With the President’s announcement last night about the Federal guidelines for a phased approach to opening the United States, many brides are reaching out asking what does this mean? How does this affect my wedding, and should I look for next options?
First things first, these are Federal guidelines and it’s been left up to the States on how they want to reopen. This can be done on a statewide level or county-wide basis with the decision left in the hands of each State’s Governor. Leaving a lot of room for flexibility, but it also leaves a lot on the table as far as questions and next steps.
Below is a personal opinion of how the phases will go and what brides should be looking for and planning. Before a State can open, they must demonstrate a robust testing strategy, and be on a downward trend for at least 14 days with no new cases of COVID-19. Most states are approaching these guidelines currently, with the exception having a rapid robust testing system. We are seeing progress in this area with the emergence of expanded on-site COVID testing and I’m sure in the next 2-3 weeks they will have these measures in place and attempt to enter phase one; first or second week of May. For States hit hardest, you may not see this till end of May early June.
Phase One: Gatherings of less than 10 people. States must demonstrate the guidelines above before they can enter the phases. A gentle reminder that is a total amount of people in one place. This includes vendors. So traditionally, this would be what we call a micro wedding. Usually 4-6 total wedding participants and vendors such as officiant, planner and photographer. One of the biggest hurdles with phase one will be the slow reopening of society and with that, a general spike in cases may occur naturally. When this happens, the phase is basically frozen and until leadership feels that the initial exposure wave has passed, they will not entertain the conversation of moving to phase two. I believe we will see the average State stay in phase one for a period of 4-6 weeks, minimum. For those tracking best case, this would be first or second week of June with the rest following 2-3 weeks behind.
Phase Two: Gathering of less than 50 people. States must demonstrate they are able to keep a downward pattern for at least two weeks in phase one before they are able to proceed to phase two. With this phase it is almost guaranteed we will see a spike of cases due to the larger amount of social interactions, therefore, the ability for the virus to spread will increase. This is also set to hit mid-summer when 4th of July is celebrated and American’s will have been limited on their personal exposure for close to four months. I believe you will two types of behavior during this phase. The first, people who want to get out and will be grateful for personal interaction and aren’t necessarily concerned with contracting the virus due to their immune system and will take the personal risk for the connection reward. The second type of people will be those that are highly cautious of the case spike and will limit their exposure and will keep a very tight knit group of friends and family close, with extremely limited exposure. So, what does this mean for weddings this summer? We are recommending brides plan for mini weddings this summer with guests lists around 40. This will allow the adequate number of vendors and staff to be present to ensure safety and enjoyment for your guests. The difficulty will be for brides that have large guests lists and need to make the tough decision to proceed with a much smaller guest list, postpone until next year when the restrictions are lifted, or decide to cancel all together and choose something small like a micro wedding; understanding they may lose thousands in deposits but save 10s of thousands to throw a wedding for such a small guest list. Also, we are seeing guests who are immunocompromised in any fashion not willing to travel or attend gatherings for their health. Which includes many grandparents, aunts, uncles and in some cases parents, which makes this decision even more difficult for bridal couples.
Each wedding is different and has such complex variables that it’s difficult to give blanketed advice in times such as these. We recommend that each bridal couple lean heavily on their planners for sound and un-biased advice. If you are lacking a planner and need advice, you can always join our free Facebook community where we support our bridal couples. Click www.facebook.com/groups/masterbrides to join.
Phase three: no guest limits. While this might seem like the best phase, it’s also the most unpredictable. In a base case scenario, I would assume September is the earliest that State’s would implement. Even with that said, I’m sure there will be gathering levels that are released on a state to state scale that varies based on the nature of the community (i.e. sports areas, rural areas, immunocompromised elderly, etc.). I can’t foresee any state going from 50 to unlimited. It doesn’t seem responsible and very detrimental to the progress we’ve made. Particularly due to the fact that flu season begins in the fall and so that adds an additional layer of complexity. If we see this virus re-emerge in the fall, you can expect to see most states remain at phase two until spring of 2021.
There is nothing about this situation that is in favor for bridal couples today. Remember to give your vendors grace and understanding as you’re communicating with them. This is their entire livelihood for many, and they are bruised and battered from this. Know your contracts and use them if needed to request postponements or cancellations. This is a once in a lifetime firestorm that even those of us with decades of experience are struggling to find the correct guidance for clients. I continue to say, I hope my predictions are wrong. I hope things open earlier and we are able to kick this virus to the curb sooner than later. However, my advice this far, has been in line with current restrictions and I keep a close eye on large amounts of data to see model predictions.
Lastly, for those that have heard me speak and know me well can attest to my consistent quest for gratitude. In situations like this, it can be hard to maintain a state of thanks, but I encourage each of you to challenge yourself to a daily gratitude filled practice. This will truly help to reframe your perspective and help to keep your mind open to the possibilities that come your way. This isn’t the wedding season you planned on, but it was the wedding season you were given. How can you make your day special and still about you and the person you are committing to spend your life with? Reframe this narrative to the focus on you both and the gratefulness for each other. I can promise you that you mind will shift; your heart will beat lighter and you will see the sunshine through so much rain.
If you need options for micro or mini weddings, we have amazing options available that are all-inclusive and begin at $5,500. We can’t wait to help you out. You can see what we have at www.amygraceevents.com/bespoke
I usually end my emails and posts with “happy planning”. It seems odd to put such words at this time… so let’s try this….
Gratitude and Grace,
P.S. For those that are now wondering... should I cancel or postponne? I wrote a follow up blog post to help guide you through the conversation. https://www.amygraceevents.com/post/cancel
Amy Grace Collins is a nationally recognized and award-winning wedding planner that's been in the events industry for almost 20 years. She's currently bringing to the US one of the biggest trends to shake up the wedding industry, Pop-Up weddings.