Master Chef Tom Colicchio was on NPR’s “Fresh Air” speaking about the hospitality industry post-Coronavirus and he said something profound about his own wedding.  It was scheduled four days after 9/11, on Martha’s Vineyard, but his restaurant world had been turned upside down.  He remembered the inscription inside his wedding ring — “Don’t postpone Joy”.  They went ahead with their wedding anyway. 

For all the worried couples who’ve either had to postpone or are thinking about cancelling, you should know that we in the hospitality business are really good at getting through crises.  Seriously good, from literally putting out fires to moving wedding venues for hundreds of guests with 24-hour notice (Hurricanes Irene and Sandy). 


With some of our couples booked in tight indoor spaces, we see a limiting of the number of guests, so a wedding that had been planned for 250 guests might go down to 150 or fewer.  For couples who just cannot cut back, think Big Fat Greek Wedding, we suggest moving the whole shebang to a venue with lots of outdoor space or going upstate to Westchester, the beautiful Hudson Valley or out East to Long Island.  

Large lawns with scenic views become ideal for ceremonies with seats placed farther apart.  Imagine a Gatsby-esque garden party setting with guests roaming during cocktails and then seated at long well-spaced tables during dinner.  We are working with numerous vineyards, farms, and mansions to help couples’ transition from a city wedding to a more bucolic (and safer) country setting.


We anticipate that guest counts will go way down and some important family and friends who are at high risk for contracting the coronavirus will not be able to attend.  For nearby guests we plan to prepare and deliver beautifully packaged meals with a selection of items from the wedding menu, along with reheating instructions.  We can even include wedding cake or a cupcake version of the same. This way house-bound guests can join in with the eating as well as the virtual toasting and other festivities (more on that in a minute).  We can include a bottle of bubbly too, of course. This way those beloved grandparents and favorite aunties will feel a part of the entire evening.


With fewer guests expected to travel in the next many months, that does not mean they cannot still participate virtually.  We are working with an audio-visual company to have projector screens and on-line access for guests to participate virtually. Guests can dial-in and even do a reading or give a speech remotely. 


Our staff will wear masks and we are partnering with a company that makes color-coordinated masks. The staff can wear masks that match their uniforms; the guests can have colors that go with the couple’s decor palate.  While wearing black masks may feel too much like being in The Matrix, black could be part of an overall vibe of “cool and edgy”.  Alternately, providing colorful masks might work better for the staff and the guests.  Keep in mind that social distancing sanctions may be curtailed or lessened, so the mask decision is one that can change up until fairly close to the wedding. However, these custom-made lace masks would have to be ordered far enough in advance for the bride and bridal party.  A lot of brides are posting their masked weddings online and it will become part of the history they tell their grandchildren one day, about marrying during the pandemic of 2020. 


Bartleby & Sage have ordered Braun lazar thermometers to do contactless temperature checks of staff and guests.  As progress on Covid-19 testing is moving forward daily, we anticipate a time in the not-too-distant future when we can test all of our staff for the virus and antibodies, to be sure our crew are safe to serve guests, possibly without masks and gloves.  In the meantime, we may also go back to white glove service which aligns nicely with an elegant 1920’s themed wedding.  


We will have sanitizer stations throughout.  Our scullery team will also be immediately spraying down metal surfaces such as door handles, faucets, and facilities.   At all of the venues where we cater, we will go over the cleaning protocol to be certain the venue’s management is following best practices.  We shut down and deep clean our kitchens every evening and expect the venues to follow the same sanitizing procedures.  

Clear, safe, sage steps to having a wedding post pandemic allows us all to breath a sign of cautious relief.   As information changes daily, please stay in touch with your wedding vendors and do not feel compelled to make a decision that you aren’t yet ready to make.  There will be great venues and vendors available, whatever you decide. 

Yes, we are in extremely stressful times, but with these guidelines and suggestions your wedding can still be the magical day you imagined.  Don’t postpone Joy.  We need it now more than ever.  

Tips for planning a wedding during Covid-19 and social distancing.

by Leslie Levin Nilsson, Founder and Creative Director, Bartleby and Sage