While weddings have been and continue to be affected by COVID, the good news is, engagement season is not and there's still going to be many couples that will get engaged this holiday season. But, what does all that craziness mean as you're planning during this insane time? And how should you begin to navigate that while you're engaged and starting to plan? On this week’s podcast, we’re talking about just that!

Q: What's the first step after getting engaged? 

A: The first step, always, isn't going to change. Enjoy. You should just sit down and enjoy it for a minute and start to think about how this is going to go. It can be a lot and wedding planning is so fun, but it can also be overwhelming. And then, a lot of the next steps don't change either. Once you're ready to start planning, you want to make sure that you have that budget discussion, that's first and foremost. Where the money is coming from, what's priority for you guys, and create a budget, and then start talking dates. The dates and the guest list are where things start kind of differing a little bit. When you're budgeting and you're starting to have those discussions about prioritizing, that's a good time to decide, right now, when you're not in the heat of the moment, what are your big priorities for the wedding? Is it the fact that you guys want to get married in 2021? Is it the fact that you want to have a giant party with 250 of your closest friends? And then, with the guest list, that's going to be the same kind of thing. So, prioritize your guest list; this is my must-have, I-cannot-get-married-without-this-group-of-people guest list. And then, this is my guest list assuming that all restrictions are lifted and everything, so you have an idea of Plan A is 150 people, Plan B is 10 people in my parent's backyard kind of thing. And you already kind of know that going into planning. 

Q: What if the venue you like is a large space and it's not meant for small groups? 

A: I think during your tour, you're just going to have to, again, think about all the different scenarios that you could possibly be facing and ask those questions. So, if you say my Plan A is to have this 150 person wedding and you go to the tour and it's a 150-person venue, I would ask them: Have they done any intimate events recently, how did they make it feel intimate, how did they downsize, did they add drapery, did they have a smaller space you could utilize, did they do something outside, what are the options to make this space feel more intimate for a guest count lower than the 150 people originally intended for? Now more than ever, I would consider hiring a planner. Especially if you're going to do something smaller and maybe your budget is going a little further now because planners are a group that have gone through it with this thing, I mean, having to rebook and reschedule, and negotiate contracts and all these different things for weddings that they had already planned, and then to do that 30 times over again, for every couple. 

Q: What if venues have to close again like many did during the onset of COVID? 

A: Well, the good news is, everybody has been through this now, so it's not the first time around. They probably have a plan in place, unlike last time where it was like, we were all just going with it. So, during those tours, you're going to want to ask those questions: How did you handle it and how are you going to be handling it in the future? What happens if there's a restriction, do I get my deposit back, am I able to reschedule, what happens if it's not based on a restriction, if it's based on a family member getting COVID or my family feeling uncomfortable because numbers are rising or whatever it might be? I would find out what the options are in all the different scenarios. Or what if I decide to book now and then postpone, what happens to my contract and my money, and all that stuff? So I would ask those questions in those initial conversations so that you're not putting out all this money that you, potentially, are going to have to lose.

Q: What about other vendors, should we still book people? 

A: It's really difficult to say one way or the other but I think that if you're planning to move forward and book a venue, then yes, you should go ahead and move forward with booking your other vendors as well, I would just make sure to ask them the same questions. Like, what are my options, if my venue closes, if I need to reschedule, if it's a government mandate, what happens to my deposit, can I put a back-up date with you, what is that going to look like for me for the future should things not go according to Plan A? Which, nothing has gone to Plan A in 2020. Let's hope 2021 is better. 

 Q: How are contracts handled differently now? 

 A: I would definitely read all your fine print. More so than ever before. A lot of vendors have updated their contracts which is good. They have to protect their company, given what happened this year but how refunds are handled, how postponements are handled, how cancellations are handled, what happens to deposits, all that stuff has, most likely, been made clear. If it hasn't, I would make sure that it is made clear to you because you want to protect yourself, too. You want to know what situation you're going to get your deposit back or what happens if you cancel, do you have to pay the final payments? So just make sure that everything is crystal clear from the beginning so that you're both on the same page and know what should happen given, you know, all of the different scenarios that could happen in 2021. And then, if you aren't comfortable, then you could wait. You could wait until closer to the date to book your vendors but know that you're going to have a limited number of people to choose from because you're competing with 2020 and 2021 couples for those dates. 

Q: What should couples be careful of? 

A: If you're planning a spring 2021 wedding, we don't know what that's going to look like, so I think, definitely make sure that you have Plan B, Plan C in place for spring. Until there's a vaccine, things are kind of all up in the air all around, so even fall 2021, we don't know what that's going to look like either but, most importantly too, you're also competing like I was just saying. You have your 2020 couples who are planning either their wedding or a big party for 2021, they've already pushed most of their vendors, probably, to their new date in 2021. So you're competing with them, plus all the new people who get engaged, so if you're hoping to have a wedding next year, I wouldn't wait long to book vendors, otherwise, you're just going to have a really limited pool to pull from. And I would also ask vendors: what is their policy, how many weddings are they doing next year? Kind of get a feel for what their business looks and feels like, you know. Hopefully they don't go out of business, but they could and then you would be out that money as well, so just something to keep in mind and be aware of. Make sure you're booking with reputable people who are still going to be able to support you in 2021.  

Check out the recording of this podcast and others over at the Bustld YouTube channel!


Photo credit [ v e t t e d ]: Tossing Wildflowers