Planning a wedding is one of the most stressful things someone does in their life.
There are a lot of moving parts in a normal year. You have to find a date on the calendar, you have to find a venue, you have to pin down numbers, you have to make a decision on food, and you have to find a DJ.
That’s just the beginning of all the work. That doesn’t include the dresses and tuxedos, the reception location, transportation, parties, and showers. The list of things to plan for is never-ending, and when a global pandemic gets mixed in, all of those plans go out the window. Your next three plans go out the window, too.
That was the story for brides and grooms from March 2020 on, and it’s spilled over into 2021. It will continue until vaccines are distributed and numbers decrease across the country and the world. But even in the midst of all of that, people have done whatever they can to celebrate their big day, and caterers and venues have done what they can to provide those brides and grooms with the accommodations that they need to move forward with their plans.
The catch for couples, caterers, and venues, is that nothing is set in stone. Today’s rules and regulations will most likely distant memories when it comes time for the wedding, and not in the way that people would hope for. Approved gathering sizes are slashed and whether or not the wedding is inside or outside becomes important for reasons other than aesthetics. That leaves people across the wedding industry scrambling to give their clients – and themselves – the wedding they deserve while not breaking the rules.
Jenna Daley admits that the Infinity Park Event Center doesn’t host too many wedding related events.
“We don’t get too many weddings here, and when we do it’s really receptions only,” Daley said.
Even without too many wedding-related events, the Infinity Park Event Center is usually booked solid with corporate events in a normal year. As we are all well aware, 2020 was not a normal year. While 2021 will be a year that we inch back towards normality, it’s not going to be a normal year either and according to Daley, that’s evident by the amount of cancellations from commercial clients that have already taken place.
“We are planning as normal, unfortunately, we are seeing people that just don’t want to because they don’t want to take that risk,” Daley explained. “Especially corporations, they really aren’t taking that risk. But social events are a little bit more adventurous.”
As a result, the Infinity Park Event Center is exploring new ways to utilize their unique spaces.
“We are taking advantage of the amount of cancellations there were in 2020 and how there’s not that many venues to fit two years’ worth of people wanting to get married,” Daley said. “We are looking at what we can do to provide people more on our festival plaza specifically. Not many people want to go for the whole ballroom feel of the screens and the pictures. People want the outdoors to speak for their wedding decor, so we are looking for ways that we can do tents and work with other vendors about decor options and furniture and stuff like that. This year we are really focusing on that to see what we can provide people more of.”
Ching-yuan Hu, the Senior Event Designer at Catering By Design, is in a similar position as Daley and the Infinity Park Event Center.
“Predominantly pre-COVID, I would say most of my business is corporate and non-profit with a small portion of it being more social,” Hu said. “So weddings, mitzvahs, that type of thing. In the last 10 months, corporate and non-profit has pretty much come to a halt with the exception of some smaller, more virtual events that we’ve been able to help our clients out with.”
As people get creative with ways to celebrate their special day, Hu and her team at Catering by Design have gotten creative in ways that they can help their clients. From sending out supplies for a virtual charcuterie board making class to finding creative ways to get delicious foods into backyard celebrations, the ability to adapt is what will help them find their way in an ever-changing wedding landscape. And while weddings may not be Catering by Design’s bread and butter, the amount of cancellations in 2020 are already filling up the calendar in 2021.
“I think that weddings are what’s going to carry 2021 whether it’s at a venue or in a backyard. In 2020, we did some at venues when it was permitted, but people dropping their guest sizes down from 150 to 25 people because that’s what the county or city was recognizing, we did a lot more backyard events.”
In a normal year, Hu reports that Catering by Design works around 10-15 weddings. As of January 2021, they already had 27 weddings on the books.
Leslie Stinson’s big day is on the horizon. She will be wed on Memorial Day, and will have planned her wedding for about a year when the day finally comes. She got engaged during the COVID-19 pandemic and has had the “luxury” – if you can call it that – of not being blindsided by the rule changes that brides and grooms dealt with throughout 2020.
Still, Stinson is playing the waiting game How many people will be allowed in the venue? Will her wedding party from out of state have to use up all of their vacation after traveling, and quarantining just to attend the wedding? There are a lot of moving pieces that will need to be pinned down before the May flowers bloom.
“I think part of it is because we have people coming from so many different places, I know there are a lot of questions about what is happening here,” Stinson said. “What are the impacts once they go home? I feel like there is a lot of worry – at least from me – about that. I don’t want it to be that big of a burden. We have so many people that want to celebrate with us, but we want to make sure that it’s a safe event and that people feel safe. It’s really just about making sure that we are communicating everything we can, because I sure as heck don’t know all of the stuff that California is imposing, or Florida or New York or all of these other places that we have people coming from.”
She’s seen through the lens of a Facebook group dedicated to brides discussing their 2021 weddings the havoc that COVID has caused, and she’s making a short-list of ideas to keep in her back pocket if things don’t continue to progress.
“I have seen a lot of people that have had to postpone and postpone multiple times which I am sure is heartbreaking,” Stinson said. “I’ve seen quite a few people that have just had courthouse-type ceremonies and are just pushing out their big reception until 2022 even. It really seems to be like the varying regulations and people dealing with it. There is a lot of trying to keep up with the regulations and what that means for whatever their big dream has been – for some of these people – for most of their lives.”
Soon things will return to normal. You won’t have to worry about masks, or numbers, or whether or not you’ll allow dancing at your wedding. But those times can’t come soon enough.