COVID weddings in New Jersey have been on a roller coaster ride since March 2020. Some couples have postponed two or three times already, while others are still waiting for their venues to allow them to move their date for the first time.
As a New Jersey based wedding planner, it’s my job to understand how things work in this state. So, if you’re visiting this blog from Texas, you might not be able to apply anything you read here to your own wedding.
Even though things have been complicated since almost the beginning of 2020, the past few weeks have gone a little psycho. First, indoor and outdoor dining were allowed…then indoor dining was shut down as fast as it became a possibility.
In addition to the multiple Executive Orders issued, couples are frustrated as weddings never quite get the attention they deserve. Sure, there’s talk about restaurants, but what about an indoor wedding? What about outdoor weddings?
What about….so so much?
I’ve been getting flooded with questions from brides and grooms who are not sure what to do at this point. Last week I decided to go on Instagram Live and answer the top 10 questions sent to me about COVID weddings in New Jersey.
If you missed the live, or you just want more details, the answers to the most pressing questions are all outlined below. Just, please, keep in mind, this is for COVID weddings in New Jersey only, and things can change very quickly. Be sure to follow me on Instagram to make sure you’re up to date!
And now, here are the answers you’ve been looking for…in black and white.
*Please note that most of the links of this page are affiliate links. This means if you click on a link and purchase, you will receive the same price, but I will receive a referral fee. This helps keep my blog free and allows me to share wedding planning tips with you. Thanks for your support!*
1. Dancing At COVID Weddings in New Jersey…Allowed or Not?
According to the most recent Executive Order (which you can read here), dance floors are prohibited in New Jersey at food and beverage establishments. While it doesn’t specifically say the word “weddings”, it doesn’t have to.
People are getting really tripped up over the idea of public versus private locations. The order focuses on public locations, but isn’t a wedding private?
Yes, a wedding is private. However, a wedding venue, is not private. It falls under the same rules as other food and beverage locations, and thus, must follow the details of the Executive Order.
This recent order states that dance floors are not allowed at indoor locations as well as outdoor locations. Which means, even if you’re under a starry sky, if you’re at a wedding venue, technically, dancing will not be allowed.
How do you get around this? You host your wedding at an actual private location, such as your home. If your venue is planning to allow dancing, or if you’re having a backyard wedding, be sure to ask your vendors (especially the one providing music) if they are comfortable with this arrangement.
2. What Should I Tell My Guests That Want Updates Constantly?
If you’re anything like the couple that wrote in with this question (and my guess is, you totally are) then you’re being hounded on the regular by your guests. Between letting you know about other COVID weddings in New Jersey that have postponed, and asking you about your plans, your stress level is likely maxed out.
Just as I tell my couples when there isn’t a worldwide pandemic going on, you need to have two things: a wedding website and a point person.
Your wedding website should have all the major details on it. These details include the locations and timing for the entire day, plus any other logistics that would be important.
If there’s an update such as a new date or a new date and new time, this is where all of that goes. Just make sure your wedding website is password protected so randoms can’t find you through a Google search.
When you’re ready, send out a wedding postponement card like this one:
The whole “Love is patient” idea basically writes itself in 2020, doesn’t it? Keep it simple and let your guests know that you have postponed your wedding due to COVID. Don’t forget to include your wedding website details on the card and encourage guests to check there for updates!
For tons of other wedding postponement card options, go here right now!
3. My Venue is Taking a “Wait and See” Approach For My August Wedding…
There is absolutely nothing to wait and see about when it comes to the rest of 2020, as far as I am concerned. Do we know what’s going to happen? No. Should you plan for the worst?
Yes, ten times out of ten.
When it comes to venues, some are taking the approach that if they can still give you a wedding, it is your choice to walk away. This means that you would lose all of your money because you decided to postpone or cancel.
I have a list of venues that are not allowing couples to postpone their August, September, and October weddings. It’s July. At this point, given how the Executive Orders have lined up, this is totally unacceptable.
If you find yourself in a position where your venue is not entertaining a postponement conversation, you need to find out when that conversation actually can happen. This way you will know how much time you will have to change all of your plans.
You should also find out how far out you can postpone. Does your new wedding date have to fall within a year of the first? What happens if you currently have a Saturday wedding but no Saturdays are available in 2021? Ask all the questions.
And, when you’re not sure if you asked the right ones, hire a wedding planner.
4. Is It Normal For My Venue To Charge Me 2021 Prices When Postponing?
It sucks, but yes.
I see both sides of this argument. From the perspective of the couple, it’s not their fault that there was a worldwide pandemic and they are forced to move their wedding date.
But, it wasn’t the venue’s fault either and they are now giving up 2021 dates to rescheduled couples from 2020 and losing new business because of it. Along with that, 2020 was dead for them.
As annoying as it sounds, this falls under “it is what it is”. This is standard, typical, and understandable. Prices are going to increase everywhere as things start to open back up. The wedding industry was hit the hardest, and even though the inflation numbers are super low right now, they still exist.
Don’t fight this battle.
5. Any Tips For Having A Backyard Wedding?
The person that sent this question in has already postponed their wedding twice. I mention this because normally, I would be shocked. But, at this point, I know couples that are on their third and yes, fourth wedding date.
A very popular route couples are taking is to postpone the big wedding, while having something small in the meantime. There are also couples, like a few I am working with, that are scrapping the whole big wedding in favor of a Micro Wedding in their backyard on the same date.
First and foremost, let’s get what everyone doesn’t want to hear out of the way. Backyard weddings are more complicated and more expensive than hosting at a traditional venue. You should never attempt one of these without a seasoned and experienced wedding planner.
The biggest tip I can give anyone looking to host a backyard wedding is to conduct site visits with multiple vendors. Odds are you will need to bring in tenting, rentals, catering, and bathroom trailers. Have these vendors come to your location so they can tell you exactly what you will need to make this happen.
If you are keeping your original wedding date, reach out to your vendors to let them know about your change in location. Find out if there will be any additional fees and ask if they will need anything due to the new location.
Should you need to change your date, it would be cost effective to keep the vendors you currently have on board. Check with your venue to see if they can provide off-site catering services, and if not, start the search for your food and beverage vendor. Then you should ask all of your vendors for their availability and eliminate down to the dates that everyone still has open. From those options, select your new wedding date.
6. Some Of My Vendors Aren’t Comfortable Moving Forward…Will I Lose The Money I Already Paid?
Technically speaking, if a vendor is not comfortable moving forward with your wedding plans while a worldwide pandemic is going on, then they have to refund you some amount of money.
What defines that amount? Well, typically the first payment is non-refundable, but you’d have to check your contracts. Before you start screaming that every payment should be refundable, hear me out:
Let’s say one of your vendors took your retainer payment and blocked out your date. Once you were booked, they had several other inquiries that they had to turn down because you booked them. Now, they don’t want to work your possible COVID-19 themed wedding…
But, had they taken any of the other wedding inquiries, they could’ve been working with a couple that decided to postpone until 2021. That means they would’ve not only stayed safe, but made the rest of the contractually obligated money owed.
See what I mean?
Look, many vendors will refund you every last dime. But, don’t be a jerk about this. If you’re not willing to postpone, understand that many vendors will put their health first and bow out of your wedding. You can ask if anything will be refunded, but don’t press for that first payment if it’s not offered up.
7. COVID Weddings in New Jersey…Masks For September Weddings?
The Executive Order mandates that your guests will be required to wear masks at your wedding. That part is black and white. Let’s talk about the gray area that is f*^king everyone up though, shall we?
Legally speaking, venues have to abide by whatever the current Orders are. Right now, that means masks for everyone, no dancing, and no buffets or stations. Along with those restrictions are the guest count limits that change every other week.
No one knows what is going to happen next week, let alone in September. In New Jersey, when school starts in the Fall, kids are expected to wear masks. So, what do you think that means for weddings?
The point is, you should plan for the worst. Are you totally uncomfortable asking your guests to wear masks? Keep in mind that the couple and their wedding party will also have to do the same. If that thought doesn’t pass the vibe check with you, then postpone. Why gamble on the unknown?
Looking for some kick ass face mask options for your wedding? Etsy has a killer selection right over here!
You can also save a ton of money when you buy in bulk! Grab these customized face masks for your wedding guests and pass them out as everyone arrives to celebrate.
8. What Happens To Cocktail Hour? That’s Why I Picked My Venue!
Just like any other part of the multiple Executive Orders that have rolled out since March 2020, the Cocktail Hour portion of weddings has taken a wallop.
Other than food served tableside, pretty much everything else is off limits. New Jersey weddings are famous for those elaborate Cocktail Hours with 72 different stations representing the same amount of countries around the world.
New Jersey wedding Cocktail Hours are basically like Epcot. But bigger.
Right now, food and beverage establishments are not allowing guests to take food from the same areas. Can you sidestep this part of the Order with a server?
The thing is, the wedding industry has been in a choke hold since early this year. It’s not surprising that venues and vendors will look for loopholes if, for no other reason, than to stay in business.
Everything comes down to the necessity of an open and honest conversation with your venue. Are they going to follow the rules? What are their alternative plans? How will this impact your per person cost? When is the latest this could change?
If you cannot have the wedding you were legally contracted to have when you signed on months ago, they should allow you to postpone. Find out what your options are, especially, how your wedding will look (Cocktail Hour and all) before making a decision.
9. Will My Guests Need To Wear Masks On The Hotel Shuttle We Provide?
The short answer to this question is “yes”. The long answer to this question is “ask your transportation vendor”. The answer in the middle of those two?
Are all of your guests going to be happy with one or the other?
If your guests are staying at a hotel block and you are providing a shuttle for them from there to the reception, there is a strong chance they will have to wear a mask while en route.
This means you could tell your guests this in advance, provide masks, and take care of everything…but if one person pitches a fit and doesn’t want to wear a mask on the shuttle that you have provided and paid for you are going to hear that on your wedding day.
The bottom line here is that you can plan and outline as much as you want, but controlling wedding guests is a futile effort. If masks are going to be required, you can give as much advanced notice as possible, and it might still fall short of enough for some people.
Speak with your transportation vendor before formulating a plan of action here.
10. My Wedding Is In August, But My Dress Is Delayed! What Do I Do?
As if couples don’t have enough to worry about, the shipment of bridal gowns has been delayed and destroyed for months now. I frequently think back to the interview I conducted at one of my favorite dress shops back in March. We talked about how to navigate these tricky situations, never realizing that that two weeks later the world would shut down.
At this point, no matter where your dress is manufactured, every bride faces the dilemma of not getting the gown in time. One of my Fall brides (that, incidentally, just postponed to 2021) was promised her gown would arrive in the store in May.
It’s almost mid-July and the dress isn’t even in the country yet. In fact, it’s not scheduled to arrive for at least another week.
With wedding gowns, even with a rush order, there’s a 3-4 month turnaround period. This means you could go into a store, pick a dress, get your measurements done, and still wait for 3 months for your selection to arrive. Following that you’ll have alteration appointments, which could span a month easily.
Regardless of when your wedding is, reach out to your store and find out when the dress is expected to arrive. The shop can only tell you what they have been told, but if you feel you’re not getting the best updates, then take this one step further and call the warehouse. A designer’s warehouse can communicate to you where the dress is and what the timeline looks like.
Should you be in that four month window with no bridal gown in sight, your options become extremely limited unfortunately. You’ve already paid for the gown in some capacity, and you will not see that money back. However, if you want to actually have a gown on the wedding day, buying off the rack is your best bet.
First things first, contact the shop you got the gown at and ask if they have your dress available on the rack. If they do, is it for sale and how much work does it need? If they don’t, can they contact other stores that might have it? In the meantime, search for stores that sell your designer’s wedding gowns and call them yourself to find out if the gown you chose is on their rack.
If you can’t find your gown on the rack, or if buying off the rack isn’t an option, then consider purchasing a less expensive wedding gown like this one:
There are countless options available in wedding gown world. You can start shopping right here to find something for your wedding day, or even your Micro Wedding if you’ve decided to host something smaller at the moment.
COVID Weddings New Jersey Style
I never thought, in a million years, that I would be writing a blog like this. Here we are, in July, and I currently have one wedding left in 2020 The rest have all moved to 2021.
2020 feels like the lost year…
It’s hard to wrap my head around everything that has happened this year, and the fact that there is no end in sight. Questions can’t be answered, plans cannot be made, and couples are under the constant stress of wedding planning while in the middle of a pandemic.
The whole situation blows.
I hope that this blog was able to answer some questions that New Jersey engaged couples have. The path isn’t clear and giving guidance isn’t easy, but, at the end of the day, you should have the wedding you want the way you want to have it.