Events Manager Stacey Kamp shares the challenges of keeping weddings
on track in this season of uncertainty.
With its acres of gardens and photo album-worthy features, it’s no surprise that Marin Art & Garden Center has won many awards as a premier wedding venue. This March, we were still booking 2020 dates with 50 weddings already scheduled for the season, which generally runs from mid-March through November. Then the pandemic hit, California’s shelter in place order came out, and turned the wedding business upside down.
As the Events Manager it is my job to work with everyone who has an event planned at MAGC to determine the best course of action at this time. In my 30 years working in the events business and 7 years at MAGC, I could never have imagined anything like this pandemic. There are so many unknowns in this situation. The biggest question is when will it be safe to have an event? And then, how will the event need to be different?
Our approach to all this uncertainty is to be as flexible as possible to make sure all our couples have options. I have rescheduled 20 events and cancelled 7. No two situations are the same, and the decision whether to find a new date or to cancel the event altogether has to be weighed by each couple for themselves.
My first cancellation was for an April date with a couple who lived in Seattle and had family and friends flying from all over the world. There was just no way for them to have their wedding safely, and for them, getting married was the highest priority. So they eloped in Seattle with a plan for a larger celebration at a later date.
Wherever possible, though, we have been working to reschedule dates so that couples can still have their dream wedding at Marin Art & Garden Center, just at a later date. The county shelter in place order goes until May 31, but the resumption of larger gatherings is still very much unknown.
A wedding is unlike any other event in that planning usually begins at least 12 months prior to the big day. Once you book the venue, you also need a caterer, photographer, coordinator, DJ, florist, cake or dessert, and videographer. At this point in the year, these vendors have been booked and couples need to work out arrangements with each one again. Luckily, our list of nine approved caterers are reliable partners who are all jumping in and working with me to find new dates. All of the vendors I have connected with during this time have agreed that our main concern right now is to make sure these couples can still have the wedding they hoped for.
At this time, having a big expensive event doesn’t have the same appeal, and couples have been looking for ways to cut costs while still having a gorgeous wedding. Some couples have reduced their guest count drastically and moved the wedding from our large Livermore Pavilion to the smaller Garden Room, which feels more in keeping with the current mood.
A spring wedding that gets rescheduled to October will not look the same, but there are plenty
of advantages to the switch. While most couples envision a spring event with the flowers in bloom, they will find new beauty in the fall colors. I also always point out that the farther away you get from the summer solstice, the more romantic twinkle light time you get, and when it gets dark earlier there is more time for dancing since no one seems to enjoy dancing in daylight.
It’s a stressful time not only for the families whose events are affected, but for our events team as well. We are all looking forward to the time when couples can again consider the seating chart as their biggest wedding day challenge, and we’ll raise a toast to that.