Needless to say, the wedding & events industry has been forever changed by the impact of COVID. However, now that events are back on the table, it's evident that not every shift has been for the worse. Industry pros have learned a lot, and I would wager to say that our communication has been made more effective because of it – particularly with clients.
With the extra care and caution that couples received in the midst of cancellations and postponements, it's safe to say that expectations have changed, and rightfully so. We rounded up some wedding pros in the industry to share their thoughts on the evolution of service post-COVID.
In short, everything's changed. Health and safety precautions are top priority in ways we've never seen before 2020, and the bar will only continue to be set high in that aspect. Navigating social distancing guidelines and unique wedding setups also aren't going anywhere anytime soon. Couples have set a precedent, and needs will become non-negotiables.
Laura Maddox, owner of Magnolia Celebrates, says, "I have found that clients are expecting higher levels of service in light of COVID - whether it is shortened response times, more bartenders, chef-attended stations, etc. People have become accustomed to these COVID-era necessities and do not want to give them up post-COVID."
Jen Avey, VP of marketing for Destination Weddings Travel Group, adds: "More than ever, clients having destination weddings are expecting top-notch professionalism and expertise from their vendors, especially their travel consultants and wedding planners. They want to make sure they have all of the important information upfront when it comes to state-by-state or country-by-country travel guidelines and restrictions. They expect their travel agent to have the most up-to-date information and be extra communicative when it comes to these important details - not just with them but with their guests, too. And with travel guidelines changing so often, they expect answers faster than ever, so they don't need to be stressed about missing an important announcement that would impact their wedding plans."
Predictions for 2021 and beyond
Although vaccinations have grown to be widely available in recent months, that isn't to say that things will go back to how they once were in terms of wedding planning. Couples want elevated, more personalized experiences, especially after waiting so long to celebrate with loved ones.
According to Shannon Tarrant, owner of WeddingVenueMap.com, "With the stress that comes along with planning a wedding, there is a shift of engaged couples looking for vendors who offer more services, including venues that offer all-inclusive packages. They want that one-stop-shop that can guide them into a team of wedding pros that are tried and true."
Meredith Reed, account manager of Ace Party and Tent Rental, predicts, "The prediction for 2021 in events will be open-air and big spaces. Making guests feel comfortable and safe is going to be a priority moving forward, as it should be. Cleaning protocols and making sure there is enough space is going to be key in planning any event for the future."
Examples of unreasonable expectations
As any wedding pro will tell you, there are bound to be a handful of clients with unreasonable expectations – whether they're well-meaning or not. It's important to avoid overextending yourself, and you should keep a careful eye out for those that may be asking too much.
For Nora Sheils, founder of Bridal Bliss and co-founder of Rock Paper Coin, this begins and ends with effective communication. "Communication is one of the biggest unreasonable expectations clients have today. Expecting an immediate response to an inquiry or a question is not fair to anyone, and in this day, when pros are working day and night to fill it all in, it's nearly impossible. It's helpful to be very clear with clients upon booking [regarding] what to expect in working with you - your availability, your mode of communication (i.e., don't text me after 6 pm!), and how quickly they can expect to hear back. If you lay it all out for them upfront, you are setting yourself up for success."
By nature, those of us in special events are resilient and adaptable, but it's okay to treat this as a learning curve. Listen to your couples, but make sure that your expectations are heard as well. The transition back to work (as we knew it) will be much smoother sailing as a result!
Lead photo courtesy ©2020 JAGstudios :: Jacklyn Greenberg