Planning a wedding is stressful under normal circumstances. Planning a wedding during the current pandemic and economic times is about a million times harder. My hope is this guide will help you sort through some information, make some determinations on what’s right for YOUR specific situation and empower you to take back some of the wedding planning joy! We all can use some more joy in our lives right now.
Current Restrictions For COVID-19 in Arizona (last updated: 5/15/20)
-Mass gatherings over 10 prohibited
Restrictions are lifting slowly- the shelter in place order is scheduled to be lifted as of May 15th, however we don’t know when the mass gatherings recommendation will be lifted.
Link to current restrictions:
- Tips for planning a wedding during COVID
- Mental Health Tips for staying sane while wedding planning during a pandemic
- 1. Moving forward with your wedding plans during a pandemic
- 2. Changing your wedding date because of Coronavirus
- Coronavirus Wedding Alternatives in Arizona
- 3. Small Wedding/Elopement now, larger reception later
- 4. Downsize all together- small weddings & elopements in Arizona during COVID-19
National Forest Closures:
Statewide Forest Closures Link: https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/tonto/alerts-notices
Tips for planning a wedding during COVID
Have patience! We are all dealing with this right along with you. The wedding industry has never dealt with a situation like this, so we are learning and adapting as we go. There is no handbook on this! Understand that venues & other vendors are small businesses and are facing extreme hardships, just like you. Our families rely on our incomes, and we also want to keep our own families safe as well. We are all uncertain right now and our livelihoods are in jeopardy as we struggle to adapt to this new reality. We are on your side and want to help you in whatever way we can, in the safest manner possible!
Mental Health Tips for staying sane while wedding planning during a pandemic
Important disclaimer: I’m not a psychologist, so I’m not qualified to treat, diagnose or in any other way provide professional mental health help beyond empathy and general support. However as someone who has struggled with anxiety and depression and who lost her brother to suicide, I have a lot of empathy for anyone struggling right now. I do have a BS in psychology, and did work in a research lab studying chronic stress and the effects of that on rodent models of depression and anxiety, so I like to think I have some knowledge on the subject though.
If you are struggling with depression or anxiety, contact your insurance to see what telehealth options are available and covered. Counseling can be absolutely wonderful if you find the right therapist! And if you are having thoughts of suicide, please call the national suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255 and website.
You are valued, and loved and your friends and family care so much about you. I know those thoughts are hard and all consuming but please reach out for support even if it’s the hardest thing you have had to do. Here are some other suicide prevention resources from the American Society for Suicide Prevention.
Isolation and staying inside for weeks or months are two ingredients in the recipe for losing your mind. Add in fear and panic, and even the most optimistic person could get depressed. If you tend towards anxiety & depression, as I do, stress can be a huge trigger. Planning a wedding or even micro-wedding or elopement can be stressful. But add in everything else that’s going on? It’s normal and completely understandable if you are feeling depressed, anxious, sluggish, are having difficulty making decisions or organizing your thoughts or physical things.
Tips from a wedding planner:
“It’s easy to focus on the technical details, but your wedding is a recognition of your relationship no matter how it comes together. Remember that the party is disposable in the larger scheme of things, but your relationship and your mental health are invaluable.” – Sierra, wedding & elopement planner of Blackfern Events
Get outside, even if it’s just in your backyard or for a walk.
Yes, summer is here in Arizona so that makes it challenging to get outside when it’s 105+ degrees. I try to get outside in the early morning, or at sunset or later when it’s a bit cooler. Even just a few minutes can help. Sunlight has been shown to help depression & anxiety and generally get us out of our heads.
Focus on breathing when you feel particularly overwhelmed.
There are lots of breathing patterns you can use, but shallow (diaphramatic) breathing contributes to anxiety. Breathe through your belly and focus on your sensations- sounds around you, physical sensations, to help ground you.
Limit planning (and consuming the news!) in short segments.
I find that to do lists help me- but only plan to accomplish 1-3 things per day. Speaking from experience, making a to do list of 10 items may increase your anxiety. Having a defined amount of time to work on planning may also help. Talk to your partner on what they think is reasonable and set a timer and stop once it goes off!
Give yourself grace.
This is easier said than done of course. But be kind to yourself! Watch your negative self talk and try to talk to yourself like you would a friend. Would you say those things to a friend? No? Then maybe don’t say that to yourself.
1. Moving forward with your wedding plans during a pandemic
- Check current guidelines & make sure you are in compliance
- Venue Rules
- Local Arizona venues are all required to abide by city, county and statewide mandates, but are also proceeding with their own individual rules. If you are moving forward with your wedding plans, you may have to decrease your guest count substantially, as well as possibly require all guests to wear face masks, as well as other venue and state mandates.
- Know that some people may not be able to attend
- This is the heartbreaking reality of this situation and it really sucks! Some people might not be able to attend due to travel restrictions, or being immunocompromised, or just not willing to take the risk, and that’s ok! And it’s also ok to be sad about that.
- Overall atmosphere may be dampened by fears
- People might not be partying on the dance floor. Or there may not be a dance floor at all due to social distancing fears. People might be standing far apart, but their love for you is undiminished.
- Have a prioritized guest list in case you suddenly need to decrease your guest count
- This makes it easier if you suddenly have to change your guest list to remain in compliance with rapidly changing guidelines
Tips from a planner
Reach out to your vendors to see what they can do adapt to ensure safety and compliance. A caterer may be able to individually package meals instead of a buffet, and the baker may be able to be precut for guests and give a small cutting cake for you to cut together. A venue may be able to move the reception to outside to make social distancing easier. – Sierra, Blackfern Events
2. Changing your wedding date because of Coronavirus
BEFORE SIGNING ANYTHING WITH THE VENUE, CHECK WITH ALL VENDORS TO MAKE SURE THEY ARE AVAILABLE FOR YOUR NEW DATE! This is especially important with photographers who typically can’t be at two weddings at once. DO NOT ASSUME that your photographer or other vendor is available- they might be booked for your new date already with another client. If you don’t double check, and move forward with booking and your photographer is already booked, you will lose your deposit.
How to notify your guests
Change of Date
Most couples are sending out a “change of date”, similar to a “save the date”. Here are some awesome free templates: A Practical Wedding Change of Date Templates & Zola Guide to Changing your Wedding Date
E-invite/wedding website to communicate most current info + emailing list
Another idea, either in addition to, or instead of, sending out a paper change the date, is sending out an e-vite or having a wedding website. This is a great hub of up to date info, and allows you to change the information as the situation changes. You can also have an email mailing list to send up up to date info.
Considerations when moving your wedding one year forward
- Dates are more in demand for next year because of all the brides rescheduling, plus new brides planning for 2021 dates
- Many venues are already booked up for 2021 AND now are trying to fit in COVID brides as well
- Weekday weddings will become much more popular in 2021
Tips from a wedding planner: Sierra, owner and head planner of Blackfern Events which specializes in non-traditional and alternative weddings, advises:
Check your venue rescheduling policy
“When rescheduling a wedding, make sure to double check the venue’s rescheduling policy. One venue may have a policy in place not allowing reschedules further than 1 year out from today’s date, not your previous wedding date, for example.”
Acknowledge your original wedding date
“I think it’s important to acknowledge and celebrate your original wedding date. You put a lot of effort into planning for that date, and maybe that particular date is meaningful to you both. Even if you can’t get married on that date, find a way to celebrate it together, whatever that means for you. Make a date night and order from your favorite restaurant, stream a dance lesson, whatever makes it feel special and less crappy.”
Coronavirus Wedding Alternatives in Arizona
Ok, so maybe you have decided that moving forward with your wedding as planned isn’t an option. Maybe this is your opportunity to downsize your wedding, or elope, which is what you and your partner wanted anyway. Maybe you were feeling cash strapped before all of this went down and now is your chance to reign in your wedding budget and divert those funds towards other things. Maybe you or your partner lost their job and HAVE to scale down the wedding. Big weddings are beautiful, but stressful under normal circumstances. If you’re looking at alternative ideas rather than the big wedding, here are just a few of the many ideas! As an Arizona small wedding and elopement photographer, I love seeing people embrace whatever makes their heart sing, whether that’s an outdoor ceremony at the Salt River, or a small wedding at their favorite taco restaurant which is one of my bucket list locations- please someone do this!
3. Small Wedding/Elopement now, larger reception later
- It might be harder to book a weekend date with everyone rescheduling into fall and spring next year. Consider non-peak days- weekdays Monday-Thurs.
- Some vendors AND VENUES may not be willing to book smaller packages during an already in demand and limited availability season
- May cost more?
- Depends highly on your particulars of your event
- Consider multiple parties/receptions especially if you have people in multiple states
- Have an elopement/small wedding with immediate family now
- If travel is safe- take the party to them! What would be better after a long quarantine than to go see your favorite people for the best kind of reason- to celebrate getting married!
- Have a wedding later with friends & all your family
- This is the best of both worlds if you really can’t imagine getting married without your friends & loved ones, but want to get married now
- This is great for introverts and to do different things they normally wouldn’t be comfortable with in front of a large group
- Reception venue ideas
- Your favorite restaurant or brewery, whom I’m sure would LOVE the business right now
- See my Small Wedding Venues blog post for some awesome venue ideas as well as a lot of tips on planning a micro wedding.
- A backyard- your friend’s, your mom’s!
- Camping once campsites are reopened
4. Downsize all together- small weddings & elopements in Arizona during COVID-19
- Differences between small weddings & elopements
- Small weddings are typically under 50, often have reception elements and maybe food
- Elopements often under 10, often no reception or food
- Maybe you wanted this all along and this has created an “excuse” to have the intimate wedding or elope without the external pressure of friends & family
- Livestreaming to family/friends that can’t make it
Ways to include family when not physically present at your wedding
- Prints- send them a care package! Everyone loves getting mail
- An album
- Slideshow- slideshows are a great way to relive your day
- Video- either professional or on your phone