What does a safe coronavirus wedding look like?

Love and pandemics: They can both change everything.

If you’re planning a wedding now, you’ve got as many tools as ever: Magazines and Instagram feeds full of gorgeous hair, amazing venues and first-dance suggestions. An entire industry was built on helping you to find your vision, make your plan and celebrate your way. I’ve been part of that industry for 15 years.

And when coronavirus hit, a lot of our suggestions and ideas became irrelevant.

So what’s the vision now? What do coronavirus weddings look like when they’re done right?

Below, I’ll lay out three scenarios for weddings with diverse styles and guest counts that work in the coronavirus age. I’ll tell you how these celebrations go, as far as we can tell so far. If you’re not looking to wait years for a vaccine before you tie the know, maybe these visions will help you rethink your own.

First, let's review what actually makes a gathering safer:

  1. Fewer people. The best way to keep disease from spreading is to limit human interaction. If you want to keep guests safe, no matter what your local laws and guidelines say, inviting fewer of them is the surest way.
  2. Six-foot distance. Keeping space between folks who don’t live together, even at your wedding, is the rule for now.
  3. Face masks. Cover the mouth and nose; reduce the chance of airborne infection.
  1. Heading outside. The chances of infection drop outdoors – but unless you control the weather, you’ll still need an indoor backup plan. Outside is better, but it’s harder too.
  1. Cleaning and disinfecting. Recent research shows coronavirus can be spread on surfaces, but not as easily as through direct encounters. Still, the surfaces we touch a  lot – from sinks to doorknobs to those microphones we use for wedding toasts – will need a regular wipedown.

These practices are still evolving and developing, and it will take time to find new norms and expectations our businesses. Still, that's where we stand today. (For a deep dive on guidelines like the ones above from pro perspectives, check out the Event Safety Alliance Reopening Guide.)

Now let's combine the above rules for 3 different coronavirus wedding approaches that are both safe and beautiful.

It all starts with one question: How many people?

 

1. The 2-person wedding.

Also known as the “Zoom wedding,” this event is safest for an obvious reason: It’s just you and your intended, video-conferencing with an officiant. There's no need for masks or social distancing unless you meet with your officiant face to face - and even then, standing 6 feet from him or her is easy.

safe-side

Tiny weddings work at any stage of social distancing, even the “shelter in place” orders that are likely to return from time to time if we experience new coronavirus outbreaks in the coming months. It’s not a legal wedding unless you can get a marriage license and your state permits officiating via video call – but more and more are moving that direction. Even if yours doesn’t yet, you can hold a commitment ceremony over video now and handle the legalities when your courthouse reopens.

Tiny weddings can still be an elegant experience – and you can still go big and invite everybody with a service like our online celebration. At Huge Little Wedding we help every couple build a basic plan involving ceremony, first meal and first dance that works as well in your own living room as at the world’s most chic hotel. Our structure helps you make a plan your online guests can feel connected to – and after that, your creativity’s the only limit.

 

2. The 10-person wedding.

At the time I’m writing this, most places in the U.S. are permitting gatherings of 10 – at least for now. This wedding is the perfect mix of "simple safety" and "big possibility" - especially if you make it a Huge Little Wedding and invite your other guests online.

Here’s how we recommend you break down that 10-person number:

  • you, the wedding couple
  • 4 local guests (your family, if they live nearby)
  • officiant
  • cinematographer to document key moments for the online celebration with your other guests
  • photographer to create the images you’ll hang in homes and share with future family
  • musician or another entertainer who will set the day apart

Events like this are how we think Huge Little Wedding couples will get married most. It’s a small, safe gathering that still allows for all the moments that will mark your day as special. You can still dance to live music, have a polished wedding photo album and dine out like royalty. Book your favorite wedding venue for a garden, hall or rooftop wedding. And plan to pay a lot LESS than you would for those same features at a wedding with 150 guests.

Then, let those 150 guests enjoy it all with you at your online celebration, without risk of spreading anything but joy.

 

3. The 50-person wedding.

Most U.S. states aren’t open for events like this quite yet – but that day’s coming. When it does, it’s going to be complicated.

Adding to your guest list means relying more on other safety practices at the top of this post: Your guests are likely to need masks. Their conversations – and their dinner seating, if you do that – are best kept 6 feet apart. You'll party outside if you can, but with a spaced-out indoor backup plan if weather won't cooperate. You'll need to trust your venue and your other vendors to take adequate measures for disinfection, cleaning, and perhaps additional measure like a temperature check for guests entering the building.

Weddings this big – and in some locations, even bigger – are the closest we’ll see to what weddings “used to look like" until treatments and vaccines chase this coronavirus to the sidelines. But it all comes at a cost: More effort and more work for vendors, and perhaps more money spent by clients as that vendor work translates into “coronavirus surcharges.”

Complex? It sure is.

We’re all still learning what events like this will look like – and how many guests and couples will be interested in having them as opposed to one of the smaller parties I’ve described above. It’s going to take a cultural adjustment before gatherings of any size seem natural once again.

That day is coming, though. We’re getting ready.

 

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