March 21, 2021
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I had 21 weddings booked for 2020. Over the course of the year, all of my clients understandably changed their wedding plans to prioritize health and safety. Sometimes this meant rescheduling our work together to 2021. Sometimes this meant planning a safer, smaller wedding to take place in 2020. By the end of the year, I had worked 11 weddings during the pandemic.
I learned a lot along the way. I’m still learning, particularly as the pandemic continues into 2021. Below are a few of those lessons with a specific focus on how couples I’ve worked with have made the most out of an unprecedented, deeply challenging time. I hope they are of value to you and your partner as you center health, safety, and joy for the start of your marriage.
This far into the pandemic and I imagine you and your partner feel a lot like me and my partner: Zoom fatigue is real. We’ve all spent the past 12 months hopping on video calls as we desperately try to stay connected with those we love most.
So when it comes to beaming in your loved ones on your wedding day, it’s understandable if the idea totally deflates you. Will it feel special to FaceTime or Zoom or Skype? Will it just make us more sad?
I’ve seen this question addressed a lot of different ways during the pandemic and I’m happy to say that yes, it can feel special. Is it the same as having everyone in the same space? No. But a virtual option is undoubtedly safer and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate love than to honor the safety of your family and friends.
Here are some ideas that I’ve seen work well when it came to utilizing virtual options at a wedding during COVID:
The pandemic presents us with a unique opportunity to get creative when it comes to planning this thing called a wedding. Before COVID, it was all too easy to default to what we’ve all seen as the “traditional” model for a wedding. During COVID, many of those “traditions” aren’t safe or even legal to do. We can either let this defeat us or energize us.
I’ve seen so many couples choose the later option and the results are nothing short of beautiful. Take, for example, these photos of a pair of autographed hiking boots. These are from a wedding I did for a bride and a groom. Before the wedding, the bride sent her boots to her sister and her nieces and nephews. They poured out all of their love for the couple by marking up the bride’s boots with their good wishes.
This is something she’ll always have to remind her of the love her family had for her and her partner as they began their marriage with a hike on their wedding day. As a professional wedding and elopement photographer, I take this as such a win. The pandemic has taken many things away from us. It has also given couples the freedom to forge their own path as they decide how to start their marriage and honor their unique love story.
Before COVID, the average cost of catering was somewhere in the neighborhood of $70 per guest not including any alcohol. While that number hasn’t radically changed during COVID, it does mean that you have an opportunity to make the most of a smaller guest count, i.e. fewer people means better food.
Of course, there’s no pressure to do this but it is a perhaps unexpected benefit of the necessary smaller guest counts that COVID requires. Where before, catering for 150 guests cost about $10,000 before tip and bar, catering for 15 guests is a much more reasonable, if still expensive $1,000 (or even less, depending on what you’d like to eat).
Whatever you decide, please remember the pandemic when it comes to serving food. The ways I have seen safety manifest in catering most strongly are:
There’s this myth in the wedding industry that an elopement isn’t a “real” wedding or is seen as less important than a big wedding. Not true! Whether eloping is your Plan A or your Plan Z, there is no shame in choosing this route for the day you say “I do.” I promise that your experience can be just as special — if not even more special — because you can focus more on what matters most to you two.
My partner and I actually opted for an elopement in the pre-pandemic days of 2019. We went from planning a big 100-person wedding — including putting the deposit down for our big venue — to realizing that wasn’t what truly felt like “us.” We changed gears for an intimate elopement in the Oregon forest with zero regrets. I have worked nearly 50 weddings and elopements of all shapes and sizes and guess what?
They were all real weddings because they all started real marriages.
Don’t believe me? Take it from this bride. She and her partner originally had a huge indoor wedding planned in a major downtown wedding venue. The global pandemic made this original plan unsafe for their guests, vendors, and themselves and so the couple decided to reimagine their wedding day.
They spent the first day of their marriage in the Columbia Gorge with an officiant, two witnesses, and yours truly. Not only did they have a blast, they found memorable, fun ways to adapt the traditions that were important to them into their new plan. For example, they crafted a portable, lightweight chuppah to get married under using the bride’s brother’s prayer shawl as the canopy.
What did the couple make of all this? The bride told me that “what could have been a stressful and possibly sad day” turned into “one of the best days of the entire year.”
Isn’t that what we all want from our wedding day?