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How to Downsize Your Coronavirus Wedding


Photo By: Steve Koo

Well, it's official...


Yesterday afternoon Gov Pritzker released his plan to reopen the state with gatherings of up to 50 people being allowed in phase 4, but phase 5 of a fully reopened state not being on the table until either A. a vaccine is widely available B. a highly effective treatment is widely available or C. No new cases for an extended length of time. 


That being said, the reality of being able to host an event over 50 people in 2020 or even early 2021 is unlikely. 


The truth is, we don't know how long it will take to meet the requirements that allow us into Phase 5, which means weddings of over 50 people in the foreseeable future is not likely.


Many 2020 couples have chosen to postpone & there's a ton of resources out in wedding land on how to do that well & efficiently, but what's a couple to do if they want to host their wedding on their original date - just on a smaller scale (if legally allowed of course)?


Here's your step by step plan to downsizing your Coronavirus wedding.


Step 1: Reach out to your venue. Find out if they will be allowing small weddings once we reach Phase 4.


Step 2: Reach out to your caterer (or combine this with Step 1 if your venue is providing catering) & ask if they'll work with you to lower food & beverage minimums. A few notes here:


  • You'll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Be kind.

  • Your vendors don't owe you anything. (Just like I don't believe couples owe vendors anything) They do not HAVE to make exceptions to their contracts. Most wedding pros are happy to work with couples to make the necessary adjustments, but please understand, we did not ask for this either & we are all doing our best to keep our doors open to make it to the next wedding season.

  • Be reasonable. If your contracted minimum is $30K & your caterer says they're not willing to lower it to $10K, understand that it's a $20K difference in their bottom line.

  • Lowering your guest count should automatically lower your labor costs, so that should help some even if they aren't willing to lower your F&B minimum.

  • Perspective is everything. If your caterer is either unwilling to lower your minimum or is unable to lower it as much as you would like, consider the upside of the fun you'll get to have with the culinary experience with a lower guest count. Luxe meals, lavish late-night snacks, extra courses, premium bar, butler passed Prosseco are all options to upgrade your dining experience to meet your minimums with a small guest count.

  • Choosing to host your wedding with a smaller guest count is a choice, just as cancelling your wedding is a choice or postponing your wedding is a choice. All of these choices are yours to make, but they do each have their own financial implications and one of those implications may be still spending a pretty penny on catering for 35 guests.


Step 3: Once you've reached an agreement with your caterer on the new F&B minimum, request a contract addendum for you both to sign. It should clearly lay out your new minimum and your adjusted payment details.


Step 4: Repeat steps 2 & 3 with your florist. Same notes apply about being reasonable with an addition: your florist has extremely hard costs! If you're downsizing less than 45ish days out from your wedding, expect that they won't be able to lower your contracted amount.


Step 5: Reach out to your vendor team to find out how many people they will have onsite for the wedding day. The 50 person gathering cap includes all staff. So DJ, photographer, videographer, catering staff, officiant, venue staff, etc. Plus you & the wedding party. Realistically, you're probably only looking at being able to have about 30 people in attendance given the total number of staff onsite. You can always your vendors if there are ways to decrease the number of people onsite. Maybe your photographer is willing to take the 2nd shooter out of your package. Maybe with the lowered guest count, your DJ doesn't need an assistant onsite, etc.


Step 6: Review your guest list and choose who will be invited to attend. This is not going to be a fun conversation, but it's the necessary next step.


Step 7: Call the guests who have been cut. Yes, I said it... CALL! If you're uninviting someone to your wedding, they deserve a phone call. This is not something you need to stress about. Everyone knows what is going on, but they still deserve a phone call letting them know the decision you've made and tell them that you would have loved to have them there.


Step 8: Get creative about how you can make the most out of your new vision. There are so many amazing innovative services coming out of the industry that you can bring into your wedding to create an amazing experience for your guests and still have the celebration you've been waiting for... even if it's not the way you originally pictured it. Fun example: Our friends at Cage & Aquarium have launched a live stream experience for you to allow your guests to experience your wedding from home.


BONUS IDEA: I am totally stealing this from our friends at Room 1520, but talk to your venue about the possibility of hosting your celebration in waves where you have 30 guests from 2-4, then close down for an hour for cleaning and bring in 30 more guests from 5-7, then close for an hour and another group of 30 from 9-11pm. Pro Tip: If you and your venue find a way to make this work, change your catering format to being a cocktail style reception verses a seated dinner.


There you have it, 8 simple (not easy) steps to downsizing your Coronavirus wedding. Are you planning to host your wedding on it's original date?

Come see us at our Irving Park Studio by appointment only

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