It goes without saying that a lot of plans have changed in light of COVID-19. While flattening the curve of the public health crisis is the issue deserving of the most attention right now, the pandemic is undoubtedly taking a toll on plans in many of our personal and professional lives. As social distancing measures remain in effect, many couples with spring and summer wedding plans have been forced to postpone their big days, optimistically rescheduling in the summer or next fall If you are fortunate enough to be engaged with a wedding date far enough in the future that you don’t anticipate having to reschedule, the quarantine may still impact wedding planning – including the (really) important stuff, like finding and booking a venue – and possibly even events like showers and bachelor(ette) parties.
While not being able to have the full wedding planning experience can definitely be a bummer, the good news is that we have the beauty of 2020 technology on our side. Seriously, can you imagine if this pandemic had happened 30, or even 15 years ago? Communication would be much more difficult, and it goes without saying that once all of this has passed, we’ll never take video calling for granted again. So, thanks to this surplus of technology, we’re going to run through tips on how to basically plan your entire wedding, all from the comfort of your couch. Seriously, we cannot overstate how grateful we are for the internet right now…
Take A Virtual Tour of The Venue
First thing’s first – you can’t have a wedding without a venue! If you have yet to book a venue, don’t panic! Remember that venues and the events industry as a whole have taken a pretty brutal hit in the midst of the quarantine, so people and businesses within this sector are often very willing to accommodate your inquiries and requests. Given that in-person tours are still off the table at this point, many venues are now offering virtual tours. Although a virtual tour isn’t the same as physically being present in the space, it can help you get a feel for whether this is a location you would consider. And if you love it, and assuming you live close enough, you can always take a drive over to check out the space from the outside while remaining socially distanced and safe.
Before you begin virtually touring, sit down with your fiancé and write out a list of your top 5-10 venue choices. From there, do some digging around on the web to read Google, Yelp, and the always helpful The Knot reviews, to get a general idea of pricing and how the venue operates. Why not check out social media / Instagram posts and reach out to others who married at the same venue within the last year? It’s always helpful to gain that little bit of extra insight – now, more than ever! If the venue is still on your list of places after some serious research, jot down any questions that come to mind
While some places may simply be utilizing pre-recorded videos showing you around the interior, you may be able to call and request a personally guided video tour, so that you can ask questions in real-time. This step is especially important if you have narrowed in on a few venues that have real potential. In fact, more tech-savvy venues are already pitching this to brides and grooms to-be. If you were hoping to bring family members or close friends along to tour with you, ask if the venue would be willing to utilize a video conferencing platform like Zoom, so that you can have multiple attendees
At the end of the tour, be sure to ask for a final price quote, and ensure it is what is referred to as a “plus-plus”, meaning it is a quote of the price, plus taxes, plus gratuity. The taxes, other city/state fees, and gratuity can really add up. By asking for this number in advance – which any venue should be able to provide – you will have an idea of what the true final price will be, and eliminate the risk of sticker shock when you are signing the venue’s contract.
Skip The Tasting
Especially if you are an avid foodie, or arranging for a caterer that is separate from your venue, skipping the tasting can be a tricky one. If you’ve decided on a venue that’s within your price range, there will be sufficient resources out there to help you decide what to serve. If the venue is catering, ask them for recommendations within your price range – this will help eliminate at least a few menu items. It may also help to read online reviews and reach out to anyone you may know who has held an event there, and ask about their dining experience. Some venues may offer take out tastings, where you can literally order the food you would have been tasting, and pick it up for tasting at home. Although not all food travels well, it is worth a shot!
If the venue allows for or requires it, it may be worth looking into the option of bringing in an outside caterer. Chances are that you know a few reliable caterers in your area whose food you are already familiar with and enjoy, so this can be a very safe (and tasty) bet. If you’re feeling like you want to go with what you know, give them a call to inquire about pricing. Their services might even end up being cheaper than the venue’s in-house dining options
Depending on how married you are to the idea of a proper wedding cake (pun intended), skipping the cake tasting may feel like a devastating loss to you. Lead times on wedding cakes are typically around 4 months, and given the recent decline in business, this may be shorter or longer depending on your wedding date. If your wedding isn’t for another 6 months or more, you may be alright to try to ride out the quarantine and try to schedule an in-person cake tasting once things return to some sort of normalcy. A popular (and cheaper) alternative is to purchase just one layer of actual wedding cake for the cutting ceremony and fill the rest in with faux cardboard cake layers. Instead of pricey bakery slices, your guests can enjoy a grocery store sheet cake for a fraction of the cost, without even knowing the difference. This alternative is especially conducive to quarantine, as instead of picking out a flavor months in advance, you only have to focus on picking your design
Omitting the traditional wedding cake entirely has become more popular in recent years, as couples have opted for more personalized dessert bars, cupcakes – even a “cake” made out of pancakes! – as alternatives. These dessert options allow you to be more creative, and eliminate the ‘cake tasting’ issue. Get creative!
Online Dress Shopping
We get it, online shopping, especially when it comes to clothes, can often feel like a hit-or-miss situation. But chances are that if you have been a bridesmaid in a wedding before, you likely ordered your bridesmaid dress online. Buying bridesmaid dresses online has become increasingly popular and simple, especially in light of the slow death of brick-and-mortar retail. The good news is that thanks to retailers like BHLDN that offer many different styles, in popular colors, there are so many options available with a 30-day return policy that won’t break the bank and that your bridesmaids will feel comfortable in. Just to be safe, make sure you have the girls order their dress options well in advance so that there is wiggle room to fix any last-minute tailoring issues, etc. If your wedding is more laid back and you’re just asking bridesmaids to stick to a general color scheme or style, even simpler! Your gals will have plenty of time to online shop and find the perfect dress in the midst of quarantine. Just ask them to run options by you before purchasing, and you’re good to go!
The wedding dress industry is a massive and assuredly trendy one, so it will come as no surprise that many designers are adapting to brides being unable to shop for their dream gowns in person. Admittedly though, with the ongoing halt in a lot of global trade and certain countries still being under quarantine, there are many delays going on with the actual production of gowns. But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t shop! As the industry recommended standard is to place your gown orders no later than 6 months ahead of your wedding, if you’re an autumn bride still without a dress, there are still options.
Once again, the internet saves the day. If you’re going for something a bit more casual, it is worth exploring sites like Reformation and Lulu’s which offer bridal options in addition to regular women’s clothing. If you’re looking for something more extravagant (it’s your wedding, after all – go all out!), it’s likely that you now have more time than ever to peruse the interwebs in search of your dream gown. Try sites like Floravere, that make the wedding dress ordering process seamless, easy, and totally virtual, or resale sites like StillWhite that allow you to purchase pre-loved designer gowns from former brides.
If you go the designer route, take down the style number of your top choices, and do your research into what bridal boutiques (near and far) carry the style, and are offering virtual appointments/fittings. So, what is a virtual fitting, you may ask? In a virtual fitting, a specialist will guide you through taking your own measurements, and how your dress of choice will fit accordingly. While it may not be the wedding dress shopping experience you’ve always dreamed of, it could be an efficient option given the current circumstances. For more guidance on how to navigate the entire wedding dress shopping/buying process through quarantine, check out this helpful article from Harper’s Baazar.
Finding Your Officiant
In the midst of all of the planning around the reception, attire, etc., it can actually be easy to forget about one of the most fundamental elements of your wedding – the officiant! If you are having a religious ceremony, you may have planned on one day being married by your family rabbi, pastor, priest, or Imam since you were a kid. Alternatively, if you want a religious ceremony but don’t have a particular figurehead in mind, you may want to begin your search by asking family and friends for recommendations in the area. Though you may not be able to attend a service in-person right now, many religious institutions are holding virtual masses online during lockdown. If you get a good lead from someone you trust, try tuning in to a virtual ceremony to get an idea of how they preach/engage a congregation.
If you are keener on a non-denominational or non-religious ceremony, we once again recommend starting by asking for recommendations from those you know and trust. It may also prove helpful to have a think back on any wedding ceremonies you have attended in the past, and if any officiants stuck out to you as being especially memorable (for positive reasons, of course!). Brainstorm with your fiancé about any judges or clergy members that you have in your lives. Whether they are friends, family members, or neighbors, these people have been ordained by the government to legally perform wedding ceremonies and might be just the officiant you are looking for. While yes, there are plenty of online services offering just about anybody the ability to be an ordained minister, we suggest being wary of these sorts of things before you make your best friend take an online officiant course. There is potential that this sort of accreditation may not hold up in a court of law, and could cause issues for you down the line.
Of course, it wouldn’t be 2020 if we didn’t just tell you to try your luck at searching the web! Sites like The Knot and Wedding Wire will likely have a roundup of licensed officiants in your area, who are willing to perform ceremonies catered exactly to your preferences. CeremonyOfficiants.com takes a more personalized approach to the officiant process than most, offering services of non-denominational officiants who all subscribe to the idea that your marriage ceremony should be truly unique to you as a couple. Once you and your fiancé have a small list of names of officiants that look promising, search each name itself for reviews and references. If you’re lucky, they may have some recordings of ceremonies posted to their site, so you can really get a gauge of their officiating styl
One final note on officiants – if you are planning on a destination wedding, it could make finding an officiant especially tricky. Officiants are licensed differently in each jurisdiction, so your lawyer friend from New York may have a hard time becoming licensed as an officiant in South Carolina. If you find an officiant from your local area and plan to use them, make sure that they are willing to travel for a destination wedding, and willing to put in the time and effort associated with researching and complying with any state specific licensing requirements to legally marry you
Writing Your Vows
While you may be video calling with your officiant to draft the perfect wedding ceremony, writing your vows is another task that you can knock out during lockdown as well. If words come naturally to you, writing your vows may seem like no big deal. However, if you’re not the best with words, public emotion, or a combination of the two, speaking to your grandiose feelings of love towards your future spouse in front of all of your friends and extended family may seem very daunting. Luckily, there are plenty of resources available online that you can reference for guidance. If you’re more comfortable leaving it to the experts, you can even outsource your vow writing to a professional online service like XO Juliet. In addition to writing your custom wedding vows based on an input form that you fill out, they also offer fun services like personalized wedding hashtags. And if it’s still just too much emotion for one day? Some couples choose to share their vows privately before or after the ceremony.
Seriously, it seems like just about everyone knows a good (maybe slightly over-the-top) DJ or wedding singer. When it comes to booking entertainment for your reception, the good news is that the process, even under normal circumstances, doesn’t typically require a lot of in-person interaction. Most DJs and bands/performers are found based on word of mouth, or via online searches/reviews. Much like what we suggested you do to find an officiant, your best tactic is probably to think back on previous weddings you have attended that had especially great reception entertainment. Chances are that most entertainers will not have their pricing information available on their website. Before you reach out for a quote, check in with friends or family who won’t mind you asking what they paid for the DJ/band at their reception. Because the live events industry is basically non-existent right now, you may be able to snag a deal on this sort of service. Don’t be afraid to try a bit of price negotiation!
If this is an area you feel comfortable really cutting costs on, you may even want to consider losing the entertainment completely and instead relying on a curated iTunes playlist to get the dance floor going at your reception. Streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music make this option more accessible than ever before, but taking a few precautions can mean the world in avoiding a last-minute crisis on the big day. If you decide to rely on a playlist to do the DJ-ing, ensure that the venue has decent speakers and a simple way for you to connect your device. If the venue doesn’t have a sound system available, ask where you can rent one.
Also, in case streaming quality at the venue is poor, ensure the entire playlist is directly downloaded to the device you’re going to play it off of. We also suggest enlisting an especially loyal friend (perhaps one who doesn’t particularly like dancing?) to be in charge of the playlist in case anything goes awry, or people have very adamant requests. The fewer responsibilities that you have the night of your wedding, the better! To reduce the number of requests that will be thrown out by the peanut gallery, you may want to include an ask on the invitation for guests to write down a song they are hoping to hear on the dance floor. This way, a lot of song requests will already be met, and you can assure the playlist will be a crowd-pleaser. You can also look online for reception playlist inspiration, and include the standard line dance songs (Macarena, anyone?
Draft Your Prenup Online
Considering a prenup? Hate the idea of hiring a lawyer, or are you wondering if there must be an easier way? Discussing and creating a draft of your prenup without attorney involvement will likely save you a significant amount of money. The most common fear we hear voiced with regard to hiring attorneys is both the lack of control over the process and feeling like attorneys will try to create a more acrimonious process where one is not warranted, as well as the high associated cost. On the flip side, the most common fear in not hiring an attorney to draft your prenuptial agreement, is the concern that it will not be valid or enforceable.
Surely, there is some modicum of truth to each of these concerns. Many attorneys do charge high hourly rates for drafting a prenup – and those hourly charges can add up to over $5,000+ per party, very quickly. Alternatively, while there exist a variety of websites offering do-it-yourself legal document formation including wills, prenups and many other legal docs, prenup requirements are governed by each state individually, and therefore virtually all existing online resources generate a prenuptial agreement that has an extremely high likelihood of unenforceability. So, why would you bother using one of these services in the first place, if the prenup is likely to be thrown out by a court anyway? Great point- you shouldn’t.
Why HelloPrenup is Different
HelloPrenup was created by a legal professional with years of experience in divorce law, with the understanding that most couples who desired a prenuptial agreement could not afford to hire traditional attorneys, and that other online “form builders” although an intriguing alternative to hiring lawyers, were woefully inadequate. Thus, HelloPrenup was born. Combining state specific requirements with legal knowledge of divorce law and contract drafting, HelloPrenup was designed to allow couples to seamlessly build a customized prenuptial agreement online that addresses the common clauses and state specific requirements, at a reasonable price. And if you still want attorney advice before signing? No problem! Bringing your HelloPrenup drafted document to an attorney will dramatically reduce the cost associated with hiring a lawyer via the traditional methods, because the hard parts – the negotiation and the drafting – have already been done.
Related read: “The Talk” aka All About Finances
Changing Your Name?
There are so many decisions to make when planning a wedding – from your accent colors to the dessert buffet. Many of these little choices will not impact you long after your wedding day, whereas changing your name is an important decision that will last a lifetime. So, if you plan to change your name, how can you do it right, with as little pain as possible? (… and, without having to physically show up at the DMV, which is closed, obviously.)
You probably won’t realize just how many different accounts, licenses, etc are attached to your name until you decide to change it. If you do decide to change your name, there are two basic routes you can take – the tedious, time consuming task of researching and filling out government paperwork required to change it, or using an online service like MissNowMrs to streamline the process. Pre-COVID, you probably had the choice to walk into City Hall, and speak to someone about what paperwork needed to be filled out. In a post-COVID world, this is not currently an option, so using an online service is key to moving the process along. At a base price of $29.95, an online service like MissNowMrs.com makes life a LOT easier!
Julia Rodgers is HelloPrenup’s CEO and Co-Founder. She is a Massachusetts family law attorney and true believer in the value of prenuptial agreements. HelloPrenup was created with the goal of automating the prenup process, making it more collaborative, time efficient and cost effective. Julia believes that a healthy marriage is one in which couples can openly communicate about finances and life goals. You can read more about us here Questions? Reach out to Julia directly at [email protected].