When COVID-19 first broke out, us vendors immediately encouraged our clients to postpone their celebrations. It wasn't because we wanted to make them wait or put their lives on hold. It was because on the vendor side of an event, we know more about what a wedding day looks like than a guest because it's our job to carefully observe. And from what we know, hosting a "regular" wedding is 100% unsafe right now.
Our hearts collectively broke, and continue to break, for those whose celebrations look different because of the pandemic. But us vendors are still cheering our clients on, are still looking forward to the pictures of the elopements and intimate celebrations even if we're no longer a part of the day-of plan.
I shared similar information with my own clients when they were making their decisions, and I'm sharing this information with you today, publicly. Yes, I am a wedding planner. Yes, these events help me pay my bills. But as someone whose job it is to guide others to make intelligent decisions about their wedding, I feel I'd be doing you a disservice to not share the reality of what a wedding day (or another big-scale social event) looks like from start to finish.
Please know I'm sharing this from a place of wanting the unfamiliar public to understand the intricacies of a wedding day and just how difficult it is to socially distance and abide by the restrictions that would keep people safe. I'd also like to disclaim and make sure it's known that I'm not throwing any vendors under the bus here: most vendors are being careful and considerate of the events they are handling and are pivoting with grace. Any example outlined below was experienced during a pre-pandemic event.
It's the morning of the wedding. The bride wakes up from the room she likely shared overnight with at least one of her girlfriends and they order or grab breakfast before the rest of her bridal party arrives to get ready together.
A knock on the door and excited squeals from the hall mean the gang has arrived. Once inside, everyone rips off their masks as the hair stylists and makeup artists set up beside a hotel window that doesn't open because that's where the best natural light is. Someone pops a bottle of champagne and glasses are passed around. The group huddles together for a toast and takes pictures on someone's phone. About two hours into the morning, a phone hits low battery and the bride's cousin from out-of-state loans one of the bridesmaids her charger.
As hair and makeup finishes, the florist knocks on the door to deliver the bouquets from her shop in the city and the photographer arrives to catch some shots of the group before they change out of their matching robes. The mother of the bride peeks at the flowers, touching all of the ribbon-wrapped bouquets and drying the bottom where the water dampened them from the vase.
The photographer wants everyone to get together on the bed for a cute group photograph; now we are all laughing and hugging. Nobody wants to put their mask on yet for fear of ruining their makeup.
It's time to get dressed! While the photographer and mother of the bride are swept into the bedroom, all of the bridesmaids go into the bathroom to get into their dresses and make sure their hair and makeup is still intact. One of the girls can't zip her dress, so someone does it for her. Another realizes hers got wrinkled on the drive over, so she plugs in the steamer while someone holds the dress flat for her.
Across the hall, the groom and his groomsmen are meeting up after grabbing lunch. He's not fussy, so a friend offered to run across the street to the convenience store for hoagies that everybody ate together in the room.
The photographer's second shooter knocks on the door and after telling them to get dressed, poses them for group shots. One of the groomsmen quickly grabs the trash from lunch so it's not in the pictures. Another opens the door for the florist and accepts the boutonniere delivery.
Ring, ring. The best man is getting a call from the shuttle driver to let him know that he's arrived and is waiting outside. But the best man is posing for a portrait with the groom, and he asks one of the other groomsmen to pick it up.
Once on the shuttle, someone finds an empty beer can sliding around on the floor and picks it up to toss in the small, open-lidded trash bin at the front of the vehicle. The driver apologizes: he's just come from another event and didn't have time to clean everything up because the other party ran late.
After delivering the groom and his party to the church for the ceremony, the shuttle swings back to pick up the bride and her gang. He idles outside until it's time for the bride to walk down the aisle and she and her father move up to the front seats until they are summoned. Dad pulls his mask off because he's feeling anxious and is starting to sweat. The bride pulls hers down beneath her chin for the same reason and dabs at her eyes when she sees her father tearing up.
Guests are now entering through the main door of the church, which because the building is climate-controlled and the bride wants to stay hidden, is closed. Every guest party is touching the handle and then grabbing a program from the ushers as they enter the building. Someone pulls down their mask to ask an usher where the restroom is in a hushed whisper. Another saunters across the lobby where everyone is congregating to greet a family member they haven't seen in a while.
Someone from the church walks around, gently touching guests on the back and asking them to take their seat. The couple doesn't have a preference of which side of the church people sit, so everyone can take a seat beside anyone they'd like in the pews. Someone who was in the restroom squeezes by in the pew to sit beside his wife. Another runs a boutonniere over to a grandparent, leaning in to speak because the man is hard of hearing and the organist is playing the prelude.
In the back of the sanctuary, the bridal party is getting lined up in pairs. Some of the bridesmaids are meeting the groomsmen for the first time, shaking hands with their new partner before looping arms. One of the bridesmaid's dresses got caught on the bottom of her heel, so she quickly touches the bottom of her shoe to fix it while her partner holds her bouquet. The groomsmen pull their phones from their pockets to make sure the volume is turned off before reaching for their partners arms again.
In the pews, readers are reviewing copies of the readings and one licks his finger to turn the page. A guest who can't make it to the reception is slipping an immediate family member their card. An aunt is wiping at her eyes with a tissue someone handed to her. A father is feeding his anxious ring bearer snacks, the bag resting on the seat of the pew while the child jumps about and is pulling Bibles from his hands as he rips them from the back of the pew in front of them.
The ceremony begins and the bridal party stands up front. A handful of gift bearers head to the back of the room to grab the designated materials from the table where a volunteer of the church has placed them. Those who have received the Sacrament of Communion stand in line and place it on their tongue before returning to their seat. The priest pauses while the couple seals the vows with a kiss. Everyone in the room cheers. Many cry and wipe at their eyes.
As guests trickle out, the photographer gets everyone up front for portraits. He starts with the grandparents so they can head to the reception, and everyone kisses them on the cheek before they leave the building. A family friend grabs the mother of the groom's hand and pulls her in for a hug. The priest checks-in with the groom's father to give him a copy of the marriage license, which he filled out on a table in the kitchenette in the back of the building.
Back on the shuttle and headed to the reception, the bridal party pops more champagne and whips off their masks for more toasting. When they arrive, they drop their bags at their seats in the ballroom and head outside for more pictures.
Guests begin arriving for the reception, handing their keys off to the valet. Inside, they pass their coat over to the coat check and stand in line to put their card into the card box. Someone spots the guest book, where everyone uses two pens to share their congratulations.
Servers begin circulating with appetizers and a stationary crudite table in the middle of the room beckons people over. At this point, many guests have moved their masks beneath their chins to eat. Some put them back over their mouth to order at the bar, but remove them once more to drink. One man accidentally grabs too many straws and puts some back into the jar. Another, over at the cheese and crackers, reaches for a cube of cheddar without using a toothpick. His wife swats at his arm, chuckling and looking around to see if anyone has noticed. She doesn't know that someone has (it's always me, the wedding planner).
As guests mingle and the bridal party slowly comes back indoors, a woman quietly asks me (wedding planner) where the restroom is and if the kitchen has a mini fridge for her IVF shots - she's directed to an admin's office instead. The mother of the flower girl hands over a bottle of milk asking if we can heat it for her daughter. At least two couples hand us their cards for the couple, where we swiftly place them into the card box. I head into the ballroom where my team and other vendors have spent hours transforming the space - and touching literally everything from the OFF/ON switches on the LED votive candles to the napkin someone budged on a table to the cake topper.
It's time to send guests into the ballroom, but a line forms at the bar where everyone grabs a drink before heading inside. On a table by the ballroom door, guests find their name on an escort card our team has alphabetically arranged and they lean in towards us for instructions on where to find their table as the music swells in the room.
I go into the hall to line up the bridal party with the DJ who wants to practice name pronunciation. At least four of the gang have drinks in their hands, which I must ask them to set down for introductions. Nobody wants to lose their drink, so our team grabs the drinks and delivers them to the head table. In the middle of the line, a tipsy pair is practicing the dance they plan to do. Another bridesmaid is holding her heels in her hands and I see she's switched into sandals - my team grabs those from her and sets them beneath the table at her seat.
Everyone stands from their seats in the ballroom as the bride and groom head inside. The music begins and they do their first dance. The DJ encourages other guests to join them on the dance floor. Some use this time to line up at the bar again. Another takes a call in the hallways. Somebody else runs to the restroom then sprints back out so they don't miss a speech.
When speeches do begin, a father talks with his hands and accidentally touches his face with the microphone. A mother wipes at her tears with a napkin that had to be refolded by someone who wasn't on the catering team because it was nudged as the DJ loaded equipment onto the dance floor from his car. A woman lifts a knife to check her lipstick in the reflection before realizing she's reached for her neighbor's - she discreetly sets it down. A man takes drink orders for the table before heading to the bar. Someone checks their phone, scratching at their nose before shoving it back into their bag. Another man saunters over to the coffee station which isn't yet finished brewing and lifts a mug, then sets it back down when he realizes it isn't available.
Our team is cleaning up the cocktail hour space with the catering team, touching discarded napkins, plates, and glassware. A pair of sunglasses resting on a cocktail table is found by a member of our team and is delivered to the DJ who makes an announcement. A junior bridesmaid runs to the bathroom with her retainer case before the food is served. A member of our team grabs the card box and puts it into the ballroom - some didn't fit into the box so under the watchful eye of a witness, we rearrange the cards until they fit properly and lock it up again. We also need to blow out candles, or turn off LED votives.
Back inside, guests dig into their first course. Across the room, I hear a someone drop a piece of flatware but nobody comes up to me asking for a replacement. One of the grandparents asks me to help carry her first coffee mug of the night over to her table - I can see she's taken a sip already by the ring of lipstick on the edge. Servers circulate the room, grabbing salad plates from tables as guests finish eating. Introductions are made around the table as many guests are meeting for the first time.
The DJ plays a few songs between courses. Someone forgets their mask - they'd taken it off to eat - and runs across the room again to grab it off of their seat. Someone else pulls their mask down to sip from their drink. A small group of college pals huddles together and pulls their masks down to get a quick picture. I overhear two women walking to the bathroom together, one telling the other how she just got over a cold and almost didn't come.
The Photo Booth opens and groups congregate by a table of props, excitedly picking up a mask that someone has recently discarded after taking a photo with it. A favorite song comes on and a crowd forms around the photographer and videographer as guests jump around, shouting the lyrics. A chair materializes and a group decides to hoist the groom into the air. The bartender pulls me aside and lets me know about a guest he's had to flag. I already know the one, I've had my eye on her all night and have no intention of allowing her or her date to drive home.
After dinner, everyone watches as the couples dance with their parents. Then, it's time to cut the cake. After hugging and kissing guests, the couple touches the cake with their hands to jokingly shove into one another's face. I hand them each napkins to clean up, but someone has already swarmed them and started hugging them goodbye before they can properly wipe the frosting from their hands.
As guests trickle out and hug both sides of the family, they hit the restroom before grabbing their coats and keys. At least one drunk guests slaps me on the back and lets me know what a good job I've done, getting right in my face as they compliment me. Someone else winces and hands over their phone, slurring as she asks me to talk to her Uber driver. I watch as one of the college pals takes a swig out of the wrong beer while he waits for his girlfriend to get her wrap at coat check before heading upstairs to their room. A group that carpooled together heads out. I go over to the father of the bride and ask for his car keys so we can start loading the personal items and gifts. He tells me that the couple wants the card box in their hotel room now, so we get the room key from the groom and take a bell cart upstairs along with the bride's bouquet and the shoes she's since discarded- it's still disheveled from the bridesmaids getting ready earlier.
Our team proceeds to touch every single personal item in the space to pack it all up. Guests take home vases of flowers that the florist dropped off and catering set on the center of the table once linens were down. We help the caterer pile up all of the dirty linen napkins and tablecloths. As the lights are brought up, I see a smear of icing on the carpeted floor and the outline of a spilled drink on the dance floor which likely got on feet as shoes were kicked off mid-event.
I share this with you not to scare you, because we've hosted events this way for years without issue. But right now, we do have an issue that can't be contained by operating as we've always operated. Most events, as of today (September 2020), are either postponed or intimately taking place with enforced restrictions. And enforced restrictions are safe in theory, but as you can see from what I've shared above - and that's just the examples I could think of off of the top of my head -, are much more complex than they sound. So, be safe. Make smart decisions. Celebrate carefully.