To say this has been a difficult year is a huge understatement. My heart goes out to all couples who had to put their wedding plans on hold and for all wedding professionals whose livelihood has been significantly impacted by the COVD19 pandemic.
From our initial 21 day lockdown to so much uncertainty over the winter months causing even more weddings being postponed to 2021, the year looked incredibly bleak to everyone in the event industry.
Everyone coped differently; whilst some started new ventures, threw themselves into the world on online learning, some became crusaders and forged a path between the industry and the government (this never happened before), a lot of creatives fell into depression and some closed their businesses.
When our President announced made his announcement around celebrations, I personally felt a number of emotions but mostly disbelief and anger.
I felt angry at the the way the pandemic was managed and the fear that was instilled in us over past seven months. The regulations prevented us from seeing our own family, encouraged complete isolation, caused job losses and fostered distrust toward any other human being we cross paths with, it is no wonder that once we entered Level 1 and restrictions were lifted allowing celebrations nobody was rushing to celebrate.
“Is it SAFE?”, “Should we be doing weddings?” “Will the guests come?”, “What IF someone gets Corona at my wedding?” – questions everyone are asking.
I took some time to reflect, did research, reaching out to couples and had a few chats with colleagues who worked at weddings recently to discuss the general feeling towards hosting a celebration in the last months of 2020 and going forward.
Here are some of advice, tips, feedback:
South Africans are blessed with amazing venues and most offer outdoor experience allowing guests to spread out and observe social distancing.
Most South African venues don’t require guests to touch lift buttons or hold escalators. From arrivals to ceremony, cocktail hour and reception, minimum contact with surfaces can be observed.
Our weather permits for windows and doors to be open to allow fresh air to circulate in the room and avoid the use of air-conditioning as it was sited to be a risk factor.
Strict hygiene protocols are a standard practice at reputable venues. Now, hand sanitising stations are already in place and anti-bacterial soap available in the bathrooms. Sanitising wipes can be made available at the tables and giving your guests a personalised hand sanitizer is a cute gift idea.
Whilst strict hygiene practices in the kitchen have been implemented even prior to pandemic and every reputable catering business have escalated their compliance with staff wearing masks, visors, gloves.
The venues I spoke to ensured me that their hospitality staff have all undergone training in COVID19 health and safety protocols.
Your guests are people you know and trust, not random strangers from the street. If anyone feels sick, they are encouraged to stay away from the wedding. A message with COVID19 protocols can be sent to your guests prior to the wedding with an outline of safety measures taken by the venue, wedding set up teams and yourselves as a couple.
Nobody wants to get sick, from COVID19 or anything else, but it can happen. It can happen anywhere, the virus could be picked up on your way to the wedding as you re-fuel or whilst being a gift for a couple. You can get a virus from the shop where you bought your outfit or even at your favourite coffee place as you got your daily cuppa or as you accept your take away food delivery. You can get it in so many places but let’s not forget the recovery rates, better treatment protocols and general public awareness around safety.
Being mindful of high risk guests is important and you need to access the situation based on your situation and make necessary arrangements to make these guests feel safe.
A major concern is around wearing masks at the wedding as couples feel that this would impact the enjoyment of the day.
Wearing masks in public spaces is compulsory. However, a wedding is a private function and an outdoor ceremony with seating arrangements set up to observe social distancing yields a safe environment to take the mask off during the ceremony if a guests wants. If the guest would rather wear a mask throughout so be it. The key is to have individuals feel safe.
I love what Alexander Smith shared with me, as a photographer he photographed a number of weddings recently and he encouraged the couples not to see masks as some hindrance. Having guests in masks appear in photos is part of the story. It is part of a documented event of what happened in 2020 and despite it all LOVE | FAMILY | JOY conquers all and if we have to do it in masks then so be it! We cannot stop living and we must not stop celebrating life’s significant moments.
Masks are not required to be worn during the meals. Guests at the cocktail hour can enjoy canapés and drinks without a mask, again observing social distancing. Our outdoor spaces offer incredible settings for cocktail hour allowing guests to spread out and enjoy themselves in in a fresh air. Guests do not have to wear a mask during reception either as they will be seated down for dinner.
Dancing is a big part of the celebration and it is one activity that has been sited as problematic to keep social distancing.
Gyms are being opened and channelling the same protocols we can have people on the dance floor just in more spaced out manner.
Another option is to have the dancing part of the evening set up outdoors, what’s better than to dance the night away under the African sky?
There is an argument that too much fun (read too much alcohol consumption) leads to lack of inhibition and poor compliance. And whilst it is a valid argument, in the family/friend circle it is possible to manage these individuals and encourage compliance. This is not the case when you are out in public.
The general consensus out there that we shouldn’t be having bigger weddings yet. Most wedding professionals feel that we need to be extremely careful and a wedding/celebration under 100 is a much safer way to go.
It does take responsible behaviour and I believe that your nearest and dearest would be the people you can trust being safe. Wearing masks, hand sanitising, washing hands and observing social distancing have proven to be effective and it is our new way of life. Being responsible not only at the wedding but in our daily lives and looking after our own health is vital in defeating this pandemic. Gathering in a safe space with your loved ones shouldn’t be seen as a scary thing.
If you are planning to get married, I would suggest getting in touch with a wedding planner for creative wedding day solutions that are both safe and fun!
I would love to hear your thoughts around this.