Even during normal times, planning a wedding can be a stressful and overwhelming process. Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic derailed even the best laid plans.
This year, Newfoundland and Labrador is embarking on its reopening strategy and formal gatherings are starting to return to normal, but wedding experts still advise caution when planning this summer.
Andrea Hounsell is the owner and lead planner at Borrowed & Blu, a local wedding and event company,
"I would say the keyword for weddings going ahead this year are backup plans," Hounsell said. "Backup plans on backup plans."
Although there is no way to predict how the pandemic may change wedding blueprints this summer, Hounsell says there are several things that couples can do to ensure that the main event goes as smoothly as possible.
As of July 1, the province is allowing formal gatherings of up to 250 people outside and up to 200 people inside, or 75 per cent capacity with physical distancing, whichever is less. According to the province, a wedding is considered a "formal gathering" if it is run by a recognized business or organization, for instance, a wedding planner, caterer, or venue operator.
If your wedding is not run by a recognized business or organization — like in your backyard or home — you're limited to 50 attendees outside, and only your "steady 20" inside.
If you're feeling nervous about capacity limits changing, Hounsell recommends dividing the invite list into three chunks: your immediate family and closest friends, extended family and friends, and everyone else.
She suggests sending out virtual "uninvited cards" if gathering limits tighten and you need to cut some people from the invite list — and to not feel bad. Couples can live stream their ceremony for friends and family who can't be there.
"Those people are going to understand if restrictions change," said Hounsell. "That's out of your control."
Hounsell says couples can be creative when reminding guests of the current restrictions by providing personalized masks and hand sanitizers, or dressing up social distancing signs with florals and other theming.
As of July 1, dancing at weddings is allowed once again, but couples are encouraged to check with their venue for specific rules and regulations.
In lieu of dancing, karaoke and trivia games can also keep the energy high. If part of your wedding is outside, Hounsell suggests setting up lawn games to keep people occupied and socially distanced.
Food and photography
Maria Clarke is the owner and baker at Petite Sweet, a local dessert company. Before the pandemic, the company specialized in large self-serve dessert tables for weddings and other events. Since buffet-style food options are not currently allowed, Clarke has pivoted to smaller-sized dessert "charcuterie boards" and individual portions.
She points out that cookies can be personalized and individually packaged as a party favour.
"They're a good way of meeting guidelines, and also being kind of special and creative," Clarke said.
Photography is an essential part of capturing wedding memories, and this year, photographers are also doing things a bit differently.
Shawn Taylor, a full-time wedding photographer for the past 15 years, points out that photographers have a variety of equipment that allows them to stay distant from the people they're photographing.
Since not everyone is part of the same bubble, photographers are not doing as many "family formal" photos, and they're taking pictures of smaller groups of people.
For couples nervous about tying the knot this summer, Taylor said that it's important to remember what the wedding is all about.
"You're gonna be marrying your fiancé, the person you're in love with," Taylor said. "The most important advice I can give, once people decide to move forward with things, is be present on your day and take it in, because it goes by so quickly."