The New Normal for Wedding Planning

How to plan for your special day in the age of a pandemic


By Giselle Smith
Photos by Laura Bodnar Photography


If you’ve just gotten engaged and are wondering where to start with planning a wedding in the current state of the world, we’ve got you covered on who should be by your side, what to spend and when and where to get hitched. 

Who to Invite

With safety and government mandates in mind, keeping your guest count small is the easiest route. What’s not easy? Deciding who to invite. Typically a rule of thumb is not to invite anyone you haven’t shared a meal with within the year, but that may even be too many at this point. Immediate family and the bridal party, plus their dates, are a given. Not all aunts, uncles, cousins, college buddies and coworkers must be considered. For years, we’ve suggested couples invite fewer guests when their wedding dreams outweigh their budget. One of the only positive impacts of the pandemic is that we are seeing smaller guest counts resulting in wedding days devised of pure magic. While you may be limited to fifty, a hundred or even twenty-five guests, look at this as an opportunity to elevate your own experience and that of those in attendance. Maybe this means a nicer meal, a higher-end photographer you thought you could never afford or the floral installation of your dreams that seemingly fell out of the pages of a magazine. 

What to Spend

Setting a budget is always a touchy subject. First, you’ll need to determine how much you can set aside in the desired time frame yourselves and then touch base with both sets of parents to see what they’re able and/or willing to contribute. It is best to be direct and ask for a set dollar amount. After you know how much you can spend, you can determine how much to spend on each element of your day. We like to divide the elements up into percentages and calculate from there. We assign a percentage to each element based on average weddings and multiply that by your overall budget. Percentages will vary for each couple based on their priorities, but here is an example: 

Ceremony & Reception Venues 17%
Photography 18%
Planning / Coordination 8%
Wedding Flowers 10%
Catering 12%
Cake 2%
Alcohol 6%
Rentals & Decor 7%
Bridal Gown 5%
Groom’s Attire 2%
Officiant 2%
Entertainment 5%
Stationery 2%
Wedding Day Hair & Makeup 4%

This percentage scale does not include additional events such as a rehearsal dinner, a welcome dinner, a bridal brunch, showers, etc., and fun things like lounge areas or photo booths are nice, but they are not must-haves and are not included in this basic budget outline. The same goes for tips, gifts and favors, as what you spend can vary greatly.

Be sure to sit down with your fiancé and family to set limits everyone is comfortable with. Gourmet appetizers, petite desserts, fabulous paper products and signage, china/flatware/glassware to make your tables pop, dramatic lighting and to-die-for floral installations are all items your guests are sure to notice. Trusting the talents of your vendors will pay off and make what your budget buys look like a million bucks.


When & Where to Get Married

Setting a date just got a lot more interesting. Previously, couples weighed wedding season vs. off-season, Saturday vs. Friday or Sunday dates and venue availability. Wedding season in Kentucky runs April through October and off-season months are those with colder temps. Choosing a warmer, less rainy season makes more sense now than ever as outdoor, alfresco events have been deemed most safe and most flexible for capacity. Saturday is still the most desirable day to get married, but with so many weddings rescheduled to 2021, even Fridays and Sundays are filled at prime venues. Couples are faced with forgoing the venue of their dreams, booking into 2022 or choosing a weekday to say “I do.” Don’t rule out a Thursday evening event in the summer. Everyone loves a long weekend, and with smaller guest lists made up of your closest friends and family, asking attendees to take off Thursday and Friday is not a deal-breaker.

Once you’ve selected a date or season and set a budget, you can start looking at wedding venues. Kentucky is full to the brim with enchanting venues from historic homes and bourbon distilleries to luxe rustic horse farms and romantic hotel ballrooms. Restaurants and museums also double as event venues. This is one of the areas that hiring an experienced wedding planner can be a make or break. A wedding planner worth their salt will have the time to research and ample knowledge about venues that you don’t. Mandates and restrictions are ever-evolving in the new normal, so you want a planner with great relationships with venues and who will shoot you straight on the level of flexibility to expect if your date must shift. Style and capacity are ever-important, but thinking of percentage-based attendance restrictions is new. Outdoor spaces offer more room assuming you can always increase tent size and the bigger the better as far as indoor spaces go. Although, venue capacity doesn’t matter with capped headcounts such as the 25-attendee limit instituted for weddings in late November. Reading your contracts thoroughly is a must to know what to expect if restrictions are in place at the time of your wedding. 

None of us know what 2021 and beyond in the world of wedding planning holds due to the pandemic; however, I hope you’ve found my insight of tips and tricks helpful for planning your special day. Just remember, if you stick to what is most important to you and your fiance, no matter what you choose will create the perfect and magical day you will always remember.





Photography: Laura Bodnar Photography
Venue: Oxmoor Farm, Louisville, KY
Videography: The Hon Collective
Design & Planning: Goldenrod + Glory
Floral Design: Lovely Leaves
Rentals: Bryants Rent-All & La Tavola
Stationery: Studio W Designs
Bridal Gown: Twirl Lexington
Bridal Shoes: Manolo Blahnik
Men’s Wear: The Black Tux
Groom Shoes: Christian Louboutin
Ring Box: The Mrs. Box
Hair: Hair by Maddie Woff
Makeup: Color in the Ville