Weddings might look different these days, but love is never canceled. Here, planners and caterers share their top tips for switching gears — gracefully.
Stay Flexible Yet Firm
The Expert: Tara Skinner, owner, Tara Skinner Weddings & Events
“The No. 1 thing we’ve been telling our brides is to be flexible,” Skinner says. Still, there are a few questions you can ask your planners to help know what to expect.
Skinner says all couples should ask if there is a postponement or rescheduling fee if they have to move their date.
“We personally don’t charge that fee, because we know in the end this isn’t something our brides want to happen,” she says. “We feel like an added fee on top of the chaos and stress of changing plans creates worry and anxiety for our couples, and we want to do everything we can to alleviate that.”
While you might need to keep an open mind when it comes to changing your wedding date, Skinner notes other details can hold firm, even if you’re moving your wedding from spring to fall or winter to summer.
“Your vendors — specifically your planner and florist — have spent countless hours working on the design for the current vision, and changing anything up or starting over could result in additional design fees.”
Instead, Skinner suggests swapping out smaller accents, makeup or accessories to reflect a different season.
Have Your Cake and Eat It Individually
The Expert: Wendy Armstrong, executive chef and owner, Thrive Catering
Hiring vendors who are professionally safe but also innovative and creative
is a must, Armstrong says.
She speaks from experience: “ Lately, we’ve been presenting the wedding dinner in such a way that guests have told us it’s better than a buffet,” Armstrong says, noting standout dishes like fish en papillote and a custom crème brûleé station — “The chef is literally sanitizing the dish as it’s being served, and it smells so good.”
What’s more, if your 250-person wedding is now down to, say, 25, you can go all out for a truly unforgettable meal.
“When we get a larger group downsizing to an elopement or micro wedding, we offer our private chef menu, which we typically save for elite house parties,” she says.
Armstrong admits the cake, a hallmark of any wedding, “took a minute to figure out,” but Thrive Catering now offers a petite cake for cutting and individual cupcakes for guests.
There’s also the option for a larger, more traditional cake: “We have them schedule the cake-cutting photo early, then whisk it away to the back to portion up safely for guests,” she says.
Remember That The Best Things Come In Small Packages
The Expert: Renee Peterson, co-owner and business and event manager, Rustic to Ritz Events.
Peterson suggests couples consider the bespoke wedding trend. “We have a new project called Petite Weddings Savannah that gives a couple all the fabulous elements of a full Savannah event for a fraction of the price,” she says.
But even small weddings require the expert help of a planner. “ My couples have needed different levels of support, and I know this because I know them,” she says. “ We communicate often through email, phone calls, text messages and video calls — and we get to know each other even better when we eventually meet across the table rather than across the country.”
If you opt for a downsized big day, you might be scratching your head over how to “ uninvite ” guests. “Communicate honestly with your invited guests, and ask that they respect you enough to respond honestly as well,” she says. Here’s a professional prompt, from Peterson herself:
“ To our dear family and friends, we are so happy that you have expressed the desire to witness our wedding vows and share in our joy on our special day! We so wish that our original wedding plans had become a reality, but they simply are not possible at this time. To comply with guidelines for gatherings, we have chosen to have a private ceremony with a few witnesses. We will have a video created so that you will be able to attend in spirit. We love you, and we want to keep you safe and healthy!”
Consider All Types Of Adjustments
The Expert: Bonnie Kaar, co-owner and event planner, First City Events
While you might have to shift something as drastic as your wedding day, there are other, smaller changes to consider to make sure your event is enjoyable and safe for guests, Kaar says.
“The types of changes range from spacing tables farther apart and providing hand-sanitizing stations to lowering your guest count,” Kaar says. And planning ahead — even farther ahead than you’d normally think — is a must.
“We are all hopeful that we won’t be dealing with the virus throughout 2021, but knowing what your planner’s policies are in advance will make it less stressful as you keep abreast of the current situation,” Kaar says.
Go ahead and broach any concerns with your planners, too: “Just as you discuss rain plan options for an outdoor event, you can discuss coronavirus options. The earlier you have a plan in place, the less stressful it is for everyone.”
The Expert: Cynthia Creighton-Jones, owner, Cape Creations Catering Inc.
It’s natural to think about yourself during wedding planning: it’s your day, after all. But remember, changes impact your vendors, too.
“Planning a wedding is a joyous and fun process, yet now one needs to consider postponing or having a smaller wedding, and we are working with our clients to allow them to move their dates at no additional cost,” Creighton-Jones says.
“On the flip side, we hope that our clients understand that every vendor they work with is a small business, and that business has been severely impacted by COVID.”
As a member of both the Savannah Wedding Vendors group and the International Caterers Association, Creighton-Jones has seen industry-wide ripple effects close to home and worldwide.
Still, it’s also helped her think outside the box to accommodate brides —
or inside the box, in some cases. “ For one client, we are doing a complete drop-off, with charcuterie bento boxes for hors d’oeuvres and a lovely boxed entree. Think of it as an upscale picnic box,” she says.