Despite the impact COVID-19 is having on the event industry, we’re seeing event professionals across the industry coming together to truly support one another in these uncertain times.
We’ve got all of these creatives diversifying their businesses to offer new things and supplement their income. We’ve got caterers delivering food to industry peers. We’ve got partnerships forming out of the ashes. It’s as if years of throwing around the phrase “community over competition” is finally coming to light and being embraced by the industry at large. It’s quite inspiring and encouraging as we navigate this situation together.
Yet, we’re not just showing up for each other--we’re also using our creative brains to go above and beyond for our clients. We’re recognizing the emotional, and perhaps financial, toll the pandemic is having on people who had their sights set on an event vision that won’t play out as planned. Some couples are still getting married; they are just choosing to elope at home instead of postponing indefinitely.
So, that begs the question: How can we keep the celebration on despite the circumstances?
We actually had a wedding recently that was right in the thick of the uptick in COVID-19 cases. By now, we’re settling into some sort of “new normal,” but at that point, we were still trying to figure out what this whole pandemic meant for our clients, our businesses and our industry. Emotions were raw and everything was changing from day to day.
Our couple originally planned to move forward with everything. We adapted the wedding three times before the government mandated no groups larger 10 ten people. We were supposed to have 200 guests at a waterfront resort and, just like that, it was gone.
But, the show must go on--so, we ended up having 10 family members join together at an Airbnb with a private ceremony and special dinner and cake delivery.
It was beautiful but—understandably—still a disappointment, so we wanted to do something special for them. Our planner put together a care package full of custom menu cards, 10 place cards for the family, and some ribbon and decor pieces to dress up the Airbnb. But, the best part was the post-ceremony Zoom call our planner set up as a surprise. The couple were greeted by more than 80 of their would-be guests, who had dressed up for the occasion and came with drink in hand to celebrate the nuptials. It was an incredible experience.
Since then, we’ve seen Zoom, Skype and other video platforms become vital tools for people to connect with loved ones while in isolation. In particular, it’s been a creative digital solution for couples who had weddings planned in these months--virtual cocktail hours and live-streamed ceremonies are becoming part of our “new normal” as we wait for the crisis to pass.
Here are a few tips to skip the technical difficulties and get virtual celebrations right.
- Communicate with the guests.
Connecting with the guests is really the key to this puzzle; coordinating many people is already a challenge in person, so you need to be prepared to double those efforts. We sent out an email that laid out exactly how it works. Not everyone knows how to use Zoom (or alternative platforms), so you need to hold their hand and walk them through the steps. Be prepared for questions; an easy-to-read PDF can make it simple for all parties involved.
- Get to know the “mute” button.
Naturally, a video call with eight-plus people can get overwhelming when everyone is talking at once. Now, consider having 80 to 90 people on one call! We found that it worked best to have everyone chat a bit upfront to get it out of the way, then mute everyone’s but the couple’s screen. Then, one by one, everybody got a chance to unmute and give a toast or say a simple “congratulations.” This was all explained in our email, so guests came to the celebration with appropriate expectations.
- Coordinate help from vendors, when possible.
Depending on what’s allowed in your state, you may be able to coordinate for some of the vendor team to be a part of the celebration. For example, our couple’s photographer came to their Airbnb and took some beautiful pictures. Likewise, caterers can deliver food and beverages. Unfortunately, this isn’t a fit for all of us, so, at the very least, vendors can check in and tell the couple that we’re thinking about them.
- Plan a bash for later.
Just because a couple isn’t getting the wedding of their dreams now doesn’t mean they can’t host a big celebration later. Assure clients that they can elope at home, celebrate their nuptials together, and get their loved ones together for a reception on the other side of this. You may need to adjust the plans a bit, but most of the work from their wedding can translate to this celebration.
Virtual gatherings aren’t just for at-home elopements, either; they can be used for ancillary wedding events such as bridal showers, engagement parties or bachelor/ette parties. However, it’s important to recognize that many people want to be around their loved ones for these events, so they may prefer to just wait it out until they can celebrate as planned.
There is no right or wrong way to navigate the wedding planning process right now, so let your clients’ preferences guide your choices and help them achieve the next best thing to their original day.
Nora Sheils is the co-founder of Rock Paper Coin, the first software platform to bring together wedding planners, couples, and vendors into one system for managing and paying contracts and invoices. She is also the founder and lead wedding planner of award-winning firm Bridal Bliss.