Weddings During COVID: How To Have A Pandemic-Proof Wedding Ceremony

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Christopher Shelley

Published: Nov 3, 2020

Last Updated: Nov 24, 2020

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Congratulations on finding the person you want to spend the rest of your life with!

Narrowing down the population to the one you love most is a huge project, so good for you for solving that puzzle.

Planning a wedding is always a huge undertaking. Just to make things more interesting, you’ve chosen to get married in the middle of a global pandemic. Good for you for not steering clear of gigantic challenges! If you can plan a successful wedding during a pandemic, you can do anything. 

Here are some professional tips on holding a pandemic-proof wedding.

1. Check Rules & Regulations Based On Where You Live 

Once you’ve figured out where you’d like to hold your pandemic-proof wedding, check out local rules and regulations regarding CDC compliance. While your venue should be on top of this, knowledge is power. Make sure you know how many people are allowed to gather, whether mask-wearing is mandatory or merely suggested, and what local rules are regarding social distancing. No matter how obvious and sensible it may be that everyone wear a mask around other people, and to socially distance.

2. Coordinate With Your Venue & Vendors

Your wedding venue should not only appeal to you for its ambiance, size, accommodations, its proximity to a major airport, natural light, website, responsiveness and price. It should also appeal to your innate sense of security, and to your desire to keep all of your guests safe. Remember, you’re looking for a wedding venue, not an abattoir. 

As we mentioned earlier, your venue should be on top of their local CDC guidelines regarding gatherings. If in your initial conversations with your venue contacts, they seem cavalier to the notion of keeping people safe, move on to the next venue on your wish list. If on the other hand, they’re up front and proactive about sending you their plans for executing a wedding during a pandemic, chances are you’ve chosen a venue that values safety as much as you do.

By now your vendors have experienced other weddings during this challenging time, and they should have some suggestions for you based on first-hand experience. Ask them what protocols they have in place. Photographers, for example, may refuse to do indoor photo sessions unless your guests are masked and socially distant, so you’ll need to figure out if your venue has a suitable outdoor location for those coveted family photos. 

3. Communicate With Your Guests

Keep your guests informed about your plans. Many of your guests will have never attended a wedding during a pandemic before, and will have no idea what to expect. Weddings are rife with etiquette and tradition already – throwing health restrictions into the mix makes a complex social situation. (Some couples require their guests to get a COVID test  before they attend. This sends a clear message that you want your guests to be safe). Even without a testing requirement, you should be proactive about communicating safety measures to your guests.

Before The Wedding 

Email and call your guest and family members early. Let them know if you’ll be providing masks at the event, if guests must bring their own, if there’ll be ample sanitizer available, how you are handling food, etc. Paint a clear picture of what your wedding will be like, to set expectations and emphasize the notion that you’re trying your best to keep everyone safe.

At The Wedding

Have information clearly posted at your venue, as soon as guests can see it. Signs on the front door, signs on the walk leading to the front door, signs in the parking lot. This signage is partly the venue’s responsibility, but if you join forces with them, you can personalize your safety measure signage. This can also lend a lightness to the messaging, a reminder that hey, while we’re being serious here, we’re also celebrating something. 

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These days, it’s already customary to offer souvenir PPE to guests, right next to the guest book. Couples routinely create masks with their names and the date, along with other imagery like hearts and knots.

masks for wedding during pandemic

Couples even have color-coded masks, one color for the bride’s side, one for the groom’s side. Rows of hand sanitizer bottles with the couple’s photo can be a great idea, along with little Purell wipes. You can also have big baskets full of personalized souvenir pens sitting next to the guest book, so guests can all sign their names with their own pen. You can also offer different colored wristbands to guests, each color representing a level of social distancing that they’re comfortable with.

guests wearing masks at a wedding during pandemic

Rescheduling

If you have to reschedule your wedding, be very clear about communicating this to your guests so they can change their travel and accommodation plans. The earlier you let them know, the better.

Your rescheduled wedding may need to be very different from your original wedding. You may need to downgrade the venue itself. Even more challenging, you may have to reduce your headcount. The good news is, almost everyone will understand if you need to cut them from the guest list.

If you’re rescheduling your wedding you must also communicate this to all of your vendors. Let them know as soon as you can. Then, as you reschedule, if you would like to keep your vendor team, reach out to them to gauge their availability before you settle on a new date. If you plan far enough ahead, you should be able to find dates that are agreeable for everyone. 

4. Make It A Virtual Wedding

Many couples have been holding place-holder ceremonies over some kind of video-sharing program, while still planning to have a big party in the future, one which may include another ceremony or a vow renewal. The video element allows for a literally unlimited guest count.

How To Hold A Virtual Wedding Ceremony

Virtual wedding ceremonies show how simple a ceremony can be in terms of personnel: all you need are the partners and their officiant. In many states, the couple must be with their officiant physically for a ceremony.

Couples use platforms like Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Skype, but Zoom has been the standout for user experience. One popular Zoom feature allows users to select their own virtual background, so they can get married ‘anywhere’. All the aesthetic of a destination wedding without any of the travel.

virtual wedding

Since anyone attending a virtual wedding can speak, it’s important to make sure that guests are muted during the ceremony. On the other hand, it’s easy to incorporate readers or even singers into your ceremony, no matter where they are. 

If you’re hosting a virtual wedding, you can still use your wedding hashtag! Tell your friends and family to post their favorite memory of you and your significant other. Then make sure to tell them to post it using your wedding hashtag, that way you have all of those memories saved there.

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5. Re-Consider Wedding Traditions

Try To Hold It Outdoors

Indoor weddings offer safety against inclement weather, but outdoor weddings can be delightful. Many venues offer the flexibility to hold the ceremony, or even the entire event, outdoors. Rooftop venues are popular within cities, and venues outside cities often have lawns, gardens, and courtyards suitable to social gatherings. Late April and early May tend to have good outdoor temperatures, as do late September and October. For summer months, consider holding the event closer to sundown for cooler temps. If you’re located in the southern hemisphere, flip those months.

Seating

Everyone loves looking out at a big crowd of guests, seated side by side, smiling and laughing, but the quest to keep guests safe requires a tweak to that image. Consider changing the typical layout and placing guests’ chairs six feet apart. You can also have assigned seating where couples and members of the same household sit side by side.

seating arrangement set up for social distancing

Bridal Party

You may have envisioned being flanked by a wall of gorgeously dressed bridesmaids and groomsmen, but the reality, as we’ve all learned from virtual weddings, is that they aren’t 100% necessary. Couples who do have bridal parties often choose to have them enter in pairs; instead, consider having them enter and exit solo. They can stand socially distanced at the altar space, or even better, have them all seated separately, in a designated row of honor. 

Arrangement In Altar Area

The traditional set-up in the altar area is to have the officiant upstage and between the couple, and this is still fine. If not, consider this small tweak: have your Celebrant or Officiant stand to the side of you, instead of between you. The couple just stands next to each other, holding hands if they want, front and center, while they and all the guests listen to the Officiant talk.

arrangement in altar area for wedding during pandemic

This way, the officiant doesn’t have to speak ‘through’ the couple’s heads. He or she can address the guests directly while still directing much of the service at the couple.

arrangement in altar area

Photo Sessions 

Wedding days are all about the photos, about creating and capturing memories to save and share for a lifetime. But photos are one more element of a wedding day that requires people to be close together at a time when we’re encouraged to be safely apart. Your photographer will have their own ideas and limitations regarding the photos they’re willing to take and arrange, but here are some of our ideas: Consider only individual or individual couple shots, having outdoor shots, or trusting your photographer to capture elegant candid photos throughout the evening. No posing or grouping people together required. #youcandocandid, #thatcandidspirit, #yeswecandid

Catering 

When you’re hosting a wedding during a pandemic, rather than having a buffet self-service, plan to have individually prepared meals only. You can also make sure the tables are spread apart from each other, and place members of the same household at each table.

Fun Stations

Instead of small, enclosed novelty photo booths, try hands-free digital photo stations. Or rather than palm readers, try lipstick and handwriting readers. Wedding hashtags can help guests share their own photos and videos throughout the evening. You can even hold a competition to see who can come up with the best one.

wedding hashtag

Dancing

The only completely effective measure is to eliminate dancing entirely, like that town in the movie Footloose. But if you do have dancing: avoid conga lines and slow dances. Encourage guests to dance within individually marked, socially distanced spots on the floor.

Cake Cutting

The advice is right in the title: consider cutting the cake cutting. Instead, pass out individual cupcakes or pre-sliced pieces of cake. The couple can pretend to cut some gorgeous fake cake if they feel compelled to have a photo of them doing so.

Bouquet Toss

The bride tosses the bouquet behind her toward a crowd of unmarried guests. Whoever catches it will be the next to get married, or so tradition has it. Instead of a bouquet toss, have potential bouquet-catchers guess what number the bride is thinking of – closest to the number wins. Or just pre-select a bouquet-catcher. You can also place a bottle of Dom Perignon on the floor and spin it until it points at someone.

#Hashtags

No matter how much weddings during a pandemic need to change in order to be safe, no matter how far apart couples may need to be from their guests as they celebrate their union, the simplest and most elegant option to share photos, videos, and sentiments from their wedding remains the wedding hashtag. Hashtags are easy social media sharing mechanisms that group memories into one happy collection.

Thanks to technology and the internet, we’re connected around the world now more than ever at the same time that we’re asked to remain physically distant from each other. The heart is wonderfully versatile in its capacity to absorb and distribute joy. The link between your wedding joy and the hearts of your friends and family is your wedding hashtag

using your wedding hashtag

Pandemic Wedding Safety: The New Love Language

With weddings, we communicate love with full throat. We shout it out loud, we revel in its positivity and optimism. Couples want to share their abundance of  happiness with friends and family and we encourage them to do so. We need a forum for love now more than ever, so it’s worth the effort to follow the advice we’ve given here. Weave the knot you tie with both love and safety.

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