How NJ weddings will look in 2021 due to COVID-19
Dance floors are off-limits. Guest counts indoors must be no greater than 150 in many cases. Food and drink service indoors needs to stop by 10 p.m.
The coronavirus pandemic is still killing the classic New Jersey wedding, so couples are getting creative, with the help of the places and people they hire, to ensure their big day actually occurs in 2021.
Wedding venues throughout New Jersey are booked more than usual this year — receptions that had already been booked for 2021 are joined by countless pandemic-impacted celebrations that were originally scheduled for 2020 and had to be moved.
"We were always a venue that's extremely busy on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. But based on pushing weddings from last year, we're also busy on Wednesdays and Thursdays," said Christopher Falzarano, president and owner of David's Country Inn in Hackettstown.
The venue is also busier than it usually would be in the winter months.
Since the first positive cases of the novel coronavirus hit the state in March, David's Country Inn has hosted about 75 weddings of all sizes, Falzarano said. But the typical head count has changed significantly. Weddings that would hold 150 to 200 people are now getting 90 to 110 people together. The venue has also seen a good share of "petite" or "micro" weddings over the past several months.
New Jersey's COVID-19 rules state that indoor wedding ceremonies must be limited to 150 people or 25% of a room's capacity — whichever number is lower. The cap is 10 people at receptions that are held separately from the wedding ceremony. Face coverings are required.
Open bar remains an option — the way you get a drink in hand, however, has been changed, in order to eliminate lines and crowds. Instead, servers are at the ready to deliver guests a new beer, soda or cocktail, Falzarano said.
The pandemic has obviously thrown his industry for a loop, Falzarano said, but when people attend a wedding — even during a public health emergency — it's "business as usual."
"I think it's easy to forget about a pandemic once you step into a room that's filled with love and filled with tradition," he said.
According to Jefra Trumpower, senior creative director at WeddingWire, entertainment is what's changing most drastically at weddings in 2021. Couples in New Jersey are still hiring bands and DJs, she said, but with no dance floor due to the COVID-19 threat, couples are also looking at other options to keep guests entertained.
"Stand-up comedians, or you might have some type of performance by a theatrical group, or maybe a dance group comes in and does a performance," Trumpower said. "If you do have fewer guests but have a similar budget, you can put more money into entertainment for your guests."
In the Northeast, Trumpower said, about 40% of weddings occur in the fall season. She anticipates an influx of bookings for 2021's later months as vaccine distribution expands its reach.
Bookings for outdoor weddings in the warmer months are flowing in for Michelle's Catering. The company in Whippany provides services at venues that don't serve food, or at people's homes. It's learned to master the art of minimizing touch points during the COVID-19 crisis, whether an event's food is plated or buffet style.
"Do I think anything's going to change in the next 90 days for us? No. Come springtime, I've got great expectations," said owner and executive chef Anthony D'Anna.
As of now, outdoor wedding receptions held separately from wedding ceremonies are limited to 25 people, but there is no outdoor gathering limit for outdoor wedding ceremonies.