Sam and Radley’s Waikopou Bay ceremony. Photo / Stephan & Nakita

The Insider Guide To Planning A Wedding During A Pandemic

These expert tips from wedding planner Sophia Hoadley, of My Waiheke, will help couples navigate this new reality and prepare for the day with confidence

Celebrating love in the time of corona brings with it a whole new consideration for couples wanting to get married. Looking to plan a dinner party, let alone a wedding, can feel incredibly daunting in these uncertain times.

We all love a good wedding, however this age-old custom has taken on a slightly new look as Covid-19 has joined the party — like the uninvited guest deciding to gatecrash. Suddenly couples are having to consider things like travel restrictions, MIQ availability, bubbles (the non-alcoholic variety), masks, sanitisers, social distancing, not to mention the dreaded lockdown.

Yet what remains constant is people’s desire to celebrate and share what is most important to them, the greatest declaration of love — a marriage. No, love is not cancelled and weddings don’t just stop because a pandemic turned up.

Couples are still committing themselves to the beautiful union of love. In fact, it could be said that in troubled times getting married should be prioritised, acting as a beacon of joy and something to look forward to.

So, to ensure you have the most wonderful occasion, here are some tips to cope with the uncertainty of planning a wedding.

Frances and Michael-John’s hilltop micro wedding of 10. Photo / Wildfolk Photography

Don’t wait to book
With the changing landscape and some couples having to reschedule their 2021/2022 weddings, vendors become booked up well into the following seasons. It’s advisable to book early, and choose an experienced team of suppliers you trust. Lean into recommendations. Now is not the time to go with something untested, or new start-up businesses, which are less likely to be able to pivot in times of crisis.

When considering venues, if there are restrictions in place that prevent you from visiting the locations, then consider asking for a virtual tour to help you make your decision.

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For the brides-to-be out there, it’s always a good idea to reach out to your bridal salon earlier rather than later.

Dresses usually take months to produce. Look at New Zealand designs, ready-to-wear or pre-loved gowns to eliminate any shipping delays, while also helping to support the local industry.

Travel will be the area most susceptible to change due to the pandemic restrictions, so choose local vendors wherever possible.

A wedding bar. Photo / Hollow & Co

Managing your guests
It’s an artful juggle working out how many people to invite. The past year has seen elopements and micro weddings bursting on to the scene, which are fantastic options for couples who don’t want to wait, or live with the uncertainties around hosting a larger wedding. When a wedding involves just the two of you, or an intimate group of family and friends, the likelihood of proceeding with an uninterrupted wedding day improves greatly.

You can also plan for a sooner and later scenario, where the ceremony celebration can take place now, saving the larger bash with all the fanfare for later. This is a popular solution when essential guests are overseas.

Weddings with a maximum of 100 guests have been a safer bet for many, and may offer you more flexibility. It’s always good to check with your venue about outdoor spaces, and look into stand-up cocktail-style dining options, which may allow for better social distancing.

Menu styles may also be a consideration, based on the guidelines at the time. If you’re opting for the family favourite of shared platters, it’s always good to have a back-up plan for the dining experience should separate plated meal courses become necessary.

READ: Wedding Hairstylist Brooke Mann Shares Her Bridal Hair Tips

Come up with a Covid-19 plan and stay up to date with government guidelines. You want your wedding to be memorable and fun but most importantly, you want it to be safe. Right away, decide how to protect the most important people in your life by setting up some clear guidelines.

Work with the requirements and any restrictions that may be in place, talking with your venue and other key vendors, then take the time to sit down with your partner and make decisions about social distancing and how many guests to invite. If you need to dramatically reduce your guest list, think about what workarounds you can implement.

Wedding cuisine at Poderi Crisci. Photo / Libby Robinson

When to postpone
This can be complicated. You don’t want to postpone too early or too late. Postponing too late may mean you will have decreased vendor and venue availability and could lose deposits — if not full balances. Postponing too early can mean you have to postpone a second time depending on how long this lasts or how many interruptions we get.

When placing your bookings with suppliers, make sure to check their postponement and Covid-19 terms up front, or ask them the questions you are concerned about, so you know from the beginning.

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Sometimes postponing earlier than later will alleviate a lot of anxiety in the short term. Minimising the number of suppliers by bundling services and products will also help if things have to be postponed — it will be a lot less of a headache rebooking everything.

Your best financial and creative protection is to postpone, rather than cancel, and hire a wedding co-ordinator to help you navigate all the changes.

Reception dinner. Photo / Wildfolk Photography

Fall in love with your back-up plan
Plan to be flexible, prepare yourself for the worst-case scenario but allow for a few different iterations of your special day. Developing good relationships with your wedding planner and venue manager is essential when having to deal with possible disruptions.

When inviting overseas guests, make sure you are clear if this includes essential guests. If travel restrictions are in place and they couldn’t attend how would this impact your wedding proceeding?

Consider a virtual guest list to provide a safe way for those overseas or elderly relatives and health-compromised guests to attend your wedding. With a little help from Zoom and a good photographer or videographer, the special day can still be shared with everyone.

With a smaller wedding you can spend up large on some areas, like upgrading to that eight-course degustation menu, booking in that luxe lodge for your (NZ) honeymoon or getting that custom-designed fine jewellery you always dreamed of.

Al fresco dining. Photo / Bayly & Moore

Fun planning activities
Now is the perfect time to go through your wedding day playlist, take virtual dance lessons or try wine and beer tastings. For the playlist, think about the processional (what you’re walking in to), recessional (walking out to), your grand entrance and first dance.

Most NZ wineries will happily post you their latest vintages so you can sample some of the wine selections for the wedding.

Stay positive
The pandemic hasn’t been easy on anyone, so if you start feeling down when you have to change your plans yet again, know that you aren’t alone. Stay positive. Flexibility, kindness and a touch of humour will get you through this.

You will also discover an incredible industry of wedding professionals to lean on, who are here to help make your day extra special.

Remember, your wedding is just the beginning — you still have plenty of meaningful milestones ahead that you will be able to celebrate with all your friends and family. I wish all the couples out there the very best with their wedding planning journey, may it be a joyous one.

Sophia Hoadley is the creative director of My Waiheke and has been specialising in weddings and events for over 10 years. To find out more visit MyWaiheke.co.nz

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