Weddings in the "New Normal"

9.29.2020
About The Southern Social TX - Wedding magazine for Texas brides

Welcome to the year 2020, where we are all obsessed with washing our hands and painfully aware of what 6 ft apart looks like. Wedding planning has always been intimidating but now it can be even more stressful. Weddings aren’t going away so now is a good time to evaluate all your options. This new era of weddings is opening creative opportunities for wedding pros to add on new packages and/or offerings. A smaller guest count doesn’t mean a less than grand wedding. It means that you have opportunity to elevate your wedding experience and give your guests a more interactive and/or luxury event. This is uncertain times for all of us for sure but let’s make the best of it.                  

Some things that you might want to consider while getting creative is ways to protect yourselves and your guests on your wedding day. Take your guestbook as an example. Pen sharing is a potential risk factor. So try to think of fun ways guests can "sign in" and help you make memories. A suggestion is having custom pens labeled with the couples names and date that could be at every place setting. Not only can you have guests write their names and put them in your box themselves, you also have a wedding favor. Another fun option is for guests to drop a printed photo from the photo booth into a box which you can scrap book later.

Should you provide masks? That is going to a personal choice which will vary from event to event. A suggestion would be to have them there for the guests who would like them or if you feel very strongly about it, have a designated usher hand guests a mask at the entrance of the ceremony. Have fun signage made that is informative but light. It could say something like, "Our something old is very precious! We call them Grandma and Grandpa! For their protection, please join us in our MASKquerade wedding." You could also include a note in the invitation if you would like to avoid any uncomfortable situations on the big day.

While some of you have postponed your special day, others have moved right along as scheduled. I’m sure you have all had multiple phone calls or emails with your vendors wanting to know what to expect next. Are you going to be paying rescheduling fees? Will your vendors be available with your new date? Or what’s their refund policy? We have asked some of our Featured Pros questions regarding their contracts. Are they going to change and what can you expect as we move forward during this time in our “New Normal” of weddings.

Q & A WITH OUR PLANNERS + FLORISTS + PHOTOGRAPHERS

DO YOU HAVE A "COVID-19 CLAUSE" TO YOUR CONTRACT TO HELP PROTECT YOUR BUSINESS AND THE COUPLE? IF SO, WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?

Stohr-ee Events: I am exploring this option as it relates to 2 items:

Item 1: Reschedule Protocol. This would detail what would happen when a couple has to reschedule their wedding or celebration, specifically outlining the amount of time they have to pick a new date and actually have their event. Currently I have been giving the couples affected by Covid-19, 6 months from their original date to pick a new date and that new date must fall within a year of their original date to avoid any additional fees or charges.

Item 2: Liability. Specifically as it relates to the wedding/event day. In essence it would be removing me or my company from any liability if someone at the event gets sick. In the instance that a guest doesn't wear a mask or that a guest arrives that may be asymptomatic.

Events by Jade: Not specially a Covid clause, but I have added the word pandemic to my contracts.

Alexa Kay Events: I am not adding a clause into my contract. I am keeping it the same as of right now.

Vella Nest Floral: We already had a clause for "Impossibility and Force Majeure for Acts of God" in our existing but we need to add few new things due to COVID - 19 like "Government order or law to shelter in place" "epidemic or pandemic."

The Floral Bar: We use Curate software which has been really pro active during this time. We have had access to all of the resources they provide and have implemented many new clauses that protect us all. We now have a no charge, first priority change of date section that allows our clients to  make any necessary changes they need without any financial penalty and they also get first dibs on the dates that they are wanting to reschedule to. We also have eliminated our minimum of $5k for any existing couple in case they decide to scale back on the size or scope of the wedding or event. We had a bride back in late March who switched  from a country club large wedding to a backyard ceremony and only needed a few bouquets and centerpieces. We accommodated her with no penalties and her remaining credits with us will be used in October for a bigger reception. No loss of money for them or us!

Paisley Lane Photography: I added a Covid-19 clause right after my first wedding rescheduled. I realized that there has to be a balance between protecting my business as well as the couples that are affected by this. It says that if your wedding has to be rescheduled due to the Covid-19 pandemic I will change your wedding date at no charge. If I am unavailable on your changed date, then I will offer an associate shooter in my place OR offer a full refund of your deposit.

Dyan Elizabeth Photography: I personally am not adding a specific "COVID-19 Clause" to my contract. I do have a Force Majeure clause in my contract that protects both me and my clients in case of an Act of God or unpredictable situation covered under Force Majeure. COVID-19 has been determined to NOT be legally covered under Force Majeure. Questions #2 and #3 will hopefully explain why I am not adding a specific clause and making it more of a client-by-client situation.  

ARE YOU CHANGING YOUR REFUND POLICY?

Stohr-ee Events: I was fortunate to have a refund schedule outlined in my contract prior to Covid-19, so I won't be changing it.

Events by Jade: I am not changing my refund policy.

Alexa Kay Events: No, I will not be changing my refund policy.

Vella Nest Floral: We already had a non-refundable policy in our existing contract  "Cancellation, Rescheduling and No-Shows and Acts of God" stipulations but after Covid-19 we are offering rescheduling and event credit for 6 months due to the unprecedented situation to the couples. This clause will apply only to the parties that could be affected.

The Floral Bar: We have always had a 30% non-refundable deposit in our contracts. We also do not collect any other funds until 6 & 4 weeks before the event or wedding. So in a pre-COVID world, even if there was a cancellation, we never had to refund money. Going forward we will have a  no refund policy for all monies paid and will issue a credit that never expires. We had a large event with a church in Dallas for Mother’s Day that was cancelled in March, leaving them with a large credit to use towards any other event or in store purchases. They used the credit towards 200 wrapped bouquets that were given to randomly selected women who entered an online giveaway. It was a Mother’s Day collaboration with The Floral Bar, Boss Women Media & Concord Church. Win win for all  involved! I think if we all get creative we can not only spread some joy  around, we can maintain healthy client relationships with no loss of income.

Paisley Lane Photography: Not really. My refund policy has always included a full refund if the  cause is outside of the couple's control (death or act of God, including this pandemic) so I didn't have to change that much. And fortunately for my business, all of my couples have chosen to reschedule vs cancelling their events.

Dyan Elizabeth Photography: I am not changing my refund policy. My contract, like many other wedding vendors, requires a non-refundable retainer fee to be paid in order to hold the date at the time of signing the contract. The reason it is non-refundable is because it is more than a "deposit" for the couple's total balance for their wedding photography collection. When a couple signs my contract and pays their retainer fee, I block off an entire weekend (if the wedding is on  a Saturday or Sunday) and do not book any other work for that weekend. This means I turn away any and all inquiries (and potential financial gains) for the wedding weekend, thus a loss of the work in the case of a cancellation by the couple for any reason would result in a direct loss of business  for me. It has always been my policy to serve my clients as best as I possibly can, so for the very rare occasions I've had client cancellations in the past as well as with client cancellations of contracts due to COVID-19, I have and am still allowing my clients to use their retainer fees as a credit towards another session to be used within one year of the original wedding date. Thankfully I have only had two of these situations due to COVID-19 and my clients  were highly understanding of my needs as a business owner just trying to survive while still taking care of them. A majority of my COVID-19 affected clients have rescheduled to new dates and we have just adjusted those original contracts to reflect the new wedding dates (no new retainer fee, no change in photography collection pricing).  

HOW ARE YOU BEING FLEXIBLE WITH RESCHEDULING?

Stohr-ee Events: I have allowed the couples to pick dates into the fall months and thankfully I haven't had any overlap as yet. I typically have a reschedule fee for postponed weddings, but due to Covid-19 I have waived that fee for those couples who were affected.

Events by Jade: Yes, one free reschedule but then after that there is a fee.  

Alexa Kay Events: Yes! I am. However, I am not changing this in my contract. I will not take my refund policy or change date policy out of my contract. It is my discretion to stand by it or not. I have let all my couples change their date without penalty the past few months due to Covid-19. Going forward, they can change their date, but I will charge since as of right now as they are able to have their wedding. If this were to happen again, I would allow couples to rebook within the same calendar year and If not, I cannot guarantee myself to be present at their wedding.

Vella Nest Floral: Yes, We are. We're pushing back payments and opening extra dates for all my Spring and early Summer couples to be able to reschedule for late Fall and Spring 2021. We are waiving the 25% rescheduling fee for the first reschedule but if they decide to reschedule the event a  second time we are adding a 25% fee to the existing contract.

The Floral Bar: We were fortunate to have many dates open for the remainder of 2020 as we were intending to phase out of doing weddings altogether, focusing on everyday retail and corporate events. So all of our brides who had to reschedule were able to get the dates they wanted! We also ask for them to give us a few options for new dates in case one falls on a busy weekend for us in the retail store (ie, Valentines Day, Mother’s Day,  etc.)

Paisley Lane Photography: I am allowing my couples to reschedule as needed and keep me updated as they work with their other vendors. Since I was already only taking on a small number of weddings each month it has been easier for me to reschedule. However, I have also had to accept a few rescheduled dates that I normally wouldn't have done. For example, I typically only book 1-2 weddings per month, but this fall and early in 2021 I have a few months where I have had to make exceptions and have rescheduled 2 weddings in one weekend (Friday/Saturday) or scheduled more than 2 weddings for that month. I am doing the best that I can make sure the couples have one less thing to worry about.

Dyan Elizabeth Photography: First and foremost, every business owner has to figure out flexibility on their own end based on what is best for their business, their needs, and their clients. And we all have to keep in mind we cannot judge an individual company on how they are needing to respond in order to survive a completely unprecedented time. I'm extremely fortunate that I only take on a  limited number of clients on per year, and thus have more availability on my calendar for reschedules. I have rescheduled my Spring and Summer 2020 clients to Fall 2020 and early Spring 2021 with no fees, and should I find the need to reschedule clients (specifically due  to COVID-19 issues if the wedding date could legally take place but at a  limited guest count, with restrictions the clients would like to avoid, etc) for prime 2021 Saturday dates (April,  May, June, October) I currently plan to have a reschedule fee in place. I do not plan to charge any rescheduling fees for Friday/Sunday weddings at any point in time or for any Saturday weddings occurring outside of April, May, June, and October.


Q & A WITH OUR VENUES

DO YOU HAVE ENOUGH ROOM FOR CEREMONY AND/OR RECEPTION TABLES TO BE 6 FT APART?

Umbra Winery: Yes, but it definitely impacts the capacity we are able to seat that way. As for ceremony some seating will need to be off the designated pad on the lawn to accomplish safe social distancing. We have added a clause in our contract that states seating may need to be set up outdoors as well to accommodate.

Davis & Grey Farms: Yes and No. This depends on overall guest count. The great thing for us is that we have an additional 1800 sq. feet of covered patio outside that can also be used. OR you have to get creative - just because you can’t have all 8 of your guests seated together like you originally thought or you have to think outside the box and switch to more of a cocktail table style reception flow - doesn’t mean that your day cannot be just as beautiful or meaningful.

BRIK Venue: We have room for reception tables to be 6 feet apart.

Hawthorn Hills: We do! Most venue's "capacity" is below their occupancy limit to give extra space during receptions - everyone should have extra elbow room! The problem that we're hearing from venues across the Country however is that typical capacities for weddings are not based on setups that only have 6 chairs at each table, which is what's currently recommended. Many couples are fortunate enough to have groups of families that live together that can be seated together but of course that's an added step of assigned seating or reserved tables. From a venue perspective, this just helps provide a higher level of service for your guests,  utilize your floor plan more efficiently and (the best part) keeps things stress free for your guests on the day of as well so everyone can enjoy safely and may never notice the extra precautions that were taken behind the scenes.

Hidden Creek: While keeping inside tables 6 feet apart we can accommodate the current mandate of 25% occupancy which for us is 159 people. Our outdoor ceremony site will have rows of chairs for each household and every 3rd row will be available. The empty rows will be pre- removed to help guide guests to the available areas.

HOW ARE YOU STEPPING UP YOUR GAME FOR SANITATION PROCEDURES AROUND YOUR VENUE?

Umbra Winery: We run a tasting room with food so our staff are already prepared and certified to food safety standards. The masks do add a new element though that they are all wearing now. We have ordered sanitizer dispenser stands to place at a few key areas so guests have access to it. Our facility is professionally cleaned before and after the event as are our cottage rentals. We also check restrooms more frequently and add wiping down faucets and handles to our event routine as well as doors in the facility. Our tours, we make gloves and sanitizer available and ask our couples to keep tours to no more than 4 guests if possible. Finally we have gloves and masks on hand for any guests that may feel uncomfortable and also unprepared during an event.

Davis & Grey Farms: We have installed motion-censored hand sanitizers through out our building (all restrooms, kitchen, main area, etc.) We switched to all Anti-bacterial cleaning products, we have a new “during the event” cleaning protocol that will be followed, which includes wiping down all touched surfaces, cleaning restrooms, etc on an hourly basis. We have asked our caterers and bartending vendors to wear masks and gloves during food service times.

BRIK Venue: We have a hand sanitizing station for all guests. Our  operations director is taking extra sanitizing precautions when cleaning the venue, and all staff members will have on masks and gloves.

Hawthorn Hills: We are spacing our tours, and meetings to help couples avoid "running into" others, and giving our team plenty of time to disinfect surfaces between visits. We have hand sanitizing stations available throughout the venue, as well as have surfaces disinfected every 20 minutes. Signage is a change as well, encouraging guests to wash their hands and follow health guidelines to keep everyone comfortable during the evening. For our couples who have packages with our staff and event team present, we are increasing the staff to guest ratio to elevate our service - from opening doors for guests, directing to their seats, and even keeping guest book scenarios germ free - we feel it's the little things that make a big difference! We want our couples and guests to feel a higher level of service and therefore be more comfortable during the event after all their focus should be to celebrate. We could go on and on  about other procedures we've implemented during events as well - check out our personal blog for tips and ideas we've been sharing in our "Celebrating and Social Distancing" series. Before/after every event the biggest change we have is that we are now fogging the venue. We want all surfaces clean and ready for a great day - and implementing this method means viruses are killed in 10 minutes on all surfaces - not only the ones that can be wiped down.

Hidden Creek: All visits to the venue require an appointment allowing us to limit visits to just groups of the same household. Tours and appointments are limited to a max of 3 people and will have hand sanitizer stations available. After each tour the venue is sanitized, and meeting table and chairs thoroughly cleaned. Our employees are wearing masks during all client interaction while maintaining a 6ft distance. Meetings are taking place in the open ballroom instead of the confined office. The venue is being “fog” sanitized between events (this is a fog they spray in the venue that we let sit over night to kill bacteria). We will supply a restroom attendant at all events to sanitize stalls after each single use. Our loft area which overlooks the ballroom is being designated as a “high risk” section. This loft will keep high risk individuals at least 20 feet from other guests while allowing them to still attend the wedding. Hand Sanitizer stations are available for clients to rent for their events. Outside bars and tables are being added to events at no extra cost. We hope that by having more outdoor options it will help people feel more comfortable. X’s will be placed in front of bars keeping guests 6ft apart while in line. Venue attendant will be dismissing tables one by one for buffet lines to limit the number of people in line. We are happy to accommodate any requests our couples have to help them and their guests feel comfortable and happy during these events.

ARE YOU OFFERING SMALL AND INTIMATE WEDDING PACKAGES?

Umbra Winery: Yes. We include the buffet, wine, linens etc and also have a few vendors offering services at a great price if they book with us.

Davis & Grey Farms: Yes, yes, and yes! Basically we are just working with couples - period. Who would have ever thought we would be walking through a pandemic, yet here we are! We have gotten creative and built an Intimate Wedding Package for 40 people or less, we are offering Ceremony Only Options by the hour, and then we are working one on one and creating custom packages if there is something specific that they are looking for within the next few months.

BRIK Venue: As a venue, we are not offering small or intimate packages on the weekends as they are full, but we are more than happy to discuss their options on a weekday (Monday - Thursday).

Hawthorn Hills: January 2020 we introduced our elopement and micro wedding packages by teaming  up with local pros to offer as inclusive as options as possible. They have absolutely become more popular in the past month and many venues have now begun to offer the same types of packages! In North DFW it has been fairly common for venues to have elopement/micro wedding options for weekdays and I do believe we are seeing an increase in intimate sized weddings for weekends as well. There is something really special about these micro weddings that is just  incredible - the friends and family members gathered just overflow with happiness and some even have live streaming set up for guests or  grandparents who aren't there to join them.

Hidden Creek: Yes, we do have several packages available and offer customized quotes based on individual needs. Our packages range from $2,800- $8,800 with additional la carte options being offered.

Q & A WITH OUR BARTENDERS

HOW ARE YOU TAKING PRECAUTIONS WITH STAFFING? STAFF TEMP CHECKS? MASKS? GLOVES?

DFW Bartending: All of our staff members will be required to wear a mask and gloves. Our staff will self report their temperature and answer questions which will be documented by owners, Savannah or Charlie. We have also purchased sneeze guards in the case the venue or client asks for them to be used. They will not be a requirement as of now but if staff wants to use them they will be available. After each event they will be sterilized along with all of the rest of our equipment.

ANY CHANGE IN SERVICE OPERATION PROCEDURES?

DFW Bartending: Service procedures will be about the same outside of the masks and gloves. Garnishments will not be out on the countertop, they will be given only if asked by the guest. Staff will be using tongs to place fruit in glass (no squeezing). Drinks will be made without shaker if possible.

ARE YOU ONLY SERVICING WITH PLASTIC WARE AND GLASSES PER THE CDC RECOMMENDATIONS FOR LIMITING HANDLING OF DIRTY DISHES?

DFW Bartending: Our services will include plastic cups that will not be reused. Every drink will be in a new disposable glass. Straws will be only available upon request of the guest and will be served wrapped in original manufacturing wrapping.

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By:
Melissa Shook