Wedding Planning During COVID-19
Planning a wedding can be a time consuming and stressful experience. Planning a wedding during a pandemic takes everything to a different level. I’ve had to look at things in a new way and really embrace letting go of things I can not control. As a therapist I talk about this often, but this experience has made that lesson even more clear. I became engaged in January of 2020 and expected to get married in January of 2021. Luckily, we decided fairly early on to move the wedding, before too many vendors had been booked. Ironically, both my fiancé and I were diagnosed with Covid-19 around our original wedding date! Choosing to postpone was absolutely the right choice, especially as the number continue to rise and percent of those vaccinated is still relatively small. When we first moved the wedding, people expressed surprise and confusion, believing this would all be over as quickly as it had began. Unfortunately, the hopes of a quick end to this global pandemic have been dashed over and over again. If you are like my fiancé and I, here are some things you may relate to or need to be prepared for regarding planning a wedding in a pandemic:
1) You never know if your vendors will still be in business. There were multiple vendors that I waited to book as many businesses were having to close their doors. I have witnessed several shops around town having to permanently close over the course of this pandemic. There was never a time that I wished I had a crystal ball more!
2) Friends and family might make insensitive comments that will hurt. Overall, I have been incredibly lucky to have very supportive family and friends, but even then, there have been some comments that just sting. As an example, I have heard people say “It is so selfish to have a wedding during all of this” or they make minimizing comments not realizing how stressful it is trying to balance enjoying what is supposed to be a special time with loved ones with trying to protect everyone’s health. In addition to feelings of guilt for wanting what has always been a normal part of our societal expectations.
3) Anxiety exists during any wedding planning, but this goes beyond. Now you must worry about if your venue is able to create socially distanced seating. Do you need to provide masks and hand sanitizer? Is an outdoor ceremony completely necessary? What will the weather do? How many more guests will decide not to attend? How many people will be vaccinated by then? What happens if someone gets sick? How do you provide food that can be individually packaged? The fear inducing questions of unknowns is endless.
4) Wedding planning looks different. Before it was easy to bring whomever you wanted to appointments from wedding dress shopping to bridal party attire. Now most places have a limit of 2-3 people. Trying to build a registry now requires making individual appointments at the store during non-peak times. Planning a honeymoon now poses a question mark in what countries will have their borders open, which will accept American travelers, if the activities you want will be happening, and if they will require a vaccine or a negative test to travel. It requires quite a bit of grieving in addition to endless patience.
5) Reading contracts becomes a part-time job. You must search through every detail to make sure that you are covered if there is a lockdown or if the pandemic intensifies.
Plus, you learn that although most places have a force majeure clause, this does not usually cover Covid-19.
6) Cutting the guest list. This was one of the hardest changes for me to accept. I wanted to be surrounded by everyone in my life, celebrating in the way I had always imagined. Now it is making me reflect closely on the quality and timing of relationships to keep a smaller number and manage the safety of the event more easily.
7) To top it all off, any time you want to cry and freak out, you can’t go to your normal outlets for support or comfort. You aren’t supposed to go to a friend’s house or to your family and “zooming” together just doesn’t feel the same. It can feel isolating, lonely, sad, and frustrating.
What is a spouse-to-be to do in such difficult and unusual circumstances? This is where my therapist side kicks in:
1) Let people in. Since your usual support system isn’t physically around you, it is more important than ever to reach out and explicitly tell them how you are feeling and what you need help with.
2) Validate your own feelings. It is normal and okay to feel what you are feeling. It does not matter what the “should” is. Yes, this is an exciting time, but planning is stressful, and planning during a pandemic is overwhelming. You have a right to grieve the unmet expectations of your dream wedding.
3) Lean on your fiancé(e). No one understands better. They can be the support you need. It is important to communicate honestly how the process is for you, and to ask your fiancé(e) how they are doing and what they may need.
4) Practice self-care. Make a list of coping skills you can turn to in times of stress. Practice deep breathing, meditation, mindfulness, muscle relaxation, or other physically calming things. Maintain boundaries around people that are insensitive or unable to understand. Take time outs for yourself to recharge. Make time to enjoy and grow your relationship. It may not feel great, but the skills you gain supporting each other through this can carry you through a life time of struggles in a marriage.
5) Speak openly to your vendors about concerns. Get in writing what their protocols are for handling Covid-19.
6) Do your research. Look for tips and tricks on how to plan during the pandemic and learn from those that already experienced planning a wedding in 2020.
7) Learn acceptance. Your guest list might not look like what you expected, but you will still be able to be with the majority of people closest to you. Things might change month to month, but all you can do is be along for the ride. Let’s be honest, hosting a wedding in 2020/2021 will be unforgettable. Focus on all of the small moments that led to this wedding and remember that no matter what it looks like, you still get to marry the love of your life and begin this next chapter together.
By Heather Timmis, MA, LMFT-S