Since the COVID-19 pandemic has swept across the globe, many couples have postponed their wedding because of safety recommendations.
But Blissful Events Founder Samar Hattar, a top wedding planner and venue consultant in California, says it’s still possible to have the wedding of your dreams, follow the recommendations of government organizations and maximize safety. It all comes down to planning and vision.
Hattar created the Blissful Events Guiding Principles for safe weddings and elopements after a phone call with an international client, who was tearfully considering the prospect of moving back her wedding.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Hattar said. “Some have had their heart set on a day to marry the love of their life. Some of these people have had to postpone their weddings two and three times.”
Hattar said many have mistakenly assumed that during the pandemic it’s impossible to have a breathtaking, customized wedding that can be shared safely with loved ones. But just like any other challenge she’s run into in her 15 years as an event planner, creating the solution takes vision, planning and coordination.
“If you are shifting from the big wedding to a smaller micro wedding it can still be your dream wedding and safe,” Hattar said. “Just because you’re having a micro wedding doesn’t mean it can’t be uniquely memorable, lush and lux.”
Here are some of Hattar’s Blissful Events Guiding Principles for safe weddings and elopements:
1. PLAN WHO IS GOING TO ATTEND AHEAD OF TIME AND REQUEST THAT THEY SELF-QUARANTINE 14 DAYS BEFOREHAND.
If possible, have them be tested for COVID-19 before attending. It’s critical to prepare the guests beforehand.
2. EXPAND WEDDING CELEBRATIONS TO MULTI-DAY EVENTS TO ALLOW MORE TO ATTEND IN-PERSON SAFELY.
Want more people to attend in person? Have a multi-day event, and invite different people to each day. This allows the number of attendees at an event to stay within local guidelines, and to increase the number of people that can participate. Hattar emphasizes that it is critical for the wedding event planner and vendors to either replace or sanitize all the surfaces people have access to between events. At her events, Hattar said she changes table lines, place settings, and freshens floral arrangements between the days, which has the added benefit of changing the whole environment from one day to the next into a new beautiful luxurious and safe experience.
3. DESIGN THE FLOW OF EVENTS, SEATING ARRANGEMENTS AND GATHERING SPOTS TO MAXIMIZE SAFETY.
A general rule of thumb is that people should be seated 6 feet away from each other, but having advance knowledge of the attendees can make it possible to seat those that already live together at the same table. At a recent COVID-19 safe micro wedding Hattar planned, everyone had assigned seating that avoided putting anyone in close contact with new people. Additionally, she plans out the natural walking paths of attendees to ensure everyone has plenty of safe space to wander, and blocks off areas likely to become foot traffic jams with artful wreaths and floral arrangements.
4. HAVE FEWER VENDORS ON SITE DURING THE EVENT.
It’s possible to minimize the number of people present at an event without skimping on the luxury experience. This can be achieved by planning when vendors arrive at the event. Host the event in an environment that you can control and have access to before, during and between events. For example, Hattar said she coordinated with the florist to arrive well before the event and set up the floral decorations before anyone else arrived. Additionally, musicians playing live music can be positioned far enough away from guests that all maintain a safe distance.
5. HAVE INDIVIDUALLY PLATED HORS D’OEUVREs.
Open salad bars or hors d’oeuvres heaped on plates that require everyone to grab their own servings present needless risk. Hattar instead instructed caterers to create individual plates with each hors d’oeuvre for all attendees, which ensured that everyone tasted each treat. Additionally, each table has their own bottles of wine that they can self-serve.
“It elevated the experience,” Hattar said. “This is how I’m going to be doing cocktail hour from now on.”
6. VIRTUAL ATTENDEES MAKE AMAZING, BIG WEDDINGS POSSIBLE AND COST-EFFECTIVE.
Having virtual attendees can be an amazing, cost-effective way to have a big wedding and create interactive experiences. Hattar said weddings can be structured to create an extremely engaging experience with virtual attendees. Before the weddings, there are so many things that can be done to bring the at-home attendees into the experience. Couples have sent kits, guides and mementos to help them experience the party at home with cocktail recipes, suggested dress codes, flowers and centerpieces. Couples have sent virtual attendees Moscow mule mugs with the couple’s names engraved and a kit showing them how to create the cocktail. For the event, live streaming services, virtual photo booths and virtual DJs bring the event to everyone and help them share the experience.
“Creating this unique experience and sending virtual attendees mementos isn’t going to cost them more,” Hattar said. “It’s going to cost them less. It’s really exciting.”
7. MASK USAGE SHOULD BE PLANNED AND COMMUNICATED TO ALL AHEAD OF TIME.
Vendors should wear masks at all times, and any mask removals should be planned ahead of time for the safety of all. The times when masks are removed by the wedding party for photos or to eat, should be carefully planned ahead of time starting with them all being quarantined for 14 days before the event and, if possible, tested for coronavirus. At a recent event, vendors at the event kept their masks on for the entire event except in the case of the officiant who had quarantined herself for 14 days before the event so that she could be photographed and filmed without her mask just during the ceremony. Those in the same households should be seated together. Tables, chairs and wedding party locations should be positioned strategically to maintain proper distancing. Also, it should be planned when masks can be removed safely for some wedding photos based on who is in the portrait and sharing households.
8. CONTROL ACCESS TO THE FOOD AND DRINKS.
“No one was allowed to touch anything at the bar except the bartender,” Hattar said. “Everything had been sanitized. I still have dry spots on my hands from sanitizing everything so many times!”
9. SAFETY RESTRICTIONS ENABLE US TO DISCOVER WONDERFUL NEW WAYS OF EXPERIENCING EVENTS.
It made sense at the recent wedding of Sabina Steinberg and John Giffin to plan the event so that attendees spent most of their time seated with family and loved ones of the same house. So, a fantastic way to elevate that experience was to turn it into a 4 course meal. This meant more chatting at the tables, more bonding and more toasts to the newly married couple.
“It was really sweet,” Hattar said. “Almost everyone there gave a toast.”
The happy couple Steinberg and Giffin wrote to Hattar on Instagram, “Because of you we remember our wedding as one of the BEST days of our life.”
So much of creating a safe, memorable and beautiful experience that enables a couple to share the uniqueness of their love and relationship is in the planning, custom details and flow of the day. Hattar often has attendees say to her, “This wedding is the best wedding I’ve ever been to. I can’t put my finger on it, but the flow of the day has been so flawless and perfect, it feels like magic.”
Nothing delights her like working with couples to help them identify and bring to life their vision of their special day. Creating an entire shared experience that encapsulates everything from the carpet, to the table linens, to the flowers to the unique events – it all layers together to create a memorable event.
Photos by Amy Little Photography.