Planning a simcha in a pandemic… meltdowns and magic

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Planning a simcha is stress inducing at the best of times, but add Corona into the mix, and you get a pretty mind blowing combination.

Bridezillas existed way before Corona, but the ups and downs of planning a simcha during a time of lockdowns, international travel restrictions, health concerns and constantly changing legal regulations, can push even the most level headed amongst us to sleepless nights and the occasional meltdown.

As an event planner in Israel, I wanted to share some of the lessons that I have learned during this period, so that hopefully those of you currently planning smachot will have an easier time going through the process.

1. Breathe and let go
You had your dream event planned – the beautiful venue, trucks full of flowers, guests flying over from abroad, and then Corona came. It is totally heartbreaking, but as soon as you accept that the original plan can’t go ahead, it becomes much easier to work on Plan B. Have a cry, yell at someone.. it helps.
2. Talk to your venue and suppliers
This is a worldwide pandemic. Everyone knows what is going on and understands why your event can’t go ahead as planned. Don’t email or Whats App them. Pick up the phone. Speak to your contact at the venue and your suppliers. Talk to them about dates for making decisions and returning payments. You might not get the answers that you want, but the calmer and nicer you are, the more likely it is that you will reach an amicable solution. No one wants to go to court over this.
3. Plan your scaled back event like it was Plan A
When you start replanning and scaling back, talk yourself into thinking that this was actually the event that you wanted all along. Tell yourself things like ‘I never wanted a big party’ ‘Backyard weddings are so much more romantic’  ‘The Bar Mitzvah boy is so relieved not to have to lein in shul.’ It might not be true, but if you say it enough times, you can start to believe it. This mindset shift will give you the energy to start again and feel as enthusiastic as you were when planning your original simcha.
4. When Plan B, becomes Plan C
Uncertainty has become the new norm. You need to be aware that you may replan your simcha and then have to replan it all over again. It is best to have a Plan C in your pocket just in case you need it. Narrow your guest list down to your closest 100, 50, 20 and 10 guests, so that it is ready to go whatever the rules are at the time of your event. Don’t worry about offending people by leaving them out. EVERYONE understands (and by the way, some people are actually relieved not to have to attend!)
5. Plan your event with your eyes wide open
For those of you who are closer to the beginning of the planning process, you may be feeling stuck, not knowing whether to move forward with your plans. My advice is to plan your event, but to move forward carefully. Don’t sign any contracts unless they include fair cancellation terms and don’t pay large deposits. Go for stable and trusted suppliers and venues who have a reputation for treating their clients fairly during this period. Be aware of when future payments are due and keep reassessing your position in light of any changes in the pandemic. Try to enjoy the process and if it is too stressful, take a break from the planning. Corona has taught me that you can plan events in a very short time if you need to!
6. Ride the rollercoaster
Planning an event during Corona is full of ups and downs, but try not to feel disillusioned and give up on the planning altogether. If you have decided not to cancel your event, then you need to plan it! Do the things that you can do and that you know you will need whatever happens. Go to dress fittings, learn your parsha, write speeches, make a slideshow. It will keep things moving forward and will help you to feel a bit more in control.
7. Focus on your memories
As an event planner, I have heard my clients say repeatedly that smachot come and go, but the memories stay with them forever. Especially now, it is important to think through how you are going to remember your special day. Even if your big event is not going ahead, you will never regret having a great photographer and videographer to capture the important moments.
8. Think of creative ways to include your guests who can’t attend
Even if you can’t have everyone you want at your event, you can still include them in your celebrations. Here are a few ideas:
– Hire a professional livestream company to broadcast your event. Don’t rely on a friend setting up a Zoom meeting on their phone. It is worth spending the money so that your viewers can see and hear everything perfectly.
– Ask guests watching from afar to get dressed up and have a le’chaim and to share their pictures with you to add to your album.
– Ask local guests who can’t attend the main event, to drive by or drop in at allocated time slots, so that you maximize the number of people you can celebrate with. Don’t forget to capture these moments on video too!
–  Send gift boxes with mementos from your event (birkonim, siddurim, giveaways) and a thoughtful note saying how much you wish that they were celebrating with you!
9. Give yourself a break
No one needs to plan an event 24/7 and in Corona times, intensive bursts of planning are definitely the way to go. Do what you can, when you can and the rest of the time, focus on your mental and physical health. Exercise, cook a nice meal, hang out with friends. Try not to let the stress overwhelm you.
10. Embrace the magic
In these challenging times, friends and family will be there for you. They want you to have your special day and will do anything they can to help you celebrate. You may not have the exact simcha that you imagined, but it will be magical because of the love and joy of the people closest to you. Embrace the magic and your day will be wonderful!
About the Author
Debbie Nussbaum made aliya from London in 2006 and now lives in Raanana. She is married with 4 children and runs her own event planning company, Debbie Nussbaum Events. She is a lawyer by profession but prefers to spend her time now more creatively, planning beautiful weddings and Bar and Bat Mitzvahs.
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