How Planning Big Events Will Change Permanently After COVID-19

Bride and groom in the altar.
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Due to government-imposed restrictions as well as a concern for guest safety, many people canceled, postponed or downsized their major events amid the pandemic. And while the coronavirus has certainly changed how people planned weddings and other big events in 2020, it remains to be seen how many of these changes will be permanent.

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GOBankingRates spoke to event planners, vendors and wedding experts to get their take on what big events will look like in a post-COVID-19 world. Here’s what you should keep in mind if you are planning an upcoming event.

Zoom Attendance Will Remain an Option for Out-of-Town Guests

Attending weddings and other big events can be expensive. According to The Knot, the average cost to attend a wedding from out-of-town is $600 for those who drive and $1,440 for those who fly. Fortunately, guests who want to attend but may not have the means to (or who simply don’t want to spend the money) may now be able to attend weddings and other events via Zoom and other live-streaming platforms, a trend that became popular during the pandemic.

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“Virtual streaming is a wonderful option that couples can continue to offer to their guests who are not able to join them on their wedding day,” said Kelley Nudo, assistant at Momental Designs, which creates custom wedding invitations. “Guests will have a variety of reasons why they are not able to attend, but regardless, live streaming the wedding can still help them feel present even if they are not able to physically attend. Especially couples who choose destination weddings where some guests are less likely to attend, live streaming can transport them without having to leave the comfort of their homes. Live streaming is fairly easy to set up and oftentimes no cost, so it will most likely be an element of wedding planning that is here to stay.”

The Buffet Will Remain a Thing of the Past

Even when it’s safe to return to buffet-style dining, guests may not feel comfortable doing so.

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“Buffet-style food presentation for appetizers, the main meal and even desserts was once commonplace; having gone through a pandemic, it might be quite a while until everyone feels comfortable with this type of food presentation,” Nudo said. “Many will still opt for individual portions served or packaged for each guest.”

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This is good news for those who want to keep costs down for their future big events. According to Brides.com, “A plated sit-down dinner can be quite cost-effective because you essentially can control the price. In terms of food costs and rentals, a plated dinner typically costs less than a family-style or buffet meal because you don’t need to have as much food (in terms of sheer quantity and variety), but the service costs tend to be a bit higher.”

Guest Lists Could Remain Permanently Smaller

Most event planning professionals seem to agree that “micro weddings” and other super-small gatherings won’t be popular once it’s safe to come together in larger groups, but event hosts may be more selective about guest lists going forward.

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“I think we’ll find that many couples will continue to see value in trimming guest lists in favor of being able to allocate funds to other areas that will make a bigger impact than having a large guest list would,” said Mara Mazdzer, founder of Fuse Weddings and Events. “We’ve seen events with smaller guest lists upgrade floral and decor budgets, amplify their food and beverage menus, and add previously cut elements back into the design because the smaller guest budget list allows for it.”

People Will Be More Hesitant To Sign on the Dotted Line

Engaged couples and others who booked large events for 2020 may have had to cancel or postpone their celebrations due to local restrictions. And on top of this disappointment, many lost large deposits made to venues and vendors.

“Losing thousands of dollars in postponement fees or lost retainers, especially by those who didn’t have a planner advocating for them, was the norm,” said Nora Sheils, co-founder of the event contract platform Rock Paper Coin.

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She believes that going forward, people will read their contracts with venues and vendors much more carefully to mitigate these risks.

“Couples will pay much closer attention to their contracts than they did prior to the pandemic,” Sheils said. “Before, most were just so excited to plan their wedding that they signed on the dotted line without paying attention to the fine print.”

Amped-Up Sanitation Procedures Will Remain the Norm

“The sanitation procedures put into place will remain in effect,” said Greg Jenkins, partner at the event planning company Bravo Productions. “We have all become accustomed to seeing high-touch areas and surfaces frequently disinfected, contactless forms of payment and registration, etc. We recognize there is no returning back to any perceived notions of unsanitary conditions. Venues, restaurants, hotels and convention centers will be expected to maintain these standards.”

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Jenkins also believes that hand sanitizer stations at venues and personal hand sanitizer bottles for guests will be the norm. All of these sanitation extras will add to the costs of hosting an event.

“Wedding and event costs will increase to accommodate the changes required by experiencing the ‘new normal’ due to the pandemic,” Jenkins said.

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Last updated: March 10, 2021

About the Author

Gabrielle joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with her a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Before joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People Magazine and People.com. Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” as a celebrity news expert. 

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