COVID-19 Information for Current and Prospective Weddings
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused widespread disruption to every aspect of our lives, and the event industry has been severely affected. Here is how Michael Caswell Photography is handling this issue.
Many of my couples with 2020 weddings originally scheduled from mid-March through the end of the year have postponed their events to 2021. Although weddings for the most part have still been able to take place in Louisiana (in some cases with reduced guest counts), for those couples who choose to reschedule, I (like most New Orleans wedding vendors) am being flexible and making accommodations to the best of my ability, by way of offering a penalty-free date change as long as the date selected is one that I am available for.
So, as I have stressed to these couples via direct communication, it is of the utmost importance that they coordinate with me to find a suitable date, and not commit to a new date with their venue before confirming that I am available.
Couples are encouraged to consider non-Saturdays, in order to increase their chances of finding a date on which their venue and all or most of their booked vendors are available, and as a courtesy to these venues and vendors who are struggling with the need to sustain their businesses by booking new weddings while also doing their best to accommodate rescheduled events.
Alternatives to Postponing
Though many couples have chosen to postpone, some (especially those with late 2020 and early 2021 weddings) have chosen to continue with their events, making adaptations as needed. Here's what these couples are doing:
Rather than postponing their wedding, some are instead opting for a reduced guest list to comply with the limits that are currently being imposed on event venues. These limits are typically based a percentage of the space's full capacity, but also with a fixed limit on the maximum number of guests, in order to accommodate proper social distancing practices, along with other guidelines such as having only people of the same household seated together per table.
Small weddings can be a lot of fun! Here's a great example of an intimate wedding with only around 20 guests in attendance. This was in 2018, so it was not downsized as a result of COVID-19, and the small size of the wedding was not the result of financial constraints either (though small in terms of guest count, this was not by any means a low-budget event)... the couple and their families simply wanted to celebrate with a more intimate gathering, but it was a blast to photograph and everyone had a great time! And I've photographed many other fabulous weddings with just 25 - 50 guests.
Ceremony Now, Reception Later
Another popular option, for those who can't bear the thought of waiting any longer to get married (which is certainly understandable) but who also don't want to give up on the big wedding celebration they've dreamed of and put so much work into planning, is a hybrid approach, with a small ceremony (or micro wedding as they have come to be known as) on or near the original date with just immediate family and a few close friends in attendance, and rescheduling the big celebration (including another ceremony with full guest attendance, or just the reception) for next year.
This kind of intimate ceremony can take place almost anywhere, such as a park or a French Quarter courtyard. In some cases, larger wedding venues (which don't normally host very small ceremonies such as these) are willing to accommodate these plans for their clients, so definitely check with your venue to see if this might be an option available to you.
And if your wedding ceremony is planned to take place in a large church, you may actually be able accommodate most or all of your anticipated guest list while still complying with occupancy and spacing restrictions.
Outdoor Wedding = Safer (and Higher Guest Count)
Because guest count limits on outdoor events are usually higher than indoor events, if your wedding is planned to take place outside, it may not be quite as adversely affected. While the restrictions have varied over the months, generally speaking, outdoor events have been able to host double the number of guests compared to indoor events.
If you were planning on an indoor ceremony and/or reception, talk to your venue. Many wedding venues in New Orleans and the surrounding area have wonderful outdoor space available. Even some that are primarily considered to be indoor venues but do have some outdoor space, might be able to adapt to accommodate the move to an all-outdoor wedding to comply with guest limits.
Southern Oaks is a great example of this. Under normal circumstances, all the reception action takes place inside, with their outdoor space serving as lounging areas for guests to mingle and socialize, and while obviously I cannot speak for them, I'd be very surprised if they would not be willing and able to host an entire appropriately-sized reception outside. And many other wedding venues in New Orleans and the surrounding area have usable outdoor space, such as a courtyard, garden/patio area, or a rooftop deck, that they might be able to accommodate your ceremony and reception with.
So give your venue a call and see what they can do!
Throughout most of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of New Orleans has had tighter restrictions on gatherings than the State of Louisiana. For instance, a venue within Orleans Parish might have a limit of 50 guests, but a venue a short distance away in neighboring Jefferson or St. Tammany Parish, subject to the less restrictive State guidelines, might be allowed to host 100-150 guests or more.
Admittedly, this is a difficult topic for me as wedding photographer who shoots frequently in New Orleans, as I know these venues are struggling, and they'd rather their couples either reschedule or work to find a way for the wedding to proceed within the city's restrictions. But if you do decide to move your event to a different venue, I will be there!
For WEDDINGS BEING PLANNED
There is understandably some concern among couples who are planning their wedding for Spring - Fall 2021. Will the situation be improved by then to the point where their event can take place as planned? No one wants to put their lives on hold indefinitely for this, and even though the numbers are clearly moving in the right direction right now, we still have to acknowledge that it's certainly possible that this could last a little longer than expected, and have contingency plans in mind just in case.
Though, again, I am voluntarily accommodating my current couples with penalty-free date changes, as an extra reassurance for couples who are booking me now, I am including a clause in these contracts that specifically spells out this policy.
My COVID-19 Status
Another concern some prospective 2021 couples have had is what would happen if I was ill with COVID-19 at the time their wedding was to take place. If that were to occur, the provisions in our contract specify that I would try to find a substitute photographer, but you would also have the option of receiving a full refund if you chose to find your own replacement.
A routine COVID antibodies test when I donated blood in mid-January 2021 came back positive, which I confirmed a few days later with another test from a different lab. My previous blood donations were in June and late September 2020, which both had negative antibody tests, so apparently I had and recovered from COVID sometime in the Fall or early Winter of 2020, though it was a very mild case as I had no obvious symptoms.
Though there have been a few isolated instances of people being infected a second time, and scientists early in the pandemic stressed that it was uncertain how long the naturally obtained immunity would remain, a more recent study has indicated that scientists now believe this protection remains for at least 5-7 months. On the other hand, there are indications that even people who had been previously infected were at least somewhat susceptible to the mutated strains that are appearing.
Additionally, in March 2021 I received the COVID vaccine, so hopefully between the naturally developed antibodies and the vaccine, I will be protected from possible future infection!