From the newly-engaged to those who have rescheduled their 2020 weddings, couples are navigating an ever-changing landscape of COVID constraints that make planning more difficult than ever.
While keeping yourselves, your families, and your guests safe is a top concern, hosting a wedding during the pandemic is about much more than mask-wearing and socially-distanced seating. Here are some important things to consider as you plan your big day.
Keep Current with Gathering Guidelines
The CDC continues to recommend that large gatherings be avoided, especially when social distancing cannot be maintained between people who live in different households. However, many states have relaxed their guidelines regarding wedding ceremonies and receptions. New Jersey and New York are allowing indoor and outdoor weddings with gathering limits, room capacity restrictions and other safety guidelines (New York requires guests to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test or COVID-19 vaccinations). Banquet halls and wedding venues must comply with dining safety protocols and there are restrictions regarding dancing (prohibited in New Jersey.) Guidelines can change overnight, so be sure to keep track of updates.
Choose Experienced Vendors
Planning a COVID wedding makes using experienced professionals more important than ever. Your vendors must be understanding of the situation, and many venues, DJs, caterers and florists have evolved their practices to accommodate pandemic-related requests or modifications. Make sure you read contracts carefully and understand cancellation and rescheduling policies. Should you need to change plans, minimizing the number of vendors you work with will help simplify the process.
Set Clear Safety Protocols
COVID-friendly weddings have ranged from ultra-intimate in-person affairs to large-scale Zoom events. One popular option is hosting a socially-distanced minimony now and planning a larger wedding for the future. And many couples are adding a virtual component for guests that cannot attend in person. Whatever iteration you choose, set clear and objective safety protocols to protect yourselves and your guests. For instance, you may want all in-person guests to be vaccinated or to accommodate travel restrictions for out-of-state guests. When planning transportation to and from your celebration, working with a reputable limousine company will help ensure the safest possible experience for family and friends. Ask about protocols such as masking up while driving, providing hand sanitizers and installing partitions to reduce exposure.
Keep Everyone in the Loop
Specifics about health and safety measures need to be communicated before your guests RSVP. In a recent survey by The Knot, 63% of guests want to know the mask policy and 60% want to know the size of the guest list. Experts advise including details on invitations and creating a centralized location on your wedding website for COVID safety updates as well as virtual event details. Including your livestream/broadcast link on your website makes it easy for virtual guests to dial in to your celebration.
Host an Outdoor Wedding and/or Reception
An outdoor wedding is another option for safety-minded couples. Whether you prefer a combination of outdoor and indoor facilities or a completely open-air celebration, New Jersey offers a wide variety of experiences to choose from. Here are just a five of the state’s unique venues:
- Rutgers Gardens, New Brunswick: This serene outdoor space offers two themed gardens and a pavilion that offers a romantic setting for a reception.
- Crossed Keys Estate, Andover: Dreaming of a country-style wedding? The estate grounds include a ceremony garden and a beautifully decorated wedding tent for receptions.
- The Estate at Florentine Gardens, River Vale: Four acres of gardens – dotted with fountains and stone gazebos – offer couples space to exchange
vows and host cocktails before moving indoors to the elegant Grand Ballroom.
- The Farmhouse, Hampton: Perfect for an entirely outdoor wedding, this venue’s charming garden gazebo serves as a backdrop for the ceremony and the Grand Lawn is the ideal spot for an open-sided wedding tent.
- Rock Island Lake Club, Sparta: At this lake-side location in the mountains (just an hour’s drive from Manhattan), you can tie the knot at the lake’s edge and enjoy cocktails on the verandah before heading to your reception in the club’s ballroom.