destination wedding planner during Coronavirus

Let's talk 2020 – what I learned as a destination wedding planner during Coronavirus

2020. What a year, right? Where does one even begin to reflect, or look back on a time that has been (and continues to be) so devastating to so many people around the world? As a South African destination wedding planner, if you’d told me this time last year that our wedding industry (and most industries as a whole) would be forced into a countrywide lockdown caused by an international pandemic, I would have laughed out loud. Surely not, with all those exciting luxury South Africa and Mauritius destination weddings to plan! And yet, by March, COVID-19 had become our reality.

The magnitude of what we’ve all had to experience this year is hard to fathom, and it goes without saying that 2020 has been the most challenging year of both our personal and professional lives. It’s certainly made us confront some harsh realities in both life and business. But it has also brought with it some valuable experiences and insights. As we move back into Level 3 restrictions, that’s what I’ll be taking with me into 2021 and beyond. Here are some of the key lessons I’ve learned as a wedding planner during Coronavirus.

2020 has been the most challenging year of both our personal and professional lives

Find serenity in the chaos

Being in control is what I do. My role as a wedding planner is to try and pre-empt every possible scenario. Create Plan Bs for if Plan A doesn’t happen. Have Plan Cs to pull out of the bag if Plan B goes pear shaped. But this year, my team and I couldn’t do that. We were forced to acknowledge that some things really aren’t in our control, which is hard for us Type-A personalities to accept! 2020 broke us down and built us right back up. It humbled us. And it made us appreciate the true value of what we offer. In the midst of chaos, we learned to find a new kind of calm within ourselves.

You’re more resilient than you think

In the process of this new appreciation, the team also discovered that as a business, Oh Happy Day was far more resilient and adaptable to change than we had realised. So we hustled – big time! We started a side-line business with OHD Everlast. We took on more responsibility. We shifted into new roles. We learned to pivot, and to adapt (quickly!). In many cases, we put the health and happiness of our clients before our own. And, most importantly, through the hardship of this pandemic, we grew UP.

2020 broke us down and built us right back up. It humbled us. And it made us appreciate the true value of what we offer

The resilience of our clients was also something to behold. As plans were changed, flights cancelled, weddings postponed and moved around, and guest lists slashed, our brides and grooms showed tremendous grace under fire. We were there to hold their hands and support every step of their Coronavirus wedding planning, of course. But it has to be said that our OHD couples have been incredible. If this is something you’re facing right now, I’m so sorry. But hang in there – you’re stronger than you know!

Connection is what matters

During the process of this growth, we have also developed a much deeper appreciation of the contribution we can make to those who trust us with their luxury weddings in South Africa and beyond. Personally, it made me realise that what matters most in my job as a wedding planner is connection. A meaningful connection with our clients, with our network of suppliers and creative partners, and with each other as a team. From planning and rescheduling the same South Africa destination weddings (sometimes three or four times over!), to opening our very own dried flower bar, to running webinars that hopefully helped brides all across the country learn to manage their own wedding planning under the dark cloud of Coronavirus… and now to handling a new round of potential postponements and adjustments. I’d say this year has pushed Oh Happy Day to think outside the box when it comes to helping both our clients and followers, and essentially made us better humans.

It made me realise that what matters most in my job as a wedding planner is connection

Teamwork and compassion are everything

This year taught us how to advocate on behalf of both our clients and our vendors in this very uncertain environment, whilst at the same time navigating a new sets of social rules that would change weekly, and staying positive for both our clients and our service providers throughout. As a result, we’ve become so much closer as a team. We’ve learnt the spirit of building up our fellow wedding industry friends, and I like to think that our role within this beautiful industry has become much more meaningful. We’ve also learnt that having a sense of humour is VITAL to surviving a pandemic, as is practicing empathy and understanding to those who fall on either side of the industry coin (bride and service provider alike).

I love my job as a wedding planner

Through all the pain and anxiety that we have felt this year (and there’s been a lot of both!), I am grateful for what these challenges have taught me. There is no doubt that 2020 was a year that redefined us as a business. But one thing remains clear as we move into 2021: Love will Always find a Way.

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Top image by The Shank Tank