When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, wedding planning suddenly became a lot more complicated. Over the past 10 months, many couples have had to cancel or postpone their planned celebrations and many more are wondering what 2021 has in store.
If you're one of the many couples planning a wedding next year, your mind is probably spinning with questions right now. From concerns about dress alterations and venues to save the date and honeymoon inquiries, there's a lot to think about, so TMRW consulted the pros to find out how you should handle wedding planning in the new year.
1. When should I start bridal alterations?
Dress alterations are a pretty important part of the wedding planning timeline. But if you're not sure when your celebration is going to take place, it's hard to figure out when you should start the process. Every bride is different, and some choose to go for multiple fittings in the months leading up to their big day. But according to Rosa-Lan Jarman, vice president of alterations at David's Bridal, you can wait a bit longer to take in your dress.
"We suggest brides start with alterations at least 6-8 weeks before their event date. We also understand that things might prevent that and offer rush alterations for an additional fee," she said.
If you're planning an early 2021 wedding and don't want to be left with an ill-fitting wedding dress, you can proceed as normal and just keep an open line of communication with your seamstress leading up to the event. The same idea goes for bridesmaid's dress alterations.
"Should your date shift, discuss your needs with the alterations manager and they will help guide you," Jarman said.
If your wedding date does change and you've already completed your bridal alterations, don't panic! Alterations experts are pros and will try their best to ensure that your dress fits as well as possible on your new date.
"We can always take in or let out your gown! Different factors like the style, composition of the dress and seam allowances will play a factor in the amount of alterations that can be done. But alterations specialists can work with you to make sure you look and feel your best on your big day," Jarman said.
2. What questions should I ask my wedding venue?
If you're planning a 2021 wedding and have yet to choose a venue, you'll want to come prepared with a careful set of questions as you tour potential locations. Locking in your wedding venue and signing a contract can make the whole engagement process feel more "real," but be sure to ask what plans they have in place in terms of safety measures and social distancing first. Ask if there's any flexibility on dates in case you need to reschedule your wedding and consider looking into wedding insurance.
"Wedding insurance is an incredibly important step in the planning process as it protects a couple’s investment from circumstances beyond their control," said Jeffra Trumpower, WeddingWire creative director. However, each policy and provider offers different types of coverage, and each contract with a wedding professional will likely have different stipulations for these kinds of circumstances. Couples should read through their contracts thoroughly to understand what their options are in regards to changes to their wedding."
If you're already committed to a venue and aren't sure how your celebration will look in the age of COVID-19, you might feel a tad anxious. Your venue should be there to support you through these uncertain times and provide any guidance you might need.
"We encourage all couples to work with their venues to prioritize the health and safety of their guests as they continue to plan their 2021 weddings. It’s incredibly important to discuss all options and communicate with vendors about how health and safety measures will be incorporated into the reception," Trumpower said.
Having to postpone your celebration isn't ideal, but if it comes to that point, rest assured that most venues are working closely with engaged couples to reschedule to a more suitable date.
"We encourage couples to be flexible and work closely with their vendor team to determine the best option for their celebration, even if that means finding a new date (maybe a weekday or midday celebration in lieu of a typical Friday or Saturday evening reception)," Trumpower said.
3. How do I handle save the dates? And what if I need to downsize my guest list?
Couples typically send out save the date cards 4-6 months before their wedding day or about 7-8 months for a destination wedding. Those etiquette rules have naturally changed for couples planning a wedding during COVID-19, and you may be wondering: Should I still send out save-the-date cards?
"I don't think the one-size-fits-all timeline really applies given the circumstances with COVID-19, however, in general I would still send out save the dates four or five months in advance if you believe you will be moving forward with the big day in some way," Emily Forrest Skurnik, Zola's director of communications, told TMRW.
Communication with guests is key, so if you do send out save-the-date cards, be sure to spell things out clearly and be as detailed as possible.
"Instead of saying 'We can't wait to celebrate with you!' you might say 'We hope to be able to celebrate with you in April!' You might even mention if the wedding will be indoors or outdoors, and direct your guests to your wedding website for a more in-depth Q&A," Forrest Skurnik said.
Many websites, including Zola, have even begun offering free "change-the-date" cards if you purchased save-the-date cards from them, to save you from buying two sets of cards if your date changes.
If you're past the point of save-the-date cards and have already sent out wedding invitations, you may find yourself in a situation where you need to downsize your celebration and tell family and friends that they are no longer invited. This can understandably get awkward, but Forrest Skurnik said it's important to remember why you're "uninviting" someone in the first place.
"Uninviting guests in 2020 is not personal," Forrest Skurnik said. "It's simply a couple putting the health and safety of their loved ones over everything else.
There are a few ways to break the news to your loved ones, including personal calls, but that can get emotionally exhausting. Instead, Forrest Skurnik suggests creating one text message template that you feel good about and can easily copy and paste, or sending a bcc'ed email to the group. You should also update your wedding website.
4. Can I still plan my honeymoon?
Jetting off on a romantic honeymoon is a great way to celebrate your newlywed status, but many couples aren't sure how or if they should plan a honeymoon during the pandemic. With so much uncertainty around travel, the question remains: Can you still plan a honeymoon in 2021?
"My biggest advice for couples thinking about honeymooning in 2021 is to be flexible," said Janessa White, co-founder of Simply Eloped. "We're still seeing a lot of lockdowns for certain countries. We're also seeing a lot of countries that are prohibiting travel from particular countries and that includes from the U.S."
That being said, if you do want to plan for brighter days, working with a travel agency or guided tour program can help alleviate some of the work associated with planning a honeymoon during COVID-19.
"That’s the beauty of going guided and leaning on the experts, especially for such a special occasion like a honeymoon. We’ll take care of all of the details and are consistently monitoring destinations and restrictions to prepare for any last-minute changes that may arise, to alleviate any worries or concerns," Melissa DaSilva, U.S. president of travel company Trafalgar, said.
If you feel better about booking something now to lock in your travel dates, you can always purchase travel insurance so you don't have to worry about losing money.
"Travel insurance is always recommended, whether you're planning a honeymoon in the middle of a pandemic or not. You'll have peace of mind knowing that, should travel to your honeymoon destination become off-limits, you'll be reimbursed or credited," White said. "When you're purchasing an expensive trip such as a honeymoon, make sure that you read the travel insurance policy's fine print, since not all policies are created the same, and keep in mind that some may not cover your change of plans due to a specific reason."
White encourages couples to get creative and consider planning two trips to celebrate their nuptials.
"It may be beneficial to save your big plans for a later time, when traveling is no longer a health risk. But just because you're saving the honeymoon of your dreams for a future date doesn't mean you can't go all out on a mini-moon somewhere local," she said. "I recommend taking a road trip, especially for those cautious about traveling on a plane or public transportation, and suggest visiting somewhere with tons of outdoor space for you to walk around, such as a national park, beach or forest."