A pandemic bride details how you can succeed at crafting your new normal wedding
How does one hold a wedding during a pandemic? There's a wealth of information online about every type of wedding imaginable, but there aren't a lot you can find that talk about what to watch out for when planning one in the new normal, as it's still fairly new to the human experience.
With no clear end yet in sight and more COVID-19 variants arriving, it seems "pandemic weddings" will continue to be a thing. And as a self-proclaimed early adopter of the trend by pushing through with our wedding at the height of the pandemic, I earned some nuggets of wisdom that I wish to share with couples out there who believe in not letting the pandemic restrictions get in the way of their forever.
Here are the top 3 things to remember:
1. Let go of the concept of 'old normal' or traditional weddings
This tip definitely takes the top spot when it comes to planning your pandemic wedding. It's one of the first things couples must make peace with before they go head-first into their wedding details.
There will be customs and traditions that won't fit in the reality of holding a wedding in the middle of a global health crisis, and there should be a mutual agreement to let go of these. Accept that chances are you can't have a full entourage or get a 10-man photo and video team, or that loved ones abroad won't be able to fly in to attend. Heck, that church wedding might not even be the most feasible option, and that that is okay.
In my experience, we barely even had time to sulk or worry about downscaling our dream wedding, because we were already overwhelmed by the challenge of putting together all the necessary documents that'll allow us to get married in the first place. In the pandemic, there's no such thing as regular working hours—and that's not counting the occasional mandatory shutdowns due to someone testing positive for the virus.
So, make sure to create a priority list and start accomplishing the mandatory requirements first and factor in the time it'll take, with a generous margin, to get your hands on these requirements. Try to maximize every out-of-the-house trip too by calling offices ahead and setting appointments for an efficient marriage-errands run. I will even caution you about the possible difficulty of getting a family counseling seminar schedule due to operational changes. We almost canceled our wedding because we were not able to secure a marriage certificate (due to lack of seminar schedule) roughly two weeks before our wedding date.
On the issue of guests: again, it's impossible to invite your clan and circle of friends from every stage of your life. The best advice I can give is to keep it to those who are needed in the ceremony—parents, a pair of godparents, and a close friend or relative who's willing to take on the various entourage roles. It's the safest way—literally and emotionally.
This also means that your wedding reception will definitely just include more or less the same people at your ceremony. In our case, our church allowed us a maximum of 15 people, including our three-man photo and video team. So it really was just our immediate families and five friends who only stayed for the church ceremony.
We had to sit down with our wedding photographer, Carlo Acetre Photography about bringing down the team to two photographers and one videographer, just to capture the ceremony; we skipped the "wedding prep photos" even for safety measures.
As soon as you put aside the full production wedding of your dreams, it will be easier for you and your fiancé to plot out the "essentials" of your matrimony. The operative word here is essential—trimming out the frou-frou might make it the most basic wedding, but given the challenges of the times, the basics might be all you'll need.
2. Look into other payment options for big-ticket items
While weddings are typically a once-in-a-lifetime event that you'd want to go all out for, having it during a pandemic may—and should—make you want to rethink that mindset. Aside from the most obvious volatility of the future, now is truly a time when being conservative with expenses is a must regardless if you're getting married or not.
However, this tip goes beyond the figurative sense of the word. If you're planning to hold a wedding during a pandemic, get options that won't require you to shell out cash on the spot as much as possible—for the same reason that nothing is set until you're done getting married.
If you pay cash outright for the venue, caterer, and other big-ticket wedding suppliers, chances are you'll get a headache trying to get a refund due to repeat cancelations and changes that are not within your control.
Our wedding was in September and by January of the same year, we already had everything ironed out and paid for. And then the pandemic happened. Our original after-wedding dinner, drinks, and dancing at The Atrium had to be canceled, including all the suppliers (lights and sounds, DJ, flowers, stage decor, etc.). And while we didn't have a hard time getting our refund from the venue, the rest of the suppliers are a different story. Not because they refused to give our down payment back, but because at that point, many were no longer liquid.
We paid everyone in cash earlier and what followed months after was truly a hard time for all, especially for our suppliers whose livelihoods depend on these occasions. That's how we fully appreciated that we used a credit card with "no charge until x date" terms for other things. Always seek out credit card payment options that will only charge you after a certain date to cover your base for sudden changes.
Also, factor in every option that will help ease your spending—like your credit card perks and rewards.
"I was able to book hotel rooms covered by my Citi Rewards Card and cut the expected cost for hotel accommodations down by half."
We also decided to hold our reception at home, because private dining was limited to 10 persons at that time and we had senior parents and toddlers within the family. Hence, a simple reception at home was our best option. Our top choice wedding caterer, K by Cunanan happens to be offering these ready-to-eat gourmet feasts, so we just sourced our entire feast from them.
Our friend who leads Mary Grace's celebration cakes made our wedding cake, and Indy of Smitten Floristry brought to life a pastel arrangement peg for my bouquet. We shopped for bottles of champagne and wine, and the cheeses and cold cuts that make a grazing board in S&R the day before our wedding and we were all set.
And yes, we didn't get a coordinator. We did everything ourselves to limit contact with other people, and the entire experience of planning and doing all the legwork made our wedding all the more meaningful and memorable.
3. Remember the very reason why you're getting married
The truth is no matter how much you prepare and take to heart all the reminders, tips, and advice, chances are something will still not go as planned. And that applies not just to weddings during the pandemic, but any wedding for that matter.
Personally, after my very much downscaled wedding, it felt a bit sad that we didn't get to spend it with everyone dear to us and that we didn't get to party after, or that I didn't get to change into my "reception gown." It seems shallow but it's undeniably highly relatable, and it'll ground you on the realities of the pandemic.
The point is that at the end of the day, all of those things are just extras, and what matters is that you and your partner are going to make this life journey together official.
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