Let’s face it, this dirty word isn’t going anywhere as quickly as we would like it to, but love conquers all right? I wanted to share that even though this time has affected so many of us and our mental and physical health, I still had the opportunity to make the best of it and wanted to let other brides AND grooms know how to plan a Covid wedding that was the best day our lives and can still be yours too.
Tip numero uno
Use your support system. It may be the best tip of all. I can’t stress this enough. Although you and your fiancé will ultimately lean on each other as a team should, there are very few and trusted individuals that you can rely on during such a turbulent but wonderful time. Planning a wedding is hard, especially during a pandemic, I’m sure you’re asking yourself “How am I going to plan a Covid wedding?” It sounds crazy, but I assure you it will be ok and with the right support system, you will have more help than you need.
I know we couldn’t have done it without our mothers and my Matron of honor. Countless nights spent freaking out over New York’s daily changing rules, our guest count, invitations, dresses, whether we could dance or not, have to wear masks or not; I truly couldn’t have done it without my best friend and Matron of Honor.
Truth be told, they always say that you find out how people really are when there are weddings, funerals and babies. However, this time, this unfortunate stint in our wild history books, I couldn’t blame anyone for not coming. I realized the sadness I felt for the wedding wasn’t because it was smaller and some people weren’t comfortable with attending, it was that I felt like I deserved to have what everyone else has had before me.
Meanwhile, here I was feeling sorry for myself when a whole world and some immediate members of my inner circle were suffering around me. If I didn’t have the kind words and steady arms of my now husband to hold me, and the words of wisdom, heartfelt joy and solid support from my mom, bestie and MIL, I couldn’t have gotten through it.
Tip number two
Don’t let anyone rush your dress shopping, but make sure it’s at least 8-10 months before. Typically this is how long it takes for a dress to come in stock if it’s not available in your size. When my mom and I sat down to start looking at dresses online only, I asked myself, “This is how I'm supposed to pick a dress?! And plan a Covid wedding?!” I didn’t think dress shopping would be so difficult. Unfortunately many boutique stores were closed and I didn’t feel as if I got enough individual treatment during my time searching as a bride.
We went to David’s Bridal, and although I must say my dress was the most gorgeous gown I had ever seen, I didn’t feel like I was treated the right way and was definitely rushed.
We went to look for a dress right after I was engaged because we only had a ten month engagement. We wanted to get married the day after my father had passed away on May 15. It was significant to me because this was the day and time he was cremated and the time was the same as he would be walking me down the aisle. Poetic, I know, but not good for my emotional roller coaster the day before.
Anyway, back to the dress! Since it was (shudder) during COVID, they only allowed me to try on five dresses and the attendant wouldn’t even come in the room to help you put it on. This left my mother and I angrily trying to figure out how each button or strap went and I wound up picking something beautiful and Aurora-like of course (Sleeping Beauty is my favorite Disney princess)
but it just wasn’t me. I thought the picture online was amazing and the color I ordered did not look like the same one I found online. It did nothing for my shape and like I said pretty, but not me. I picked it because I was rushed and was scared I wouldn’t get anything in time for the wedding.
I cried for days when I got the dress until my husband said to me “go back and exchange it you have time, I want you to be happy.” God bless his soul, seriously, because I was the most nervous I had ever been during those ten months. My mother agreed and said “We’re not leaving here each time we come until you try on as many as they allow and then when you go
home, you sit and think about which one you want until you are absolutely sure.” AND that’s what I did!
I found an absolutely stunning Galina signature “naked dress” as my mom and I called it a form fitting lace sheer gown with a plunging neckline, long sleeves and a removable tulle skirt overlay . It was nude throughout the dress with a leotard underneath and sheer bottom. I was in love.
I was able to exchange the Sleeping Beauty dress for the naked dress because it was of equal or greater value. I magically did not need alterations except to hem the skirt at my local tailor. Once I had that dress in my possession it wasn’t staying at the store. I couldn’t believe I had found my dream dress.
*** A side note for your bridal party if you have one…. Keep it simple, don’t have too many girls because many people feel their own way (and are allowed to of course) about the current state of the world is and I didn’t want to make anyone feel obligated to do something they weren’t comfortable with.
So moral is- less is more, and less also means less headaches. My cousin’s bridesmaid‘s dress was not ordered properly by David’s Bridal and didn’t come in at all until the week of the wedding! So close to the wedding day that we wound up calling and canceling the order and finding her a similar cinnamon colored satin dress online that we rushed ordered. Hey! At least it matched (The Four of them had different styles of the same cinnamon satin fabric anyway so it wound up being perfect) and I was still on my way to getting married.
Tip Number Three
Pick a venue that doesn’t necessarily fall under the ”Wedding Venue Category“ like a catering hall, but I’d be silly to think that some, maybe most or even all of you reading this are saltily saying “Jackie, we already picked our venue and surpassed our original date.” In that case, I am truly sorry and can say now with conviction that if you can get your money back and still plan a new venue… IT DOESN'T MATTER WHERE YOU GET MARRIED AS LONG AS YOU GET MARRIED AND ARE ABLE TO CELEBRATE YOUR LOVE TOGETHER! Isn’t that the point of why you said yes? I had to look in my heart and tell myself hundreds of times that I was marrying the man of my dreams and that if I had to marry him on a doorstep I would.
I knew that when we got engaged in July of 2020, that we wanted to have as many family and friends there as we were able to so they could share in our joyous occasion. Our engagement pictures, taken by one of my oldest and dearest family friends, was at the original venue we picked.
We were told we could have 150 people at the old Officer’s Club at Fort Totten in Bayside, N.Y. with a beautiful view of the Throggs Neck Bridge and the Long Island Sound in Little Bay Park. But that soon fell through and we were devastated. It was where my late grandfather was a Fire Marshall and where Brian had proposed out the back of his Mustang (which he sold
to buy me the ring against my pleading him not to).
We knew we wanted to get married and nothing else mattered so we googled restaurant after restaurant to see who had the best deal, and not just money-wise, but who was willing to work with us so that if we had to cancel because of COVID, we weren’t losing any money. We were adamant that the vendors we chose would work with us on this stipulation or else we would go elsewhere.
We wound up choosing a wonderful Italian Restaurant in Mamaroneck, NY that had a perfect sized ballroom, and an outdoor garden to get married in for our 50 person wedding.
We also considered having our wedding outside in one of our backyards. In my typical big Italian family tradition, most of our family’s festivities and celebrations were outdoors so it sounded like a good idea with all of the regulations we were facing. My Bridal Shower turned out to be gorgeous, but extremely rainy, in a tent outside in my mom’s backyard, but that’s a story for a different post ;)
Tip Number Four
Make it Intimate. Originally I had wanted to get married in the church where I was teaching my second and third graders at the school so they could be there, but we figured it was best for our grandmothers and family if we could all be at one location. This was especially such a venue where we could have the ceremony outside and the dinner to follow in a room where they could open windows and had a balcony for guests who were still uncomfortable on our May 15, 2021 wedding date.
The most special part of the ceremony and the wedding was that it was intimate. Especially since my aunt and Godmother officiated the wedding for us. She got ordained last fall to marry my baby cousin and her fiancé, who unfortunately had to move her wedding until this coming January. After seeing the heartache she went through, I couldn’t bear to be disappointed like that as well. We were hell bent and determined to make our day work.
My aunt marrying us was short, sweet and to the point. It was meaningful. we chose our own scriptures and readings, vows and her personal message to us was heartfelt and full of happy tears. The restaurant was a perfect size for dancing, since they lifted the rules right before we got married! I wasn’t going to be in Footloose after all! We had family style dishes so that each table shared together and didn’t have to get up to go to a buffet if they felt uncomfortable. The staff, head manager and event manager helped make every process and detail smooth. Sometimes in a smaller, family style restaurant, you get better treatment than a large hall. They even put up the decorations I made for us for the ceremony and reception and set every table exact with the decor and place cards to a tee.
They let us leave sanitizer, masks, wipes and other bathroom essentials in the single use washroom closets that I totally used Pinterest to make. AND MOST IMPORTANTLY… we didn’t have to test. I only had to give them a list of who was vaccinated or decided to test before the wedding day. PHEWWWWWW! That was the biggest anxiety I had that we would test the day before and somehow, someone in our immediate families or one of us would test positive or a false positive and miss our own wedding. That caused me more anxiety and depression than I ever thought it would.
Tip number five
Communication is key with all your vendors. Before you sign anything with your venue, photographer, DJ, makeup girl, florist, limo, etc. many of these companies have new rules to protect themselves during COVID so make sure to inquire about them and their policies to stay fully informed. This allows you to say ‘no’ before hand if you feel that your special day with be compromised in any way.
In our experience, many people were so kind to us because, A. They truly needed and wanted the business and B. They were good humans. The more down to earth the vendor was, the more we saw they were willing to work with us without signing a contract, or putting down such a large payment and even making sure to write that COVID would not cause us to lose money if something were to happen due to the pandemic. It was nerve wracking to think people wouldn’t want to come inside your house to do services like photography or makeup.
For the record, I am so sorry that many brides including my own cousin had to lose money, and change their original wedding date out of fear, or the venue not allowing A certain number of guests, or masks etc. Your fiancé and you are a team, if you are uncomfortable with any part of your special day, don’t do it. It is a celebration of your love for one another.
Work together and see how much the celebration means to you, if it does, then you will find a way to make it work whether it is waiting for the most beautiful venue to have another day available for you or in your own backyard.
Bottom line is to enjoy the hell out of your special day.
We could only do four hours and you better believe we enjoyed every single second of it. My dress is even hanging on my closet door still because I want to remember that day every time I wake up and see it’s gorgeous figure staring back at me three months later!
Your marriage is a lifelong promise to one another, make sure your special day reflects the love you share for each other and not what is going on in the world. The ancient Roman poet, Virgil, was right when he said love overcomes all obstacles. In the end your love will surpass anything that gets in your way. I promise…
xoxo Jacqueline Schowetsky