Answering Questions about Weddings and COVID-19

Local wedding professionals address common queries about wedding planning during a pandemic.

Peter Tonguette
Mackenzie and Jim Hirst opted for a lower-risk outdoor ceremony and reception at Brookside Golf & Country Club on Sept. 19.

This story first appeared in the spring/summer 2021 issue of Columbus Weddings, which was published in December 2020.  

Even during a normal year, wedding planning can be a stressful, exhausting and downright overwhelming process. 

During the coronavirus pandemic, however, planning the big day has never felt more fraught. It’s one thing to agonize over cake and icing combinations; it’s quite another to worry about contact tracing if one of your guests falls ill. 

In search of guidance about the new normal, Columbus Weddings turned to local industry experts to answer a series of wedding-related questions you never thought you’d ask.

We sent save-the-dates or extended verbal invitations, but now we need to reduce our guest count. How do we tell guests that they’re no longer invited without hurting their feelings?

Let your guests know that this decision was very difficult, but after careful consideration it seems the best way to protect your guests’ health and safety. Remember this decision was made to ensure that no one becomes sick because of attending your wedding. Create an across-the-board rule for how you’re reducing the guest list—for example, keeping it to immediate family and the bridal party. This way uninvited guests won’t take your decision personally, and there are no hurt feelings. Most important: I recommend a personal touch by picking up the phone and reaching out to the guests who you will unfortunately no longer be able to accommodate. —Cathi Fallon, The Etiquette Institute of Ohio 

Kaylee and Nick England let guests know about their rescheduled wedding date via a cute postcard.

We’ve decided to elope or do a small, family-only ceremony, with a more traditional reception in 2021 or 2022. What’s the best way to handle invitations?

What we have been seeing lately is doing two sets of invitations and a much earlier save-the-date. The first set of invitations is just for those family members, [with] the actual ceremony information and the reception information for next year. Then, at the same time, send out a more informative save-the-date. This can even include info about an intimate, immediate family ceremony and a link to witness it via Zoom if they so choose. This would also state that a formal invitation to the reception next year will be sent at a later date, and that you hope to see them then. When the next invitation comes out, it is just the information for the reception; there is no need to state anything about the actual ceremony, since it was mentioned in the save-the-date. —Jason Fletcher, Avant-Garde Impressions

Standard etiquette dictates that guests should be invited to both the ceremony and reception, not one or the other—but standard etiquette can be quite challenging these days. In this scenario, now called a “minimony,” we would suggest the couple send a heartfelt announcement following the ceremony announcing that they have been married and will be hosting a more traditional celebration in the future. —Margaret Lydy-Meeker, On Paper 

We postponed our wedding, but I already have my gown. What’s the best way to store it for the next year?

If your gown has not yet been worn, please keep your dress protected in the breathable, cloth, zippered gown bag given to you by your bridal boutique. The best way to store your gown is to lay the gown bag on a bed in a room where it will not be exposed to natural sunlight. Keep the blinds or drapes closed. Do not let small children or house pets have access to this room. —Margaret Butler, Dublin Cleaners 

Should we get wedding insurance? What does it cover or exclude?

Because of the fluid nature of the situation, coronavirus claims must be handled on a case-by-case basis to properly assess what coverage is applicable to each [couple]. ... Like most insurance, canceling for the fear of something potentially happening, including coronavirus concerns, would typically not be a covered reason for a cancellation. Also, given the news coverage and official designation as a pandemic, it is considered a known event, which would likely preclude any coverage for policies sold after a certain date in time. —Steve Lauro, WedSafe, in a statement on the company’s website 

Editor’s note: While an entire wedding cancellation may not be covered by WedSafe specifically, many policies—including those through WedSafe and companies like WedSure, EventHelper and others—provide financial protections if a vendor is unable to deliver services that have been paid for. This type of coverage could help if you have a vendor that goes out of business after you make a payment but before your wedding day. Columbus Weddings encourages all couples to research insurance policies and coverage options before making a decision. 

Is it reasonable to expect a pandemic clause in our vendors’ contracts? If there isn’t one, can (or should) we ask to include an addendum that outlines contingencies for another shutdown, or if one of us gets sick?

For many companies, this is the first time ever experiencing a pandemic and navigating ways to work with clients to retain their source of revenue while also considering the couple’s side of stress in adjusting plans! A pandemic clause may be excessive as it is so unpredictable, and contingencies could create a laundry list of what-ifs, but outlining a fair reschedule policy should suit both parties. There’s also a balance between a business being shut down and not open for events and it being open for events but under restrictions you may not envision for your wedding day. —Nicole McCrate, Darby House 

What’s the safest way to serve dinner? Are pre-set salad plates and bread baskets, for example, still OK? Should we forgo the buffet altogether in favor of a plated/served meal?

Menus and service have changed for full-service events during the pandemic, with most moving to a plated-style meal. Salt and pepper are available by request. Bread is served to each guest. All guests must be seated to consume food or beverages. Hors d’oeuvres may still be tray-passed [by staff], but this has to be done in a way to ensure no other guests are touching or able to contaminate any of the food. ... Guests need to wear their masks in all common areas.  

For a fun little touch, we can offer wristbands at the entrance. Each color represents the wearer’s comfort level of connection at the event. For example, there is a red band that means, “I am keeping my safe distance”; a yellow band for, “OK with talking but not touching”; and a green band for, “I am OK with hugs and handshakes.” —Melissa Johnson, Cameron Mitchell Premier Events

As the wedding hosts, are we responsible for contact tracing if someone tests positive after attending our wedding?

No, the wedding hosts are not responsible for doing the contract tracing, but a local health department could contact them to get the names and contact information for guests if needed for tracing activities. —Melanie Amato, Ohio Department of Health