folx were getting hitched on Zoom, running to their backyards (or their roof or stoop) with just a witness having intimate at-home weddings. And with small weddings becoming the new normal, couples drew inspiration from backyard weddings, elopements, and pop-up weddings and we saw plenty of those smaller celebrations popping up on our timelines. We can’t say we’re mad at it. At the end of the day, couples were going back to basics and it’s looking like that trend is going to roll into the new year.

Learning to navigate life in a pandemic was something new for all of us and for folx planning weddings last year, it just made things a little (okay, a lot) harder to make it down the aisle. 2020 was uncharted territory for couples in the thick of wedding planning, but while 2021 is still a hot pandemic mess, the territory has been charted for you, at least a little bit.

For those of you getting married this year (or newly engaged), we gathered our best wedding planning tips from real couples that made it through planning a wedding in the midst of a pandemic. And if you have a wedding planning question or a pandemic wedding tip, hit the comment section.

2021 Wedding Planning Advice From Real Couples

masked couple exchanging rings during their ceremony

WHO: Anastasia + Feliks | Where: Brooklyn, New York | ONE SENTENCE SUM UP OF THE WEDDING VIBE: Very chill and laid back. Joyous and warm.

On doing what you want:

Do exactly what you want for the day—not what others want or expect! And if things don’t go as you had originally planned or hoped, all that matter is that you two get to have a good time.

couple kissing in a field of flowers

Who: Meagan + Tom | Where: Russellville, Kentucky | ONE SENTENCE SUM UP OF THE WEDDING VIBE: A dreamy tale of whimsy and love, bold and bright and unapologetic.

On remaining flexible:

My best advice is to stop looking at Pinterest. While in theory, it can give you wonderful ideas, I found myself dreaming of unaffordable and unrealistic scenarios. I implore you to instead find vendors that share YOUR vision, and from there explore options that fit your actual budget and reality. Did I want that private island beach wedding with a $20,000 floral budget and personal chef? Uh yeah. Was it a plausible outcome to my reality? Absolutely not. Do not constantly disappoint yourself with ideas out of your reach. Instead, dream up affordable options that are readily available to you. And also, let yourself be surprised. My original wedding plan looked nothing like my elopement, and what I ended up with was a story book day dream that looked like it should have been a magazine spread. Had I not been flexible, who knows what it would have turned out like!


couple embracing

Who: Ashlee + Stacey | Where: West Hollywood, California | ONE SENTENCE SUM UP OF THE WEDDING VIBE: A last minute boho backyard ceremony with face masks, crowns and togas.

On embracing DIY details:

Making our own arch! We couldn’t rent one due to the pandemic, so we opted to build one that we could put together on site. We scoured Pinterest, watched some Youtube videos, and got to work… we were off work anyways so it gave us the perfect project.

The day before the wedding, we bought $100 worth of flowers and pampas grass to put on the arch and dinner table. In the end, it was our favorite thing! The best part? Ashlee’s mom got ordained last minute so she could marry us, under the arch.

smiling couple standing next to their wedding cake

WHO: Amber Rose + Punthawat | LOCATION: Childhood Home, Vancouver, Washington | ONE SENTENCE SUM UP OF THE VIBE: Electronic love with organic happiness.

On the energy of your wedding day:

It’s Covid, it’s okay to be totally pissed about not getting the dream wedding. However, you can still have that amazing moment. Even though we had a handful of guests attend in person, we had 120 people streaming live. We had people sending text messages, photos of themselves dressing up, sending us flowers, requesting us to dance… all kinds of things.

Everyone one laughed and cried… believe me, it will be felt. It will be overwhelming. It will be almost too much to bear that day, but you will. Then, you will feel what we felt that day.

It feels just like the air does before a thunderstorm: neurons and electrons, everything is surreal, and you can nearly taste the particles. That is love. Your guests don’t need to be there. Understand that we are energy, it passes through the physical and into time.

portrait of masked wedding guests

WHO: Naomi + Andrew | LOCATION: Simi Valley, California | ONE SENTENCE SUM UP OF THE WEDDING VIBE: Relaxed pandemic fete with our family and dogs

On community effort:

We were planning to get married at the Santa Barbara county courthouse, a big grand Spanish-style building with a beautiful courtyard garden. When we changed the venue to my sister’s backyard, I bought some willow-style dangling lights to hang on the tree which only ended up costing about $150. We also came together as a family to put down fresh mulch, which my sister and brother-in-law paid for. My MIL gifted us the eucalyptus boughs and candles that adorned each table. The only person who had flowers or a bouquet was my niece, who notified me that she was going to be my flower girl. (We were planning on no formal bridal/groom parties or most other traditional ceremonial features, even pre-COVID.)

groom kissing bride's hand at an at-home wedding ceremonyOur $2.3K Casual and Colorful Wedding At Home

WHO: June + Mitchell | location: Sioux Falls, South Dakota | ONE SENTENCE SUM UP OF THE WEDDING VIBE: Our wedding was colorful, casual, playful – and entirely ‘us.’

On Re-allocating Your Budget:

Once COVID swept the nation, we knew that we could no longer have the 250 guest barn wedding we had spent two years planning. It was a tough choice, but looking back on it, we know it was absolutely the right one.

After being pretty bummed—like really, really bummed—June had the idea to have a wedding on our front porch. We always talked about doing a few home improvement projects and saw this as an opportunity to finally put some action behind all those daydreams. Our house was built in 1915 and is still in really great shape—we just did some aesthetic things. June handmade wooden shutters (replacing dingy white plastic ones), the porch got stripped down and hit with a fresh coat of paint, I moved about 2 tons of rock for the landscaping, and we spent the most money on hanging 150ft of string lights over our driveway.

All in all, we spent about $700 turning our quaint home into our perfect venue. It truly was a win/win—as we not only had the wedding of our dreams, but we get to benefit from our handiwork and relive the magic we created every day.

On what wasn’t worth it:

The stress. We really had our ups and downs planning this wedding. We had a gorgeous barn wedding that we had been planning for two years that just fell apart in a matter of days.

We really thought ‘wow, we should have just gotten married six months after our engagement like everyone else.’ But, in the end—every challenge that we faced led us to an outcome we couldn’t have dreamed up. We realized that COVID actually gave us permission to have the wedding we wanted to have from the very beginning (but just couldn’t socially get away with until a global pandemic hit).

If you’re planning a pandemic wedding, don’t stress – if you stay positive, you might just be surprised at how everything goes your way.

On putting your happiness first:

The only people you have to make happy are yourselves. From the very beginning, we’ve been doing things differently. June proposed to me, we decided on a long engagement, and to top it off we combined our last names into one so neither of us had to sacrifice that part of ourselves completely.

A lot of people, especially here in the Midwest, think our choices don’t make sense or are downright wrong. But, we are so excited about the unique life we’re creating and can’t wait to see what we do next. You don’t create the world you want to see by trying to make everyone happy. Stick with your vision—if it makes you happy, it’s the right one.

Just damn good advice:

Two years ago, before the pandemic, June and I would say that our dream wedding looked like the two of us—in the middle of nowhere—getting married by one of our good friends. We didn’t think that our ideal wedding was anything we could actually get away with—because of moms, dads, aunts and uncles, etc. It literally took a global pandemic to give us permission to have the kind of intimate wedding we thought we always wanted.

But, that shouldn’t be the case.

Whatever your dream is—whether it’s grand or simple—do what you want. It’s your day. We were so thrilled with ourselves and the day we were able to craft with our family and friends—and we just don’t think that feeling would have been the same with an additional 220 guests. We got to personally thank every single guest. We got to hear beautiful speeches from everyone who wanted to speak. We got to play flip cup and be our own DJ—we made memories that are incredibly unique and will last forever.

So whether it’s now, during the rona—or down the road when hopefully things are a little bit more simple—always give yourself permission to do things your way.

You won’t regret it.

Share your best pandemic/2021 wedding planning tips (or questions) in the comments. We’re all ears!

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