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Love In the Time of Covid

bride and groom

Covid-19, No Big Deal, right?

It’s hard to believe COVID-19 happened 9 months ago. At least, it happened 9 months ago for me and lots of people who’d hired me to play guitar at their weddings. Before that, COVID was just something I’d heard about in the background–my wife talking about it, seeing it hinted at on Facebook or whatever. What was the big deal? I wondered. After all, I’d been through SARS, the Bird Flu, the Swine Flu, Ebola (I mean, not personally, luckily!). I just knew it was going to be another thing you hear about in the media and eventually blows over. What was so special about COVID? Nothing, right?

¯_(ツ)_/¯

It only hit home when I had three corporate events and a wedding canceled in one week. Ouch?

Okay, so this is a thing. At least, big corporations, with their liability and whatnot, were certainly taking it seriously. They didn’t want to get sued. But again, while losing a couple weeks’ worth of income was hard, it felt more like a temporary hit, rather than something big. It’s still not a big deal, he said hopefully.

The reality of COVID only hit home for me, personally, mid-March. My colleague and friend, Ray Grace, an exceptional DJ in our wedding and event industry, had invited me to a Spring Training baseball game, knowing I had some unexpected free time. Well, in good spirits, we drove up to Salt River Fields.

Only to find it unexpectedly empty.

We ran into some people in the parking lot, and they informed us the game had been canceled. This was the same day the NBA games were being canceled. COVID was starting to feel a lot more real. I mean, it’s one thing to cancel a few corporate mixers or little convention events in Phoenix, quite another when Major League Baseball was going away.

Live Music at a Pandemic Wedding?

As you can imagine, things went from bad to worse for this guy who plays Spanish guitar at weddings. Gigs fell like dominos. Not to mention, the corporate events that were scheduled just evaporated like a puddle in the hot Arizona summer.

Me at a covid wedding, wearing a mask

All my gigs got canceled. I found myself, suddenly, with a lot of spare time on my hand and no money. Suspecting guitar as a job wouldn’t be coming back any time soon, I dove into coding, learned front end development, and started making websites for people.

But when I said all my gigs, that’s not entirely accurate. All of my corporate gigs went away. All of my steady gigs were immediately canceled. But a few people wanted to still have me play at their small weddings.

So we finally get to the topic of this blog post: Weddings in the time of COVID-19.

Perhaps unexpectedly, this was still a thing. Some people still wanted to go forward with their plans. Some families and friends were still willing to go to the weddings.

So during the last three quarters of 2020, I was fortunate to end up performing at a few weddings a month. These weddings tended to be smaller ones, for purposes of practicality as well as purposes of legality.

Despite my unease at going out during a pandemic, and the knowledge that it was increasing my chance of getting sick, it continued to be an honor to perform at weddings and helping make them special and magical events for my clients. And perhaps some of the things I observed can be of use for people who want to hold weddings going forward in 2021.

What Will Post-Covid Weddings Look Like?

Keeping in mind that this is the guy who didn’t realize COVID was really a thing until his baseball game got cancelled, I can describe some of the weddings I did participate in.

The first thing is that vendors wear masks (a vendor is someone who works at the wedding, as opposed to a guest). As you can see by my picture above at a backyard wedding in beautiful North Scottsdale, I am masked up. Other vendors at that wedding were servers, chefs, and bartenders from one of our finest caterers, M Catering by Michael DeMaria (no relation).

Everyone was masked up.

However, what I have observed is that very few, if any guests, will do so. There may be one or two people, usually older folks who might be sick or have compromised immune systems, who wear masks. Everyone else has been maskless. So you have the servers and musicians and other vendors in masks, and the guests without.

This has been a consistent pattern over many weddings. Not having gone to any social engagements of my own since the infamous baseball game, I can’t precisely explain this. Granted, wearing a mask does make conversation more difficult and inconvenient. Granted, you do have to take it off to eat or drink, a very common activity at weddings. Perhaps since these are smaller events, made of close friends and family, it is thought that it’s unlikely that the virus will spread.

One thing is that I initially was afraid clients would look askance at me for masking up, since they weren’t doing so, but this never happened. I did have a few clients assure me that it was fine if I didn’t wear my mask, but none made me feel uncomfortable for continuing to do so. It seemed that adopting the pattern of vendor=mask, client=no-mask, simply occurred very quickly in our society, so I didn’t stand out like a bank robber with a guitar.

The weddings tended to be small, of course–I think there was a limit of 50 people at certain times. Perhaps they were cut back in other ways, but none that I noticed. I specialize in playing for small weddings, as I can handle the ceremony, cocktail hour, and even dinner myself, so I am completely comfortable in that scenario. Sometimes there was a DJ + dancing after me, but often not. Some of my events were moved to backyards because the events had canceled. Another common thing was the wedding being re-planned, reimagined as a more intimate event.

Safety at a Post-Pandemic Wedding

Being just the guitarist, I am thankful not to have to worry too much about this. When I perform, I wear my mask. I ask to be positioned six feet or more (more is better) from the clients and guests. That’s partly because it’s safer, but this is always a good practice since I play amplified. You don’t want a speaker right up near someone’s head. They’ll either be very uncomfortable and half-deaf in one ear, or more commonly, I’ll end up turning my amp down and so fewer people will be able to hear the music.

Micro Weddings

While it is to some extent a legal and practical matter, having a micro wedding is one way to go forward. Cut down the guest list, pare down the services you hire, and revision your wedding as an intimate event rather than an extravaganza. While it’s not for everyone, I specialize in small weddings and enjoy playing for them. Even if they are not as grandiose and impressive, they make up for that twofold in good vibes, access to the couple, and depth of interactions. There will also be less chance of spreading or getting an infection due to simple math.

The Great Outdoors

Being outside is a great idea. I mean, most events in Arizona are held outside anyway during the season, since it’s a mild paradise in the winter (at least compared to visitors from the snowy regions like the Midwest or Northeast), but being outside makes it much harder for germs to spread. Make sure to plan for heaters for your guests and (much appreciated) your musicians, if it’s going to get in the 60s or below. It’s hard to play guitar with frozen fingers!

Setting up chairs and tables with more distance from each other is a great idea, although logistically, it’s hard to manage: the weddings I attended had the same physical setup.

covid bracelets

To be honest, I haven’t seen much social distancing from my clients. I think that once people get together, see their friends and family, and maybe get a bit o’ champagne in them, that it mostly goes out the window.

But I did think this setup was nice: colored bracelets to show your social distancing preferences. Green means we can do high-fives, yellow just talking, red means I’d like to keep my distance.

This beautiful wedding with the very considerate bracelets at the Royal Palms was planned by Rachelle at Outstanding Occasions.

I kind of wish these bracelets were normalized in general!

Safe Vendors

I probably don’t need to mention this, because, as I’ve said, pretty much all the vendors I’ve seen have been good about this. With the exception of one or two people who didn’t wear their masks correctly (nose out, really?), all the vendors I’ve worked with have masked up.

Still, if you’re going to have a wedding, it’s best to remind your vendors to be safe. A little communication in advance can help avoid misunderstandings.

It goes without saying that people who are more established in the business will be more likely to have effective, industry-approved, and client-friendly policies in place. For example, the people I’ve mentioned in the post are all established, trustworthy pros who’ve built up their skills over years of experience and have the reviews to prove it.

Get Married Safely

I honestly don’t know what weddings will look like, going forward. Will the vaccine solve all our problems and we can stop going around looking like bank robbers? Will guests be able and willing to travel here to sunny AZ to celebrate their loved ones’ weddings? Will the economy rebound and allow people to throw the kinds of parties they want to?

As I write this in the very beginning of the New Year, I’ll raise a cup to hoping it’s so!

If you have decided to plan a wedding here in 2021 and need Spanish guitar music for your ceremony, cocktail hour, or reception, get in touch. I’d love to talk to you.

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