Planning During a Pandemic
I would have NEVER guessed that we would have spent the last 9 months living through a pandemic. It's changed everything from the way we grocery shop to the way we spend time with our loved ones. From eating outside in blow up igloos to stocking up on toilet paper and hand soap, it's been quite an experience to say the least.
COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the way we attend events and the way we think about planning them. I know many of you have postponed or completely changed the way your event looks, which is stressful enough without a pandemic. This pandemic has been a tragic and trying for our entire world. I know for many of us, that continuing the planning process of events gives us hope for the future. So I hope that these tips will help put you at ease and make your pandemic event planning much easier to manage.
TALK TO YOUR VENUE
This is probably the biggest piece of advice I can give you. I know it's a pain to reach out to your venue and constantly ask for updates, especially when you don't know what the rules will be 6 months from now, but DO IT. Check in. Ask what the updated guest attendee count is. Ask them what they think that number will be at the month of your event. Ask them what COVID-19 regulations they have in place to protect those attending and working the event. Have they had any events since the pandemic started? If so, ask them what has worked and what hasn't. Your venue is going to be a huge resource for you and to make sure your event is successful, you have to be in the loop!
COME UP WITH A BACK UP DATE (OR TWO)
Pushing back the date of your event isn't fun but it might be necessary. Whether your venue is now requiring you to select a backup date or you are choosing to have one, it will likely you put you a little more at ease while you continue to plan your event. I personally love back up dates right now. They help me stay more organized and allow me time early on in the planning process to add in a specific communication plan. This also gives you some flexibility while you plan. If you are someone who wants all of your guests to be able to attend and with the primary date you've chosen that seems unlikely, push your event to the back up date. There won't be any guarantees on how many guests you can have at your backup date but at least you can keep planning, get creative on how to involve all of your guests, and enjoy your day more knowing you tried to include everyone you could.
STAY IN TOUCH WITH VENDORS
Just like keeping in touch with your venue, it's equally important to keep in touch with your vendors. It's possible the incredible happy hour charcuterie buffet you planned with your caterer can't happen the way you envisioned. Renting fancy cutlery? They may now require you to pick up the items and sign a waiver saying you won't press charges if guests test positive after your event (or something along those lines). The more you know, the more at ease you will be the day of your event. Plus, this gives you and your vendors the chance to be creative! Remember that glorious charcuterie buffet? What if guests were able to pick up their own personalized charcuterie boxes... or a charcuterie cone! The possibilities are endless and these changes might actual enhance your event in a positive way.
HIRE A DAY OF COORDINATOR
If you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, hire a day of coordinator. From helping you create a day of timeline, working with your vendors, putting out fires, and managing the clean up, they will be a huge life saver. You have enough to worry about so let your coordinator do the hard stuff! They will manage every tiny details, ensure your table decor is perfect, and make sure everyone is sticking to the timeline. I know how hard it can be to let someone else run your event but that is why you hired them. Trust me when I say they have seen it all. The good, the bad, the ugly, and the insane. They can handle any issue you throw at them and they will also handle all the issues you don't even hear about until well after the event. As a day of coordinator myself, I'm here to make sure your event goes exactly as planned and the only way I can do that is if you hand over the reins and actually ENJOY your event. You've worked so hard planning you deserve to enjoy it!
CREATE MULTIPLE GUEST LISTS
I realize this is possibly one of the most daunting tasks on this post but I think it's also one of the most important. With event attendee regulations constantly changing it's important that you are prepared to have everyone you want to be at your event or the minimum number allowed. I was recently talking with a client about what she should do for her wedding because she knows she needs to get her invites out. I asked if she had checked in with her venue about attendance numbers and she gave me the ideal number of 250 and the minimum of 175. My solution for her was to invite all 250. It's easier to invite everyone you'd like to attend and then reduce if you have to closer to time. Her wedding is out of state and many people want to get weddings on their calendar so they can plan ahead. Even though it's a daunting task, creating a guest list in increments of 175, 200, 225, and 250 will make it easier for her and her fiance to make changes if it comes to that. Is it bad form to uninvite someone to your wedding? Yes. But the caveat is that we are living through a pandemic and we have to make adjustments to make sure we are inline with current restrictions
KEEP YOUR GUESTS INFORMED
Now that you have all of your guest lists set up, it's time to keep them all informed. Add a COVID-19 Celebration Information card to your invitation. Be honest and upfront. The more your guests know, the better. Let them know that you are working with your venue to make sure they are taking every precaution to keep them safe. It's also important to let them know that based on the regulations a few weeks out before the event, you may have to change total number of guests allowed to attend. If you're planning a wedding, make sure you put this info on your website too. I'd personally add a whole page about it.
If you have to cut down your guest list, it's possible you may get some upset family and friends. My best advice for you is to apologize and let them know that you're limited by state regulations on how many can attend the event. You can even put it sweetly by saying something like,
"Although we would have loved to celebrate with each and everyone of you, we want to ensure your health and safety. Due to the current event restrictions in our state, we have decided to have a small ceremony with our immediate family . We wish you and your family health and happiness and that we will get to see you soon!"
The more informed your guests are, the better you will feel about your event. I promise!
If you do have to postpone your event, limit the guest list, or even just decide to elope, there are ways you can get creative to include those guests that would have normally attended. Know someone who is fairly tech-savvy? See if they would be able to set up a way to live stream your wedding ceremony. Already hired a videographer? Send a personalized email to each guest with the link to your wedding video before you post it on social media. This will give your guests a wonderful sneak peek into your big day day before the rest of the world! Send out a larger thank you card to the guest that weren't able to attend with photos from that event. Look into fun, personalized personal protective equipment. Maybe it's a mask with your wedding hashtag and hand sanitizer with your wedding date. Or maybe it's wristbands of red, yellow and green that designate how comfortable someone feels around others at your event. There are so many fun and unique ways you can make your event that much more special.
SUPPLY PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT
Even though your state may not require certain protective equipment at all times, I always thing supplying items like masks and hand sanitizer stations will make everyone feel more comfortable. Everyone has a different personal preference on how safe they feel, especially at events, and it's important to take that into consideration. We are lucky that right now, it's fairly easy to find masks and hand sanitizer in bulk . But like I said earlier, you can make these items more fun if you'd like! I think the idea of personalizing them gives it a good spin and actually more fun to wear. If I walked into a party and they said, "Hey. We have to wear masks for this event BUT we got these fun ones made with the couple's wedding hashtag for everyone to wear." I would TOTALLY wear one. It's a creative way to remember how unique the celebration was even during such a tragic time.
ELOPE NOW - PARTY LATER
Not a fan of picking out back up wedding dates? Really don't want to create multiple guests lists that you are constantly changing? Tired of trying to plan a wedding, or any other event, with your current state's restrictions. Elope now and plan a big party for your 1 year anniversary or 6 months later. I personally love this option. Not only do you get to have a special ceremony with your fiance but you can do it anywhere in the world, on any date you want, without any fear that your wedding might become the next super spreader in your town. Now that you've eloped, you can plan an amazing reception a few months from now or even host a 1 year celebration! That way more of your guests can attend, you can wear your wedding dress/tux AGAIN if you want to (and who wouldn't want to wear those amazing outfits more than once) and you share photos/videos of your wedding and the last few months/year. I feel like this is a great compromise for the current times and allows you to have everything you want plus some.
ENJOY YOUR EVENT!
And last but not least, just enjoy your event! It's a stressful time and we need things like weddings, birthdays, etc to bring that little bit of joy to our lives. Whether it's an intimate wedding or a zoom birthday party, your event can be just as special and memorable as it would have been in person.
I hope that you found a few tips to use that will put you more at ease in your planning process. Have questions about any of these tips? Please leave a comment or send me an email! Did you do something unique/creative for your wedding or another event? Please share your idea! We want to hear all of the fun and unique ways you made your event special.