Real info straight from the COVID-19 wedding trenches.
We can give as much wedding-planning-during-a-pandemic advice as we can muster, but sometimes, you just need to hear it from someone who's been in your shoes.
That's why we're interviewing one of our Here Comes The Guide clients, Kelly Soto – Catering / Events Director at Cress Creek Country Club. Her wedding was canceled due to COVID-19, and she has quite the story to share!
She's not just giving us a bride's perspective, but also weighing in as a seasoned wedding pro. She's been in the industry for the past 6 years, and has helped plan over 300 weddings!
We hope you'll not only relate to and be inspired by her story, but also find some useful tips and helpful advice you can put into action for your own wedding planning.
Ready? Here we go...
Bride's Name: Kelly Soto (née Lynch)
Occupation: Catering / Events Director at Cress Creek Country Club
Original Wedding Date: March 21, 2020
Thank you so much for doing this interview, Kelly! To kick things off, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Kelly, and I have been in the wedding industry for 6 years. I've worked at a banquet hall, hotel, and country club – so all types of venues – and have helped plan over 300 weddings!! I'm an avid coffee drinker and wine enthusiast (and a want-to-be sommelier). I have two dogs, Max and Murphy, who are the cutest dogs on the planet in my completely unbiased opinion. I enjoy spending time with loved ones, especially my hubby. Also a lover of all things sports and country music.
Walk us through what happened just before your wedding date, and how COVID-19 affected your plans.
Our wedding was slated for 3/21/20. Bars and restaurants were mandated to close in Illinois starting 3/17. Then the stay-at-home mandate was scheduled to begin 3/21/20 (our wedding day) at 5pm. Our wedding was officially canceled 4 days before the date.
Everything was done, planned, and paid for. All we had to do was show up. 3/21/20 was the exact 5 year anniversary of our first date, so the date itself was very special to us. Plus, everything I bought said "The Sotos, established 3.21.20" (the card box, cocktail napkins, cake knife/server, champagne glasses, etc…).
Still, we were determined to get married, hell or high water. So, we had a small intimate ceremony with family instead. I didn't wear my wedding dress (just another simple white dress), and the only photos / videos we have are from cell phones. It was not at all what I dreamed of.
But I must say, our officiant gave us the most beautiful ceremony. Emotions were already high to begin with, but the fact that we pulled it off within 4 days made the moment so much sweeter. We kept telling ourselves, "This is definitely what they mean by 'for better or for worse, in good times and in bad'..." What a true testament to tackling married life as a team! I can honestly say it was the best day ever, even under the circumstances!
We love that you were able to pivot to an intimate ceremony and still get married! How did you pull it off so quickly?!
Our marriage certificate was only valid in a specific county, which narrowed our options. Thankfully, Shane (my husband) had a coworker who allowed us to utilize his space for our ceremony. So we found a venue. My mom took me to a department store to find me a "new" wedding dress – so I can still have my big reveal at the later party.
Shane's parents and grandmother (our flower grannie) live in Florida – and travel was banned. We had them sign on and virtually watch our wedding! After the ceremony we went back to my parents house and just spent the night laughing at the absolute chaos and disbelief that was our wedding day; but I remember feeling overwhelmed with joy that we pulled it off and I married the man of my dreams.
When we got our marriage certificate (pre-Covid bliss, the good ol' days!)
It's so great that you'll still have a party later to celebrate! Have you rescheduled your "big wedding" to a new date yet?
Being in the industry and seeing the way things are trending with "phases", we're not comfortable rescheduling just yet. This is a personal choice, but I definitely recommend folks rescheduling if they have the means and will to do so! Several changes will have to be made to our original plans. The hardest part will be attempting to keep all of our original vendors. This is proving to be more difficult than I hoped.
But when we do have our big celebration, luckily we can still use everything that says we were "established 3.21.20". So we will have our guests travel back in time to 3.21.20 on our new date. Ha!
What are your top tips for couples who need to postpone their wedding?
- First and foremost, remember why you're postponing. All of your closest family and friends' safety is of the utmost importance. While it's not what you would have hoped for, just imagine how much sweeter your celebration will be when everyone can gather again.
- Embrace being a bride for even longer! The engagement goes so quick and we tend to get so caught up in planning that we don't fully enjoy the engagement.
- Talk to other brides/couples going through the same thing. Our loving family and friends are a great support system, no doubt! But I recently talked to a bride whose wedding was scheduled for a week after mine, and it was so refreshing to have someone to talk to that is experiencing all of this firsthand.
- Remember that this is nothing unlike anyone has experienced – you, your family, your friends, or your vendors. All of us are in this together. No one has the answers of what the next few months looks like, but we will navigate together and come out stronger on the other side.
What was the most difficult/stressful part of this new phase of wedding planning, and how did you handle or overcome it?
Trying to keep all of our original vendors, who we love so much. At first I was so overwhelmed trying to find a date that worked for everyone. Unfortunately, it just isn't feasible. Be OK with having to choose a new vendor.
How did you inform your guests of your change of wedding plans, and what was the overall response?
Before any state mandates were in place, we started reaching out to all of our vendors and guests to make sure they all felt comfortable attending. We also said that we would completely understand if they wanted to stay home rather than attend the wedding. Everyone was completely supportive and understanding, and grateful that we reached out.
When we had to cancel the wedding, we were limited with time, so we sent texts, Facebook messages, and relied on our family members to assist with calling people as well.
How are you staying connected with your wedding party through this? Do you have any fun tips and ideas to share?
We have weekly happy hours where we just catch up with one another – minimal COVID-19 talk. Instead we talk about the TV shows we're watching, the new recipes we're trying, and expressing our gratitude for one another and our health.
My wedding party and friends actually hopped on via Zoom on our wedding day and did a quick speech/cheers from their homes to celebrate with us on our wedding day!!
How wonderful that they celebrated your impromptu intimate wedding with you virtually! Were there other silver linings that day?
To prepare for our "new" ceremony, our officiant asked us each what we love about each other. I said, "What I love about Shane is that he is everything I'm not. He's the patient to my impatient. He's the street smarts to my book smarts. He goes with the flow, I prefer agendas and plans. I'm glass half empty, he's glass half full. We don't try to change each other, but I've definitely learned to become more patient, go with the flow, and look for the best in everything."
During the ceremony my officiant emphasized the "go with the flow over agendas and plans" because here we were…a professional wedding planner going with the flow regarding every detail of the wedding, and looking for the best in a very, very difficult situation. This being pointed out just emphasized how much more meaning our vows had on our wedding day!
What has helped you in terms of managing wedding stress? Any self care tips to share?
- Wine, wine, more wine? LOL. But really, though.
- Stay connected to family and friends on Zoom, Facetime, etc.
- My biggest tip is to go easy on yourself. Sheltering in place is already stressful; adding wedding stress on top of that is difficult. Eating and sleeping habits not at their best? That's OK. Is your home getting a little messier than usual? Also OK. Feel like taking a day to do absolutely nothing and feel all the feels? DO IT! Be kind to yourself and give yourself the space to do—or not do—whatever you need to.
Final message to fellow couples in the COVID-19 planning trenches—both from a bride's perspective and a catering director's perspective?
AS A BRIDE: You are totally allowed to be sad, angry, etc. Don't feel guilty for mourning the loss of your original plan. But also stay hopeful about what's to come. It will be the sweetest celebration.
AS A VENDOR: We're here for you!!! While we may not have all the answers (or a crystal ball), we are here to listen, support, and plan with you!
Featured Wedding Venue | CRESS CREEK COUNTRY CLUB
Okay, how great is Kelly? If you'd love to work with her on your own wedding, consider tying the knot at Cress Creek Country Club in Naperville, IL. She's their Events Director!
Whether you're planning a small, intimate ceremony or a festive reception once gatherings get the green light, no detail is too small for their talented team. You'll also enjoy a number of complimentary amenities, which may include a four-hour open bar package, butler-passed hors d'oeuvres, and an on-site bridal suite!
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Some clients may have paid to be placed in our editorial and some of these links may be affiliate; however, we never include a venue, vendor, or product unless they have a proper place here. This is part of our Core Values. We create our website first and foremost to be good for the couples using it to plan their Big Day. We won't stray from that for a few advertising dollars. #scoutshonor