Covid & Weddings – How to make your wedding Covid-Safe with Christine Chang
In this new episode of Ellwed Talks, the first podcast about destination weddings in Greece we talk with Christine Chang ABOUT Covid & Weddings – how to make your wedding Covid-Safe
Founder of Live Love Create Events, a woman-owned business, Christine and her team have helped execute 500+ beautiful events. Being a seasoned planner and having an art background has helped Christine throughout the process of planning and conducting weddings for celebrities and working professionals!
As a Fine Arts and Media Arts major, Christine worked on film and graduated at UC San Diego. As a wedding planner for over 12 years, her weddings have been featured in Brides, Carats and Cake, Grey likes, Style me pretty, CBS8 and many more
In this episode about Covid & Weddings, Christen shares her top tips on conducting covid-safe weddings by implementing Safety by applying all COVID protocols.
Listen to the episode about Covid & Weddings – How to make your wedding Covid-Safe here:
Tell us a bit about your story, what led you to your current career path?
My mom is an artist and my dad is an artist by trade. When two artists have a baby, there’s no doubt they wouldn’t have an artist baby! They started my artist journey at a very young age. At the age of 5, I was already practicing Korean calligraphy and painting many traditional Korean paintings. As years went on, I learned many other classical skills such as figure drawing and portrait oil painting. And when it came time to continue my studies after high school, I was lucky enough to receive a full scholarship to Otis College of art and design.
However, me being “young and naive” declined the full scholarship behind my mom’s back and went to UCSD declaring myself as a psychology major. I, however, did not graduate with my declared major and I ended up redirecting myself back to the arts. What’s funny is my initial desire to study psychology to become a therapist or counselor actually became a reality. I joke when I say I’m a part-time wedding planner and couple’s counselor but it is a bit true. The planning process is emotional for the couple and I’m there to help them with that journey. I learn to understand how they think, evolve and problem solve.
Also working as a server for many years, I learned a great deal on customer services. Then eventually I fell into the role of event directing and wedding spaces in the corporate world where I learned the behind-the-scenes, managing staff, budgeting etc. All that I learned from the past was the perfect mixture and experience for what I am now doing today. I initially started Live.Love.Create with two other friends back in 2009 when my friend was getting married.
After her wedding, we realized we were pretty good and decided to try it out as a company for fun. So the three of us created Live.Love.Create and one of my partners moved out of California and my other partner was not able to do it anymore since she was focused on teaching. So they both said, “Take it over, Christine and do you!” and I took it and made that bold move and said I’m going to quit everything that I’ve done. I left my six-figure job and decided to work on Live.Love.Create full-time 2017 and invest in myself. We’ve had the business for a few years where it has become my full-time career.
What would you say makes you different?
Being a seasoned planner for 12 years, having an art background has helped me a lot throughout this process of planning. I can truly call myself an artist. And what sets me apart is when I plan a wedding I don’t think “Ok, let me just go with whatever design is on-trend or easy”. I have a thorough thought behind every design and decision. It can be as big as deciding the colors we use for the wedding so we can evoke a certain emotion to the typography we use in the stationery to tie in a certain theme/vibe of the wedding.
Also, In the case of something not working out with a vendor or we have a hard time sourcing a design we have in mind, I jump right in and make it myself. Making art is my passion! I have zero hesitations on getting down and dirty when it comes to making art. Haha. And so what sets me apart is that I’m not just an event planner, I’m an artist. Which is an added bonus for our clients. There’s a lot that I do behind the scenes.
What inspires you in business and daily life?
My inspiration comes from everyday life. There isn’t a day where I’m walking down the street where I see a beautiful building to mimic its style in a themed event for the next year. Or visit a local pottery shop and see a collection of handmade vases we can use for floral centerpieces for an upcoming wedding.
I’m also inspired by people’s stories. And with their story, I like to create an out-of-the-box event and experience for each couple. Incorporating the couple’s story into an event isn’t always so easy. It takes time to learn who they are to figure out how we can represent them in design or experience form for their wedding. However, with my designs, I like to keep it clean and simple. I don’t like to add too much to it. My style is to create an experience where it’s not overwhelming.
It’s no secret that rising numbers of Covid cases are keeping newly engaged couples on edge and contributing to the rising number of wedding cancellations. So how can couples ensure a safe Covid-free event for their wedding?
The trend for how Covid is spreading is unpredictable. To ensure a safe and covid free event we should take all precautions into everything with the protocol of the CDC. And also taking into consideration what the venue and vendors might require in order to try to make the safest wedding possible. To be completely honest, you can’t ensure a 100% Covid-free weddings due to human error and the act of God. However, making sure there is a protocol about Covid & Weddings in advance prior to the wedding and taking precautionary measures will be your safest route taken.
Do you think self-testing, Covid certificates and Rapid test proofs are the new Wedding Trend?
The venue in particular has to follow the CDC guidelines on how to implement COVID precautions. It depends on what the COVID requirements are. And although it might not be fun to follow such protocols, we must do all that we can to prevent a mishap. When asking for self-tests, certificates or test results, we’re asking the entire group so we can all keep safe. So it’s the community as a whole partaking in this for the bride and groom. When you’re trying to portray the message as safety for your guests, it shows that you’re not doing it as an inconvenience. But more so as a safety caution for the entire community.
I believe that it is a trend this year. My thoughts are that COVID will eventually be known as a “flu” and it will become a “norm”. Once the majority of people are vaccinated, and eventually, as COVID rates drop, we would not have to take extra precautions. Currently, we go to weddings asking guests if they received their flu shot (which is considered an everyday “cold”). So I hope that COVID will transform to that and eventually everything will go back to normal.
In most parts of the world, all staff & wedding suppliers are now wearing masks when working at events to keep the safety standards. But, what about wedding guests?
It depends on the wedding and what is required from the CDC and depends on the messaging you give to your guest before the wedding. As an example, for a wedding that happened this past January, everyone who came to the wedding had to show that they were vaccinated and had their guest do a rapid test 24-48 hrs prior. Our team collected the data in advance and before they came in everyone was “pre-checked”. That is how we felt comfortable having the option not to wear a mask. I think it depends on how you prepare for it and how you message it to your guest.
Are self-tests, personalized masks and disinfectants becoming the new wedding favours?
There are couples who love to give wedding favors. More and more couples aren’t doing wedding favors as much. However, they’re making bigger efforts to make better experiences for their guests through their entertainment, desserts, tables or whatever it may be that is unique for them. I wouldn’t see self-tests, personalized masks and disinfectants being a favor. It’s more of what most couples have as a convenience for their guests. It allows their guests to feel a little more comfortable and safe. Favors are more of gifts that the bride and groom are giving to their guests. So having disinfectants and disposables around would not be a gift per se but more of a convenience factor to make your guest feel safe.
As event professionals, dealing with Covid-safe events is becoming a new job skill! So what would be your advice to all wedding professionals to keep events as Covid-safe as possible? What could they advise their couples?
To be quite honest, it’s a bit tricky since not all couples are the same with their thoughts on taking
precautions, asking for rapid tests and vaccination cards since there are a lot of underlying political, personal and emotional opinions behind it. So you would have to be very sensitive about the subject. To each their own since some people may not believe in vaccinations or wearing masks. And it’s not my job to say you’re right or you’re wrong. It’s about me trying to figure out what works for them as a couple and for their guests as a whole. So the advice that I would give professionals would be: You’re not there to tell them what to do, but to advise them on best practices.
For me, because I live in a very cosmopolitan area in downtown LA, it is very liberal with the announcements for wearing your masks, getting your vaccine, CDC rules and regulations. Everyone in LA is inclined to follow what the health officials say so it’s easier for me to have that conversation since it’s like-minded. But I’ve come across people who might think differently and that’s ok. It’s just figuring out what is safe for everyone. One thing that I can advise couples is that it is your wedding! So technically you can make your rules whether you’re going to mandate different protocols or not. Of course, keeping in mind what the venue will require as well!
It’s a conversation between the couples themselves and the planner to make sure there’s a concrete plan. Also being able to have that open conversation with people who are key roles to the wedding and coming with a plan together and implementing it. The messaging and the rules have to be the same for the entirety as a whole.
Christine, tell us about your good deeds of helping those that have been affected by COVID by offering them complimentary wedding planning sessions?
For me, I don’t see it as a good deed but more so as caring for the couple. The craziest wedding that happened to me was that of a couple that hired me in 2019 to help with their wedding in 2020. However, due to COVID, they lost their venue and had to postpone to another date. And within a few months of the rescheduled date, the mom of the groom passed away. So they had to cancel that again and book another date. Two weeks before the date, however, the venue shut down due to improper licensing. So then we were scrambling to find a different venue two weeks before the wedding.
Imagine the heartache this client is going through. Not just because of COVID, but mom passed away unfortunately then two weeks before the wedding the venue shuts down. And they only hired me as a “day-of” planner. It’s not technically my duty to say “Ok, we’re starting from scratch and we have 2 weeks to plan your wedding. I’m going to find you a whole new venue, and reschedule or vet to hire new vendors to work your wedding,” because technically, that wasn’t my role. But when you see people who need help, there’s no barrier to say “Oh, you only paid me for this… etc.” There’s no barrier for me at least, it’s about a very important day for the couple. And regardless of money, I’m here to help you out, to get it done and work as a team.
So from the beginning of 2019 their wedding happened in 2021 so it took 2 ½ years of planning and re-planning where I eventually became their full planner. And I didn’t ask them for a rescheduling fee or any additional fees because none of it was their fault, so I am compassionate when it comes to certain circumstances and I try to accommodate for that. It became a complimentary wedding planning service for them. It just turned into a way bigger role for me without me thinking twice about it. Experiencing rescheduled weddings during COVID, I am providing complimentary 30 minute sessions with a couple. I am also providing a video for these couples to understand tips on ways to save for their special day and planning their special day on the busiest year for weddings.
What was your best experience as a wedding designer and event planner? What do you like about weddings in Greece?
The best experience generally is the ability to travel and to find influences and the love within different cultures to bring back home to incorporate that into each experience. I take my experience traveling as a starting point and how to execute an event.
Greece is amazing! I’ve only been to Athens and Santorini and it’s very touristy! Every picture that you pull of Greece is a very blue and white building looking over the ocean. But there’s a reason why it’s a tourist attraction because it’s so unique on its own. There’s a reason why it attracts a lot of weddings because it has a clean aesthetic. And that’s why I personally love Greece myself!
What trend do you see picking up in the world of weddings?
Couples are starting to become more proud of their culture, heritage and background. And they’re starting to incorporate more of their family tradition. For example, with Korean weddings, a lot of couples will do a Korean Tea Ceremony called Paebaek. They’re starting to incorporate their culture to their wedding and paying homage to their culture.
I also feel like rustic weddings are not as popular anymore. Mason jars were the “it” item for wedding decor for a very long time as well. Now, people are more inclined to see a more modern look with clean lines. What is becoming more important as well is the stationary and signage. Couples are a lot more thoughtful on how to visually present their messaging to their guests.
Is there one question that almost every client asks you about their wedding in Greece? What is it and what is your answer?
The biggest thing someone would ask me is, “do you have the experience there in this venue or location in Greece?
And I’m going to be so candid with you, a wedding planner is a wedding planner. We all do the same exact thing regardless of what county, city or state we are in. I’m physically located in Los Angeles, but have planned so many events outside of my city and state. There is nothing we can’t plan over an email or phone call. And if needed, anywhere is just a car/plane ride away.
Which is your favourite location for a destination wedding in Greece and why?
This may sound cliché but I would love to do one in Santorini. Because of the beautiful, distinct and natural elegance. I love the experience I had there as a visitor, I can just imagine planning a destination wedding and pouring my heart into it.
Despite Covid & Weddings, Tell us a bit more about what you are currently working on?
The one thing that I would love to promote, I am trying to fill the gap of modernizing the “Modern Tea Ceremony” for Korean weddings. We are available for this entire Tea Ceremony with this modern beautiful set. Also would love to meet new couples who need assistance planning their wedding 🙂
- I recently became a mom. Being a new mom has made me become a lot more emotional to even the smallest milestone such as my baby starting to crawl or his first birthday. And that same emotion is a lot more relatable when I’m planning someone’s wedding which is one of the biggest milestones in one’s life.
- I am an artist. I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I am good! It’s a field that was handed down from my parents which I am blessed with. I am always determined to become a better artist and to utilize my creativity through my wedding planning.
- I used to be on a reality TV show. Not a lot of people can say they had that experience. That was an amazing interruption in my life which was so unique. This interruption in my normal/daily life allowed me to realize that I was ok to take new risks. It encouraged me to quit my cushy day job and risk investing 100% on my own career.
And for the last question, what advice would you give to all couples who are planning their destination wedding now? It doesn’t have to be about Covid & Weddings!
My advice to anyone trying to get married in Greece, LA, or anywhere else is to be flexible! You can plan and plan and plan and plan however you never know what God is going to throw your way. It might be small things or big things, but you have to be open to changes.
Being respectful and sensitive to one’s culture in a destination wedding. If you are getting married outside of your home, it’s important to understand the different cultures, guidelines and respect it. Although it is a special day the couple and their guests, we want to ensure we are protecting each other by being courteous to each other’s background.
If someone wants to get in touch with you, where can they find you?