Speaking to experts in wedding planning, bridal gowns, event photography and wedding venues, we found out what you need to know about planning your post-Covid wedding, whether you’re ploughing on for this year or looking at 2021.
It’s times like these when we could all use a big get together. Unfortunately, with so many weddings postponed or shrinking to family-only, it has become a strange year for weddings and wedding suppliers alike.
We spoke to four experts in four different spheres —wedding planning, bridal gowns, photography and venues – to find out how their plans have changed and what you need to know about planning a wedding in the post-Covid world.
The bureaucratic bit
First off, the government has confirmed that weddings can go ahead this summer. Gatherings of up to 50 people indoors and 200 outdoors can happen from June 29 and up to 100 people indoors and 500 people outdoors from July 20.
However, it’s important to recognise that social distancing measures will still need to be maintained – not exactly ideal for a packed dancefloor.
You will also need to consider anyone travelling from abroad. Right now, any guests travelling from outside of Ireland will need to quarantine here for 14 days. While the government are currently reviewing this policy, it’s likely that the quarantine could only be lifted for certain countries with a similarly low number of Covid cases.
Your guests might have to quarantine when they get home too, so be aware that in asking friends or family to travel for your 2020 summer wedding, you are asking them to potentially take at least four weeks off work (and also to travel during a pandemic).
Still want to get married in the summer of 2020?
Have the whole gang home already? Then the advice from most vendors has been "go for it!"... but only if you’re comfortable with smaller numbers.
Go small & intimate
Many of the experts I spoke to already have some smaller, more intimate weddings on the cards for July and August, ranging from 40 to 100 people. But as wedding photographer Katie Kavanagh points out, the number limitation from government includes suppliers and staff on the day, so remember to factor that in. Outside also does not include an open-sided marquee so sadly no loophole there.
Use the limitations as the perfect excuse to cut down your numbers – does your frenemy from secondary school or your dad's cousin's fourth husband really need to be there?
Small can mean creative
Wedding venues also have a bit more freedom to be flexible this summer. Eleanor from the wedding team at Westmeath's Mount Druid wedding venue has a wedding on the cards for July that has been downscaled to just 20 close family members, in a venue that usually has an 80-guest minimum.
Wedding planner Kate O’Dowd of love & gatherings says that planning a small wedding can actually increase the level of creativity. “When you're dealing with large numbers, there's always going to be a limit to the tablescape options, for example, based on being able to source large quantities, but with smaller numbers, there's the opportunity to really express what the couple is about.”
Kate reckons she could pull together a wedding in 3-4 weeks, depending on the scope, and with so many vendors now available and forced to move their 2020 income to 2021, they will be open to a bespoke process.
Also, having someone there on the day to run the show is more important than ever."There are so many little things which need to be considered now, that we never had to think of before — seating charts for the ceremony being one; no sharing of microphones for speeches, being another; they're just not elements you want to be worrying about,” says Kate.
But what about the dress?
With bridal boutiques only beginning to open again and dresses taking an average of six months to arrive, a custom gown might be out of the question. However, Claire Leese of Belfast bridal boutique Archive 12 says it's not impossible. “It’s definitely a trickier situation as most rush orders need at least 8 weeks for delivery, plus fitting,” she explains. If you know the dress you want, Claire suggests checking to see if they could do it in the timeframe.
“Sometimes designers have a small stock of certain dresses ready to go, meaning the dress is ready to ship immediately,” says Claire, “or, the other option is to look at sample sale dresses — we usually have at least between 10-15 sale dresses ready to buy off the rack, meaning you can take the dress away on the day.”
These dresses can be a great option for imminent weddings and are usually less expensive than their bespoke version.
You’ve been forced to postpone
Bad buzz… for everyone involved
First off, I'm sorry, that sucks. As photographer Katie Kavanagh puts it, it has been tough to watch couples deal with postponing their big day. “The decisions the couples make are so personal and it's unlike any other spend they'll make. There's a lot of emotional attachment for both couples and vendors... It's hard to see them in limbo, not knowing what's going to happen.”
It has been equally hard for wedding vendors, with many seeing their income for most of this year totally wiped out or pushed into 2021. They’re all working hard to make new dates work but when there’s a clash, there’s not a whole lot they can do.
Understand that when they can’t refund your deposit, it doesn’t mean they’re being inflexible. Your deposit covers the administration, banking fees and contracts of your wedding and by moving deposit dates to next year with no way of recuperating the loss of the date this year, it’s been incredibly difficult for them all.
If you have locked down your vendors for your new wedding date and have the financial capability, offer to pay the balance on the original due date. This would be a huge help to a small Irish business, who might have a busy 2021 planned but they need to survive 2020 in order to get there.
2021 is going to be busy, so you will need to be flexible. If you’re desperate to have a particular vender at your wedding, give them a few dates to choose from.
With all the vendors essentially having two year’s worth of weddings packed into one year, why not move your summer 2020 wedding to this coming winter instead? You might still be able to get a weekend date and you also won’t have to wait as long – because I know you’ve already been waiting for what feels like an age!
If you do want that summer wedding, you will need to be flexible with your date. Most venues already had their summer weekends booked up prior to the lockdown. Mount Druid, for example, are already fully booked for weekends between February and November 2021. “A lot of our midweek dates in June, July and August are full now also,” says Eleanor.
Planning your wedding for 2021
“It's not only couples moving from 2020 who'll have to be open to compromise, new 2021 couples will need to keep their minds open, too,” points out Kate. With many vendors understandably giving preference to postponing couples, you will have to be even more flexible.
Everyone is reporting a chocabloc 2021 for weddings so it’s best to book the venue and the must-have vendors together to ensure you have the best chance of getting who and where you want. Weekend dates are almost completely gone and postponed couples are snapping up the remaining ones – Eleanor notes that, “we found that couples that were postponing were happy to take midweek dates next year rather than wait until 2022”.
Kate recommends considering what is truly important to you. “Will a Thursday allow you to have the wedding you really want?” she asks and notes that all bets are off for next year, so your guests will be understanding of that.
And I’m fine on the dress, right?
Well, yes and no. It might only take six months to order a dress but the process of finding one has now changed. Claire has been forced to reduce the number of appointments she can have to manage the new social distancing guidelines and safety of her customers.
“All dresses tried on will have to be steamed between each appointment which means the number of dresses selected will be limited to eight,” explains Claire, and she’s asking everyone to wear masks for the appointment.
There will also be a limit of one guest per bride while social distancing measures are still in place, but Claire reckons this could be a blessing in disguise. “I know some brides may be thinking that this will dampen the appointment... but in my experience, it actually makes things easier for the bride to have clarity on what she really wants.”
If you are not in a position to visit a bridal shop, some boutique likes Archive 12 are offering a try-at-home service so you can try dresses from the comfort of your own home.
Ultimately, if getting the dress is something you can do now and it’ll tick off a big box on your to-do list, why wouldn’t you? Claire recommends doing plenty of research on dresses you like and bring screenshots. Even if the boutique doesn’t stock that particular dress, they will be able to pull dresses that follow the same vibe.
Everyone I spoke to had just a little availability for 2021 so the sooner you get stuck in, the better.
Special thanks to wedding planner Kate O'Dowd, bridal boutique owner Claire Leese, wedding photographer Katie Kavanagh, and Eleanor from Mount Druid for their help.
All imagery courtesy of Katie Kavanagh
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