The New 'Normal' - What Does a Socially Distanced Wedding Look Like?
May 30, 2020 | By: Brian Anthony Photography
Let us start by saying: To find more information about the virus, it’s spread and what precautions and measures to take please visit:
The Center for Disease Control Website: Click Here The World Health Organization Website: Click Here The NC Department of Health & Human Services Website: Click Here
As we slowly make our way out of complete lockdown and into phase 2 and beyond of reopening, as event professionals we are starting to consider best practices and options for our clients who are ready to say "I Do" in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic. The goal of everyone involved - couples, vendors, family, and friends alike - is to create a magical wedding day filled with joy and love while also maintaining a safe, health conscious environment. As we reopen more and more of our state and the nation (in some cases with still strict guidelines) the "new normal" of social distancing practices will force the wedding industry to change and adapt to meet the needs of our clients as well as the desire to ensure the safety and well being of ourselves, our families, and those we interact with. While we are starting to be able to get back to weddings and events, there is no doubt that they will need to look and feel very different than what has historically been the norm.
So as we move forward, what does a "socially distanced" wedding actually look like? Here are a few things you may begin to see:
Health precautions in place (and easily accessible) From hand sanitizing stations to temperature checkpoints, access to sanitizing options has become essential. You may also opt to provide face masks and gloves as well. Another thing to consider is the flow of your event and how guests will be moving between spaces - be sure that everyone has access to sanitizing gel, wipes, or hand-washing stations as they move between spaces, and that they are able to maintain safe distances as they make the transition.
Dinner is served... by the professionals Minimize contact by opting for a plated meal rather than a buffet style experience. In this way, a select few gloved, masked, pre-screened catering individuals will handle the service of the food instead of each guest in attendance taking turns with a communal gravy ladle. Bonus: Caterers have extremely strict health and sanitation rules and regulations in place 100% of the time, and have only become more rigorous. What about cocktail hour? Go for the passed hors d'oeuvres instead of displays.
Still considering a buffet? Ask your caterer if they can provide staff to serve the food for your guests. The goal is to reduce the number of community "touch points." Bonus Points if your caterer has access to protective shields to protect the food - and your guests!
Alternative Ceremony Seating Opt for solid, non-porous seating choices when making your selections to allow for easy cleaning and disinfecting. If you choose benches, it is easy to keep the spacing clear, with each bench allotted to a single household. Or how about a "Standing Room Only" Ceremony? Let your guests group together in their individual family units while being able to sufficiently space from others without the constraints of arranged seating. Set out chairs specifically for those who need them. You might even consider allowing for 360 degree viewing as well to maximize spacing between attendees. You can also Livestream your ceremony for those who are unable or concerned about traveling - For some, it is not safe or practical to travel at this time, and live-streaming provides a viable choice so that those who you care about can be a part of your wedding day, even if they aren't physically there.
What about the Reception? Think about "Social Distance" reception seating. With careful consideration, you don't need to forego a reception. Instead of grouping by friends at tables, group by family groups (more like restaurant style seating). Alternate ideas include widening spacing at tables to maximize distance between guests, or how about an adorable picnic style reception? It's casual, fun, and easy to keep properly spaced out.
You can also take the party outside! With events like wedding receptions, current NC guidelines allow for gathering of friends and family up to 25 people (including event vendors) as long as everyone remains outside and not in any type of enclosed space. If you're indoors, Phase 2 currently only allows for up to 10 people (and that's including staff).
Something else to consider if you're planning to have everyone outside: Have a plan B. If there is an issue (rain, thunderstorms, etc.) and your guests are too numerous to be contained within the confines of a nearby structure while still respecting existing regulations, you're going to have an issue. Plan ahead with either sufficient space to safely cover all of your attendees in the event, or a way to easily redirect your guests to a safe exit.
Dancing is Still Allowed! Consider outdoor dance floors or multiple smaller dance floors to encourage your guests to have a great time while still letting everyone stay spaced out. Alternative Entertainment is an option, too. A beautiful dance performance, a particularly talented string quartet, a fun and funky jazz band - entertain your guests while letting them have more seat time!
What about Family Photos? It may not be safe or practical to have several families pose together for a portrait, so talk to your photographer and discuss your options. It could be something like taking each family unit as a separate picture and creating a photo collage, or staging a properly distanced photo in an attractive way. If you are not sure, you should absolutely feel free to ask. Like all of your vendor team, we are here for you!
Everything you know about the traditional "Wedding Weekend" format can be different Maybe you'll do a private ceremony now and a big reception later (What better time to have your reception than on your first wedding anniversary?). Maybe you'll skip the rehearsal dinner. Maybe instead of having a bachelor/bachelorette party, you'll have a combo party with the whole group when things have settled down. Maybe you'll cut your 200 guest wedding down to just a few close people and elope.
Virtual Meetings With great tools like Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime, you can meet "Face-to-Face" (sort of) with your wedding vendors with ease. In addition to maximizing safety, it's also totally acceptable to wear slippers to a Zoom meeting. And it eliminates travel time to and from all of your vendors as you puzzle out the final details.
Weekday Weddings With so many people postponing or changing dates, many of the sought after weekend dates are no longer available. With that in mind, many couples are opting to have weekday weddings. A major plus? There is usually greater vendor availability on these dates and you can (hopefully) still keep the team you originally selected!
Some other points to remember:
Communication is Key Communicate to guests regulations and expectations clearly, up to and including enclosures with your invitations, beautifully decorated signage at the event venue, and gentle reminders in the programs. You may want to update your wedding website with some wedding day FAQ's to provide guests with additional details (and it's easy to update to include additional information as you go). Providing up to date guidance and information will help to keep you and all of your guests on the same page.
Know your local rules and regulations, and respect them It's tempting to try and toe the line here and, truth be told, we're usually open to stretching our imaginations to see how we can make something work - but in this case, health and safety is key. These limits are in place for a reason (the health and safety of those you love and cherish most!). That being said, it's important to be aware of current plans and rules regarding gathering safely.
Culture Shock Be prepared for people to wince if you go in for a hug or handshake. At family gatherings it is so difficult not to freely hug everyone in attendance, but for the sake of everyone there, respect personal boundaries and space, please. Instead of the traditional receiving line, maybe you can have a socially distanced waving line instead. You'll still get to individually greet your guests without the added risk.
One of the things I continue to remind our couples of is that the wedding day is not the marriage. One single day does not have the power to define your relationship - you both will have a whole lifetime for that. Just because we are physically isolated does not mean we are emotionally cut off from those we cherish - we just have to reach out a little differently.