Wedding Planner Leah Weinberg gives a first-hand glimpse into pandemic wedding planning
Continuing our series for engaged couples navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic, we talk with Leah Weingberg, owner and creative director of ColourPop events, a wedding planning company based in New York City. The author of the book, The Wedding Roller Coaster, Weinberg has spent extensive time researching solutions to the conflicts that can arise during the planning process. Leah is a former commercial real estate attorney who tends to work with professional couples who gravitate to an organized and strategic approach to wedding planning. She’s known for her calming approach to the planning process which is why Leah is our next expert to provide advice on navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic wedding planning process.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic is an ever changing global pandemic, it’s important to note that this interview took place in August, 2021. Please refer to the cdc.gov for current COVID-19 guidelines or check with your state and city for event guidelines specific to your area.
Owner and Creative Director, ColorPop Events, NYC
Author, The Wedding Roller Coaster
What has the experience of COVID been like for you?
New York City has been particularly tough because we just completely shut down and didn’t really open back up for a full 12 months. I had some couples decide to have smaller weddings, some decided to have micro weddings instead of postponing or canceling. The majority did postpone and then just a small portion flat out cancelled.
Of the folks that pushed from 2020 to 2021, I have four weddings that then pushed again to 2022. So it’s been really challenging. In major cities with a lot of restrictions there was just no movement at all for a very long period of time. And once things finally started opening up, we had this boom. It felt like May 1, somebody flipped a switch and we had this flood of weddings that were going to happen, people started having more confidence in planning their wedding so inquiries started coming in and things got incredibly busy.
And then, of course, in New York City, we are back to regulations happening again, for events that are happening indoors, maybe outdoors. There’s now vaccination requirements for all guests and for all the vendors that are attending weddings. That’s an added wrinkle that couples now have to take into account and all the venues are different. And there’s so many unanswered questions, like: Who’s collecting the information? Who’s responsible for enforcing it? It’s so frustrating that, after 18 months, we’re still here.
What’s your advice for couples trying to navigate this with guests that might all have different viewpoints on the virus?
I’m big on conveying information. As the planner, I feel like it is partly my responsibility to stay on top of what the city and state regulations are, to be having conversations with the different venues that I’m going to be working at through the fall and into the winter about what it is that they’re doing. And then conveying to my couples, saying, “Okay, here is what’s happening. Let’s figure out a plan to comply with this and make all of this happen.’
First, it’s honestly about communicating, getting the information out there and just getting organized about how we’re going to approach this. And then there’s a lot of honest conversations that need to happen. I got a phone call yesterday from a vendor who I worked with about a week ago at a wedding. They had a breakthrough case and tested positive for COVID.
I’m not going to sugarcoat anything for my clients. I can reassure them that there are steps that we can take to try to have the safest event possible. But obviously, nobody can promise that nothing’s going to happen. People are getting married this year come hell or high water. They’re willing to do whatever it takes to comply with regulations to try to make it the safest event possible.
And the COVID vaccine question when it comes to weddings?
If people aren’t vaccinated, they’re fine with those people not attending if they have to downsize the guestlist. Like, whatever precautions they have to take, it seems like they’re ready and willing to do that. We can’t emotionally handle any more postponements. I have one couple who I booked in January of 2019. And we still don’t have a venue or a date for their rescheduled wedding for 2022. It’s probably not going to happen until the end of spring 2022, which means I will have been working with that couple for three and a half years. Just to put it in perspective.
What has been your experience at weddings? What is your strategy going into the day of the event?
Every couple is different. Let’s be honest, no guests are wearing masks really anymore. All the vendors are wearing masks when things are indoors for sure. I am now, after this COVID scare breakthrough case, I’m now going to mask indoors and outdoors and not take it off even once. People are just excited and overjoyed to gather so there’s just that natural energy on top of alcohol. And it’s very hard to enforce anything or police things. That’s why I think it’s so important that people getting married require their guests to be vaccinated, because when there’s on-site kind of management of anything that is the least that you can do and the best thing that you can do to try to prevent anything from happening.
When we first opened back up for gatherings, there were some very strict and bizarre requirements, like the dancing pods, you could only dance with people from your household in a group together, and everybody had to be six feet apart. Are we drawing six by six squares on the dance floor? We’re supposed to all be wearing masks and the tables had to be socially distanced. We’re all asking each other, like who enforces this? Are we supposed to be doing it? Because the truth is, nobody wants to be the bad guy. If we’re having to go up to guests and say, ‘Please put your mask on,’ or ‘Please stay six feet apart,’ the couple is going to hate us. That’s why I feel like the answer is just have people be vaccinated because there’s no real perfect solution.
Do you feel like couples are leaning more on their wedding planner because of all the extra steps required now?
I’m definitely getting a lot of questions, like ‘What are you seeing? Are you seeing people postponing, canceling? How are you seeing people be safe? What kind of tools are people using to collect vaccination information?’ For sure there’s a lot of questions happening. A lot of couples are thinking ahead, like, November/December couples, we’re already starting to kind of have those conversations. Just prepare for the high probability that you’re going to have to collect everybody’s vaccination information somehow. So they’re definitely leaning on planners for updated information as to what the actual restrictions are.
If you’re looking for a way to increase connectedness and community at your wedding, Guestie offers a completely COVID-19 safe digital way to introduce all your guests and get them mingling before the big day. Feel good knowing everyone can start making memorable moments today and friendships that can last for years to come.