Yes, 2020 was a rollercoaster for weddings! We shared in the heartbreak of couples, who faced uncertainty and made hard decisions about such an important day of their lives. As wedding planners, our job is to plan ahead, and with ever-changing guidelines and restrictions, it has certainly been a whirlwind.
We are hopeful that with the vaccine’s arrival, we will start to see a return to normalcy for celebrations soon! However, it's expected that it will still be some time until the vaccine is widely distributed. That means many of the restrictions affecting events will likely still be in place for a while in 2021. But, with 2020 under our belt, this time around, we have ideas of what to expect. So, we thought we would share some tips on how to prepare, if your wedding is coming up in 2021.
Know your Location and Limitations
In Illinois, various phases and mitigation tiers indicate what restrictions events must follow. When events have been able to take place, the different restrictions have limited events from 10 to 25 to 50 guests, depending on the phase and tier.
The events industry in Chicagoland is preparing for a scenario where events will hopefully be happening by Summer 2021, but there will likely still be strict guest count limits. Know the county that your venue is in and keep track of its tier level, so you can prepare for the limitations that may be dictated.
Review your Guest List
With guest counts likely limited well into summer, go ahead and review your guest list now to prepare for cuts you may need to make, if there is a 50-person limit, a 100-person limit, etc.
Be sure to check who is included in that guest limit. Vendors that are in the room for the duration of a reception, such as a bartender, DJ, photographer, and videographer, may count towards that limit.
Don't overlook the benefits of a smaller wedding. We were delighted to find that while a 50 person event may not be what you imagined, it can be elegant, intimate, and even more special.
Consider How to Eat
Regarding catering, with Covid precautions still in mind, many venues or catering may no longer offer buffets, stations, or family style. Even if that more communal type dining is allowed, consider whether your guests would be comfortable with it, at this juncture. In talking with caterers, a seated, plated dinner seems to be considered the safest option.
Be sure to also ask your caterer about cocktail hour and how hors d’oeuvres will be handled. We saw caterers still doing passed hors d'oeuvres, but the guests could not touch the tray and take the food themselves. Servers would give the hors d'oeuvre to each guest with tongs or serving utensils. Alternatively, you could just have individual hors d'oeuvres plates for each guest already placed at the tables.
Plan for Safe Seating
A smaller guest count does not necessarily mean that a smaller venue space is needed. Keep in mind the tables themselves will need to be spaced at least 6 feet apart. It’s best to space people at the table, as well, with four people at a 60 inch table (which normally seats 8-10) or six people at a 72 inch table (which normally seats 10-12) being recommended.
Consider the Great Outdoors
Check if your venue offers any outdoor options, such as a tent. Being outside may or may not affect your permitted guest count, but it is thought to offer some extra Covid safety. Just be aware that there still needs to be air passing through the tent. A tent that’s enclosed on all sides would likely not provide more protection than an indoor room.
Mask wearing is likely still going to be important and required in Illinois for some time. Creating cute signs that encourage guests to wear masks, providing special wedding masks for guests to take, having straws to use during cocktail hour so guests can drink while still wearing their masks, putting the mask expectations on a menu or in the program are all ways to help ensure that guests abide by the mask requirements.
When events were happening in 2020, guests were supposed to wear a mask at all times, except once they were seated at their dinner table. Any time they got up from the table, they were supposed to wear a mask. Consider telling the bridal party, family members, and close friends these expectations so they can set an example for other guests.
Follow the Rules
Guidelines continue to change, so be sure to check the rules that are in place at the time of your wedding. Talk to your venue and caterer well in advance about what you can expect, in terms of restrictions and guidelines. Don’t try to skirt around any of the rules. Many vendors now include clauses in their contracts that they can leave the event, if they feel safety measures are not being adhered to. Even more importantly, the restrictions are in place for your protection. Don’t put your family and friends at risk.
Those are the basics that my team has experienced so far with Covid weddings. Most of all, we have learned that Covid can’t stop love. Weddings may be smaller and they may look a little different, but they are still a reflection of the love that a couple shares, and that is a beautiful thing!