14 Tips for How to Start Planning Your 2021 Wedding Now

By Allix Cott

Zoom ceremonies, backyard elopements, and creative postponement plans have become 2020’s unexpected top wedding trends. Despite having to pivot throughout almost every aspect of the wedding planning process, this “extra time” has given engaged couples and experienced vendors alike insight into how to make the most out of the wedding planning experience during a pandemic. If you and your spouse are in the middle of a postponement (our hearts go out to you, if this is your second or third reschedule of the year!), or if you are newly engaged and wondering how to proceed amid unprecedented chaos, then consider these expert-approved ideas for how to move forward efficiently. Having picked up their own pointers these last few months, we tapped top industry vendors for their best piece of advice on how to plan your I dos right now for your celebration happening next year.

Photo: Courtesy of Maureen M. Evans

1. First, check the availability of your venue.

“Once you have the available dates from your venue, start checking with all your vendors in order of priority. You might have to make some hard decisions, as some of your vendors might not be available on the dates you want, so make a priority list when looking to move your celebration,” Alison Hotchkiss, principal and founder of Alison Events Planning + Design, says. “Also, be decisive on your decisions as dates can book up fast with all vendors, so move quickly once you have decided to change.”

Photo: Courtesy of Zofia & Co.

2. Start trying on gowns.

“Mood boarding for sure helps at a time like this!” Christy Baird, creative director of Loho Bride, says. “Most bridal shops are back open, and some production turnarounds have been extended, so if you’re comfortable, definitely start trying on gowns now since that will be important whether you end up with a Zoom wedding or a bigger fete in 2021.”

Photo: Courtesy of Steve Steinhardt

3. But, plan for an extended dress timeline.

“In regular times, the general rule of thumb is to start shopping about nine months before your wedding and have your dress order placed no later than six months out. But today, I’m encouraging my clients to start shopping earlier, somewhere between 12 and 10 months before, so that they can place their order sooner,” Julie Sabatino, founder of The Stylish Bride, says. “Also, remember that you are potentially going to need more time for alterations. I’ve spoken with some stores who said they are starting at three or more months before that because they will have twice the number of brides with those that postponed. The earlier you order your dress, the earlier it will come into the store, and you can start alterations.”

Photo: Courtesy of Belathee

4. Consider the benefits of a micro wedding.

“I think the benefit of a smaller wedding is that there’s less pressure than a 150-person wedding,” Heather Waraksa, founder of Heather Waraksa and member of The Wedding Artists Co., says. “A micro wedding’s informalities can be an invitation for the couple to unapologetically be themselves and get creative with location, format, and fashion.”

Photo: Courtesy of Abby Jiu Photography

5. If you haven’t already, finalize your vendor team.

“I do believe it’s a great moment to hire your vendors. Professional vendors who have been in the industry for a long time—10+ years—will be very busy in 2021 with new clients booking dates on top of 2020 clients repositioning their event,” Greg Finck, founder of Greg Finck Photography, says. “One of the perks of hiring vendors who have specific longevity in the industry is insurance. Their companies can survive the current financial crisis, which you want to consider, given the current context.”

Photo: Courtesy of Love from Mwai

6. Stay up-to-date with destination.

“Work with your planner and a travel agent to determine the government mandates and policies regarding what is currently allowed due to COVID and travel regulations,” Jill Remy, owner of Jill & Co. Events, says. “Make sure to understand the best-case and worst-case scenarios and be prepared to pivot if needed.”

Photo: Courtesy of Verity Johnson

7. Prioritize a backup plan.

“Have a backup plan for your backup plan, and ultimately, if you do not want to wait, be ok with doing something that isn’t 100% the original plan!” Kaleb Willis, owner of Kaleb Norman James Design, says. “Maybe that means guests wear masks, perhaps that means a smaller guest count, maybe that means no dancing, but if you want things to happen sooner than later, be willing to pivot and make it memorable one way or another.”

Photo: Courtesy of Spencer Lloyd Blake

8. Start mapping out your ceremony.

“Regardless of if you have had to postpone, one thing you can do right now is to plan the details around your vow exchange,” Shannon Leahy, owner of Shannon Leahy Events, says. “Many couples leave planning their ceremony until the last minute, and it’s the most important part of the wedding day. Think about songs and readings you like, research your heritage, and see any unique traditions you would like to include, ask your parents and grandparents about their ceremonies, and if they have any heirlooms or traditions to incorporate.”

Photo: Courtesy of Omid Talebi Studio

9. Spotlight guest experience.

“Perhaps your top priority is getting married now—that will mean keeping your guest count very small or even eloping with just the two of you,” Robin Baab Olascoaga, founder and creative director of RMBO Collective, says. “Suppose social distancing at the ceremony, masks throughout the evening, and no dancing is a deal-breaker. In that case, you will need to be prepared to push your wedding date far into the future to guarantee guest comfort throughout your celebration.”

Photo: Courtesy of Le Nozze Photography

10. Keep the conversation going.

“No matter if you decide to postpone or elope, make sure to keep your entire venue and vendor team in the loop, as well as your friends and family,” Teissia Treynet, founder and CEO of Firefly Events, says. “If you want to send out a beautifully designed “rescheduling info card,” that’s great, but don’t feel like you have to. A group email is acceptable since things are crazy these days, and the less pressure you put on yourself right now, the better!”

Photo: Courtesy of Pierce Weddings

11. Seal the deal on a planner.

“Having a planner is super important. You want someone who has been through postponements and who can guide you,” Lindsey Hartsough, founder of Magnolia Event Design, says. “Couples that are newly engaged may find few dates in 2021 available, so possibly consider a small wedding in 2021 and a more significant event in 2022. Weddings should be everything you have ever dreamed of, so be upfront with your planner about your “can’t live without” items. Ensure your planner knows in advance to give you the current rules for the county you tying the knot.”

Photo: Courtesy of Emily Jane Furney

12. Understand COVID clauses.

“Before signing contracts, have honest conversations with your vendors. Ask detailed questions about how they would handle a COVID-related postponement or cancellation, and request that this language be included in your contract,” Lauren Geissler and Emily de Ayora, founders of Downey Street Events, say. “That way, if uncontrollable circumstances cause a change of plans, you will be prepared in advance and will have a clear understanding of how a cancellation or postponement will be treated.”

Photo: Courtesy of Molly Sohr

13. Comb through every design detail.

“While you may not be able to touch and feel every detail just yet, now is the perfect time to narrow down your vision,” Beth Helmstetter, founder and creative director of Beth Helmstetter Events, says. “Think about every detail like what you want your welcome cocktail to be and what the glass will look like that it’s being served? What tray will it be presented on, and what will the server be wearing? Think about what your place settings will look like down to the plate, glassware, napkin, and flatware. You have time to be more specific than ever with your vision, so really think through every detail.”

Photo: Courtesy of Harwell Photography

14. Ultimately, decide what is best for you.

“We’ve seen so many different approaches by our couples in moving forward with their wedding plans. We have couples who have postponed to late 2021 or 2022, hoping to keep all their plans the same,” Shannen Norman and Emily Blake, owners of Norman & Blake, say. “We have other couples who have postponed to later this year or early next year and significantly decreased their guest count, some even having all vendors and guests get COVID tested before the event. All that to say, we’re seeing our couples get creative and flexible with their original plans. It’s been nice to see people find ways to celebrate that feel right for them and move forward in the midst of all that has been going on.”