While the global pandemic brought months of uncertainty and disrupted plans for many around the world, weddings top the list as one of the most affected industries in 2020. Typically joyful gatherings, often with hundreds of people in attendance, weddings became more socially distanced, virtual, or canceled altogether.
“The vast majority of couples who were originally supposed to get married between March and July chose to simply cancel or postpone,” said Sarah Davidson, owner of HUE by Sarah Davidson, a wedding planning company in Madison, Wisconsin. “During that span, we didn’t know a lot about the virus and the precautions that could’ve taken against it.”
“We also had more optimism that we would be past it by the fall, so pushing out a few months up to a year seemed like a small sacrifice to make if it meant that they’d still be able to have the wedding they envisioned with all their guests in attendance,” the Wedding Planner added.
As weddings continue to occur, vendors and couples came up with innovative ways to still celebrate their big day while keeping themselves and their loved ones safe from infection. The industry witnessed everything from drive-through weddings to entirely virtual events, as well as the implementation of new best practices for couples, guests, and wedding vendors alike.
Best Practices for the Couple During the Pandemic
Many couples turned to courthouse weddings or private ceremonies with family as an immediate solution, while keeping their hopes of celebrating a reception in the near future. Others have chosen to live-stream their weddings so that all of their loved ones can witness the nuptials safely.
For those couples choosing to go through with their previously-planned weddings, extra safety precautions are being taken. Among some of the ideas put in place are opting for outdoor events where guests can remain six feet apart and maintaining social-distancing etiquette.
“At a very basic level though, we of course encourage all of our clients to wear masks and social distance at their event, and we work with them to create floor plans and have systems in place to make this easy,” Davidson said.
“The most important thing I’m talking about with my clients is that they will need to have an open mind and stay flexible as we move forward with their plans,” Davidson said. “For example, right now we can be tentatively planning to do a buffet dinner for a wedding next summer, but there’s a chance that when we have to make the final decision a month out there could be rules not allowing us to do that.”
Best Practices for the Guests During the Pandemic
Guests also must make decisions on whether they feel comfortable attending their loved ones’ weddings. As a guest, don’t be afraid to inquire with the couple what safety precautions they’re taking: Will the wedding be outdoors? How many guests will attend? Will masks be required?
One of the best ways guests can protect themselves and avoid COVID infection at a wedding is to set boundaries for what level of contact they feel comfortable with. And in some cases, couples can help facilitate this.
“One of the most creative ones I’ve seen is the green-yellow-red wristband system,” Davidson said.
“A couple puts out wristbands in these three colors at the start of their wedding for each guest to choose from and wear. Green means the guest is comfortable interacting as normal with people. Yellow means the guest would like to be asked before getting close or engaging in any contact with. Red means that the guest would feel most comfortable keeping their distance. It’s an easy way for people to read one another at a distance and know the best way to interact to keep everyone comfortable.”
Best Practices for Wedding Vendors During the Pandemic
Vendors are also following new best practices when helping to plan and facilitate weddings. Caterers, in particular, drastically changed their business style. Given the CDC’s recommendations to avoid buffets and community-style food, companies are instead turning to plated or individually-packaged service and keeping covered and protected from germs.
One of the biggest challenges stems from the fact that the regulations vary so much, depending on the region.
“It’s a big challenge right now to discuss overarching safety protocols because everything is so different area to area,” Davidson said. “For example, here in Wisconsin the rules vary from county to county, and what you are allowed to do at one venue is very different than what you’re potentially allowed to do at a different venue just 20 miles away. It’s tough to keep up with but we do the best we can.”
The Bottom Line
The pandemic highly affected weddings, but there are still ways for couples to celebrate their big days while being mindful of themselves and others.
“2021 is also going to be an extremely challenging year for the industry, since it will be working to accommodate all the postponed weddings on top of normally booked weddings,” Davidson said. “New 2021 bookings have continued on at a regular pace, and even a slightly heightened one, because of awareness from those couples that 2020 people were postponing and therefore making vendor availability more limited.”
Whether you’re planning a wedding in the next 12 months or attending one as a guest, keep an open mind. As the pandemic situation ebbs and flows, weddings are likely going to look different for a while.
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