Hey there, fellow pandemic planners. This post is most definitely for you. Because I am willing to bet that not too many of your friends and family are well versed in this nightmare that is wedding planning in the midst of a global pandemic. But, here at APW, with our friends from Squarespace, we are with you. I personally, as a person who got engaged last year, am REALLY with you. We’ve been live publishing and updating our content with as much information as we possibly can, as the state of the world has evolved over the past ten (TEN!) months. And, if you’re in the midst of planning (or re-planning) your wedding right now, I know that you are still just screaming into the abyss because I am doing the same (and I spent years as a professional wedding planner, and now work at a wedding publication).
I’m here to remind you of so many things, but mostly that you’re not alone. You can, and will, find the silver linings in this hot mess. Because yes, of course having your dream wedding with minimal stress and low costs would have been ideal. But, the reality is that things are a little messed up, AND you will get to marry your person one way or another and it will be joyful. Let me tell you a not-so-fun, super top-secret little bit of information that I learned working as a wedding planner for many years: no wedding is perfect. I’ve planned, coordinated, and managed well over 150 weddings in my career and… it’s just true. There is always some snafu, some struggle, or stress, or drama. So, while those of us in this uphill fight to get married or plan a wedding during a pandemic are facing a different kind of battle, we’re really not alone.
My story has looked a little something like this: Back in June, when we got engaged, I remember thinking to myself that surely by early 2021 things would be better and we’d see a clear path to getting married in 2021. But just a few months later, I was setting limits for our plans and saying things like: “If we can’t start making solid plans comfortably by late January, we’re eloping.” Well, friends… here we are. It’s mid-January, and while still not a darn thing is set in stone, guess what? I think we’re going to elope(ish).
When Trisha and I started dating, we were both sort of opposed to the whole wedding and marriage game. Specifically, she was not-too-far out from an unpleasant separation and thought she’d never get married again, and I, having spent ten years in the wedding industry planning other people’s weddings, wasn’t interested in a wedding (at least not in the traditional/WIC sense). And then, something magical happened… we fell head over heels for each other and suddenly found ourselves dreaming about the big fancy wedding where we could shout from the rooftops just how much we love each other. Fast forward a few years, and we were the pre-engaged couple who already had a tentative tiny-wedding guest list in our phones (thanks in part to the beginning of pandemic life, and the early signs that weddings would surely look different.) Then, we got engaged and started really diving into what we (actually) wanted.
As we dug into early planning, we thought pushing for a date a year away was a safe enough bet, and we landed on my late mom’s birthday, which is also the weekend that we got engaged in 2020. Turns out, like for so many other folks, that year-out plan was not nearly as safe a bet as we had predicted. Late last year, we chose a small private property where we figured we’d be able to host a small group, and now it’s pretty clear that we’ll be adjusting our plan big time.
In that, we’re throwing the whole plan out. I can’t, anymore, do the thing where I wait to make choices because the world is falling apart, and I stress because if I invite this person then this other person has to come too, and now our guest list is accidentally huge… I just can’t do it. There has been too much stress and too many tears, so far, in our short seven months of engagement, and I want more smiles and happy tears. So, we’re going to have the tiniest of weddings in a place that feels like home, and church, and magic all balled up in one (it’s still a secret, for now). But I wanted to round up some helpful tools and tips for how to not lose your mind while planning a pandemic wedding, and also how to find more of the good and cling to the joy. Because friends, we deserve it.
The Pandemic Planning Basics
If we’re going to talk about the basics and the ways to keep your head screwed on straight during all this… it’s going to be all about putting all the things in writing. And no, I don’t mean typing “wedding” into your email search bar and seeing if you can find all your vendor info in one place. I mean using some spreadsheets, a planner… anything that will keep all your ideas, plans, contacts, and details organized. Trust me when I tell you that even if you aren’t an ‘organized person’ by nature, this is going to be the time to really lean into that part of yourself. We’ve got the tools for you, and you just need to grab a glass of wine and start at it—write it all down. Thank me later when you’re finalizing or adjusting your plans and you know exactly how to contact all those vendors.
Speaking of contacting your vendors… our key advice for wedding planning in a pandemic would have to be communication. Communicate with your vendors, your partner, your guests… heck, with yourself.
Pro-tip: If you don’t already have a wedding website set up… now is the time. It doesn’t have to be fancy, or in-depth, but it will absolutely save you the trouble of having to text 100 different people every time plans change or your county/state. Hop over to our absolute favorites, and the easiest place to set up a custom wedding website, Squarespace. We have a super simple 10-step guide for building your wedding website, and we even have wording you can just steal, and they have wedding website templates that will make it so darn easy. If all you want to do today is put up a landing page, or pop-up, with your names, a ‘updates to come’ note, and a form for email collection so you can send mass updates to your guests? Do it. (Use code “APW” for 10% off!)
If you’ve been at this wedding planning thing for longer than a minute, you already know this one. It can still be helpful to hear and remember, though. In the ‘old world’ of wedding planning, flexibility was key. In pandemic wedding planning, it’s the only option. We just can’t know what the future holds. Remember to take deep breaths and be patient with yourself, your local government (everyone is just trying to keep us all safe), and your vendors (many of whom are hanging onto their businesses by a thread, and just need your understanding and grace).
Pro-tip: Create multiple guest lists. I know this isn’t the most fun (trust me, I’ve done it). But it just might save you a bunch of frantic stress. Let’s say your original/dream guest list has 170 people on it, you should also make a version for a 100 person limit, a 50 person limit, a 30 person limit, and even a 10-12 person limit. Even if a tiny wedding/elopement is off the table completely for you and your partner, and you’re willing to wait until 2023 if that’s what it takes, seeing these lists in writing will help you really unpack your feelings about how vital the big party feeling is to your plans and help you focus on your priorities. For us? We landed on being okay with a tiny group. For you? Maybe the wait will be worth it to have the big party of your dreams.
The Emotional Roller Coaster
Honestly, this just can’t be overstated. It turns out that wedding planning in a pandemic is also a grief process, and a constant trigger, an added stress with a side of stress… it’s just a lot. Find ways that work for you to be patient with yourself, your partner, your vendors, and your families. Meditate, take a walk while you hash out plans with your partner, practice breathing exercises—do whatever it takes to find your peace and calm in the middle of this storm. No one person has any control over all of it, and trying to force control will just make you feel more hectic. Take a day or a week off from wedding planning. Literally, make a ‘no talking about the wedding for a week’ rule to give you and your partner a true break. Come back refreshed.
Okay, maybe it’s re-prioritizing. We always recommend at the beginning of wedding planning to sit down with your partner and make lists of your top priorities. Things that make those lists could be good food, an amazing dance party, a ceremony with a view. And then compare lists and decide on the top 3 things you both deem the most vital to make your wedding yours. Well, at this phase of wedding planning, those priorities might be entirely different. So, now is the time to sit back down and decide together how to adjust your priorities. If the epic dance party is still at the tippy top of your lists, then it might be time to reschedule/re-plan for a later date. If an intimate ceremony with a few friends and family is what matters most, then you could consider moving forward with an elopement or small wedding plan.
Pro-tip: No one (like, absolutely no one) but you and your partner can decide what’s most important or necessary to make your wedding feel like a wedding. Don’t hesitate to throw out your old ideas and start anew, but also feel empowered to stick by what you’ve always pictured and just know that you’ll have to wait it out. Don’t allow other people’s thoughts or the stress of these times force you into a choice that doesn’t feel right. Trust your gut.
The Tips for Keeping the Joy
I read an article recently from Elisabeth Kramer, who’s written for APW and plans weddings in the Portland, Oregon area. She made a brilliant connection between middle school sex ed, and wedding planning, in a way that I think every single person planning a wedding now or in the future should read. Her key advice: talk to your partner. And that, friends, is my first piece of advice for keeping the joy. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the decisions (or decision paralysis and fatigue) and end up feeling like you’re in this alone. I’m here to remind you that you are NOT. This wedding is for you and your partner, and so these moments are also for both of you. Reaching some sort of tipping point, feeling worried, or dreaming about changing plans? Pop open a bottle of wine, order some ramen, and sit down with your love. It’ll help with the stress, but also help remind you both of who you’re doing this all with, and the love that is the reason for this (sometimes super stressful) season.
Another joy keeping and finding tip: refer back to your wedding manifesto or mission statement. Don’t have one? You should. Need to rewrite yours? Do it. At the end of the day, there is nothing more important in pandemic wedding planning (heck, in regular wedding planning too, but even more right now) than remembering and centering your WHY. When Trisha and I really dug back into our mission statement and our why, we were able to remember that our biggest wishes are to not spend tons of money, not live in stress, get married to each other, and share that time with the closest-of-close humans that we love. Magic mountain elopement, here we come!
Pro-tip: Business and professional websites often have their mission statement right at the front of their site. Why can’t your wedding website have the same? Let folks know what you see as the most important part of your upcoming wedding, clear as can be. Create your wedding manifesto or mission statement, and then let it live front and center on your website for all to see.
Stop, drop, and celebrate. Whether you’re recently engaged, or have been at it for a year or two already… take the time and space to celebrate all those small wins. Did you pay off your credit card bill from your dress purchase? Celebrate. Sit down and decide you’re going to get married on zoom ASAP and save the party for later? Celebrate. Choose a cute guestbook to order? Celebrate. Seriously, find the small things (and the big things) to lean into the celebration of this season of life. No matter if it’s longer than you planned on, or you’re adjusting your plans… there’s always a reason to celebrate when you are planning to marry your person!
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