Coronavirus has inserted new phrases like “flattening the curve” and “social distancing” into our daily lives. Along with our new vocabulary, a recent set of federal guidelines — advising that, for a period of time, Americans avoid gathering in groups — continues to shape 2020. The implications for weddings, birthday parties, corporate events, Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations, and more, are staggering. Event hosts of all kinds are rushing to their planners and venues for advice and guidance.
New York event planner, Amy Katz, of Amy Katz Events, says, “We highly encourage postponing rather than canceling. Couples will always be getting married, so why cancel? There will always be something to celebrate whether it is a birthday or a wedding. This experience will be a memory that will last a lifetime. We need to make the most of it.” We at PartySlate couldn’t agree more, and reached out to top planners for their key tips and advice.
1. First, Stay Calm
Sonal Shah, of New York-based Sonal J. Shah Event Consultants, says, “The biggest thing is to not panic and to stay calm as much as possible. A lot of venues and event partners are being flexible in the wake of all that’s been happening.”
Chicago planner, Beth Bernstein of SQN Events, also acknowledges the difficulty of the decision, saying, “My first step is serving as a source of comfort for my clients. It’s a bit like going through the grieving process — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance. Once a couple comes to acceptance, it’s time to start working. Thousands of couples are going through the same thing right now.”
Molly Rasmussen, of Dallas planning firm Pop Parties, also reminds us that we must focus on the reason we’re celebrating in the first place and the people who will help us make unforgettable memories — whenever the time comes. “Do what you feel is best for your family at this time. No matter your wedding or event date, safety and concern for your loved ones should come first.”
2. Identify Your Priorities
Bernstein and Shah also emphasize the importance of prioritization as you reach out to your venue and event partner team.
“Prioritize which area means the most to you,” says Bernstein. “It’s similar to when you started planning and made decisions based on what was most important to you. You’re going to have to make tough decisions, but remember that the most important thing is the marriage or event itself.”
According to Shah, “Open communication with your planner and the venue is key. Keep an open mind to alternative options, whether it be postponing the wedding to a later date or moving to a different location.”
3. Check With the Venue First
Chicago event planner, Christina Currie, of Christina Currie Events, says, “Our first step is always to make sure the venue can change the date.”
Others are quick to agree. Christine Janda, of Chicago’s Christine Janda Design & Events, suggests bringing multiple available dates to the rest of your event partner team, but again, also be flexible: “Start with your venue,” says Janda. “Get all available dates. And then let the polling of your event partner team begin. You may also have to work with event professionals outside your initial list.”
If possible, try to be flexible with the date you choose when you postpone. “You will likely need to have a few different dates in hand from the venue so you can find the one that overlaps with the availability of the rest of your event partner team,” shares Lauren Carter of Chicago-based Curate Plan Style. “Again, if you want your whole team to stay consistent with your original plans, you will need to be flexible.”
4. Review Your Existing Contracts
Janda stresses the importance of understanding your current obligations when you set out to postpone, including carefully reviewing your existing contracts.
“We’ve already done this for all our spring clients,” Janda shares. “Lean on your planner for how to navigate postponing. The event industry is banding together in the most beautiful way — almost all event partners are allowing rescheduling to happen within one calendar year with minimal financial implications.”
Financials are an important and realistic factor to consider when postponing your wedding or event. “Clients need to be prepared to make the most informed decisions possible,” says Rasmussen. “They should begin to reschedule their events with the least financial loss possible while still respecting each event partner’s policies.”
5. Make Quick, But Thoughtful, Decisions
Los Angeles-based event planner, Mindy Weiss, founder of Mindy Weiss Party Consultants, is quick to remind her clients that the coronavirus pandemic is affecting many party hosts, so time is of the essence when postponing.
“I told all my clients to immediately make decisions, because we have to remember that all other events are also looking for new dates and there are only so many weekends in a year,” Weiss shares. “We have been jumping on new dates and getting clients to commit as soon as possible, because it’s not just about the venue and the family calendar, but all the professionals involved, too. All schedules need to align and that’s tricky.”
6. Communicate With Your Guests
When postponing your wedding or event, the last thing most hosts want to tackle is letting their guests know about their change in plans. But the notification process doesn’t have to be long and emotional.
“We’re sending a lovely letter to all the guests via email (because it’s the quickest way),” says Weiss. “We’re simply asking them to stand by for a new date.”
Katz reassures event hosts that even if invitations have already been mailed, there are simple and fast ways to notify guests of your change in plans. “If invitations have already been sent out and you are rescheduling the date,” she says, “create a custom online invitation, and let your guests know about the new date change.”
And, when you can, try to lighten the mood with your communication. Currie says, “Design a new invitation with the same colors and font as the original invite, but to keep a sense of humor, I have been making up cute sayings about postponing weddings.”
7. Leverage Technology to Stay in Touch
One of the most consistent tips from top planners is that planning doesn’t have to stop just because in-person meetings are temporarily restricted. There are endless tools and forms of technology you can use to stay in touch with your planner, peers, and family.
“I’m actually quite used to having virtual meetings with clients,” says Bernstein. “At least 50% of my clients plan their weddings in Chicago while living in a different city. I always prefer FaceTime or Skype over a regular call, since face-to-face interaction is key to building a strong relationship of mutual respect and friendship.”
Carter predicts technology will play a role in event planning long after the coronavirus pandemic has passed. “Moving forward, I see services like Zoom coming into play much more heavily. I could see this current situation shifting the way our industry operates with these types of virtual services playing a bigger role, even after COVID-19 is under control.”
Meanwhile, we at PartySlate will continue to deliver inspiration to your virtual doorstep.