Planning COVID Weddings in 2021

February 20, 2021

Six things to remember as we start our second year of the global pandemic.

Nobody knew that this time last year that we were about to face a world-wise crisis. It forced us to change plans and adapt. In 2021, as I write this, vaccine roll-out has begun and the promise of “normal” is tantalizing close. Which does beg the question, “how do we plan for weddings in 2021”? After shooting elopements, micro-weddings, and a few larger weddings throughout the year, I have a few tips to share with you.

Remember we are still in a Pandemic

This feels obvious but it comes with heavy weight and drives all the other advice here. We cannot and should not assume things will be wholesale better this year or that our Plan A’s are guaranteed because vaccines have started. It’s probably likely we will have at least one more spike this year so you still need a Plan B or a truly Covid safe Plan A. Additionally, with the roll-out off to a slow start, not all your guests may have a chance to be vaccinated so you will still have to keep safety at the forefront of your plan. This means we will likely not see “normal large” weddings yet. You should plan on masks and social distancing still be driving factors of your plans.

Read your contract. Understand cancelations and postponements.

Every vendor will have different policies and none is right or wrong- it’s what they need to do to survive. Ask about cancellations vs postponements. Is there a rescheduling fee? Can you downgrade your package if you move to a smaller timeline? When does Force Majeure come into effect? Is there a difference between moving your event because your guest count is low vs a state order is forcing you to cut guests? Ask until you understand and only sign if you truly agree to abide by those policies. You cannot sign and then demand they ignore those policies later because you hoped they wouldn’t come to pass.

Debating rescheduling? Read my post about that here.

Understand what the retainer is (and why it is non-refundable)

Please know, good vendors do this because we love weddings. Nothing is more painful to us then when you say you have to postpone or cancel, except perhaps when you ask if we can refund the retainer. A retainer is money you pay to have a vendor mark your date on their calendar and turn down all other work (and we are definitely seeing a rise inquirers- we will turn people down on your date).

We also do a ton of work before your wedding date. All the email communications, the timelines, pre-ordering, the engagement shoots. Easily 50% of the work is before we step foot on your venue. Some of us can offer refunds, and choose to do so because we know the pandemic is hard for you too and we want to help where we can. But some vendors cannot. They aren’t being mean or heartless- they are trying to survive and half to follow their policies (see above). Please please please, understand this. You are deciding to plan an event in an unpredictable time. It is a risk you need to accept.  Your vendors are working on your wedding from day one. The retainer is not refundable.

However, if your plans change, this does not mean you have to “throw money away”. Ask how your retainer can be applied to their services in unique ways. Us photographers are often willing to apply your retainer to other portrait sessions for you or allow you to gift it to someone else (mothers day, your friend’s baby shower etc). Will your florist break your order into arrangements for the holidays or other special events in 2021? If you offer flexibility and understanding to your vendors you might be surprised what they can offer back.

On to the fun advice!

Smaller has it’s benefits

There are undeniable benefits to a smaller wedding. Less guests mean a much smaller cost, which means you can afford to indulge in those high end details you have been admiring on Instagram; more florals or a custom tablescape, maybe live musicians or a painter. And those details really do shine on camera.

More portraits or unique portrait locations

Speaking of- with less guests (or no guests) we can get more creative with portrait time. I’ve had couples elect to do 2 hours of portraits which allowed us to leave their ceremony location and do portraits along the Potomac with the Washington Monument in the background. (See that here). Look for things you can do in a small wedding you could never do with a larger one- let’s make this just as or more special than your original vision!

A return to what matters

I am sentimental- it’s why I do this on top of another full time job. I love all the beautiful details of a wedding and the crazy dancing. I love every bit. However, I have noticed that weddings in 2020 felt just a little different. There is something about a difficult state of affairs that does remind you what marriage is about. It’s about being there for someone, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – through conflicting Zoom calls, and pandemic madness. Through social distance and hardships. Through all of this, love prevails and reminds us that despite those hardships, there is always something greater.

2020 and 2021 will be blips in the larger scheme of our lives. This is part of all of our stories in one way or another and embracing it as part of yours, allows for a mindshift. This time has acted as proof that you are already living your vows.

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