'Love is not canceled': Don't wait. Hold tight to your planned 2020 wedding; here are some expert tips

©Chicago Tribune

COVID-19 wedding. - Handout/Dreamstime/TNS

CHICAGO – Homewood, Ill., residents, Deborah and Markell Thrash were married Aug. 8 on the grounds of Sinha Elegant Cuisine surrounded by 25 of their closest family and friends. DNR Events, an event planning firm in Blue Island, Ill., made their big day happen.

“We were going to get married right before the pandemic set in, in March,” said Deborah Thrash, 58. “We’ve both been married before. When everything sort of opened back up, we waited a little while, then I was like: ‘Are we going to do this? He said yes, and I ran with it. My thing is live for today because I don’t know what tomorrow is going to hold.”

Like the Thrashes, other couples are pushing forward with 2020 wedding dates. Wedding and event planner Desireé Dent, founder of Chicago-based Dejanae Events, said three couples on her 2020 wedding roster are holding true to their originally planned wedding date. That’s despite the postponing trend that many couples have taken since the COVID-19 pandemic began. According to the wedding planning website The Knot, most couples with wedding dates between March and August postponed their wedding celebrations (only 7% are canceling altogether).

“A lot of the couples we’ve been working with have been planning their wedding since 2019,” Dent said. “Couples are still getting married; it just looks different … more micro-weddings or ‘mini-monies.’ We still want people to know that love is not canceled,” she said. “The fabulousness level of a wedding is up to the couple.”

Kate Reavey, owner of Chicago Vintage Weddings, said her firm just executed a $30,000 wedding for 26 people recently that she describes as “stunning.” She and her friend, Alyson Thompson, a hotel catering manager, are hosts of “The Itty Bitty Wedding Committee Podcast,” a wedding planning resource for Chicago couples impacted by the events this year. Reavey’s wedding tips include:

Upgrading menu options. Think additional courses and intermezzo teasers, or a menu that relies heavily on products from local small farms with a show-stopping presentation. “Don’t get ordinary banquet food,” said Romona Johnson, DNR Events co-founder/owner. “Be creative. Hire food trucks — empanadas, jerk chicken and some cupcakes.”

Bringing in a sommelier or improving bar options. Think vintage wines, a champagne tower, or personalized bitters for cocktails. The bitters can double as a great favor if your guests are cocktail people. “Alcohol can be very close to what you spend on the food package – depends if you’re doing top shelf,” Johnson added.

See if your caterer/venue will allow you to bring in a chef to do a cooking demo for guests.

A trend in the time of COVID-19 is single-serve wedding cakes, so you can have small cakes brought to each guest’s setting for dessert.

Provide packages of desserts/candy for each guest to enjoy at home. Customized cookies printed with your wedding logo and packed in a box with a personalized tag.

Bring in draping to make the wedding environment feel more intimate, or decorative greenery walls to create the same effect. Specialty rentals like a champagne cart, mirrored tables are another unique addition. Katherine Healy Brown, owner of Clover Events, said lounge furniture groupings that allow people who live in the same house to sit together is another layout option.

Going big on flowers via a grand entryway, hanging floral displays, larger-than-life centerpieces, and arrangements for the restroom add to the wedding’s ambiance.

Order monogrammed customized masks. Brown suggested the same thing with cheeky face masks for guests.

Order car service for each guest, taking care to book shared cars only for people who are in one another’s bubble.

Bring in specialty entertainment, such as a dance performance or even stand-up comedy for later in the evening. Brown said one of her 2020 couples chose to do a casino night, in lieu of dancing.

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©2020 Chicago Tribune