Planning a Wedding or Elopement During COVID-19
So let’s talk about a topic that’s been on a lot of engaged couple’s minds lately: planning a wedding or elopement during COVID-19. Coronavirus, COVID-19, may have cancelled concerts, casual friend hangs, working at an office, vacations, pretty much everything fun, and yes, even game night. But one thing COVID can’t cancel is love! You can still plan a COVID-19 wedding or elopement during the pandemic (though you should probably advise guests against double dipping chips among other precautions). You may be wondering about the wisdom of getting married during a pandemic or even wedding and elopement planning during COVID-19. The last thing you want is for your special day to become a super spreader event. The good news is that I’ve photographed some beautiful and creative ceremonies during COVID-19 that were both safe and made me cry (though granted, I do cry at every.single.ceremony). Here are some tips to help you plan a wedding or elopement that will be a wonderful day to remember without jeopardizing your guest’s health.
Pandemics are truly an historical bummer. But if you get creative about your wedding or elopement ceremony you won’t have to postpone this significant event and you’ll have an amazing and unique story. Getting married during COVID-19 takes some careful planning and thinking outside the box. Embrace it! Do whatever you need to do to tie the knot in a way that’s meaningful to you. As an example, Courtney and Chris cancelled their big East coast wedding to elope in Rocky Mountain National Park instead and Sierra and Brent indefinitely postponed their large East Coast wedding and streamed their mountain top elopement over Zoom using an iPhone on a tripod! They were thrilled about the decision and didn’t need to wait to get married. For some food inspiration, take tips from Kerry and Mike who downsized their 200+ person wedding to a backyard wedding in Boulder where they had single serving pizzas and charcuterie boards for dinner which I can confirm were DELICIOUS.
Can’t have that giant storybook wedding? Elope at Rocky Mountain National Park, get married in your backyard, or on your friend’s roof. Trust me, the photos will be spectacular and when you look back on them it’ll be a fond and unique memory. Plus, you can still have that huge celebration ceremony once it’s safe to do so.
Practice good public health
If you do opt for an in-person gathering, you probably want to stay up-to-date on the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) considerations for large events and gatherings. Basically, the CDC suggests you can reduce (but not eliminate) the risk by having “Smaller outdoor gatherings in which individuals from different households remain spaced at least 6 feet apart, wear masks, do not share objects, and come from the same local area (e.g., community, town, city, or county).” You’ll also want to consult your local and state rules, like Colorado’s public health orders. One good thing is that there is no evidence that COVID is spread through food preparation, so you can rest assured that catering won’t be a risk. Though it’s probably still best to stay away from buffets. At this point, with the vaccine rolling out it doesn’t seem like very tight restrictions are coming again, but if 2020 taught us anything it’s that you just never know.
Plan your venue carefully
When picking a venue, the main questions you should ask yourself are “is it safe” and “am I okay with a smaller guest count”? As you can see from my photos, I love shooting outdoor ceremonies even in the snow. If you choose a primarily indoor venue, I always recommend picking a venue with beautiful outdoor space. Reach out to me and we can talk about some of my favorite places. Most venues are only operated at a limited capacity during the pandemic, if they’re operating at all. When you’re planning your wedding or elopement during COVID-19, your best bet is to have your wedding or elopement in a beautiful outdoor setting. And to have plan B, plan C, and plan D in case your first one falls through. You’ll also want to check for Colorado county restrictions on capacity limits and gathering sizes.
Elope instead and have a larger reception later (or don’t!)
If you didn’t know by now, I am a big fan of elopements. I love that they prioritize the couple and minimize all the noise and stress that can come with a big ceremony. In an elopement you don’t need to worry about whether you should invite your mom’s cousin who always makes you feel bad about your weight or if you should have a seating chart or if you need to tell the bartenders to cut off uncle Harry after his sixth cocktail. Elopements are just fun! During COVID-19 consider eloping, getting married at some spectacular location that isn’t conducive to a traditional wedding, and then have a raging party when the pandemic is over! Or better yet, use all that money you would’ve spent on booze, food, flowers, and rentals and go on vacation or buy a house or get a race horse, who knows! Kaity and Kyle postponed their Fall 2020 large wedding and eloped instead (so they didn’t have to wait to be married) in this one-of-a-kind ceremony in the snow at Sapphire Point near Dillon, CO. And to prove that elopements can still bring loved ones together, Jillian and Jason downsized their 150 person wedding to an immediate family only elopement at the Red Barn Group Area in Golden among quaking Aspens and a whispering creek and postponed their large gathering to their 1 year anniversary.
Stream your wedding or elopement on a Zoom or Facebook live call
COVID-19 has made Zoom calls an almost daily occurrence. And one thing many of us were surprised by was how uplifting and energizing Zoom and Facebook live can be. Choosing to make to have a smaller wedding or elopement and livestreaming the ceremony is a great option during the pandemic. Instead of waiting to get married until the pandemic was over, Sahar and John moved their Napa, CA destination wedding to a historic Colorado venue, The Manor House, instead. Their wedding was officiated over a zoom call and streamed over Zoom and Facebook live. They had a car parade after the ceremony so their local friends could safely congratulate them. Friends and family will be thrilled to attend a Zoom or Facebook live ceremony, and will congratulate you in-person when they can. Instead of waiting until everything is perfect (which may never come!) consider hiring a videographer, streaming your ceremony, and sharing it with all your loved ones remotely.
Be open to postponing or downsizing
If you’re set on having a large wedding, then you’ll need to be prepared to alter your plans. There is a strong possibility that you’ll need to postpone or drastically downsize, depending on the state of the pandemic and the venue location you chose. Before you postpone, here are some things to do before postponing or even signing contracts and making commitments.
- Get clear on vendor cancellation and reschedule policies. Before you commit or postpone, read their policies very carefully. FYI, at this point, COVID-19 related cancelations or county/state gathering restrictions are most likely not a cause for a refund.
- Make sure guests understand hotel and Airbnb reschedule policies. In your guest communications, or if you’re working with lodging options directly, highlight cancelation or postponement policies.
- Check venue availability. If you decide to postpone, the venue may not be available. I always recommend that you have backup plans and backup-backup plans. Maybe even an emergency venue like a backyard that isn’t subject to availability concerns.
- See how many guests have bought flights/rented cars, etc. Postponing your wedding may put some of your family in a bind. If downsizing is an option, you could always check to see who has committed resources and have them come while you downsize the rest of the guest list.
Getting married during a pandemic is not for the faint of heart. But it can be done! And it can be done in just as meaningful and beautiful a way as a traditional, non-pandemic wedding. I’m always available to answer questions, give unsolicited recommendations, and of course photograph your wedding or elopement ceremony! Whether you decide to go big, get creative, elope, or livestream from your backyard, I’m here for you! Get in touch with me, learn about who I am, and check out my work!
I also created a support group on Facebook a year ago for Colorado couple’s planning their wedding or elopement during the pandemic. Feel free to join the group!