Like every industry, local wedding planners have had to adjust to COVID-19 times. Like many other industries, too, they are pulling together.
With constant updates to public health orders including gathering size limits, different guidelines at each and every venue as well as other industry challenges, six local wedding planners started up an informal group text, sharing frustrations, tips and alerts — as well as how to move forward.
“We’re only going to get through this together,” said Jennifer Pletcher, owner of Gemini Event Planning. which specializes in high-end weddings in Vail.
‘Every single wedding is different’
This wedding season, Pletcher has seen all scenarios play out — weddings taking place, couples postponing their planning and some canceling altogether.
For local wedding planners like Pletcher, every wedding is different, and every couple is different — from their wedding-day desires to their fears.
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“Our role as a planner has really changed,” Pletcher said. “Now we try to be our client’s friend.” She added that she is there when people need to vent, or they need questions answered at any time of day. She stressed that the priority is finding ways to make couples feel comfortable.
“We’ve gotten really close to some of our clients,” she said.
With Eagle County awaiting state approval to transition to its next phase of COVID-19 relief, which would allow for gatherings of up to 250 people, among other things, local wedding planners are constantly working with venues, florists, photographers and other vendors on guidelines moving forward. Pletcher said some vendors are happy to give back deposits to couples who decide to cancel while others are more willing to reschedule and keep the deposit.
“If all the vendors gave back their deposits for everybody who canceled, they wouldn’t be here to service weddings in 2021,” Pletcher said.
Popular wedding venues in Eagle County include Piney River Ranch, Vail and Beaver Creek mountains, local hotels and other picturesque, extravagant locations.
“Every single wedding is different depending on where you’re getting married and what the venue is,” said Marguerite McEvoy, owner of Events by Marguerite and one of the local wedding planners on the group chat. “People want to feel safe, especially if you’re a couple on your wedding day.”
Questions still remain, surely to be bounced around in the local group chat.
“Do I have a mask at my ceremony?” McEvoy asked on behalf of clients. “What’s the rule, you have to wear a mask while dancing after drinking all day?”
These are just some of the questions couples are asking local wedding planners.
“At minimum we’re seeing 6 feet apart at tables, lots of hand sanitizer and all staff wearing masks,” Pletcher said.
For local couples getting married, Pletcher says it’s a bit easier as the risk of travel is eliminated. However, a wedding featuring guests from New York was canceled due to the concerns of flying 250 people from out-of-state. That wedding, set to be the first of its kind in Vail, Pletcher said, was in the planning phases — featuring a custom tent at chairs 3 and 4 on Vail Mountain.
“It’s such a bummer, it was going to be amazing,” Pletcher said, adding that the experience of planning it, though, was worth it as she knows Gemini Events Planning can pull off a wedding like that in the future.
“A wedding takes hundreds of hours to plan, just one wedding,” McEvoy said. “Once you throw a wrench into those plans, you’re just multiplying all those hours of work.”
Both Pletcher and McEvoy think the current conditions have amplified the importance for their profession.
“Hiring a professional is something that hopefully people moving forward will consider, because going through this alone must be horrible,” McEvoy said.
At the end of the day, local wedding planners know what is at the core of their profession.
“There is an element to step back and see what’s important, and that’s you marrying a person,” said Pletcher, who got married in Hawaii herself with 30 people.
“It’s not that bad to have a smaller wedding,” McEvoy said. “Having 50 or 100 people at your wedding is still awesome.”
“We’re so lucky here in Vail, where things are better than the rest of the country,” Pletcher said. “It feels safe.”