How the COVID-19 Pandemic Has Changed the Wedding-Planning Process for the Immediate Future

Newly-engaged couples, this is a must-read.

couple embracing for portraits at sunset
Photo: Tenth and Grace

COVID-19 has changed virtually every element of modern-day life, including how we celebrate its biggest milestones. The wedding sphere—and the long list of vendors who make it spin on its axis—has been particularly impacted. "The past two years have been incredibly challenging for the wedding industry," says Vanessa Vierra, the owner and creative director of the Southern California-based destination firm Vanessa Noel Events. "We went from a drought to trying to drink out of a fire hose in terms of volume and demand." For the newest cycle of brides- and grooms-to-be, this shifting landscape has led to all kinds of tangles: The supply chain has slashed rental and flower availabilities; a backlog of couples still waiting to tie the knot has virtually eliminated weekend event dates in many popular locales; and vendors, tied up with a double client load, are simply booked.

Even as the world continues to find its footing amidst a new variant, it's important to remember that weddings find a way as long as expectations are managed and precautions are taken. Ahead, an in-depth look at the current state of the wedding industry—and, as a result, what couples need to know as they plan their own big days in the face of shortages in every category and the ongoing pandemic.

Venue availability is tight.

According to Chanda Daniels, creative director of her eponymous California-based firm Chanda Daniels Planning and Design, venue availability is arguably the most noticeable pandemic-induced change. "Since venues all have 2020 couples who, by obligation, have to be taken care of first, all the prime dates have been taken off the calendar," she explains. "We are planning two seasons in one." This can be an emotional problem, she says, since most duos are connected to a date; when their first-choice venue can't accommodate it, the search starts all over again. Breaking this vicious cycle comes down to flexibility, says Vierra, who points to weekday weddings as a solution.

Vendors are in ultra-high demand and carrying unprecedented workloads.

"Vendors are beyond fully booked," says New York City-based wedding planner and event designer Jove Meyer, noting that—like venues—photographers, videographers, planners, designers, and florists alike have more have postponements and new celebrations on their calendars. "It is getting harder to find great vendors for 2022 weddings, as so many are fully committed, if not over-committed!" If crafting a specific wedding team is a priority, newly engaged duos should investigate 2023 dates, as a vast majority of providers have closed their books at this time.

Supply chain shortages have impacted everything from flowers to rentals.

Depending on where couples live, they very well may experience a reduced flower selection; as farms struggle to ship fresh goods across the country (and world), floral designers have a reduced palette to work with, note our experts. The same goes for lighting, production partners, rentals, and linens. These limitations are directly connected to the greater forces that have impacted everything from furniture backorders and extended packaging shipping times—getting people and things from point A to point B in the current climate is simply a much greater feat than it used to be.

Costs are up across the board.

"When there are supply issues, prices go up; when there are labor shortages, prices go up; and when demand exceeds availability, prices go up," says Meyer. "The simple fact is that weddings will cost more in 2022 and couples have to be ready to pay more for what they want, as that is the economy that we are in at the moment and for the foreseeable future." If your budget isn't flexible, he continues, your guest count should be. Another alternative is to pull back in certain categories (think less flowers if your band is a bigger priority)—or to opt for an extended engagement, which gives duos more time to save for a higher-cost event.

The same goes for vendor services, particularly in the planning department. Wedding planners now build in contingency plans and re-plans, essentially preparing for multiple scenarios for a single event. According to Fallon Carter, a destination wedding planner with roots in New York City, full-service professionals are now "more full-service than ever" and are taking on tasks that go beyond their job descriptions to make it work (for example, her team has had to handle escort card script in-house due to last-minute changes). Adds Vierra, "We're used to weather back-ups, but now we have back-up plans for changing government regulations—we have created processes for multiple date changes, implemented protocols for vaccination checks, rapid testing, or both, and stayed in tune with shortages and supply chain delays to anticipate ways to present alternatives. As the dust has settled, we're all realizing that raising the bar must be accompanied by a financial raise, as well."

Flexibility, kindness, and communication are key.

The most important thing couples can do right now, says Daniels, is to be extremely flexible. "No one can really predict what's going on or how long this will last," she continues. "Be flexible and show grace to all creatives who are working extra-hard on making these visions come to life within their own limitations." According to Meyer, part of this flexibility is knowing yourself and your own limitations: "Are you ready to dive into a process that is evolving as you go? Can you be flexible with what you want and when you want it? If not, then I say book your wedding for 2023 or beyond, as 2022 will be a little bit of a wild ride—and if that's not for you, I understand."

Carter notes that increased guest communication is another critical part of this new COVID-19 wedding-planning puzzle. These days, keeping your attendees informed of changing details and requirements goes far beyond the initial invitation: "It's important to know what to actually say to people and when to say it," she says, noting that new topics to hit revolve primarily around testing and vaccination requirements. To do so, direct loved ones to your wedding website and update it frequently to reduce confusion.

Despite these challenges, tying the knot on your own terms has never been easier.

Not every pandemic-driven change is scary or costly—in some ways, COVID-19 has invited duos all over the world to reexamine wedding traditions and timelines and encouraged them to craft more meaningful celebrations. "Many people eloped after one or two postponements. As a result, we saw a shift in the structure of the timeline of the wedding day," says Vierra. "Many couples who were already married opted not to repeat their ceremony or created a more casual vow renewal." From a personal perspective, Vierra appreciates this byproduct: "There's been a return to the very basic fact that a wedding is about two people in love coming together."

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles