by Adeola Damie, WPICC, of Celebration Events Management
As wedding planners, we are able to help our couples keep their wedding dreams alive albeit with some logistical changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whilst most wedding planners are trying to curate a more intimate wedding experience for our couples; it is imperative that we prepare ourselves for the ‘new normal’ in order to keep our guests and clients safe and adhere to the regulations. We have the responsibility to take a collective approach to mitigate against the spread of COVID-19.
Here are a few preparedness tips to note:
Follow local & national regulations:
Follow state and local regulations on gatherings. Wedding planners should continuously monitor the pandemic outbreak, note the CDC guidelines and make adjustments to the event plan as needed.
Note that in some Canadian provinces such as BC, If physical distancing is not being practiced, marriage commissioners may refuse to proceed until the ceremony can be managed in an appropriate manner.
Update your guests (wedding website is very effective in this regard) on any updates. Keeping them informed that you are monitoring the situation and making their health and safety a priority. Include wording that discourage people who are ill from attending the wedding.
Discourage anyone who is sick from attending and request that people who begin displaying any COVID-19 symptoms stay home.
Consider having a live streaming option for guests who are unable to physically attend.
Reinforce general personal practices to maintain physical distancing, such as avoiding greetings like handshakes, high fives, fist bumps, and hugs.
Having pictorial guidelines & signs of the personal practices & safety distancing in conspicuous places throughout the event space will help serve as a reminder to guests.
Venue Risk Assessment & Risk Control:
Check with your venue on what their plans are to ensure the guests are safe. And that staff will be following proper hygiene and disinfecting protocols. Ask questions such as are their staff being trained on safety precautions, ensure adequate provision of auto-dispensing sanitizers at the main entrances, bridal suites, cleaning of elevator buttons, providing clear signs and directional in public areas such as the lobby and the washrooms.
If the gathering is indoors, there should be as much ventilation as possible to bring in outside air.
Extra care should be paid to make sure people don’t line up or overcrowd restrooms.
Establish communication platforms that can be used to quickly disseminate updates to staff members and attendees via text message, email and more.
Cleanliness & Sanitization:
Planners should ensure the availability of supplies on-site such as hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol, soap, disinfectant wipes, tissues, no-touch trash cans and face masks.
Promote increased environmental cleaning of attendees’ personal environment such as provide sanitizing wipes so attendees can clean their own space as needed.
Make sure both attendees, vendors and staff members will have access to the safety supplies. Venue staff members should be required to wear face masks.
Make Up Artist:
Makeup artistes have the distinct responsibility of being in close physical contact and proximity to the bride. Ensure the make up artist confirms he/she is healthy and has had no exposure to COVID-19, wears a mask or face shield and that all brushes and tools of trade are pre-disinfected.
Avoid offering any self-serve food or drink options such as buffets and salad bars. A plated meal is most recommended.
For Cocktail hour, you may have mini bites pre-packed or plated to each guest. Or a pre-plated station with signs stating “You touch it, it yours” or something light hearted.
Use disposable dishes and utensils and offer prepacked foods or individually plated meals.
In the case of a Ceremony only event, Pre-packaged To-Go Packs is another is most recommended.
Couples are concerned on how to ensure there is still music and dancing at their weddings without putting guests at risk. Music & Food is the heartbeat of a good wedding reception.
Here are a few precautionary ideas:
- You may have a “Dance at your table” rule. The couple can have a dance parade of visiting each table (at a safe distance) to dance with the guests “at their table.
- Or reverse this by having a dance-a-ton on the Dance floor by calling on guests one table at a time.
- You may also create Dance “pods” by marking out sections of the dance floor (six feet apart) and have the Mcee communicate to the guests to stay within their pods during the dance. Ensure to mark the centre pod for the couple so they feel surrounded by loved ones albeit in a socially safe distanced way.
- If your venue has a lot of space and multiple rooms or courtyards, you can have guests spread over the venue. (Ensure the sound carries through the designated dance spaces).
Review all possible options with your couples and pick the best option that suits their style and the available space at the venue.
For a reception sit-down dinner, establish household groupings at each table. Establish 2-metre separation between the seats.
(Remove a seat between each couple or single guest to a maximum of 6 guests per a 72 inch round banquet table or 3 guests per side on a 8ft harvest table.) Note: stagger the seats to avoid guests directly facing or breathing on each other.
Tables are to be spaced 6 ft apart from each other and ensure you follow your local regulation on the max capacity for in-door & out-door set up.
Do not expose the cutlery. Have the cutlery wrapped in a napkin.
Ensure each place setting is assigned and clearly labeled. This way the guest stays at their assigned seat and uses only the glassware and flatware at their seats.
Reception safety measures:
To maximize safety at the wedding ceremony or reception, use a layered approach with multiple measures to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, In addition to having the masks and sanitizing stations; include decreasing the number of interactions with others.
Modify the event layout for social distancing. Place dedicated staff/volunteers in potential high traffic areas to direct the movement of attendees and encourage physical distancing.
If using a public address system such as Microphones or Lavaliers, avoid cross contamination by having a dedicated microphone for each speaker at the ceremony and a stationery stand (not to be touched) for any speeches. Or do away with microphones and hope your speakers can belt out a good note.
Offering an online streaming option for the wedding in addition to in-person attendance will help to encourage a reduction in the number of guests whilst still encouraging virtual participation.
Post signs in highly visible locations such as the entrances and restrooms that encourage protective measures.
Purchase a Wedding Insurance Policy:
It is wise to encourage your couples to purchase an event cancellation policy. Note that there is currently no wedding insurance that covers a known loss or risk such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event cancellation insurance will protect the Insured from financial loss in the event of an insured coverage such as General Liability for bodily injury to a guest or property damage to the venue (including Host Liquor Liability), Reimbursement of deposits paid or contracted to be paid because of unexpected cancellation of the wedding. Payment of the extra expenses necessary to retake the photos if they cannot be reproduced for any reason including non-appearance of the photographer. Physical damage or loss to the wedding dress, cake , stationeries and more. (Please review the applicable policy for full coverage details).
Sample Insurance links:
- Cleaning, disinfection and safely confiscating all trash and disposable items used.
- Hold a post-event review with your planning team and /or venue to discuss lessons learned. Ask vendors, key stakeholders and staff to share additional feedback.
- Keep a detailed list of attendees and their contact information in the event you need to communicate with them post event.
- Look for areas of improvement for future events.
- Continue to monitor emergency preparedness resources and training.
Adeola Damie is the owner and lead planner at Celebration Events Mgmt.
Based in Ontario, Canada. and passionate about the African- Caribbean bride. Focused on providing a memorable experience from the planning phase to your special day. With nearly a decade of experience in the industry, Adeola has held a lifelong passion for celebrations of love since she was a child watching her mother help coordinate weddings in Nigeria. She is certified with the Wedding Planners Institute of Canada and has received awards and recognition from various organizations such as the Canadian Black Women Event, Police & Community Award of Excellence, Belief International Wedding Planners, WPIC 2019 Award finalist, RBC 2020 Women Entrepreneur nominee. With a background in insurance and risk management, she has a keen eye for details.
Having had the pleasure of planning weddings all over Canada from Toronto to Calgary, from Simcoe County to Niagara Falls and other cities; including Destination Weddings in Puerto Rico, Jamaica and Dominican Republic, Adeola is proud to be a dedicated African Canadian wedding planner and to provide her services to a diverse group of couples. She finds meaning in being able to help others plan their dream event with minimal stress and has been dubbed the ‘Wedding Sanity Saver’.