Wedding planners adapt to COVID-19 era with elopements, smaller ceremonies

Amanda Grau always dreamed of a big wedding with all her family and friends there to celebrate with her.

With the pandemic resurging, she and Jazmin Espada exchanged vows during a more intimate ceremony inside the Tampa home of Grau’s mom.

“I could’ve gotten married at Walmart and it wouldn’t have mattered because I do love Jazmin very much and I wanted to marry her,” Grau said.

COVID-19 has brought a halt or at least a delay to large gatherings, including weddings. But some couples aren’t waiting.

While the pandemic has all but shuttered the wedding industry, it has had the opposite effect for those who specialize in smaller, more private ceremonies and celebrations. Some wedding planners are adapting and even thriving.

With even the Hillsborough County courthouse closed for wedding services, couples have turned to Nan Klater.

She takes them to her studio, the beach and, until the novelty wore off, to Corona Park in South Tampa to tie the knot. Or in the case of Grau and Espada, she set up in the living room.

“This is my busiest year ever,” said Klater, who’s been a certified notary for about 20 years.

In a normal year, she’d facilitate about 80 weddings. But this year, she’s officiated about 170 elopements and small ceremonies.

Whether finding ways to offer services to couples looking to shrink the size of their ceremonies, or rebranding altogether, wedding businesses have changed their focus, offering elopements, “micro-weddings” and even virtual ceremonies. This has allowed planners to stay involved in their clients’ weddings as they postpone bigger events.

Shifting strategies

Rev. Angel Luis Rodriguez, who officiates weddings with Cherished Ceremonies Weddings in Tampa, said in the past, couples would often include a few guests when they eloped.

“Now, they’re cutting that,” he said. Instead, Rodriguez said, more couples are choosing to get married without any guests at all.

Victoria King, who co-owns Royal Events and Services in Tampa with Ashanti Mock, said many of her clients already had their marriage licenses when the pandemic began. Since they expire within 60 days, the couples had to marry or risk forfeiting their licenses. So, King helped facilitate elopements for several couples and estimates she’s helped plan about a dozen elopements since March.

“The pandemic can cancel a lot of things,” she said. “But it cannot cancel love.”

King offers three packages: a simple elopement, with flowers for both spouses, a ceremony that includes an arch and decor and a full ceremony for those who wish to include guests. This year, she’s planned about 10 micro weddings.

Although many of her clients have canceled their large weddings, Rima Shah of Big Guava Events in Tampa has also found ways to help make sure the couples’ special day is stress-free. Many of her clients are South Asian, she said, and normally would have weddings with 200 or more guests. Now, they’re getting married at home with just a priest and immediate family, postponing a bigger reception until next fall

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What Is a Sequel Wedding and How to Plan Two Ceremonies

The coronavirus pandemic has shifted, skewered, and sometimes dramatically altered the wedding plans of so many couples in the last year and the coming years. It has changed the landscape of the wedding industry, how it functions, and how it very well may continue to function in the future. 

But if there is one silver lining to come out of this unforeseen, once-in-a-lifetime circumstance as far as weddings are concerned it’s without a doubt the sequel wedding. It’s essentially a second ceremony and wedding celebration that takes place after a much smaller or micro wedding on or close to a couple’s originally intended wedding date. 

What Is a Sequel Wedding?

A sequel wedding allows a couple to become legally married now and postpone their originally intended celebration for a time when it is safe for large groups to gather, explains Alison Szleifer, co-founder of Two Kindred Event Planners in New York City. “This has enabled couples to still celebrate the joyous moment now, and have something to look forward to down the road,” she says. “Many of our couples have even found the intimate ceremony to be more meaningful than expected, and are grateful to have the opportunity to have multiple opportunities to celebrate.”

Who Should Consider a Sequel Wedding? 

There are many things couples should consider when deciding whether to get married sooner or later. And, for many couples, the idea of pushing their wedding out a year or more encroaches on many of their other life plans, such as buying a home and starting a family. “If you have been holding off on hosting a wedding due to COVID-19, but know that without one you cannot move forward in your lives, then absolutely have a micro wedding now and a sequel wedding later,” urges Danielle Rothweiler, wedding planner and owner of Rothweiler Event Design in Verona, New Jersey.

How to Coordinate a Sequel Wedding

If you’ve already booked vendors, including a wedding planner, you’re likely in luck. Most wedding professionals are ready and willing to transfer deposits so that couples are able to either use that money for a micro wedding or for their future sequel wedding, notes Guerdy Abraira, a Miami-based event stylist and wedding planner.

Connect With Your Vendors

Start by reaching out to each of your booked vendors and find out their postponement policies to make sure you’re not going to lose out on any deposits made. From there, Szleifer recommends deciding which of those already-booked services you can use towards your first event and which are best saved for your sequel wedding. “If you choose to use the same vendors for both events, they’re likely to be much more flexible with applying dollars as you want, and even giving you a better price for the smaller event,” she says. 

Create Guest Lists for Each Event

Your sequel wedding may include your original guest list, and your sooner ceremony may just be close friends and family—but coming to a clear-cut decision on both is crucial.

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13 Unity Ceremonies to Consider for Your Wedding

There are so many options when it comes to making your wedding truly represent who you and your partner are, individually and as a couple. And while there are plenty of decisions to make when it comes to florals, your cake, and your reception décor, perhaps one of the most meaningful choices you’ll make is what will be included in your ceremony. And deciding to include a unity ceremony is definitely one of the questions that will come up. 

What Is a Unity Ceremony?

A unity ceremony is a symbolic ritual woven into the wedding ceremony. Among the most common unity ceremonies are handfasting, circling, and the lighting of a unity candle.

Unity ceremonies are meaningful rituals performed during your wedding to represent becoming a union. A unity ritual is certainly not required by any means, but there may be a ceremony option that’s the perfect fit for you and your partner, whether you’re looking for something religious, historical, or secular. Often, a unity ceremony allows for other family members to participate as well, furthering its meaning and representation of two families joining together. It may also be the perfect way to celebrate you and your partner’s heritage with tradition.

To get your ceremony planning started, read on for 13 options to incorporate into your wedding.

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Tips for Female Emcees of Wedding Ceremonies

A wedding ceremony is something very special for the couple. This is the celebration of the couple’s unity. This is why it is important to hire the best master of ceremony for that special day. Most of the time, the master of ceremony is a male. But there are now lots of female emcees particularly for wedding ceremonies these days. If you think that you can be a great wedding emcee, then you should follow these tips especially if you are a female emcee.

As female emcees, it is normal for you to focus your attention to the bride since you are both females. However, you should never forget about the groom. You should focus your attention to the couple and the celebration. As the emcee, you should know the details of the event. You should be able to lead the event and make it as organized as possible. You should also be informed of the program of the event so that you would know how to introduce each and every part of the event as well as the participants of the segment.

Also, you should be well prepared for the event. You can make your own plot of the event according to its proper flow. With this, you would know what to say on each and every part of the celebration. Make sure that you write down your script or lines. It is best if you can memorize the whole program but if not, it is also wise to bring along your script so that you will not forget any of your lines.

Before going to the event, make sure that you say your lines all over again. This will serve as your final practice. By doing this, you would know if there are some things that you need to change in your speech. This will also help you memorize the lines that you will be saying. Keep in mind, practice makes perfect.

You may keep the communication line open with the couple or with the events manager. This will give you an idea on what lines you have to give out during the event. You will also know what things the couple would like you to say or mention in their special day. With this, you will also know the program or flow of the event.

Dress up and make yourself look beautiful as well. It is better to dress up in a simple yet presentable manner. You do not have to over dress because you are not the center of the event. Make sure that the attention of the audience will be on the couple and not on you. Make this the night of your clients. This is their most special day and you should make it memorable for them. Being female emcees entail a big responsibility in managing the event that you are to host. So, make sure that you perform it right.

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