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Destination Cancelled: How to Host a Plan B Pandemic Wedding

Don’t let COVID get in your way of tying the knot

Tracy Block Staff Reporter
Published:
Updated:
8 min read
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This technology allowed all of the people who were originally supposed to be with us in person to still be there in spirit, making our special day even more amazing.
- Newlywed Aubree Topai on streaming her recent Plan B wedding


Engaged or enraged? Couples around the world are still coping with the fallout of wedding cancellations and postponements due to COVID-19. Instead, according to TheKnot.com, couples who still want to get married on their original wedding dates are turning to minimonies (commitment ceremonies that include up to 10 people) and microweddings (full-blown weddings with up to 50 guests). How are both the wedding industry and hopeful newlyweds coping? We spoke to a wedding planner and a recently married couple to find out.

To Postpone, or Not to Postpone?

Anna Noriega has 15 years of destination event and wedding planning experience as the creative director, lead planner, and event designer at award-winning Events by Aloré. She says that a good portion of her clientele had to postpone weddings due to official pandemic closure mandates, especially those with events scheduled from March through July.

“Luckily, we had very few actually cancel; instead, we are focused on helping our clients postpone, if needed,” shares Noriega. “However, what we are seeing now is that many are waiting to postpone until closer to their dates, instead of focusing on reducing their guest counts and looking for new venues that are more suitable for outdoor ceremonies and receptions with proper safety protocols and measures.”

Unfortunately, couples forced to cancel destination weddings are now dealing with financial losses. And, while wedding insurance is great to have, it does not protect your wedding investment due to the pandemic, according to Noriega. “This is why we are encouraging everyone to save events and postpone – not cancel,” she offers. 

While these new decisions are being made, you may also need to account for a new guest count, due to those who won’t want to travel or attend, as well as new locations, adjusted designs, and maybe even funds lost on stationary that may need to be reprinted, according to Noriega. “But, a good planner will be able to help you manage your budget and keep you on track.”

Scaling Down Your Destination Wedding

“A scaled-down destination wedding is absolutely still feasible,” shares Noriega. “In fact, we have already hosted well over half a dozen since the pandemic started, all of which have been huge successes.” Noriega says these successful installments begin with proper planning, understanding your set destination, its needs, and restrictions, as well as properly shifting and making those adjustments without sacrificing the integrity of your event.

If you’re set on keeping your destination wedding date, make sure to confirm your location of choice is still taking proper precautions, according to Noriega, which may include:

• Creating sanitation stations.

• Spreading out seating for guests.

• Carrying out temperature checks.

• Reducing guest counts.

Marry Now, Party Later

Even outside of COVID-19, Noriega says many couples choose to legally marry prior to their actual wedding party dates. Oftentimes, only the couple and the wedding planners know this, according to Noriega, and most guests assume the day of the wedding is the date of marriage, but that is not always the case. “With that said, these last few months, eloping has been increasingly popular with couples tying the knot – with just the two of them – and saving the big party for later.”

If you decide to wait it out, though, Noriega encourages you to still enjoy the process by taking advantage of certain wedding apps, like Honey Fund for a more personalized honeymoon registry, pinning on Pinterest to centralize your vision, and The Knot’s wedding countdown calendar, as a fun way to look forward to your (eventual) wedding date.

The Cancellation of a Dream Wedding

Coloradan couple Blair Watkins and Aubree Topai had plans to get married on November 6, 2020, at Hotel Xcaret in Playa Del Carmen, along the Riviera Maya in Mexico. “Weddings always seem to go by in the blink of an eye,” says Topai. “Sometimes, you fly across the country to see your close friends and family get married, and you don’t even have a chance to spend any time with them.”

Thus, the couple was inspired to create an unforgettable getaway to enjoy plenty of facetime with their guests. Furthermore, their all-inclusive destination of choice offered more than just endless food and bottomless beverages: admission and transportation to a collection of parks and tours. “We hoped this wedding would be something our friends and family spoke about and remembered for the rest of their lives,” explains Topai.

Then, as COVID-19 reached the US in the early months of 2020, the lovebirds had just about everything sorted – 90 guests booked to travel, all décor and vendors chosen, wedding dress and suit purchased, and all initial deposits paid to the property. “We were full steam ahead!” exclaims Topai. “Once COVID closed down the world in March, we thought there was no way this would affect our November wedding.” As time forged on, there was no end to COVID in sight.

Nevertheless, with 2 immunocompromised parents on both sides of their families, Watkins and Topai refused to put them – and others – in harm’s way. “This was one of the most difficult decisions we have had to make as a couple,” says Topai. “We thought maybe we could rebook in the future, but the property increased their rates by 30%, and all potential, future dates had already been booked, as it was a highly coveted property.” And so, the couple forfeited their deposit, and their Plan B wedding was born.

Conceptualizing a Plan B Wedding

Once their original wedding cancellation was finalized in May, Watkins and Topai spent time grieving, and then discussed many different options, but their budget was limited, as were available dates. The decision of the Plan B location came into play when Watkins had the idea of renting a private property while his parents were in Colorado for the summer. “We explored mini-mansions with large, outdoor spaces, knowing we wanted to keep everyone outside as much as possible,” explains Topai. Then, they settled on their second property, which advertised a wedding arch in the backyard on 29 acres. “Our new venue was booked on July 7,” shares Topai.

As their new wedding date of August 15 approached, the couple turned to the advice shared in various destination wedding Facebook groups, which strongly encouraged several precautions. “We asked all 40 of our guests to be very smart about their interactions prior to the wedding, especially if they played a role in the actual ceremony,” says Topai. Additionally, color-coded wristbands were distributed to signify the comfort level of each guest:

• Red: Socially distanced at 6 feet.

• Yellow: Elbow bumps.

• Green: Hug-friendly.

Next, the couple outsourced a wedding photographer, videographer, caterer, and florist, “just as you would any other wedding,” comments Topai, but purchased and installed almost all of the décor for the wedding day on their own. “Since our Plan B wedding was not at an actual venue, we were forced to supply much of our own décor and decorate it ourselves,” she says. “We invested 2 full weeks designing and decorating the space to bring our vision to life. We went from Plan A, with 2 full years to plan, to Plan B, with 45 days to plan everything. That alone was stressful enough, COVID aside.” Fortunately, the couple was able to provide – and save on – complimentary transportation, thanks to Watkins’ multi-fleet party bus company, Elevate Rides.

And, even within the 8,000-square-foot wedding house, only 16 people were invited to stay, whereas the remaining guests were encouraged to book local lodging, campsites, and Airbnbs. “Maintaining a safe environment was always in the back of our minds. Never once did we stop thinking about that,” says Topai.

Sharing the Love

With such an exclusive Plan B guest list, Watkins and Topai decided to stream their ceremony on multiple platforms to allow friends and family to join their special day from afar. “We utilized Zoom and Facebook Live for the ceremony, however, being in the great outdoors at 8,000 feet, it was difficult to achieve flawless service,” admits Topai. “We experienced a few technical errors with the Zoom chat, but managed to keep the stream alive for the final 20 minutes of the ceremony, allowing everyone tuning in to witness our vows, ring exchange, and pronouncement as a married couple.” 

And, even though they had a videographer in attendance, Zoom’s recording and downloading capabilities supplied others with the immediate footage. “This technology allowed all of the people who were originally supposed to be with us in person to still be there in spirit, making our special day even more amazing.”



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Destination Cancelled: How to Host a Plan B Pandemic Wedding

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