How can I plan my wedding in South Africa during COVID?

There is no need to put all your wedding plans on hold. I know a big part of wedding planning is making checklists and the sense of accomplishment you feel when you complete tasks and tick them off your wedding checklist. However you may feel like it is pointless trying to do anything if shops and businesses are closed or if there is no sign when travel restrictions will be lifted again. Despite those headaches, wedding plans are not on a complete pause! There are some aspects of planning your wedding that can start and continue despite the pandemic. You probably do anyway, but make sure you utilise the internet! Everything from researching wedding venues in South Africa to finding of Perfect wedding dress salons can be done via the internet! Here is a list of prep work you can be doing from the comfort of your own home!

Virtual Wedding Venue Tours

Virtual wedding venue tours may seem like a new trend since Covid made venues and wedding planners need to pivot their wedding planning services. However as a wedding planner in a destination, I’ve been providing the service for a few years now. This way couples can save a lot of time by creating a shortlist of wedding venues to visit.However some couples, for one reason or another can’t come to visit the venue in person. They end up choosing their wedding venue based on the virtual tour! So you can rest assured that you can find your dream wedding venue in South Africa without ever stepping inside the door!

Despite the fact that many hotels are closed to guests, they are still taking bookings and welcoming viewings of their event spaces. Meeting with event coordinators on a one-to-one basis makes it easy to practise social distancing. Your wedding planner or venue coordinator can provide a prerecorded video tour of the event space or give you a live tour online. One of the advantages of a live feed is you can request the camera man or woman to zoom in on any details and ask questions accordingly. The best part about it is that you can include anyone in the Zoom call, from your parents to your maid of honor/best man. If you know that your grandparents are not going to be able to make it, it is a great way to include them in the excitement of your planning process!

In the later stages when it comes to planning out your event space, virtual tours will make decisions like choosing where to place your head table, the DJ booth and everything down to your dessert table easier than trying to decide simply from a floor map.

Virtual Wedding Dress Shopping

Currently bridal salons are open in South Africa. They are taking precautions with their staff and clients. However salons may be closed near you but providing virtual wedding dress shopping. What bride ever imagined that they would be trying on or choosing their wedding dress virtually? Well that is a reality for some brides during Covid. Some salons offer video consultation, place dresses on models or mannequins so you can see how the fabric drapes and the dress is in motion. They will also send out fabric swatches so you can feel it and see the colour in person!

If bridal salons are closed and you want to wait until they reopen to get the real wedding dress shopping experience, then use your waiting time to thoroughly research bridal gowns and be prepared for when they do reopen.

[Photo Borrowed by Wedsites-blog]


Research & Design Your Wedding Stationery

You can still send out your save the date and invitations during Covid-19. Look for stationery companies to design your wedding suite or design your own and you’ll just need to find a printing company!

Create Your Wedding Vision

Many couples contact me without really having any idea of how they would like their wedding to look or the atmosphere they wish to create, they just know they want their destination wedding in South Africa! If you have a wedding planner, work with them to figure out the style of venue you would like.

If you don’t have a wedding planner but would like one, start searching on Instagram and Pinterest to help you with the visuals. You’ll be well on your way to establishing how you want your wedding to look and the atmosphere you would like to create!

Research & Contact Vendors

From a wedding planner in Pretoria to a Dj in Cape Town, they are all still able to send you their offers and wedding packages in Hungary through email! You will find most vendors are adapting their original rigid wedding planning packages and being more flexible with their services to meet the needs of couples during the pandemic. You can check their social proof on Instagram, Facebook & Pinterest etc. and consultations by phone and video chat are possible. Once you’ve chosen desired vendors, contracts can all be scanned and returned by email, then the design process can get underway. You or your wedding planner can set up an initial zoom meeting to introduce vendors to each other and continue throughout the planning process with meetings to discuss ideas and collaborate on vision boards.


Choose Your Food & Beverage Menus

Choosing a wedding menu without a tasting is not unheard of. Choose a menu that you think the majority of your guests will like. If you are not living in Hungary but would like to include some local dishes or Hungarian wines or beers, then ask your venue coordinator, catering manager or wedding planner what they would recommend.

All catering companies and venues have safety measures in place during Covid. If you are experiencing any food and beverage challenges with your venue, then food trucks could be a great option for your wedding.

Choose Your Wedding Playlist

Get working on your wedding playlist. Pick and choose from your dj’s recommendations or make your own list from scratch. Ensure the songs are uplifting, suitable for your guests and make you want to get out on the dance floor! You’re possibly looking at 40 songs to fill a 2 hour set, so multiply that by how many hours you are planning to have your Dj entertain your guests. That will keep you occupied for a while. Don’t forget to choose music for the special events of the day, from your recessional to cutting the cake!

Map Out Your Reception Space

Consider what type of head table you would like first, then plan out the formation of your guest tables. Whether tables are round or rectangular, keep a safe and comfortable distance between them and space out your seating.

The dance floor may be an area of concern for your guests. Consider how many will attend, then make it big enough to provide ample space for them to keep a safe and comfortable distance apart. Having the dance floor outdoors would be great the optimal choice or alternatively place your dance floor near the doors leading out to a terrace/garden!

For all other event areas such as the ceremony, waiting area and cocktail hour, ensure they can accommodate your guests comfortably without overcrowding!

Get A Start On DIY Projects For Your Wedding

DIY items can often take longer than you think! Make your health and safety measures personalized and fun. Design your own signage reminding guests to wash hands and wear gloves if necessary or provide personalized face masks for your guests.


Plan Your Wedding Day Timeline

Once you know details such as the starting time of your ceremony, distance from venues, the location of your wedding photos, whether you are doing a first look or not and the start time of your reception, then you can draw up a rough draught of your wedding day timeline. Just remember to remain flexible with it!

Write Your Vows

These always tend to get left to the last minute, so now is the perfect opportunity to set aside some time to focus on your vows. If you are literally lost for words, then hunt through the internet for samples to inspire you. There’s no excuse for you to end up furiously scribbling down your vows the morning of your wedding!

Write Your Wedding Speech

Create the main body of your speech with details of how you met and your first impressions of your spouse etc. You can always include little anecdotes and the usual ‘thank you’s’ closer to your wedding day.

Research Wedding Live Streaming

When contacting videographers and photographers, enquire if they include live streaming in their wedding package. Be prepared in case things don’t go as you planned. You may have to live stream your ceremony or reception in case some close family or friends can not make it or if you end up needing to downsize at the last minute to meet health & safety or travel regulations.

Think about ways to make the live stream fun for those guests that can’t attend in person. To avoid them dropping off after the reception, encourage your in-person guests to interact with them. If you have a master of ceremonies they can create games, polls and ask them for song requests as simple ways to keep them involved.

Research Wedding And Travel Insurance

Read the small print! Covid should fall under the ‘Force Majeure’ clause, however it may prove difficult to find a company that will cover you for a pandemic now!


Research Accommodation

If you or your guests are travelling from out of town then start researching your options for hotels, apartments, guesthouses or Airbnb’s. You’ll have time to thoroughly research the area in South Africa where your venue is or choose the most convenient for visiting tourist attractions.

Unfortunately the pandemic has impacted the tourist trade in South Africa dramatically. A lot of smaller boutique hotels have been closed for the past couple of months. Facilities such as spas and swimming pools, both public and within hotels may be closed! Call your desired accommodation before booking to ensure they are/will be open and to inquire about their policies during Covid-19.

Discuss Your Plan B

Couples have always been advised to have a Plan B on their wedding day, usually to avoid bad weather conditions. However now your Plan B and Plan C’s are vital if Covid circumstances force you to change your original plans. Everything from your wedding destination to your venue, vendors guests and travel need to all be considered.


CONSIDERATIONS TO TAKE THROUGHOUT YOUR WEDDING PLANNING

It is normal to get caught up in details, be a little selfish and lose sight of other people’s feelings and situations while wedding planning. Remember however that from your guests to your vendors, they are all trying to pivot these ever changing and uncertain times. Here are a few things you should be extra considerate with!

  • Consider your guests throughout the planning process, avoid leaving anyone in limbo by keeping them updated with any changes. Set their minds at ease by sending them the list of health measures that your venue is taking during Covid-19. Add it to your wedding website or send a mass email informing them.

  • Your RSVP’s may not be returned in time especially if guests are holding out to see if conditions worsen.

  • Your best friend may not immediately jump at the chance to be your bridesmaid. Her first thought may be the fear of getting on a flight to South Africa and possibly catching Covid-19!

  • Grandparents or your elderly guests who are more susceptible to catching diseases may not feel comfortable being in a room with many people. After practising social distancing or self isolation for months, they may not want to take the risk!

  • Be compassionate with your vendors, understand that the pandemic is affecting them personally and professionally. Their spouse may have to work from home, they may need to tutor and care for their kids all day. Your wedding vendor could take longer than usual to respond to emails or find it difficult to get a quiet moment to have a video chat with you. Also accept that if you wish to postpone,they may not be available for your new date.

  • Basically you need to be flexible with all your wedding details!


PLAN BEYOND YOUR WEDDING

Many couples get so caught up in the romanticism of wedding planning from the moment they get engaged. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that they have a whole life to plan together beyond their wedding day. From baby planning to travel plans to where you imagine your forever home to be, if they haven’t been the topic of conversation before, then utilise this time to chat about them.

SOCIAL DISTANCING WEDDING TIPS

  • Opt for plated meals over buffet options. If you must have a buffet, then provide a couple of pairs of surgical gloves per guest to wear while handling dishes and selecting their food at the buffet table.

  • If you can afford it, hire extra waiting staff to provide table service instead of a general bar area and allocate one server per table . As I mentioned before, space out your seating arrangement during your ceremony and reception.

  • If possible, have your ceremony and reception outdoors. If that’s not an option, choose the largest room that your venue has to offer.

  • Surfaces that everyone will touch such as door handles, are a real trap for germs, place sanitiser where possible; entrances, outside the lavatories, on the tables and at the bar!

  • Ensure all your vendors are practising the local health recommendations, from wearing masks, to hand washing and sterilising! They will probably be familiar with the guidelines, but it’s advisable send them and your guests a list of local guidelines in advance of your wedding day!

  • Your venue may already have signs around your event space with health guidelines, but if not you can ask them to print out some or do it yourself as I mentioned above.

  • Place some flowers near sanitiser dispensers to make them look prettier and more inviting.

  • Provide “Comfort” bands, ribbons or pins as way to let everyone know each individuals level of comfort when it comes to being close to others. Create 3 options with different colours to indicate the levels. One for those expressing desire to keep their distance from others, another for a mild level of distance where chatting is possible but no touching and the third for those comfortable with hugs and chatting.


[Photo borrowed-DWS]


WHAT DO I DO IF MY WEDDING CAN’T GO AHEAD AS PLANNED

POSTPONE YOUR WEDDING INSTEAD OF CANCELLING!!

You could find yourself in the situation where your wedding can’t go ahead or at least how you originally planned it! This is gut wrenching I know but just take a deep breath and begin putting a Plan B together. You have to do what suits you as a couple but there are many reasons why postponing your wedding is a better option than cancelling!

  • From your perspective, postponing allows you to utilise the money you’ve already spent, just on a future date. If you cancel, essentially this money will just be lost.

  • From the perspective of your vendors, postponing is essential to allowing their small business to survive!

  • It may not be your biggest concern but you are helping to keep your wedding venue and it’s staff stay in business.

Send ‘Change The Date’ Cards

If you do need to change your wedding date, you can send “Change the Date” postcards or email invites! Choose something bright and cheery to bring a little sunshine to the situation.

Reschedule Your Official Ceremony

If you have planned an official wedding ceremony in South Africa, contact the registry office that you originally registered at. They should be able to reschedule your date at no extra cost if your new date is within 1 year of your application. Please contact them as soon as possible however as their policy may change!


Read Your Contracts

In these times of uncertainty, it’s essential to read your contracts to make sure you understand your vendors policies around cancellation or rescheduling.

If you must postpone your wedding but want to keep your legal Ceremony you have two options, either include your guests or have a secret ceremony!

  1. You can include them virtually on Zoom! Invite them through a private link. In keeping with your original vision, ask them to get dressed up. Take photos, group shots, screenshots and selfies and everyone can upload and share their photos through an online app!

  2. If you feel some guests will be disappointed by not being at your ceremony in person then do it privately. It can be a close knit small group or just the two of you and your witnesses. When it comes to your main wedding day you can still have a ceremony that will look official!

The upside of having a ceremony on your original date and having your wedding later, is that if you wish you can wear your wedding dress twice. Very few brides get that opportunity!

It’s actually more common than you think! Since I’m based in a destination wedding location, many of my couples choose to get legally married in their own country before hosting their wedding here in Budapest with a ceremony that looks official .

Talk to Your Venue and Vendors

Get in contact with your venue first and then your venues in order of importance. Refer back to your contracts for the cancellation and postponement policies as well as any fees or non-refundable deposits. There will undoubtedly be a varying response but most wedding vendors are doing their best to accommodate couples when it comes to changing their wedding date.

New Date Dilemmas

What happens when you need to postpone your wedding and a Saturday isn’t available during your preferred season? You may need to consider a Friday or Sunday wedding, or possibly a midweek wedding! Regardless of which day of the week you are able to reschedule your wedding for, guests are still going to do their utmost to come and celebrate with you because they know what you went through.

Your vendors may not be able to commit to your new date! If you find yourself with this dilemma don’t fret, ask them to refer you to another or hire a wedding planner to tie up any loose ends in order to complete your vendor list.

It’s okay to be saddened by loss of the wedding day you imagined. You may feel angry and anxious and these feelings are perfectly normal during wedding planning in a pandemic! These times are tough emotionally but remember you are fortunate to be going through it with your best friend! Take care of each other.


#weddings #covidweddings #bride #weddingdresses

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