Provinces are slowly re-opening and relaxing restrictions for COVID-19. Now that couples can slowly start to gather with (a limited number of) guests and say “I do” in-person, it begs us to ask: What will the new normal weddings look like?
What is a Socially Distant Wedding?
A socially distant wedding is a ceremony and/or reception that follows the social distancing measures put in place by governments to mitigate the spread of a contagious disease. Such measures might include a limited guest count and specific regulations, such as no congregating and special seating, to ensure that guests stay six feet apart, at minimum.
While no one knows exactly what the future holds, it’s no secret that weddings, as we know them, will be drastically different for the time being. Ontario recently announced its reopening plan and, as of July 17, 2020, venues across the province can host wedding receptions with up to 50 people in-doors and 100 people out-doors. They must also follow a strict safety protocol that includes “no dancing, no mingling” and restrictions such as six feet distancing between tables, to name a few.
Weddings are recognized as important to people’s lives that can and should go on. It is a matter of being done as safely as possible to avoid the spread of the virus.
Such guidelines are put in place to protect couples, guests, and vendors alike, but they’ll likely force us all to reimagine quintessential wedding elements, such as cocktail hour and entertainment, as we re-plan to meet social distancing regulations.
Even under new and different circumstances, marriage remains a beautiful cause to celebrate, and we need celebrations more than ever now.
However, despite possible changes in appearance and guest size, the unprecedented circumstances remind us of the meaning of a wedding, which is to make a commitment to one another and celebrate love. Couples are adjusting to these extraordinary circumstances, and it is understandable that they ‘mourn’ the loss of your original vision. Even under new and different circumstances, marriage remains a beautiful cause to celebrate, and we need celebrations more than ever now!
What to Know If You’re Planning a Wedding During the Coronavirus Pandemic
So, what will a socially distant wedding be like? Planners, caterers, venues, and musicians will be deeply involved in making a socially distant weddings successful. It will be important for all vendors to work even closer together to ensure that everything goes right. Below are a few ideas that may become trends.
Fewer Guests, More Intimacy
Perhaps the most obvious change during this time will be smaller guest lists. (It’s the easiest way to limit the number of people at a gathering!) While eliminating loved ones is a challenging ask for couples at any time, a happy consequence of smaller guest counts will be the popularization of more intimate gatherings. Smaller events allow the couple to tailor the event with their guests in mind.
Narrowing down a guest list is not easy—especially if you have to disinvite guests. However, due to the unprecedented circumstances of today, it is predicted that guests will be understanding. Also, this decision may not be left to couples—venues are looking to reduce their maximum capacities to ensure social distancing practices can be safely met. My niece recent had to change venue for her September wedding because they could not accommodate the number of guests she was inviting.
Face Masks & Extra Precautions
If you proceed with your 2020 wedding, you may need to adjust your expectations. In addition to a reduced guest count, you may need to implement safety precautions such as thermometer scans, masks, sanitizing stations, and, possibly, waivers for guests to sign.
These extra precautions are dubbed “a new form of hospitality”. They aim to ensure couples, guests, and staff feel comfortable and safe. And it is best to keep guests informed of these safety measures? Let them know on your wedding website and invitation.
If you can’t let your big wedding dreams go, take your wedding outside. With social distancing measures in place, more couples will choose to bring their “I dos” outdoors. In outdoor locations, guests can spread out and more easily socially distance as they choose. Or if you choose a venue that has both in-door and out-door facilities, it is easier to have congregating activities such as cocktail hour out-doors.
Creative Seating Arrangements
Gone are the days of the long banquet tables packed in a single small room. According to social distance guidelines, tables are required to be set at least six-feet apart, with a limited number of guests seated together. To ensure this spacing is met, venues and planners are rearranging room layouts.
For ceremony seating, consider swapping rows of benches for smaller clusters of chairs surrounding the couple. This will promote social distancing practices and keep guests spread out.
Another way to comply with these guidelines? Spread festivities across multiple spaces in one venue! What used to be a party hosted in a single ballroom will now consist of drinks, dinner, and dancing in ballrooms, courtyards, and adjoining rooms simultaneously.
Fewer Self-Serve Buffets, More Plated Service
The wedding dinner will see a change as well, with couples steering away from self-serve buffets and instead opting for staffed food stations or plated dinners. Over the years, there was huge popularity in family-style meals, buffets, and this more communal eating experience at weddings. There will be a return of really elegant plated course meals.”
To create a communal eating experience while following social distancing guidelines, the chef may carve meat or fish tableside while a single waiter serves the freshly plated dish to each guest at their seats.
Ceremony Virtual Streaming
Even as couples begin to gather with family and friends again, virtual wedding technology is still critical in this age. Every wedding I performed this year has been streamed so that those who are unable to attend in person can be there virtually.
Celebrations may be a little bit shorter than in the past. Without crowded dance floors, some parties could end earlier but that allows couples to put more energy into another aspect for example favors. The thought is,’What is the experience you want for each of your guests after they leave your wedding?’
Another trend that may flourish in the socially distant wedding era is multiple wedding celebrations. I’ve had many couples opt for a ceremony followed by a traditional reception on a later date. This so-called “unconventional” celebration could become the standard. Couples are getting married now and saving the party for later.
If you say “I do” in the era of social distancing, work with your vendors, get creative and come up with solutions that will make your wedding unique, memorable, and safe for all—even if you are cheers-ing from six-feet-apart.