I’ll be the first to say that wedding planning during COVID-19 (both for myself and for my couples) has been one of the most challenging things I’ve ever experienced. If you’re reading this blog, please know: THIS IS A NO JUDGEMENT ZONE. My intent is to help those who are already planning on moving forward with their weddings to do so in a way that is as safe as possible.
There are so many reasons why people are continuing to get married right now: one partner may be being deployed, a venue may not allow them to reschedule, a couple may need to start their family soon and can’t wait a year, their date may be sentimental, a parent may be terminal — the reasons are countless. You don’t need another person telling you what to do with your wedding, so I’m here to help by providing tips and recommendations to keep your guests safe during coronavirus, should you decide to still host your wedding during the pandemic!
Coming from my personal experience, I’ve photographed both tiny elopements, micro-weddings (or mini-monies), and full size weddings safely (!!!) in 2020 and I’ve been SO proud of these couples choosing to still hold celebrations while taking the proper care and safety precautions. (And before you ask: Yes! I’ve been actively getting tested and following the laws in the locations I’ve been shooting. I have made the personal choice to still work during this period because simply put: I support my couple’s decisions, I promised to be there no matter what, anddddd I need to pay my rent and feed my family.)
Wedding Planning during COVID-19
Here is a non-exhaustive list of coronavirus wedding safety precautions:
- Encouraging guests (and vendors) to get proactively tested and quarantine as much as possible before wedding. Knowing many people end up being asymptomatic but still contagious, there is always a chance someone could be a carrier without knowing it, making testing very, very important. Many large cities (like San Francisco and Austin) have free drive-through testing that doesn’t require a referral from a doctor if there is a chance you were exposed to COVID-19 (which basically every single person who has left their house during this pandemic could have possibly been exposed, therefore qualifying you for testing). I was recently tested before my last wedding in San Francisco and was able to get my test results back the same day. It’s also important that after being tested, guests quarantine themselves to avoid being exposed post-testing and they can be confident their results are accurate. Even if ONE guest finds out they’re positive and must skip the celebration, that is increased safety for everyone. Simply Googling: “Free Drive-Through Rapid COVID-19 Testing in YOUR CITY” will give you the results you’re looking for.
- Holding festivities outside. The open air allows guests to distance more easily and eliminate the problem of germs being circulated in an enclosed space.
- Designing a floor plan around family groups. A wedding I photographed recently had ceremony + reception seating organized by family groups, allowing people in the same social bubble to sit and celebrate together (which is normally how people behave at weddings, anyways) + gave distance between each group. There were small polite place cards on tables and seats to indicate where people are assigned to. Also, after seeing tables 6-10′ apart, I realized that it is not a big deal! It appeared normal visually. It’s so nice for guests (and caterers) to have space to walk through, when usually reception layouts are way too crowded.
- VIP seating for at-risk groups. If you have at-risk loves ones who insist on attending your wedding, you may want to provide an additional layer of protection for them by creating a seating area specifically for them to maintain even more distance.
- Colored wristbands or buttons that indicate how comfortable guests are with social contact. This allows guests to indicate whether or not they’re maintaining their distance or are comfortable being closer/shaking hands/etc. This could be as simple as Amazon wristbands at the entry with a color-coded key! RED= “Celebrating from afar”, YELLOW=”Comfortable around others, but no touching”, and GREEN=”Fully comfortable around others.”
- Fashionable face masks for all your guests. After personally witnessing weddings where guests wore masks most of the day, I was so grateful to see it didn’t take away from the fun, joy or meaning of the day. I know masks are a touchy subject, but they truly are one of the easiest way to increase safety. I love the idea of custom masks in your wedding colors, with your wedding date, or your initials/monogram. You can buy them custom on Etsy or order them in bulk on Amazon and find a local embroidery or screen printing shop to help customize them.
- Custom hand sanitizer as wedding favors. I think this one is self explanatory, but I don’t think people realize how easy of a project this is. There are bulk small clear bottles on Amazon + custom stickers for order on Etsy to customize. Then simply fill with a large bottle of hand sanitizer (which are finally back in stock)!
- Plated meals. Coordinate with your caterer to have plated meals instead of a buffet, this will allow people to keep their distance and avoid cross contamination of food and germs!
- Breaking up the celebration throughout the day. You can do a pre-ceremony luncheon for your older/more at-risk guests, host everyone outside for ceremony/cocktail hour, and then the younger guests stayed for the post-cocktail hour dinner/dance party.
- Reception shifts. NOW this one requires an open mind and some creative thinking (hopefully with a planner)! If you don’t plan on reducing your guest list, you may want to consider two shifts for your receptions — assigning half the guests to the first part of the reception and the remaining half to the second half. This allows for less people in one space and allows you to have more intentional time with each group of guests. Perhaps you have out-of-town guests in the first shift, allowing them to have dinner and spend time with you, then retiring to their hotel room afterwards; then local guests (who have the ability to go elsewhere during the first shift) would go second. You can also allow your wedding party and immediate family to stay through both shifts, so they also get to visit with everyone!
- Guest list reduction + live streaming. This is still a respectable option to help reduce the number of people gathered in one place, and to provide an option for guests who aren’t comfortable mingling with everyone. Guests are being more understanding now than ever when guest lists need to be reduced (even if they were already previously invited) — I’ve seen so many guests tuning into livestreams or Zoom weddings (or on IG or YouTube), posting on social, and celebrating from afar!! Everyone is just so grateful to have something positive happening amongst all this crazy!
Have you seen additional ways people are doing safe wedding planning during COVID-19? Comment them below, I’d love to add to the list!
Paige Vaughn is an Austin and San Francisco Wedding Photographer specializing in fun, romantic and vibrant wedding, engagement, couple and boudoir photography. Within the Bay Area, we serve San Francisco, the South Bay, Peninsula, and East Bay: San Jose, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Redwood City, San Carlos, Burlingame, Los Altos, Milpitas, Union City, Fremont, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Carmel, Monterey, Santa Cruz and surrounding areas. Within the Central Texas area, we serve: downtown Austin, Dripping Springs, Georgetown, East Austin, Wimberley, New Braunfels, San Antonio, and Houston. She is available for destination weddings and engagement sessions! Contact her for more detailed pricing.