By Christen A. Johnson Chicago Tribune
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Event planner Lori Stephenson has a few suggestions to avoid canceling the big day. One suggestion is to turn a family style meal (at the reception) into a plated meal so guests aren't passing things between each other. Another tip is to add hand sanitizer stations for guests.
For most engaged couples, rain and no-shows are usually among the biggest concerns for a wedding day. But this year, the coronavirus is making soon-to-be newlyweds take caution like never before.
Megan McCann and her fiance, Mike Hynes, are planning a honeymoon to Greece after their April 18 wedding in Chicago. They have every intention of going on their trip, McCann said, unless the coronavirus escalates.
"We're being reasonably cautious," McCann said. "Our concerns aren't (if we'll get sick), but might we go there and they shut down transit or the museums in Athens, or will we be able to get back into the country afterward."
While the couple does have travel insurance, the decision to not go because of fear is not covered, explained McCann. They're just hoping it all goes as planned.
"We're trying to look at the positives, like maybe our international flight will be less crowded," joked McCann. "We're being as responsible as we can: packing hand sanitizer, bringing wipes and trying to avoid anyone who appears to be sick. We're hoping the islands are a little more insulated than the mainland of Greece."
Lori Stephenson, owner and principal of LOLA Event Productions in Chicago, says her team hasn't had any couples cancel or postpone weddings, and they're still getting bookings for next year.
"People are more likely to take a chance on attending an emotional event rather than taking a chance on a business conference," said Stephenson.
If a couple is getting married this year, Stephenson and her team are offering new advice.
Couples should acknowledge the potential concerns on their wedding website, and articulate what they're going to do as hosts to make sure everyone is safe and happy, said Stephenson.
"Make that family style meal (at the reception) into a plated meal so guests aren't passing things between each other," suggested Stephenson, who said having extras, like hand sanitizer stations, will help guests "feel and see that it's being addressed and they're not worried about contamination."
McCann bought 175 individual hand sanitizers as her wedding favor, she said.
"We're thinking of all the ways to protect ourselves and our guests," said McCann, who might also put signs in the bathroom that have song lyrics to sing while guests wash their hands.
Stephenson also told couples to make sure they're aware of their vendors' emergency protocols.
"We can't change our lives, but this is one of those places where you need a back up," said Stephenson. "As a team, we have a backup person assigned to every single event if someone is traveling."
Jordan Kagan is planning to get married March 22, and while he and his fiancee, Debbie Steinberg, aren't worried about their own health, they are concerned for their older family members traveling for the event.
"We're not necessarily changing our plans, but we definitely have family members that are older," said Kagan, noting that he and Steinberg have relatives who have been recently hospitalized and others with "compromised immune systems."
The couple have guests traveling to Chicago from both coasts, Kagan said, but none have canceled because of coronavirus.
Livestreaming the wedding ceremony and parts of the reception can be helpful for guests in the high risk category, Stephenson said.
"Getting creative about how to include people from far away is worth time and energy," she said.
Steinberg is an educator and can't miss school, so she and Kagan won't be taking a honeymoon immediately. In July, they plan to go to Atlanta for a conference, and hope to use that as a "little bit of a honeymoon," said Kagan, if it still happens.
"There are some concerns if that convention is going to happen," said Kagan, who's trying to keep everything "in proper perspective" and not "get freaked out."
McCann said she hasn't heard anything from her vendors that would keep her from moving forward.
"We're keeping our eye on Greece," she said. ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.