The Era of COVID-19 Weddings
Updated: Apr 9
Everyone dreams of what their wedding day will be like. Imagining what dress they or their bride will wear and whether they’ll have a destination wedding or an intimate celebration in their home town. It’s dreamed up to be one of the best days of your life, but 2020 might be the turning point of how we view this dream day.
Planning a wedding isn't easy. If it was, wedding planners wouldn't make a living - that amounts to what some A-list celebrities make - creating the perfect day for couples. Weddings are a series of moving parts, from finding the right dress to selecting venues and picking a date that works for every person on the guest list. Unfortunately, this year the intensive planning that goes into a wedding was interrupted by COVID-19, ruining and creating some unwanted changes for couples.
For some back story, the wedding industry is a $74 billion industry in the United States with over 400 thousand businesses employing over 1.2 million employees all catered to making a special day memorable. 2020 was supposed to be the biggest year yet for the industry, but so far weddings have been postponed, downsized, or canceled, and wedding services are projected to decline for the rest of the year.
Happily Never After?
When COVID-19 first got declared as a pandemic, social distancing regulations were enforced prohibiting groups of 10 or more. However, as the pandemic unfolded, weddings were later excused as an exception.
Happy couples turned into worried couples trying to preserve what they had planned. In fact, soon-to-be newlyweds worldwide have been impacted, with 76% of couples postponing their wedding, 13% percent canceling, and 11% deciding to tie the knot. Those within the industry were forced to adapt to new and changing regulations all while still making the desired dream wedding for their clients.
Despite these new inconveniences, couples and wedding industry professionals managed to adapt to new regulations and looked for ways to create unforgettable weddings - just as every other business has - through innovation.
The Soon-to-be Newlyweds
Some couples who spent the last year planning their wedding were forced to postpone until 2021, while others eloped, got married over Zoom, or had a drive-in wedding. Some also decided to be risky and still tie the knot with an in-person celebration.
Many grieved having to give up their original wedding plans, as they had already picked significant dates to create a memorable day. Newlywed and Dallas-based blogger, Casey Brown, and her partner had planned for a destination wedding in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico on June 27th of this year, but had to postpone due to safety concerns regarding her family traveling. They had picked that specific day because it was an ode to their anniversary.
Needless to say, the couple was emotionally devastated when they realized they would have to delay their wedding. They decided to postpone the ceremony but didn’t wait on making it official by getting married legally on their meaningful date.
“Our dream wedding is not worth compromising,” Brown explained.
Brown is a part of the many frustrated individuals who either lost thousands of dollars in deposits, had to replan their whole event, or just canceled their wedding altogether. For a while, it left her scrambling to find new dates that would work for their guests and other details that had to be taken care of.
“Having to reschedule a wedding during a pandemic is such a headache, having to rework everything you had already planned out is like starting from square one,” she said. Brown added that they have rescheduled their destination wedding for later this year on December 6th hoping to celebrate with friends and family.
However, for some couples, time is not a luxury they can take and decided to tie the knot in fear that their parents wouldn’t live another year to see them get married or couldn’t put off starting a family. Couples also experienced backlash from friends and family who believed that having large festive weddings despite the pandemic was selfish. Bridal Facebook groups are full of heated debates questioning the morality of these gatherings.
The Wedding Industry
Wedding vendors had never dealt with having to manage a pandemic in the middle of the wedding season. They were forced to adapt to the rapid change and find solutions that still made their clients' big day memorable.
Wedding planners showed empathy as they managed to rework their client’s special date amidst the constantly changing agenda. They focused on recreating dream wedding ideas within the regulation’s capacities. This meant adjusting to things like opting for meal plates instead of self-serve buffets, which turned big festive weddings into intimate ceremonies. They also made monogrammed hand sanitizers and face masks to abide by social distancing regulations.
Wedding dress boutiques were also impacted by the pandemic. Boutiques went from serving multiple clients to only allowing one bride with two guests at a time. They had to get creative and started selling matching bridal facemasks. Some brides embraced this add-on but for others, their vision of how they would look on their wedding day didn’t come with a face mask.
Even vendors like florists, videographers, and caterers were happily trying to please their clients’ requests, despite their levels of comfort with larger guest lists. Many had no other option because their services provide their livelihood.
Brad Schrieber, who is the president Ashton Garden and owns multiple wedding venues in Texas, stated that his staff follows state restrictions by taking temperature checks, seating no more than 10 people at a table, and giving single-serve condiments. But, couples and their family members are not as rule-abiding, ignoring social distancing practices and pulling more chairs to the tables.
Venues have also dealt with having to reschedule countless weddings as they tend to book up sometimes two years in advance pushing many 2020 weddings into 2021.
Photographers and Videographers
Photographers and videographers, those responsible for capturing the big day were another moving part that experienced lost bookings and rescheduled dates. Through their lenses, we see images of newlywed couples leaning in for a kiss with facemasks as the new reality of weddings. We’ve also seen images of weddings gone virtual, elopement-style weddings, and traditional weddings that make it seem like a pandemic isn’t even happening.
One videographer, Bess McCulloch, states that she and her colleagues implemented social distancing rules into their work and found different ways to serve their clients amidst the pandemic. She saw first-hand how her clients shifted from big festive weddings to scaled-down elopement style weddings with only the closest family and friends.
“It’s rewarding creating this act of service by providing meaningful art on one of the most stressful days of people’s lives, and to be able to do so in the craze of a pandemic makes it that much more special,” McCulloch said.
She’s found her work to be more fulfilling as she encourages her clients to grieve the loss of their original plans and push them to embrace their new situation despite the odds.
The Guest List
Those invited to weddings also had to make a hard decision of whether to opt-out on the big date or pull up to celebrate amidst concerns of increasing COVID-19 cases. Others had to decline the invitations due to pre-existing health conditions. Some couples took further measures asking their guests to take the COVID-19 test before accepting to attend the wedding.
COVID-19 might have canceled everything in 2020 but it didn’t cancel real love, making weddings even more memorable.
“Going through all this showed me that I chose the right partner,” Brown said. And we're sure this statement holds true to many newlyweds.
*A virtual cheers to those who experienced this beautiful nightmare and another one to those who are still experiencing it*