Weddings – Roadmap for Reopening Society & Business

see: Audio Podcast and FAQs that get straight to the point.

First and foremost, HELLO! I have missed people so much and I am missing Weddings too. I have not done a COVID19 video in 6 weeks for several reasons. One being my grey hairs are contaminating my head, two being I have been answering emails from wedding couples non stop and thirdly with the lockdown there has been no true development until now (I thought it would be helpful to write an article first and get a video out in due course).

By no true development until now, I mean we are moving from a stage of the virus’ initial onslaught, to a stage of managing a transition to maintaining a control over the virus. The previous stage (initial onslaught) was 6 weeks of people discussing potential outcomes. With no true development on the likelihood of weddings being held. The fear I have is, you can lose a lot of energy and time playing out scenarios at the wrong point in time. It is important to be ready for lots of scenarios but focusing your resources and energy at the right time is important. This could be an extremely long timeline or there could be a drastic switch one random week, a big bang event (fore or against). You can be ready to go, but do not burn out as a result of being in wedding planning emergency mode constantly.

In the last video I did, I tried to speak in general terms rather than naming specific months and dates. I spoke of the types of stages different countries were at. To watch out for signs that your country is moving into similar stages as things progressed based on the signals from officials, the medical community and general sentiment. This is really important, but you have to try filter through the noise and to filter the noisy. So be careful who you pin your hopes on. If you are following someone’s lead and a given scenario does not transpire it can lead to disappointment. For this whole process of wedding planning to not become negative, I would suggest having the lowest of expectations. When things begin to happen ease yourself through those hurdles.

How do I decide what to do about my Wedding?

People want predictions, they want to know when they can have a wedding. I could make a prediction but that is all it would be. There is no guarantee at this point, only guess work. Anyone who says they can give you a good estimate of a date you can have a wedding when extreme measures are in place is not being fair to you. And fairness and genuine behaviour I think is the best people can offer. As you have a specific date for your wedding, time is critical, and timing is the most important commodity you have to manage in this situation. How do you go about doing that and try to make a judgement.

You have a wedding date. Let us run a scenario. Given the extreme situation you could probably get away with 3, 4 or 5 weeks notice of inviting guests. Guests most likely are not going to be up to much! They are only crying to get out of the house so let us say on your wedding date your venue is open, the bar is open, and the guests are ok to with attending. We will get into all those points in a little more detail later. For now, the wedding is possible.

You are going to send invitations; you must have the invites prepared, ready to go. But you may want to avoid preparing the hard copies and having to change the invitations if there is a date move, so be careful. I am sure if you have invitations with an old date printed some creative people could make them work, altering the date in some way. Just be careful do not rush in to early if you can hold off.

So, you have your RSVP time and your Invite production time. Work the combined weeks out, count it back. Talk to your supplier and make a judgement that you are happy with.

Now, a big one is your Venue. Let us say, you are in a touch and go situation. Your wedding may or may not be possible. But you want to run as close to the wire as possible. You really want to have the wedding and not wait. This is not for everyone, when you decide to move dates, it is down to you. This is about people who think their wedding might happen. You need to know when a Venue will allow you to postpone a wedding. What is the minimum date they need to know that you are not having your wedding and they will facilitate a postponement?

There are going to be situations where the venue itself has to pull a wedding, such as restrictions not permitting a wedding. You are asking, if you decide to postpone a wedding: what is the timeline that you will not be penalised?

When you have worked out the venue tolerance, the practicality timeframe (there may be more practicalities you want to factor in, get cracking in working them out), and you also need to decide your own tolerance. At what point is it too stressful for you. At what point is the fun gone. Everyone is different, some people go with the flow others plan every stitch and thread. Only you and your partner can know this.

That should give you a length of time that you must make a decision by. You must now look at the likelihood that in that amount of time (weeks) in the future: will your venue be open, will the bar be open, what will the social distancing implications be to your day, ceremony seating rules, general interactions of guests, dining restrictions, dancing. For some people they will accept some trade-offs for still getting married. Others want certain experiences to be able to happen on their day and restrictions do not permit the day they envisioned. This is a personal choice.

You are going to have to employ a logic along these lines in the run up to your date, count out the weeks and mark potential deadlines. It may even be a case of set the lowest expectations, that your wedding will not happen and anything above that is a win. The uncertainty of timelines is still too great to pin your hopes strongly on any scenario.

Weddings and the Roadmap

The Irish Government have released a Roadmap to Reopening Society & Business. In it there are 5 phases. That is 5 checkpoints that must be passed on the way to a new way of new social interactions and a new way of doing business. There is a final checkpoint not to be forgotten about. That is the removal of all restrictions and going back to a pre-COVID way of social interactions and way of doing business. Being able to have any Wedding you like.

From the roadmap we can see 2 types of wedding being permitted. Small Weddings in Phase 4 and Larger Weddings to be restricted in Phase 5. There are currently dates provided for targets as to when the Phase will move from one to another. One of the most important sentences in the document is “WHO predicts that the most plausible scenario is recurring epidemic waves interspersed with periods of low level transmission”. What that means is: if needed, phases will be paused/extended or even rolled back, if there is a rise in the disease again. Meaning check points may have to be repeatedly passed before we get to Phase 4 and Phase 5 and beyond.

What is a small wedding? The exact details will have to be confirmed but it is probably reasonable to say the wedding couple and their immediate families, maybe limited to 20 people. On the up side small maybe 50 people? We do not know at this point.

What is a Larger Wedding, that is to be restricted? The last restrictions put in place was gatherings of 100 people indoors. Again, I think it is reasonable to presume a similar restriction on numbers may apply in Phase 5. On the higher more flexible side 150 people would be a great threshold as numbers of 120+ are quite common for Irish weddings.

For all the Phases it is continuously mentioned social distancing must be complied with. Remember considering restrictions around dining and general interactions for guests.

After Phase 5 maybe Weddings can go back to having no restrictions. That will probably occur when the disease is eradicated with or without a vaccine.

Let us tease out the dates for Phase 4 and Phase 5. 20 July 2020 is the target date for Phase 4. 10 August 2020 is the target date for Phase 5.

All being well hotels (and large venues) can open in Phase 4. The major caveat is there is no bar permitted.

Phase 5 sees the opening of bars within hotels and in general, where social distancing can be maintained.

What does that mean to your wedding? On the 20 July 2020 if hotels open, hotels will not be in a position to guarantee a bar will be open on the 10 August 2020. The first 2 weeks of each phase is to allow the change in restrictions to impact society and business. During the 3rd week of the phase the data from the previous weeks will be assessed. Judgement will be then be made as to whether we can move to the next phase.

On the 10 August 2020 bars may open, number restrictions will apply, and social distancing is to be maintained.

The week prior to the 10 August 2020 we may have an indication that bars will open but quite possibly no time before that.

The point at which you make your decision is down to your threshold. Are you willing to have a small wedding with no bar? Are you willing to aim for a date and pull the wedding because we are not in Phase 5. What are the venues rules? Always keep that in mind.

How do I fit the Phase 5 uncertainty into my Wedding?

On the 10 August 2020, the last weekend in September is six and a half weeks away. You must decide considering all the aforementioned: venue rules, invites, your tolerance level etc. as to when you make a call one way or the other.

Weddings in August, between 11-31: Are you willing to plough ahead and make any late decisions if the Phases do not move along as planned. This is kind of week 1 to 3 of larger weddings (restricted).

Weddings in September, the potential of having clearer knowledge of bars and guest numbers will be the for you. Week 4 to 7 of larger weddings (restricted), is a more difficult call. The potential for a wedding going ahead is there.

Weddings in October are 8 to 12 weeks away from the targeted Phase 5 starting point. This group have the greatest advantage of knowing the circumstances of their wedding. Each delay of a Phase may eat away at their flexibility and foresight.

Plan B – Wedding Dates

OK, so a Plan B culture has emerged, that is planning for your original date to go ahead but in the event the original date is not possible, you have a second date to fall back on (a Plan B date). With the Plan B date some wedding couples have gone short term and some have gone long term. It is a personal preference.

I have noticed a difference in how suppliers are interpreting a Plan B. I say this because you need to be clear on what your supplier has agreed to do. The Plan B date: are they holding that date for certain until your original date happens, in other words the Plan B is not needed (I cannot wait for that to happen!). Or are the suppliers tentatively holding the date. When the supplier receives an enquiry for your Plan B date, are they looking for a commitment or release of the date.

Wedding couples, venues, suppliers will all have different opinions. I am sure there is endless variations of caveats on holding second dates. You need to know what is being agreed. This limits the confusion, and this will help reduce the stress and potential disappointment.

Similarly, with deposits I have heard a range of situations, from suppliers looking for new fees, partial payments on existing fees, loss of fees and suppliers leaving the industry returning fees (or vanishing).

2020, we are all waiting and hoping it is possible to have a wedding safely and in a positive atmosphere. That said 2021 is now filling with original 2021 weddings and Plan B dates from 2020 weddings. 2021 is beginning to seem full, 30% of my bookings in 2021 are due to 2020 dates (Plan B or definite date moves). Now, if 2020 weddings kick in that will free up 2021 a little, of the Plan B dates. Otherwise the dates available in 2021 are naturally limited.

If you are trying to maximise the number of suppliers you carry from your original date to your new date (or Plan B date), you may want to consider Sunday to Thursday weddings. Some venues may have lots of availability but when you try match other suppliers with a Friday or Saturday particularly. It is highly likely that some suppliers will already have an alternative weddings booked in. It is again a personal decision as to what supplier is key to you. Is the supplier someone you really want to have on your wedding day or are you happy to search for a new supplier. It is a personal choice.

Should I postpone?

Is your Venue open? When is it going to open? Will the bar be open? Is your venue hosting events? What are the restrictions on gatherings? How is social distancing being implemented, particularly when dining?

Consider all those and more in relation to your timeline, you need to have a wedding you are happy with.

Consider guest safety. You may be confident of your health but consider the exposure to others. Are key members of your families that you want to attend vulnerable.

On the flip side are the vulnerable members always going to be exposed. I mean if you postpone for a long time will they still not attend. Will they not be too concerned about attending. That may not be the case, it may be so important that the family member attends, and you are willing to wait. Everyone has different characters and only you and the person you are considering will know. Similarly, friends, weight up the importance of friends attending and the likelihood of friends attending.

The range of weddings that will occur over the next couple years are going to be from 4 people attending to hopefully as big as the good auld days of 350+. It is not any easy decision to go ahead with a wedding in 2020 and it is equally not an easy decision to postpone a wedding when there is potential it may be possible to host a wedding that you have waited so long for.

Remember it is your wedding. Do what you are comfortable with, once there is still enjoyment in it. The purpose of the day is to get married and to celebrate the marriage. There are endless scenarios, talk to all involved in helping to make your wedding day happen. Then you and your partner should know at some point what is right for you.

I look forward to photographing weddings again and absolutely cannot wait to socially interact with so many people once again. I miss brides, grooms, their friends and families and all the different suppliers I work with.

Until we cross paths, stay safe and follow the public health guidelines, so we can limit the impact of virus and disease on everyone, whether we know them personally or not, let’s protect each other through our actions.

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