Updated: July 3, 2020 — If you’re attempting to plan a wedding during COVID-19, we know there are a LOT of questions. We’ve heard from you in emails, DMs, and comments. This is a resource for all couples to help you get some answers. Please remember to first check on your state’s specific regulations. It is also likely that even when the quarantine comes to an end, some people may not be willing or able to travel and gather. All to say, there will be caveats for each circumstance as we transition into new territory.
HOWEVER, the good news is that GWS exists on the belief that when it comes to weddings, there are no rules! We’re here to encourage couples to just do you, and we’ve always been that way. Especially now, we encourage you not to stress over and unspoken rules surrounding etiquette and design — it’s still your wedding and you can still make it yours!
We checked in with some of the industry’s most trusted planners, designers, photographers, and more to help guide you. These folks are at the top of their game, trusted by GWS, and are pros at creative solutions. We encourage you to bookmark this page for your reference and to check out all our articles related to your wedding, planning, and celebrating amongst COVID-19.
On Postponing and Making Changes
My wedding is in the fall. Should we make the call to postpone?
Short answer: It depends.
“If you’re planning a wedding after July or August, you’re in that unfortunate grey area where the ambiguousness of this health crisis is hanging very low. The best thing that you can do is get communication rolling with your planner and venue and collectively come up with a thoughtful contingency plan (or two). That way, once more information comes in you can make informed decisions efficiently. Weddings planned for September and beyond have some time to watch what unfolds before making any serious decisions; however, it’s likely that wedding guest lists will need to be greatly reduced to comply with venue capacities.
Worst case scenario-type discussions inevitably must happen between partners, and this can be the biggest hurdle couples face. Thinking seriously about postponing or canceling your wedding is a hard pill to swallow, but it’s the reality of the times. Information is crucial, so stay knowledgable on the situation and follow the news carefully.” — Danielle, Owner of Rosewood Weddings
What to do now: Be proactive with your vendors.
“Our advice is to stay on top of it. We were very upfront with our brides on the situation, e-mailed all the vendors ahead of time, selected some top date choices and we were able to pull the trigger fast to postpone/reschedule. It’s easier said than done but also try and keep an open mind. You may not get your top date/month but if it’s open and so are your vendors, take it!” — Ciara, Owner of BASH CO + EVENTS
Download this free resource from ROQUE Events to help you successfully postpone your wedding:
We are offering this complimentary to everyone as we know this is such a tough time to navigate. We feel for all couples getting married this year and want them to feel confident about moving their wedding.
How do you tell your guests the wedding is postponed?
However you do it, make sure you do communicate.
“Communicating with your guests is so important at this time because they, too, made major arrangements to celebrate your big day. Firstly, put a message up on your website notifying guests of your postponement plans or elopement. From there, take a look at your guest list and determine which notification style is most appropriate: hard copy or electronic (or a hybrid).
Please remember, what you’re dealing with is traumatic and overwhelming, so delegate and recruit help from wherever you can (planner, parents, siblings, etc.).” — Danielle, Owner of Rosewood Weddings
Check out our guide to postponement announcements for more resources on tackling this task:
Our invitations already went out but we might have to cut the guest list and have a smaller wedding due to COVID. What do we do?
Margaux, Owner + Creative Director Harmony Creative Studio, has some great advice or this situation:
1. It might be easier than you think.
Cutting your guest list is never easy, but given the current circumstances around coronavirus, I think it will be better received than you may be fearing. Basically, everybody knows the situation. Everyone knows that gatherings may be limited, so the expectation is there that this might happen.
2. Survey your guests.
You may want to start by letting your guests make the decision for you. What I would recommend first is sending out a survey to your guests (some wedding websites have the ability to do this built-in, but if not you can send a free survey through Survey Monkey, Typeform, or something similar). This way you can simply ask guests: if our event is held on its regular date would you feel comfortable coming? Then you can let your guests make the decision for themselves, and if you get responses for a large group of people that say unfortunately we love you but we just don’t feel comfortable going to a gathering at that time, then you don’t have to worry about cutting people yourself because they will have cut themselves.
3. From there, create a new guest list.
Think about how your list segments itself into different categories: coworkers, extended family, college friends, people you haven’t seen in a long time, plus ones, etc. Then you can think about people that you will already have the opportunity to see in your daily life moving forward: people you work with, friends that are perhaps not best friends but in your circle that you see on a regular basis. The thinking here is that you can let them know that you love them and that while you want nothing more than to celebrate with them, you will likely have a chance to do that with them separately, and the reality of the situation is your new guest list under the current circumstances will need to prioritize those people who will have to travel or family members that you don’t see on a regular basis, to ensure that the most people can have the chance to celebrate with you in some fashion.
4. Make a personal connection with those uninvited.
Once you have made your final smaller list, the easiest way is to make personal phone calls or try to connect with the people who will essentially be uninvited. Hearing about it from you personally with an explanation will make the news easier to swallow. I don’t recommend sending out a mass email or putting this info on your wedding website, as this may cause some of the more sensitive people in your life to feel slighted. Als,o pair this with info on if you will be live-streaming your event or some other way they can feel involved without actually being present will go a long way.
How will this affect my wedding dress and bridesmaid dresses (purchasing, alterations, etc.)?
We have a great resource here: How to Shop for a Wedding Dress During COVID-19
“Grace Loves Lace is a great option for your wedding dress. Not only are their dresses custom made to order based on your measurements, but they’re also made with a delicate stretch lace that makes their gowns fit beautifully even when ordered completely online. Another benefit of this brand is that their material supply chain hasn’t been shut down, so there are currently no delays in production time. For bridesmaid dresses, order try-at-home boxes which can be organized by the bride and sent to all of her bridesmaids to try on at home. My final tip is to make sure that you discuss production and shipping times for both your bridal and bridesmaid dresses before you commit to ensure there aren’t currently any delays.” — Colby, Owner + Designer at Wanderer Weddings
I love my dress I want to wear it more than for just an elopement. Can I wear it twice or will people think it’s strange if I wear it for a reception since we’ll have the ceremony months earlier?
Short answer: Wear that dress!
“Quite the opposite. Guests will WANT you to wear your dress, it would be a let down if you didn’t. THE dress is one of the main highlights!” – Megan, Founder and Creative Director of Grace Loves Lace
And feel free to get creative with it:
“When it comes to weddings these days, and specifically dresses, there are no rules. Know that you have the freedom to express your personal style and be confident doing what is right for you. Accessories, veils, and add ons like overskirts or tops can have just enough variation to make it feel unique for each occasion. We are currently offering Virtual Accessory Appointments for our brides who are looking for different pieces to complete their look. We’re here for you! Also, you usually spend a lot of money on your dress and have a special connection to it so getting to wear it twice is definitely worth it. A beautiful dress deserves as big of an audience as possible!” – The Dress Theory, San Diego Team
Wedding Planning During COVID-19
Any advice for planning while everything is closed?
1. Get Ahead
“There are many things you can still accomplish in your wedding planning with things being closed. You can create a rough draft of your timeline, determine your ceremony staging, or write your vows. You choose all your wedding songs, order thank you gifts for each other, your wedding party and parents, order any decor you need for your wedding day or simply finalize your decor list. Just because we’re in a ‘paused’ state, doesn’t mean wedding planning is on pause. Use this time to be more on top of your wedding plans.” — Marci, Owner + Designer at Marcella Camille Events
2. Embrace Technology
“Embrace the new norms. You have this cool advantage to book a venue tour online and invite mom, dad, and grandma to participate. Meet with your potential vendors over zoom. I feel like everyone is a little more relaxed right now on facetime meetings, you can really connect in a way that may have not been possible before. Take advantage of at-home try-on services for attire. Book your lighting and other details that you don’t need to see in person. Really dig into reviews for venues and vendors, ask to see additional examples of their work, trust your vendors to do the job you hired them for, and ask them for referrals of others that they have had great experiences with.” — Natasha, Owner + Creative Director at Sugar Willow Events
3. Do All the At-Home Prep Work
“There are also so many things you and your fiancé can do from home to get yourselves prepared: decide on your bar menu by doing a beer, wine, or cocktail tasting at home. Start a playlist with special songs for your processional and recessional, first dance, parent dances, etc. Begin writing your vows. If you’re still in the early stages of your planning, fine-tune your guest list, start collecting inspiration photos, and work with your planner to find your ideal vendors. Now is also a great time to start any DIYs you are excited about — they always take longer than you think! Research rehearsal dinner locations. Work with your stationery designer. Continue to work with your planner via video meetings, or if you don’t have a planner, reach out to one who is offering hourly consulting during this unprecedented time.” — Nicole, Owner + Lead Designer at Hey! Party Collective
4. Book Your Vendors (and definitely start with our curated list of the best wedding vendors in the biz)
“Vendors are still booking and running their business, so continue to reach out. Reaching out now to your potential wedding vendors is key to help keep small businesses afloat during this time. Plus a lot of them are getting booked up for the fall of 2020 since so many spring and summer weddings had to be rescheduled. Also, be sure to hire a wedding planner who can bring their expertise and help you navigate everything including the changes with COVID-19.” – Kari, CEO + Lead Planner at Feathered Arrow Events
5. And Read Those Contracts
“If I could only give couples starting to plan during this one piece of advice it would be this: actually read your contracts. Essentially, in this time of uncertainty it needs to be very spelled out what will happen if the event were to be postponed or canceled – either by something coronavirus-related (usually defined as a ‘Force Majeure’ event) or other.
While I think most people are not fans of the idea that fees or other restrictions may be involved with rescheduling their wedding, it’s more important to have that transparency from your venue and vendors off the bat. We have had couples in the past need to reschedule due to everyday life factors like a military family member being deployed early or an unexpected pregnancy – not all wedding and event postponements are due to factors quite this extreme. You can find more tips in our free checklist: 10 Things to Look for in Venue Contracts“. – Margaux, Owner + Creative Director Harmony Creative Studio
6. Think Beyond the Wedding
“This is a great time to plan your LIFE together. While many aspects of wedding planning are put on hold, use this precious time with your partner to make memories and plans that will last you a lifetime.” — Holly Gray, CEO of Anything But Gray Events
photo via Cinema of Poetry
Destination Weddings + Videography
What if my videographer cannot travel to film our wedding due to travel bans?
If you have your heart set on a videographer who isn’t local, don’t cancel just yet! A lot of video depends on the edit, just not the capture.
“Due to the current uncertain situation, I have already established backup shooting plans through my professional network in other countries. The solution proposed is to have a local associate shooter from the country of the wedding that would shoot under my directions, as close as possible to my style. Then I would do the edit of the film.
In videography, probably more than in photography, a big part of the style of the filmmaker depends on the editing. Provided, of course, that you have had a complete and technically correct filming process and sound capture. What makes a great film is the edit. Storytelling, the pacing of the film, and the signature grading style rely mainly on post-production.
When you do destination weddings or elopement you always have to take extra measures to ensure that you will make it in time concerning travel, and establish a backup plan in case something goes wrong. Thankfully, I have a strong international network of professionals who allow me to provide a reliable backup plan for my couples.” – Kostas, Destination Wedding Filmmaker at Cinema of Poetry
We think that many videographers will take the same approach so be sure to ask! If you’re looking for a videographer, we suggest you start here:
Showers and Bachelor/ette Parties
If I have to cancel/postpone our bachelor/ette and then we elope privately, can we still have a bachelor/ette party after we are already married?
A resounding YES!
“100%! There is no reason for this virus to ruin your traditional wedding experience. Even if things are postponed, you still should give yourself something to look forward to when this is all over! And your girls/guys will want to celebrate you, regardless of the timing! The memories are worth waiting for.” – Aubrey, Owner of Details, Darling
Take it from someone who did it:
“I actually did exactly this for my wedding and my friends and I had the best time. As a full-time planner + designer, I wanted to share exchanging my vows privately with my husband and so we agreed to elope at San Francisco City Hall and celebrate with our family + friends at a later date. As for my bachelorette party, we scheduled to fly to Hawaii to celebrate me being a newlywed and had a blast drinking Mai-Thais and spending time together for 4 days. It didn’t feel like I was missing out because my friends are what mattered, not the date of which the events happened. Celebrate when you can and take it all in.” — Raquel, Founder + Carly, Executive Producers ROQUE Events
What about a shower? We had to cancel ours. Can I still have a shower later if I am already married?
“Yes, cultural norms will look a little different coming out of this time and people will be so excited to gather and celebrate with you. We recommend a cute announcement, be witty, and embrace that this is an unconventional way of celebrating because we are in unprecedented times.” — Natasha, Owner + Creative Director at Sugar Willow Events
But consider updating your registry.
“I would recommend reevaluating your registration list though to be cognisant of the fact some of your family and friends might be in a different financial situation. Limiting your registration to useful items that you actually need instead of just want for building your home and live together is probably wise. — Holly Gray, CEO of Anything But Gray Events
How do you throw a fun virtual shower and bachelorette party?
We’ve got you covered! Check out this post: How To Throw a Rad *Virtual* Bachelorette Party
Ceremonies: Now and Later
Is there any other way to get a marriage license if the marriage bureaus and city halls are closed?
It’s best to check with your local state offices.
“Although this varies state-by-state, most registrar offices have implemented virtual marriage license application processes for those with a scheduled marriage and officiant. Begin by visiting your county’s website and reading their official COVID-19 statement regarding marriage licenses. Although they’re closed, most counties have made adjustments and materialized workarounds.” — Danielle, Owner of Rosewood Weddings
How do we plan a private ceremony for now and a reception later to celebrate with family and friends? Will people not want to come later? Will guests think it is strange since we are already married?
Forget the rules and know that guests will want to celebrate, no matter when!
“There’s no wedding planning rulebook. Your wedding guests are dealing with this global health crisis just as you are, so they understand new wedding celebration-styles are forming.
Check what your state + county governments allow – from there, you could have your official, legal wedding ceremony with just immediate family. For the postponed date, play around with the idea of having a one-year vow renewal or just reciting the vows you exchanged on your original wedding date. If holding any kind of ceremony feels unauthentic, feel free to just host a reception party! Whatever you decide, it’s going to be the right decision for you both. And any wedding guest will just be happy to be apart of the celebration.” — Danielle, Owner of Rosewood Weddings
About the Wedding Party and Guests
How can we include our wedding parties if the ceremony is separate and they can’t come?
You can include them figuratively:
“Have your wedding parties send poems or advice for your officiant to read to you during the ceremony. Have cardboard cut-outs (head size) of your whole wedding party so they are still ‘there’ in photos!” — Katie, Katie Pritchard Photography
“Include them virtually! We are a huge fan of Zoom. Send them a link to your private ceremony and ask everyone to dress up for the occasion, too! Then take some ‘group’ pictures with everyone. It will certainly lend to a very memorable wedding day.” — Marci at Marcella Camille Events
How do we help guests and wedding party members who have already bought airfare and hotel/Airbnb rentals?
From what we’ve seen, airlines and lodging services are working with customers to rebook or refund due to COVID-19. Encourage your guests to check in with companies where they’ve booked if you’ve decided to postpone or cancel.
A Reception Worth Waiting For
If we plan a reception later when things are safe, how do we make it more than just a party?
One option? Do it all as originally planned!
“Do everything you would as if you were to be getting married that day! Many military couples get married privately before they go overseas for duty but then have the official wedding celebration up to even a year later. No one will know you’re already married unless you tell them.” — Marci at Marcella Camille Events
Don’t feel weird about recreating a ceremony if you want to.
“You can always recreate your ceremony or a part of your ceremony in front of your family and friends at the reception. If you don’t want to make a display out of it, consider printing your vows for guests to read or displaying photos from your ceremony to share the moment with them. Weddings are a celebration of love. Sharing in that moment with the people that care for you most, even if it’s after the fact doesn’t make it any less of a celebration!” – Holly Gray, CEO of Anything But Gray Events
It’s actually more common than you think!
Since I’m based in a destination wedding location, many of my couples choose to get legally married before they host their weddings here in Hawaii. These couples typically choose to have a commitment ceremony, a vow reading, or some other form of a ring exchange prior to their reception so that their guests feel included in their marriage. You’d be surprised how many weddings you’ve attended where their ceremony was not their legal marriage. If you’d rather not have a ceremony, use your decor, traditions, and the way you incorporate your guests to make your wedding feel like it’s your big day! Allocate your budget to the areas that really make a wedding feel special to you whether that’s a stunning wedding dress, maximalist florals, a great dessert bar, or a blog-worthy tablescape. — Colby, Owner + Designer at Wanderer Weddings
Share the private ceremony in a creative way.
“It’s a celebration of your love and union so that already makes it more than “just a party!” Carry on with planning the reception to be a reflection of the two of you, with personal touches and delightful surprises. If you can, have your private ceremony or elopement filmed and play it for all guests to watch at the reception. How incredible would it be to project the video onto a wall at your venue!?” — Nicole, Owner + Lead Designer at Hey! Party Collective
If you want to skip the ceremony, go right into cocktail hour.
“You will have the special opportunity to enjoy cocktail hour with your guests instead of using that time for photos like you would have you had a ceremony. We recommend keeping all of your vendors! You’ll still want amazing photos and flowers, and food + beverage will continue to be a big part of how we celebrate.” — Natasha, Owner + Creative Director at Sugar Willow Events
Shake up traditions — or don’t! It’s still YOUR day.
“Set some time at the beginning of the event to have a close friend or family member kick off the event with a speech recognizing that everyone is there to celebrate your love and marriage. This can be done when guests sit down for a formal dinner or it can be more casual at cocktail hour. You can also incorporate classic wedding traditions like cutting the cake and tossing a bouquet! Start your dance party with a formal first dance and spend some time dancing with your parents. There is no reason your reception can’t feel like your special day!” — Raquel, Founder + Carly, Executive Producers ROQUE Events
How can we possibly do a gift registry when our guests have already lost jobs and income?
Let guests decide if they can/want to purchase a gift — but add a respectful note.
“We think that it is ok to leave your gift registry up. People understand that you had no control over this situation, either, and shouldn’t miss out on fun things like a registry because of the circumstances. But we do think that it is respectful to have a note on the registry website that says ‘We understand many have undergone loss of income due to COVID-19. In no way do we expect ANYTHING from our guests, but if you are still wanting to give a gift, we are incredibly grateful.'” – Aubrey, Owner of Details, Darling
Mix it up! Add fun social activities or services to your registry:
“Remember, wedding gifts are in NO way mandatory. They are a societal obligation. Who’s to say that offering to paint someone’s living room or decorate their tree at Christmas or organize their closet isn’t an amazing gift! Consider swapping out the idea of physical and monetary gifts for services and offers. When this is all over, we are going to want to spend so much more time with the people we love, why not do that with an activity that has a longer-lasting expression of kindness than a toaster of monogrammed towels could ever have!” — Holly Gray, CEO of Anything But Gray Events
How do you do a registry when the wedding and the reception are on different dates?
We suggest selecting the date you’ve invited guests to celebrate with you!
“That shouldn’t matter! Choose the date of your reception.” — Ciara, Owner of BASH CO + EVENTS
“It is customary to set the registry for the date of your actual wedding reception when guests will be able to celebrate with you. If you have a wedding website, consider putting that your SIP ceremony took place on the original date in case anyone likes to send congratulatory gifts.” – Marci at Marcella Camille Events
We sadly canceled our wedding. When should we close our gift registry?
Unfortunately, if you’ve made the difficult decision to cancel your wedding, it is polite to close your gift registry.
From all of us at GWS, we’re here for you and will continue to provide resources to help you plan your dream day. Because no matter what happens, love wins!