Recently, Governor Gina Raimondo was asked at one of her daily press conferences whether or not she believed to-be-weds could save their wedding dates. In short, her answer was to keep any and all events to a minimum, both in guest count and in quantity. While it looks like gatherings of ten, twenty-five and even up to fifty may be allowed in the coming months as the state begins its phases of reopening, it’s clear that the 2020 wedding season will, much like the rest of the world, look a little different. But that doesn’t mean it can’t still be beautiful.
Enter Pearl Farquharson, owner and creative director of Designed by Delsie, a local event planning service that caters to weddings of all shapes and sizes.
“I know a lot of people are freaking out and thinking, ‘What does this mean?'” she says. “Many couples are just so overwhelmed that they are postponing everything until next year or outright canceling. And now, something that is supposed to be so joyous is becoming such a painful thing. Weddings are one of the most important celebrations of your life — it shouldn’t be a hassle. It breaks my heart because there still are so many options!”
One option? An intimate wedding experience. This involves sticking with your 2020 date and just scaling back the festivities.
“You don’t have to wait to get married!” Farquharson says. “For those who have already started planning, it’s essentially taking 50 percent of what you thought you were going to do and restructuring it. We’re really hoping to get in front of those couples because you’re never going to get the day back, so let’s do something special with it.”
For example, Farquharson suggests following through with your ceremony plans with a small number — based on gathering limitations at the time of your nuptials — of loved ones in attendance and then setting up ways for the rest of your original guest list to be involved.
“For the couples who will say, ‘Well, I want my entire family to be there,’ — there are things we can do. For example, we work with a number of videographers who have live streaming capabilities. No one has to miss out!”
As for narrowing down that guest list, she says to go by the ABC rule.
“Start by sitting down with your fiance(e) and writing three columns,” she says. “The A-list is going to be your immediate family — parents, grandparents, siblings — and closest friends like your made of honor and/or best man. They are the people who are an integral part of your life. People who you probably talk to on a weekly, if not daily, basis. The B-list will be good friends and extended family. The C-list is your coworkers, distant relative and friends you speak to once every few months. I think that by having these three separate lists, you’re able to prioritize who to invite to either the in-person ceremony or the live streaming event. At the end of today, when you can only invite so many people, it comes down to the people you need to have by your side on your big day.”
And you can still get those “out-of-town” guests involved by sending out interactive favors — like mini bells to be rung or mini bottles of champagne to be popped once the rings have been exchanged — ahead of time.
“Send them out with a formal invitation saying, ‘We couldn’t imagine our day without you.’ Because they’re still joining you for your wedding day,” she adds. “A situation like this definitely takes a lot of ingenuity — I think that in times when you’re faced with lots of uncertainty, the creativity really starts flowing through. And one of the great things that I love about intimate experiences is that it goes from something so grand to really focusing on the details that make it really special. You can truly personalize it and make it your own. “
That’s not to say, though, that you can’t still party… Just plan for it to happen a little later on.
“A lot of times what I’m finding is that the venue has been booked — the couple originally planned for a 150 person event and the venue is booked,” Farquharson says. “But what’s great about a lot of the venues around here is that they’re allowing couples to postpone. So, if, for example, it’s just not fathomable to have something so small yet you also don’t want to wait to tie the knot, save the celebration at the venue with everyone for your one-year anniversary. It’s a great compromise. You can also take footage from the ceremony and have it playing at the party for everyone to see and relive with you.”
What about recently engaged couples who are starting from scratch? When and where should they begin?
“I feel for 2020 couples — they are probably over planning! I get it, I do. So if you need some advice, we got you. We try to make it simple planning process where it really is a turnkey experience. But we still customize it because it is your day,” Farquharson assures. “As for where to start, first and foremost, if you are thinking about having your wedding this year, possibly even next, I think it would be wise to not only keep it on a smaller scale, but to keep it local because travel regulations are so up in the air. And then if you are trying to identify a venue that would be ideal to host your event in, I think it’s probably the safer bet to go for one with an exclusivity option. For example, maybe it’s a fifty-person art gallery like the Candita Clayton Gallery, or it’s somewhere like the Lippitt House Museum or Francescas at Waterplace, both of which have beautiful spaces but are limited to one event per day.”
Timing is also key. For instance, Farquharson advises couples to plan for no sooner than July or August as by then we should be in a later phase of opening our economy with fewer restrictions on gatherings. And if you’re thinking of a 2021 celebration, book ASAP — many 2020 couples are shifting to 2021 and venues and vendors will be going fast.
And then there’s the elephant in the room: budget. Farquharson points out that these packages are ideal for couples who still want the luxuries so often associated with a wedding but whose financial situations may have changed.
“This situation, as you know, has affected us all in so many ways… Many have lost their jobs or are just in a difficult financial state. One of the common misconceptions is that in order to have a luxurious, grand wedding, you have to spend six figures. That’s not the case. I think that for those who want the dream wedding and want all these beautiful personalized highly customized details, this would be a really great middle ground because you can still get that five course meal, or that super custom fine stationery or those unconventional venues that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to accommodate with a larger guest count. I think this would appeal to couples where quality is really important but their financial situation is just very different now.”
Another pro tip: Have a backup plan.
“Insurance is so important. Even if your caterer and your venue have insurance, for couples who will have to postpone or cancel their wedding due to COVID-19, there is insurance that will protect against that. It’s called day-of-event insurance and it’s very affordable. It’s a small token that can just give you some peace of mind,” she explains. “I’ve been recommending my clients to Chatterton Insurance.”
Finally, Farquharson encourages couples to think about bucking tradition.
“With everything going on, people are more understanding if it doesn’t go 100 percent according to the rule book. So, why not bend it a little bit? Host your wedding on a weekday or, if brunch is your jam, have a brunch wedding! Go crazy with it. What’s most important is your love. Do whatever sparks joy. As long as you do that, it’s all going to be okay.”
Additional Covid-19 Resources:
In addition to its COVID-19 Wedding Support Group, Designed by Delsie has several online resources available to couples during this time, including complimentary calls and a wedding planning + postponement guide. Its Youtube channel also provides complimentary wedding planning advice for all occasions.