Your California Wedding Planning and Coronavirus
Having been a Temecula wedding photographer for over ten years now, I’ve never encountered anything like COVID-19 and how it’s disrupting our lives. This is a very serious and worrying time; I know for myself my primary concern is the safety and health of my family, friends and our country, and my decisions during this time have been centered around ensuring we’re doing our best to protect ourselves and each other.
Over the past year, I've been working with previously-booked 2020 couples and now 2021 couples. So I thought a guide would be helpful as we all navigate through these uncertain times - all while washing our hands and staying indoors, of course!
California-Specific Wedding and Event Restrictions
California has some of the strictest event restrictions with regard to Coronavirus. There’s some confusion right now about what is permitted. Legally, many venues are not open right now because of social distancing requirements. Any limit on total number of people gathered would also include your vendors.
Some venues are now allowing ceremonies to happen on their property as well as very small reception events, following social distancing guidelines. Because these are dictated by the county, keep in mind venues don't have control over the restrictions.
Riverside County Marriage Licenses
Riverside County is now issuing marriage licenses by appointment only, or online. They are also offering video-conference marriage ceremonies! Find more information here.
For up-to-date information on the state of California's measures through COVID-19, visit CA.gov's California Coronavirus Response page.
Rescheduling Your Wedding Date
When I first wrote this article in spring 2020, I think we all assumed this was a short-term situation. I had couples with May weddings reschedule to August or September and be faced with the same scenario of their venue not permitting a large wedding.
As I write this, we're on the cusp of December and looking at going into another possible lockdown. My confidence in large weddings happening in 2021 is not very high. As we've seen, it's going to be solely dependent on the infectious rate and how that impacts your ability to have an event.
If you're looking to host your event the same way you planned it (100+ guests at an indoor reception site), I strongly recommend pushing out your wedding to late summer or fall 2021, or even pausing wedding planning until 2022. Keep in mind that this isn't a guarantee; we all have our fingers crossed for 2021 weddings but none of us know the future!
Consider a Micro Wedding or Minimony
Understandably, many couples don't want to delay get married! In lieu of a large wedding, couples are considering elopements, micro weddings and minimonies. A micro wedding is a downsized wedding; it often contains the elements of a wedding day but with a much smaller guest list. A minimony is choosing to have a small ceremony with a larger celebration planned in the future.
This article on micro weddings has great information on micro wedding planning, timelines, and local Temecula venues offering micro wedding pricing!
Consider an Elopement
Elopements have become pretty flexible over the past few years. They now encompass anything from just the couple and a photographer, to a wedding day with all the traditional wedding events, but a much smaller guest list.
Wedding Vendor Availability
Consider asking your wedding vendors if they can provide you with an up-to-date calendar you can access as you consider changing your plans. I provided my clients with a Google calendar link on a hidden page on my website they can access at all times. This should make the process a bit easier on you when considering potential new dates.
Ask Your Vendor Team About Cancellation or Rescheduling Policies
Like many vendors, I require a non-refundable retainer to reserve a date on my calendar. When COVID first started impacting weddings, of course I let those couples move their dates without any restrictions or penalty.
As we continue to navigate through this health crisis, however, you should definitely be asking all your vendors about their cancellation or rescheduling policies around COVID. Many will have non-refundable retainers. Some vendors may charge a rescheduling fee to move your date. If you move your wedding from 2021 to 2022, you may be subject to new rates for the following year. Get a very thorough understanding of retainers and rescheduling policies before you book any vendor or venue.
My own COVID rescheduling policies can be seen here: COVID Rescheduling Policies
Some Honest Advice - Wait to Book Your Wedding
This has been a brutal year for vendors. Many of my amazing vendor friends have had to close their doors. Couples that booked 2020 and 2021 weddings are now looking at 2022.
Given the roller coaster of the past 12 months, my honest advice to any recently engaged couple is to hold off on making any plans or setting a date until we have a better understanding of what 2021 is going to look like. If the vendors you book go out of business, or your venue closes, unfortunately, you are unlikely to receive any of your retainers back, not to mention the stress of trying to rebook your entire vendor team to a new date.
Other Considerations for Changing Your Wedding Date
Disappointment in Changing Your Wedding Date
Changing your wedding date may feel insignificant in lieu of a national crisis, but it’s completely natural to be disappointed. Many couples have chosen a date with special meaning and it’s hard to think about delaying or changing that date. It’s okay to feel upset or disheartened when navigating this change.
Changing your wedding date may also impact your other wedding events - such as your bachelor and bachelorette parties, bridal shower, and even getting fitted for suits and wedding dresses. Depending on where your wedding dress is shipping from, there may be a delay. Couples look forward to these events and with large gatherings currently banned, it may make sense to delay your wedding so you can enjoy these events without worry.
Travel for Your Honeymoon and Wedding Day
You are likely to have older family members and friends on your guest list. Rescheduling may allow them to attend your wedding day and have more ease of mind. As none of us knows how long the threat of COVID will impact our society and events, it’s impossible to say when would be a “safe” date, but it’s something to think about as you consider potential dates.
Your honeymoon travel plans may also be impacted. Many airlines are offering credits and flexibility, so you should be able to adjust your travel plans accordingly.
Rethink Your Guest List
There's no way of knowing what the state's regulations will be like in 2021. A few of the couples I've worked with have decided to have a micro wedding now, and a larger reception celebration at some point in the future. This may be a good option for those that want to get married this year and ensure those most important to you can be there on your wedding day.
When to Reschedule Your Wedding Day
When this started, I had couples with May weddings reschedule to August. This seemed safe at the time - this would surely be over by then, right? The further we have gone into this crisis, the more I have seen couples delay their weddings by not just a few months, but 6 months to a year. It's an annoying answer, but, "It depends," is the most accurate. If your ultimate desire is not to have a scaled-down wedding, then I'd reschedule ASAP to late 2021 or 2022. The most important thing to consider is that there are now many couples rescheduling their wedding dates with their venues, photographers, and other vendors. The sooner you may a decision, the more likely you are to have a choice in your dates should you choose to reschedule.
Refunds from Your Venue and Vendors
You likely have signed a contract with all your wedding vendors. Each vendor spells out different remedies in this situation in their contract. For my clients, they all still want to get married, so I’m transferring all retainers to their new dates, and locking in their current rate, no matter what date they reschedule. For couples booking 2021 now, however, if they push their dates out to 2022 they will be subject to 2022 pricing. This is not uncommon for many wedding vendors.
Couples Planning 2021 or 2022 Weddings
Choosing Your Wedding Date and Vendors
The couples I booked for 2020 weddings secured my services anywhere from 6 months to 12+ months out from their wedding date. For couples that are now looking at prime 2021 or 2022 wedding dates, I’m recommending they sign agreements as soon as they make a decision on their venue and vendors. With so many couples rescheduling their weddings, this will limit the pool of vendors available for your day more quickly than normal.
Choosing Your Wedding Vendors While Social Distancing
I’m no longer meeting with couples in person, and this is where the power of the internet has been incredibly helpful! Email, phone calls and Google Hangout have all been valuable resources to connect with clients about their wedding photography needs.
Other vendors are also coming up with new ways to connect with clients. One venue I work with frequently as a preferred vendor, Eagle Glen Golf Club, has told me they are scheduling venue “showings” via Facetime. This Corona-based wedding venue also has a virtual tour (you can actually see it here). These tools can give you a very accurate picture of how your wedding day will look at a given venue!
Wedding Planning Tools
Below are some helpful resources for planning your wedding day!Inland Empire Wedding Venues
Pros and Cons to a Wedding Day First Look
Temecula Estate Wedding
Wedding Timelines For Every Season
Temecula Wedding Vendors