Wedding planning has pretty much been the dictionary definition of upheaval over the last year. While the pandemic threw a wrench in everyone’s lives, if you’re one of the unlucky couples who had a wedding planner, or who were in the middle of planning a wedding, when COVID-19 hit, you experienced more of a tornado followed by a tsunami. And pending cleaning up pieces of the wreckage, the only thing to do was wait for the skies to clear again.
If you’re engaged and don’t even want to start thinking about a date until you know that it’s going to happen—we completely understand. Starting to plan for a wedding date that’s to be determined (TBD) can feel overwhelming, to say the least.
But, if you want some concrete, actionable steps to what you can do now, without having a wedding day set, read on. Planning for a wedding that’s TBD is difficult, but you can start doing some simple (and dare we say fun?) tasks such as making a mood board and thinking about dream locations. That way, when it’s safe to get into planning mode for real and organize the details for your wedding day, you’ll be ready and prepared to jump in with two feet.
Don’t let your frustrations with what’s going on in the world stop you from thinking about what your wedding priorities are, urges Karen Bussen, wedding planner, author, and exclusive designer for Weddings by Palladium. “That TBD status, when wedding planning, can be frustrating for couples,” she says. “With everything going on in the world, it can feel like your wedding is just not a priority, or there's no point in planning. But there are great things you can do right now!”
For you, that might mean researching dreamy locales where you can host your destination wedding after it’s safe to travel again. Or, researching the perfect music for your first dance or walk down the aisle. For your partner, it might mean looking up catering menus and deciding on appetizers that you’d love to serve at cocktail hour during your wedding reception.
“It’s important to define your priorities and couple style,” Bussen says. “Start by each making your list of the five things that are most important to you about the wedding—location, music, size of the gathering, food, budget-—whatever it is. Then, compare your lists and decide on your shared three to five most important priorities. This exercise will save you time and trouble all along your planning journey, no matter what your wedding date ends up being.”
She recommends doing the same for your “style” as a couple. She recommends writing down some adjectives that describe how you picture your wedding feeling so that you can work out those little details ahead of time. That might be elegant and luxurious, or a backyard garden party, or BBQ. “This, combined with your priorities, will help you tune out all the extraneous options that will come your way, and let you focus on elements that are most important and most reflect your shared vision,” she says.
We’re all spending more time at home and on our devices than ever before—so now is the perfect time to give some extra love to your mood boards, says Amanda Forman, a wedding planner at Simonelli Studio in Perugia, Italy. “The advice I would provide to couples is to use this time wisely. Often, weddings are rushed, with deadlines that cause stress,” she says. “Take a deep breath and create a mood board (or make several boards for venues, photography, and decor) and rest assured that you will have your big day soon enough.”
Bussen agrees that now is the time to dream big. “Let yourself dream and start a Pinterest board with your inspirations,” she says. “These don't all have to be wedding pictures—anything that expresses the feeling you want will be helpful to you when you do meet with florists, caterers, and other providers.” From the wedding invitations to your dream wedding dress, consider all the important details that contribute to your big day.
Experts are mixed about whether it’s safe to book a venue, photographer, and other vendors when you know the date could change again. But, Amanda Hudes, creator of Smiling Through Chaos, says you might not want to wait too long. “A 2022 or beyond wedding may seem far away, but with so many 2020 weddings having moved to 2021, and thus booking up so many dates, 2022 is closer than you think,” she says. “I would recommend getting started now! Working with a professional planner will allow you to enjoy the process as well, instead of feeling so stressed.” Plus, know that if your wedding plans change, know that you can always send a change the date to notify guests.
On the other hand, Janice Carnevale, owner of Bellwether Events, tells couples it’s fine to just enjoy their engagement while they start to think about what they want in a wedding without actually booking anything. “If you are looking at more than 18 months in advance, I would recommend not making any decisions at all, just enjoy your engagement without any stress,” says Carnevale.“The wedding industry is prolific with its creativity. You are going to see new ideas along the way that you might like better than something that you committed to early on.”
What’s more, with the current uncertainty of the hospitality and restaurant industries, couples may find their first choices aren’t even in business a year from now. All the more reason you may choose to wait it out.
Whether you decide to start putting deposits down or decide to wait a bit longer, be sure to stay on top of venue and vendor policies, cancellation, and change clauses. Ask any potential planner, venue, or vendor that you’re interested in to send you a copy of their policies so that you can make sure that there’s enough flexibility that you’re comfortable with.
Your wedding might seem far away now, but with vaccines on the horizon, that TBD will soon turn into a date that’s set in stone. “Stay hopeful,” Laura Maddox, owner of Magnolia Celebrates, reassures.“With the vaccines coming out, it’s only a matter of time before we have a lot more clarity and certainty and can plan for your dream celebration again.”