Advice for Couples,  Blog,  COVID,  Pandemic

Planning in a Pandemic

Over the years I’ve sat with couples who have planned their entire ceremony down to the minute. And I’ve sat with couples who have absolutely no idea what they want or how to accomplish it. Some of these couples of had professional wedding planners, or event planners. Others have managed the entire event on their own. And of course some should’ve had planners.

Since childhood we are taught about the importance of planning. If you wanna have people over for dinner you need to plan a menu. If you want to travel some distance for a holiday, you need to plan, likely using a travel agency to book tickets, accommodation, and other details.

But how the heck do we plan in the midst of a pandemic?

Over the last several months the journey I have walked with my couples has included changing plans, adapting plans, postponing plans and cancelling plans. And even after all of that work, COVID – 19 has wreaked havoc even at the very last minute. I’ve had couples who have decided to put off their wedding for a year then contact me and change it back to this year, perhaps on a different date, likely at a different venue, and definitely with a much smaller guest list.

I grew up with an older generation of parents than any of my peers. In fact, my parents were even older than some of my friend’s grandparents. So the life experience of my parents that was passed on to my brother and me was often very different to that of our friends. The opinions were often seen as outdated. And the wisdom, ridiculous.

As I grow older, I realize that true wisdom never changes and is never ridiculous. Opinions change, fashions change, the world changes, life changes. But true wisdom stays as true wisdom.

We know from history that this is not the first pandemic that we have had to live through. Some pandemics have caused mass extinction events. Others have come in waves. But they’ve all had the same effect on everyone who has experienced them. It changes life. It changes our plans.

Since my parents were of an older ilk, I was exposed to all the historical data that came from the second world war. My mother who was only 18 years old at the outbreak of the second world war lived in London England. She was one of five children, and the eldest.

My father who was 7 years older than my mother when war was declared would serve in the Canadian infantry throughout Europe.

The dinner table in our house was often filled with the stories that came from that time. And none of them were good.

My mother’s siblings were scattered throughout the English countryside for most of the war years. Often times it would be weeks, months, even years, before they had any contact with each other, not even knowing if they were all still alive. How did they ever manage without Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and especially texting?

The one lesson, the true wisdom that I learned from all of the stories was that even though the world was challenged and changed, and people died, they (my parents and other survivors) made it through it all.

Yes, of course PTSD is real. My parents had it even before it was called PTSD. And those of us who live through this current situation in our world, will also experience a certain amount of PTSD. But we will make it. Yes it will change us. Yes it will give us stories to tell our children and grandchildren who may or may never experience a pandemic. And hopefully the biggest lesson that they learn, just as I learned sitting at the supper table, is adaptation and gratitude.

In order for any species to survive an evolutionary process it needs to adapt. And if nothing else, this pandemic has taught us that we have to adapt in order to survive as a human race. It means that we do have to take care of ourselves and others, whether that means wearing a mask, staying home when we’d rather be out and partying, not having in-house celebrations with lots of people, social distancing, working from home, or whatever adaptation we’ve had to make in order to survive.

I also believe that we have an old wisdom that we need to re-learn. I believe that we have come to a point in our own evolution as a human species, that we understand the attitude of gratitude, more so now than ever. Be grateful that we live in a time of technology. That we live in a time when medicine has advanced to where it is. That we have more than just the basics that others in other lands don’t. Be grateful for what you have. 

Remember the ridiculousness of people buying up huge amounts of toilet paper? At least we have toilet paper. And at least we have access to good food and medicine. We aren’t living on rations like in wartime.

Many couples that I work with have been forced into adaptation. They’ve been forced to change their wedding plans in order to meet guidelines and orders set up by our governments. I’ve been very lucky with the couples that I work with, in that knowing that they must adapt, they also have a real attitude of gratitude. Why is that? How can you really have an attitude of gratitude when your dreams for a big wedding have been dashed on the rocks?

One couple that I officiated a wedding for this past summer, although disappointed to not have the wedding of their dreams, found that they had saved so much money in savings, that they now actually had the money to put down on a home.

Another couple adapted their big wedding, downsizing it, but still managing to make it very special, and very unique. As I walked into their backyard, I could see a lot of thought had gone into making sure that this day was still going to be special and fun.

They had to make sure that all their guests would be sitting in pods, socially distanced from other people who would be attending the ceremony. They had also maintained the maximum number of people who were allowed to attend the ceremony like this. They had made sure that even the signing of the legal paperwork would be done in such a way that only one or two people would be near the table at a time. For my part I had made sure that all the paperwork was colour-coded with little post-it® notes showing where each had to sign. 

Every pod was marked clearly by a freshly cut tree stump with a small vase and flowers as well as the family name. I was so impressed when one family actually showed up and laid out a blanket and got food out for their children. 

When it came time for the pictures to be taken, they made sure that someone gave clear direction, moving the guests from one end of the yard to the other and still maintaining social distancing. It was as if this was the plan all along.

Another couple who, are very shy, called me thrilled that they could now have a small wedding rather than a huge affair, which for them was just overwhelming. It was absolutely lovely.

At the time of writing this blog, 2020 is nearly over. Many of us thought that this pandemic would be over, too. And many of the couples who have postponed their weddings until 2021 are now faced with making the same decision as to whether or not they will proceed with their weddings, or once again postpone. We have now entered into the second wave of this pandemic. It’s  likely that it will still be with us for the summer of 2021.

So how the heck do we plan in the midst of a pandemic?

Here are some tips from what I’ve learned in this last few months:

Be flexible: Be ready for things to change even at the very last minute. 

Be creative: Use the tools at hand. Use things like technology to stream to your guests who cannot be present. I even had one bride walked down the aisle by her father on Facetime!!!

Have fun: No matter what gets thrown at you just enjoy your day.

Engage others: Ask questions of other couples who already did do their ceremony in the midst of this. Find people to support you and help you create your perfect day.

Be grateful: You can still have your wedding. You can still have people celebrate with you. Try and have an attitude of gratitude. Your smaller budget allows you to focus on other things. Perhaps you can upgrade your menu. Perhaps you can have money set aside to buy a home.

As I have told my couples, I’m here, I’m committed to walking this journey with you.

One Comment

  • Carol Daize

    James the stories you have told are so inspiring. I am happy to hear that some of your clients did get married in 2020. Congratulations to all the couples, married by James this year.
    We are thankful James you contacted us early in March to re-schedule our wedding to 2021. It is looking like we will have to postpone again for another year or make new plans. Time will tell. The only thing I am sure of James is that you will be our Officiant. 💖

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