There are no rules when planning your wedding - this is YOUR DAY. But, this expert advice is worth taking note of …
Wedding 2.0: The Post-Pandemic Boom
For months, maybe years, you'd been planning the wedding of your dreams. Then 2020 swept in with a deadly virus, and everything shut down. That big wedding had to be postponed. Maybe, like some couples, you said, “We just want to be married,” so you went down to City Hall, or held a micro-wedding with 10 of your nearest and dearest. Or maybe you went the Zoom route, and friends and family watched you wed via video.
Now, even though you’re legally married, you still long for your big day. Is it finally time to have a party?
Emily and Matthew first held a casual backyard ceremony attended only by close family and friends. Later, they celebrated in high style at the Machine Shop. The couple chose Lasting Impressions Weddings to organize each event.
A WEDDING BOOM
With 2.5 million weddings anticipated this year — the most since 1984 — the wedding scene will be busy, so start planning now. Some couples have already decided to wait until 2023 to throw their grand fête.
Wedding planner Sarah Trotter of Lasting Impressions Weddings says she saw a lot of first weddings in 2021, many of which were originally scheduled for 2020. Until last June, she says, “there was nothing, nothing, nothing, and then it was crazy!”
She’s also seen plenty of “second” weddings — another, bigger event for couples who had a minimalist first wedding. “People were really ready to celebrate,” she says. “A lot of those who did a second party already had it planned. They’d prepaid for most of it and wanted to keep it the same because they already had it contracted.”
Second weddings have “leaned a bit more casual,” says Laine Palm of Laine Palm Planning + Design, but have also tended to be extended, weekend-long events. “There’ll be the rehearsal dinner the night before, welcome drinks, the wedding day and a brunch the day after,” she says.
Faith Folayan of This Love Weddings planned a mix of second weddings in 2021. “There were those couples who originally wanted that elaborate dream wedding but couldn’t afford it then,” she says. Once they could spring for it, they wanted to pull out all the stops. “For the guests who could attend, the couple wanted to make it special so it would be worth their while. They found ways for those guests to really enjoy the whole experience,” such as special entertainment and party favors.
However, COVID still cast a shadow. Even big celebrations were downsized — for example, from 200 guests to 120, says Trotter — which has had its advantages: “The event was more intimate, where the couple could really interact with all the guests.” The guests benefited too. The couples were still spending the same amount, but on fewer people, allowing more luxury touches such as an open bar, better transportation, more décor — “they added more fun stuff,” she says.
Newlyweds Leslie and Kevin Huang knew from the start that they wanted a very small, immediate- family-only first wedding and a bigger celebration later. Married in a sweet, simple ceremony at PAIKKA in June 2020, they waited 13 months after the first wedding to throw the big party. “We were definitely still feeling concerned about our guests’ health, so we actually cut our guest list to almost half of our original list,” Leslie Huang says. “And a lot of our out-of-state and out-of-country family and friends weren’t able to make it anyway, due to COVID.”
For wedding 2.0, the couple followed their original plans and had an outdoor ceremony at Pinewood Weddings & Events in Cambridge — but this time with guests, attendants, a walk down the aisle and a renewal of their vows, with a reception following.
WEDDING PART 2
The options for this event are wide open, whether it’s a formal wedding ceremony, reception only, first-anniversary party or a sequel.
And you don’t have to do it all yourself. You’ll get the biggest bang for your buck with the help of a good planner who has seen weddings of all sizes and styles in the past year and can help you create the event that’s just right for you. A planner will help you locate and reserve venues, manage vendor relationships, iron out details and help you avoid potential pitfalls on the day-of so you can enjoy your long-awaited gathering.
As you start planning, the first thing to do, says Folayan, is “rehash the budget. Think about the amount you spent so far, if you put down a deposit and what the new budget should be.” That can help you narrow down the kind of party you choose.
Next, pick a date. Many couples’ first choice is the same date as their “first” wedding, for an anniversary party or vow renewal. But keep in mind there could be another date you can make just as memorable.
“Be flexible,” Folayan advises. Because there’s a backlog of couples waiting to wed, venue space and time will remain at a premium. “Think of a weekday wedding as an option,” she says.
Likewise, be flexible about where. With 50 percent of weddings scheduled for 2020 pushed to 2021, there will still be spillover into 2022 — so once you decide on the kind of event you want, start planning the details.
Should you go all-out and send invitations? Again, it’s a matter of choice, but given the uncertain times, a lighthearted invitation advising guests to save the date but stay tuned could be your best bet. An email update closer to the date could offer further details and build excitement.
Folayan also suggests deciding what, if any, elements you’ll take from your first wedding to the second. “How formal is it going to be? What will you do away with or incorporate into the second wedding?”
Leslie and Kevin knew they’d have their big wedding someday, but chose not to put off their marriage because of COVID-19. They exchanged vows at a very small ceremony at PAIKKA in St. Paul with family members only. Thirteen months later, they held their dream wedding at Pinewood Weddings & Events. Laine Palm Planning + Design coordinated both.
SAY YES TO THE DRESS—AGAIN
Planners agree: Turn out in the wedding gown you so lovingly chose — whether or not you’ve already worn it once.
“A lot of brides didn’t even get to wear their wedding gown the first time they were married,” Trotter says. “Some didn’t get it in time. Or they wanted to save it for the big wedding.”
Huang fell into that category. “I bought a dress online for our first wedding since I wanted to save my original dress and veil for the bigger wedding.”
Says Folayan, “The wedding dress is very much a part of the celebration. No one is letting go of the dress!” Some brides choose to have two, she noted, “one for the ceremony, one for the party, depending on how much dancing they’re going to do.”
Food and drink are always an important element of any party, but again, given pandemic concerns, safety measures are crucial. “Food safety for both the catering team and the guests is of utmost importance,” says Palm. “I have been doing a few more buffets [in 2021] than usual. Each one had servers, but in general we are doing more plated meals overall.”
Trotter says she’s seeing many fewer family-style meals and more plated meals. And “everything got quite a bit cuter,” she says. “Caterers have been doing a great job making individual portions, whether appetizers or desserts, look really inviting.” Self-serve dessert tables, food stations or candy bars tend to encourage close contact, so you might consider forgoing those, just as a precaution.
And yes, wedding cake is still being served, but it’s more likely to be a smaller cake for the couple to cut and take home, with guests served individual desserts.
COVID in some form is unlikely to vanish. As variants have emerged and outbreaks have ebbed and flowed, personal comfort levels with gatherings have fluctuated accordingly. A trend for the foreseeable future is to have your celebration — at least some part of it — outdoors. Set your sights on a beach, a park, a backyard, a rooftop — anywhere guests can gather comfortably yet socially distance.
Get a feel for your guests’ preferences and consider the level of caution you feel is necessary. “My couples are typically in their late 20s, early 30s, and they have aging parents, so from the get-go they’re thinking of health and if it’s safe to move forward,” Folayan says. “They’re thinking of the health of their own parents, not just their grandparents.”
If you want guests to wear masks, let them know beforehand (a polite but firm mention on the invitations can alert guests well in advance) and also have disposable masks available. Some couples request that guests only attend if they’ve been vaccinated and can show proof; that’s up to you. Caterers, coordinators and servers are likely to be masked and often gloved. Many wedding planners explain their protocols on their websites.
MAKE IT YOUR OWN
Above all, your wedding 2.0 should reflect the two of you as a couple, whether it’s sleek and sophisticated with luxe décor, canapés and flutes of champagne followed by dinner and dancing — the “full monty” that you didn’t get to have the first time around — or a boat ride on the Mississippi followed by a barbecue in the backyard and games of bocce ball on the lawn.
If your first wedding was an elopement or a micro wedding, share photos or videos of the highlights. Share some stories and plan a few toasts to the people who helped you get through your “pandemic wedding.” This is also your opportunity to observe rituals you might have missed the first time around: the first look, the first dance, the cake cutting.
“We definitely had our doubts about having a second, bigger celebration,” says Huang. “But at the end of it all, we were grateful that we were able to celebrate officially with more friends and family. The pandemic made us realize not to take for granted these moments of getting together and celebrating.”