It became clear by the end of March that Morgan Kelly’s dream June wedding that was to include 150 of their family and friends wasn’t going to happen because of COVID-19.
“I was angry. I was upset. I really wanted to have the big wedding,” she says.
It was her wedding photographer, Alicia Valenzuela, with “Say Cheese” Photography, who presented an alternative. Valenzuela, a member of the Triad Bridal Association, had wedding props and the space to host an outdoor ceremony and reception. Her 11-acre farm includes two open fields and a pond — plenty of space for social distancing. Valenzuela offered it as an option to Kelly’s microwedding, which could include 10 guests. Valenzuela also helped the Kellys set up the ceremony so others could watch it via Zoom.
It wasn’t what she envisioned, but Kelly focused on what was important.
“I kind of looked at it like, a celebration can always happen. Once we get married, we can always celebrate our anniversary or renew our vows,” she says. “It’s not like we’re never going to have that type of celebration. We wanted to get married not because we wanted to have this big wedding; we wanted to have this union because we love each other.”
COVID-19’s impact on the $78 billion wedding industry has been substantial. Its reach has extended to hair stylists, wedding dress designers, florists, caterers, photographers, event venues, and of course, wedding planners. Many couples pivoted to turn their big weddings into micro weddings or elopements. Some intend to hold grander anniversary or vow renewal celebrations next year.
Master wedding planner, Jennifer Ball, says if there’s anything she’s learned from nearly 20 years in the wedding industry, it’s that people will still get married. The owner of Knot Your Average Events recalls the 2008 recession when some couples charged their weddings on credit cards or took out loans against homes in order to celebrate their nuptials.
What will change, Ball says, is how celebrations are executed in a post-pandemic era. Even if it is determined that people can gather again, there will be different protocols, she says.
“In the industry, we will need a new way of thinking and doing things,” she says. “It’s going to be our job in the industry to set the standard.”
Double-sided buffets are likely to be discouraged and guests will be more spread out, she predicts. She also believes guest lists will hover between 20 and 80 people because some will still be cautious.
Couples may be frustrated and depressed that their weddings couldn’t go as planned this year, and Ball tells them that’s OK — but she encourages them to look ahead.
“This is just the beginning of their story. Couples have to remember that,” she says. “Focus on the ceremony this year. Focus on making the ceremony one of the most magical moments of your life. Find something in your ceremony this year that you can tie in to your plans next year.”
Valenzuela encourages her couples planning microweddings this year and larger celebrations next year to be flexible and enjoy the moment.
“Invite your closest family and friends to be there in person [this year], but be safe. Understand that you can now enjoy your wedding in two ways,” she says. “Your wedding sequel can hopefully be better than you imagined and a great way to celebrate your first anniversary.”
That’s what Michelle and Chad Risoldi plan to do. The couple had planned to marry this spring at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church, followed by a reception at Graylyn Estate. Instead, they had an intimate church ceremony this year and will plan a vow renewal at the same time next year at Graylyn Estate. Michelle is now glad they did it this way.
“I wasn’t nervous at all. Only having to say vows in front of 10 people versus 85 was better for me. I was able to focus on him above anything else,” she says. “Sometimes having the big party can skew where your attention is at.”
The pandemic and its restrictions shouldn’t keep couples from getting married this year, she adds: “It’s about the marriage, not the wedding. Don’t postpone your ceremony just because you can’t have a party.”
The Kellys agree. Even though they lost money on deposits for space rentals, they’re happy with their wedding in Valenzuela’s backyard.
“There’s no reason to wait. Tomorrow isn’t promised to us. Enjoy the person you’re with now,” Morgan Kelly says.
Advice From the Expert
Jennifer Ball, master wedding Planner, owner of Knot Your Average Events and Triad Bridal Association expert, has these tips for couples planning a micro wedding now and a sequel next year.
“You’ve got another year to plan, and you’re going to need it because your budget just got bigger,” Ball says. “Be prepared to pay extra.”
Events will require more venue, catering, and bartending staffs to carry out safety measures. There could also be higher food costs. The best way to save money is through your guest count. Pandemic concerns can make it easier to trim your list to include only those who mean the most.
Ball advises bringing in a wedding planner early on. Even if couples have a good idea of what they want, a planner can help organize and prioritize, as well as stay abreast of safety protocols.
The venue should also be secured quickly.
“Without a venue and a date, you have a hope and a dream,” Ball says.
Keep in mind, your vow renewal or anniversary celebration is also competing with 2021 wedding plans already in progress before the pandemic.
Be flexible. Ball recommends holding the anniversary party on the same date as your wedding, even if it may fall on a Sunday or weekday.
Couples should be prepared to consider weekday options to allow vendors to have weekends for new income, she says.
Ball reasons: “If Sandals and Disney can have weddings 365 days a year, then why can’t we? Next year, your anniversary isn’t going to be on a Saturday.”
Make it Special
Find ways to tie in the microwedding this year with the larger celebration next year. One idea: the couple can write each other letters to be stored with a bottle of wine, Champagne, or beverage of choice. They can read those letters, while drinking the beverage, at their anniversary celebration.
Ball has numerous ideas of how to connect the two celebrations.
Show gratuity and thank your vendors for staying with you through the process.