The venue is booked. The invites are sent. You’ve found The Dress. And then the pandemic happened.
The coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown have left many couples unsure what lies in store for their 2020 weddings.
Weddings have been able to restart since July 4, with up to 30 people able to attend under social distancing rules. However, only two households will be permitted to attend a reception held at an indoor hospitality venue.
With these conditions in place, some couples might be uncertain about going through with their wedding this year.
We have spoken to wedding industry experts to find out what a socially distanced celebration might look like, and whether you should postpone your wedding for the foreseeable future.
Are weddings back on in Nigeria?
Yes – but not as you know them. The Government announced that there will be gathering of not more than 20 people – this is including the couple, guests, suppliers (such as the photographer), and registrar or celebrant. This is provided they comply with social distancing rules. Guests will have to stand or sit at least one metre apart, as well as take other safety precautions – such as wearing a face mask.
For those who were originally planning a big bash, this means seriously downsizing if your venue is still able to accommodate you safely; although the measures may come as a blessing for couples already grappling with a spiralling guestlist.
What are the new safety measures?
Wedding ceremonies in England should be kept “as short as reasonably possible” and limited to just what is legally binding, according to the new guidelines for gathering. Religious ceremonies which would usually take a number of hours or days will need to adapt to a very short and limited number of people.
As mentioned above, no more than 20 people should be in attendance and only two households should be present.
Wedding receptions which typically follow the ceremony are “strongly advised not to take place at this time”. If you do want a wedding reception, government guidelines state only two households can attend an indoor venue or six guests from different households can attend an outdoor celebration.
Should I postpone my summer wedding?
If you have a wedding booked for this year, should you postpone it? It depends on whether you are comfortable with having a socially-distanced celebration of only 20 people, with only two households allowed in an indoor reception venue.
Wedding planner Katrina Otter has had a lot of her weddings postponed to 2021.
“All my couples up until October have postponed because they want the weddings that they dreamed of, and have spent months, if not years, planning,” she says. “These days, weddings involve so much more than just a legally binding ceremony; they’re a celebration of friendship and families, and this is something that the current guidelines don’t allow.” While many of her clients remain “optimistic” about their weddings next year, she said that whether future ceremonies will be able to operate at full capacity remains uncertain – particularly if there’s a second wave.
Another popular option is to press on with a small ceremony with a handful of guests this year, and postpone the big celebration until we can party properly again
Some might opt to have a small ceremony in the summer, with a handful of guests, and postpone the big party to next year. “I can see an increase in couples having a simple ceremony this year when allowed for just them, the registrar and witnesses,” says Chapman. “And in 2021 they will plan a larger wedding for all their guests but opting for a celebrant ceremony.”
Will my wedding next year be OK?
It’s all a matter of “speculation”, Otter says, and the situation could change so rapidly. “At this present time, no, I do not see 2021 being an issue,” she explains, “but have this conversation with me in two weeks’ time and I might be saying something totally different.”
If you do postpone your wedding to next year, you might face another challenge: finding an available date. Given that most weddings this year will be postponed to 2021, on top of the weddings that were already planned to go ahead next year, suppliers and venues might have limited dates available. As such, a lot of couple are having mid-week weddings, according to Otter, “so they can keep their suppliers”.
She tells me that one couple wanted to move their wedding, which was supposed to take place this September, to any Saturday between the beginning of April and end of October 2021. There was only one date that the suppliers could do.
When restrictions are lifted, what might the weddings look like?
Wedding planner Matthew Oliver, who specialises in international weddings, says weddings will “absolutely” have to adapt in the future.
“I feel like we will need have to look at bigger venue options,” he says. “For instance, if you’re working with a couple that are inviting 150 guests, instead of looking for venues that hold exactly 150 people, we’re going to have to look for venue options that are larger.”
This would be to allow guests to socially distance – which, he thinks, will still be our mentality after lockdown is over. “After this whole situation is finished, people are still going to have that in their way of life – of ‘I don’t want to be close to you,’” he says, adding that venues and suppliers might be more “protective” about their contact with guests.
Other wedding venues have also found creative solutions. Bijou Wedding Venues, which specialises in country house weddings, will use “airport quality” temperature reading cameras to test all staff and guest temperatures on arrival, and will live-stream the ceremony to different areas of the venue, so the mandatory witnesses can be present at the ceremony and the other guests can view it from a safe distance.
The wedding venues company also plans to replace buffet queues with table service, install marquees and gazebos to maximise time outdoors, and hold ceremonies outdoors where possible.
Otter does not see the need for such changes. “I think when we are allowed to get back to weddings as they used to be, weddings will go back to how they used to be,” she says, adding that “if social distancing rules are relaxed, things will very quickly get back to normal”.
Some couples might opt for “alternative” ceremonies on Zoom, even when the restrictions are lifted, but this won’t work for everyone. “It’s going to work for some couples,” Otter says. “It’s definitely not going to work for the majority.”
What about international weddings?
Whilst travel restrictions are slowly starting to lift, Oliver does not imagine there will be any international weddings this year because “people are scared”.
If weddings are able to go ahead in the coming months, he says they “might be smaller weddings, they might just be elopements”.
Most of his clients have postponed to next year, or cancelled altogether. Usually, he takes on between 15 to 20 weddings this year, but says next year he will have double the number due to the postponed weddings from this year.
He’s still getting new bookings for 2021, as “people are looking past this whole situation,” he says.