The light at the end of the tunnel gets nearer each week and, soon enough, the industry will be back to its old ways.
Well, kind of.
Although we’re all ready to get back to “normal,” it’s important to recognize that we won’t be returning to a pre-pandemic industry. Event professionals and clients alike will be grappling with the effects of COVID-19 for some time.
With over a year of event postponements and cancellations, the industry was traumatized by the pandemic. There’s no doubt that we’ll get through recovery collectively, but it’s not going to be tomorrow—or even this year.
We spoke to event professionals to see what they expected from their clients’ mindsets after months of mask mandates, quarantining, and social distancing from friends and family. Here’s what they suggest to prepare for in terms of client expectations.
It’s finally party time.
People miss spending time with their loved ones and, as we approach a post-pandemic environment, there’s no better way to make up for lost time than with in-person celebrations. Kristin Wilson, CEO of Our DJ Rocks, shares that her clients are ready to let loose: “We’re seeing extra excitement in the post-COVID world of weddings.”
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Wilson continues: “Couples are even more ready to plan a celebration, which we find leads them to add on all the enhancements and special effects to their entertainment packages such as drummers, cold spark machines, dancing on a cloud, and more. Today’s couples are looking forward to celebrating with all of their loved ones and they want to make it an affair to remember!”
All the love without the worry.
Although people are ready to party with their loved ones again, there is still a need to take health and safety precautions seriously. Even when the risk is at bay, guests (and even couples) may still feel concerned about crowded spaces and high-touch areas.
“We're seeing couples put more of a priority on the elements of their wedding that can make an experiential impact but not feel unsafe in a post-COVID world,” explains Kristy Rice, owner of Momental Designs. “For example, generous gifting, elaborate stationery, and elaborate menus that are being replaced with classic choices, like plated meals. A full dance floor with large budgets for entertainment is being replaced by mindful at-the-table gifting presentations.”
Less stress, more meaningfulness.
Couples have realized that there are far worse things than a mismatched color pairing or a missing seat at a guest table. In a post-pandemic world, these are hardly worthy of worrying about, so they are focusing on the beauty of a wedding instead.
Nora Sheils, founder of Bridal Bliss and co-founder of Rock Paper Coin, reveals: “Couples are focused on their marriage and the guest experience, above all. They want to make it memorable for those that are traveling and those that are venturing out of the quarantine world. They are sweating the small stuff less and less and prefer to spend their efforts on wow factors or details that enhance the all-around guest experience. They are relying on their chosen professionals and giving them creative freedom, which we all know leads to great things.”
A deeper need for guidance.
Many couples will likely feel lost about planning a wedding with recent memories of the pandemic. After all, this is the first time in modern history that we faced such challenges collectively. As a result, couples will look to the professionals for help and advice.
“One of the largest and most important aspects wedding pros need to keep at the top of the must-do list for 2021 and beyond is understanding the importance of their voice in guiding couples through this ever-changing landscape of planning,” encourages Renee Miner, owner of Empyrean Events. “It is our responsibility to provide the path forward for our clients.”
Expect some hesitation.
Opinions and reactions to COVID-19 have varied throughout the pandemic and will continue to be different even when we’ve returned to business as usual. The collective trauma we’ve faced over the past year-plus doesn’t go away overnight, so approach all clients with patience and kindness.
Leah Weinberg, owner and creative director of Color Pop Events, suggests being prepared for confusion, worry, and concern: “Some couples are super confident that COVID will be a thing of the past and we won't even be talking about it anymore. Others are super paranoid and being more cautious during vendor contract negotiations when it comes to the size of retainers, payment schedules, and contract terms.
Weinberg adds: “Wedding pros need to realize that, even if clients with upcoming weddings haven't had to postpone before, there's a high probability they've been emotionally impacted by watching what so many other couples have gone through in rescheduling or canceling their weddings. So, it's natural that there may be a little hesitation and a little fear there.”
Transparency is a must.
If there’s one thing the pandemic taught us, it’s that open communication is vital to a strong working relationship. Jen Ganson, owner and lead planner for A Fresh Event, urges people to stay cautious and remain open and honest about the situation: “Re-entering the post-COVID world should be done cautiously and with an emphasis on transparency and clarity with your clients on what they can expect moving forward.”
Ganson elaborates, stating that this expectation isn’t going away soon: “This practice should remain in place for the foreseeable future—we never thought we’d ever experience an event like COVID, and it’s taught us that it’s important for vendors and couples alike to understand the risks involved with planning large-scale events taking place a year or two in the future.”
No matter how you feel about returning to full capacity in a post-COVID landscape, understand that your clients may or may not share your sentiments. They may be more gung-ho or they may be more tentative. Either way, you’ll need to find a balanced approach that maintains a safe and welcoming environment without losing any of the fun and excitement for brighter times ahead.