A couple of months ago, very early on in this pandemic, I blogged about weddings and COVID. Now that we’ve worked a few weddings, I’d like to share my thoughts and insight on how to safely get married and planning a COVID safe wedding day.
My ONLY interest here is to provide couples with resources to help make their own decisions regarding their own weddings. I’m not a doctor or a scientist, and I don’t pretend to be. I am fortunate enough to have many incredibly smart, compassionate, and talented doctors and scientists in my circle, and I take their advice seriously and share it willingly. If you disagree with the advice I’m sharing, that’s fine, but I’m not interested in a debate about the science and definitely not about the politics that have become (weirdly) involved in this thing.
Also, if you’re a currently booked, future MotionWorks couple and you’re reading this thinking, “Wait. My wedding is NOT going to look like this. Will my videographer’s still show up?” The answer is a resounding yes. We are deeply committed to all of our currently booked couples, even if the wedding of YOUR dreams doesn’t look like what weddings of MY dreams look like right now. We’ve spent a decade doing just that: showing up, filming wedding days, creating amazing films. The only caveat is your wedding must be legal, we can’t lose our business license…but I know none of y’all are going rouge like that. Plus, here in WV, for better or worse, there are currently no restrictions on weddings.
Okay. Disclaimer aside, let’s move forward.
Should I reschedule my wedding due to COVID?
This is the number one thing couples ask when talking about the wedding they have planned. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question…and the answer will not be the same for every couple. Here are the considerations I bring up to my couples:
- Will you be able to enjoy your wedding day?
- Are you willing alter your plans to conform to local guidelines?
Wedding days should be enjoyed. Wedding days CAN be enjoyed, even in the midst of all this craziness that is going on. But COVID certainly adds and extra level of stress to a wedding day. If you feel like moving forward with planning your wedding might cause you so much stress that you can’t enjoy the say, I recommend postponing.
Your wedding also will not look like what you originally planned. There are simply circumstances outside of your control. Even if you were to disregard everything and move forward as if COVID was not happening, some of your guests would choose not to attend, some of your guests and many of your vendors will choose to wear masks.
FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES
If you’re in WV, I’m sure you’ve seen the meme’s featuring Gov. Justice’s infamous stumble on words leading to “F’ing Follow the Guidelines”.
For real though, please do. They are there for a reason. No one is trying to ruin your fun; everyone is trying to be safe. The guidelines are frustrating and they change all of the time depending on virus levels and new science that comes out. If you move forward with planning your wedding, you’ve got to be willing to roll with the punches a bit.
The most obvious reason to follow the guidelines is to be safe. No one wants their wedding to be known as the source of an outbreak. But there are also more immediate problems that may arise from having a wedding that violates mandates: your wedding could get shut down. Some of your vendors may not be able to work your wedding (they could lose their business licenses or insurance), your venue may not host you, and the health department may show up. Absolutely no one wants that.
Planning A Wedding Around COVID
Alright, with all that out of the way, let’s move forward. You’ve decided that you can roll with the punches, you’re okay with a few changes, and you just want to get married. Awesome, let’s do this!
So we know that weddings, at least traditional weddings, are in the high risk category. They are often large scale events, where people are in close quarters for long periods of time, and many travel in from several locations. However….just because this is what wedding have looked like for the past few decades doesn’t mean it’s how they always have to look, or how YOUR wedding has to look.
A Smaller Guest List
The most obvious concession is decreasing your guest list. This may be necessary to move forward depending on what your local government has stated about gatherings sizes (and if they apply to weddings). You may choose to do so without requirements, just to keep your closest loved ones safer. You may also need to adjust this right up to your wedding.
You can include all of your guests (even those who can’t attend in person) through video. We’re expediting ALL of our ceremony edits this year, and we offer two levels of streaming. We also don’t care if you have a friend stream it on your Facebook. We do recommend designating one person to do this and letting us know so we can connect and plan in advance. The benefit of hiring MotionWorks to stream your wedding is a professional level stream (we use our cameras, not an iPad or phone), we secure the internet connection (no worrying if your friend will lose service) and most of all, your friend gets to enjoy the day!
Explore the Outdoors
Outdoor weddings are nothing new, but they are a great option for safe weddings! In addition to the airflow, you will have space to spread your guests out.
Space It Out
Let’s be honest: no one wanted to sit shoulder to shoulder with a bunch of other people even before COVID. So let’s take advantage of the situation and just spread ourselves out.
Give your guests some space. Give yourselves some space. Create spaces for people to be able to enjoy each other, but not be crammed together. Collaborate with your wedding vendors, because there are a TON of great ways to do this.
Obviously, you can place individual family units together and have them seated at smaller tables. You can also strategically place furniture so that when guests are utilizing it for chatting, they are naturally spaced. Using long tables in bold, geometric patterns, or super large round tables with hollow centers will allow you to seat many people safely, while preserving that ‘community table’ aspect that so many people love about wedding.
Nervous about people all mobbed together on a dance floor? Create a couple of dance areas. Get creative with lights and design so that your can feature one space or another when someone has some particularly awesome moves.
Yup, I know. You don’t want to. No one wants to. It can be a bummer. But it is by far the easiest way to keep everyone safe.
Now, this doesn’t mean that everyone person has to wear a mask all of the time. But everyone who can wear a mask should wear a mask whenever indoors or not appropriately distanced.
You may choose to provide masks for your guests to be sure that everyone is covered. You can also have some fun with it! Provide custom masks as favors for all guests. Here are just a few great mask ideas we’ve seen so far:
- Color coded masks to notate how you know the couple in custom wedding colors.
- Photo-booth style fun masks to share some personality.
- Light up, glow in the dark, or LED masks for some crazy dance floor fun.
This will not mean the same thing for every wedding. For outdoor events that are carefully designed to adequately space guests and wedding party, this might be almost never. For larger, indoor events, it may be for most of the wedding. For most weddings, it will be somewhere in between.
This will also differ depending on your location, regulations, and current virus levels. This is a handy little risk assessment map that I like to consult. You can set the number of people, and it will tell you the likelihood that at least one person in attendance will be COVID+ . This only works if your event is local to where you live, and your guests are also local. Destination events and people traveling in for your event are a total wildcard and can not be predicted.
Don’t assume because you are seeing images from other weddings where no one is masked that no one is wearing masks, or that it is okay for you to not insist on masks at your wedding. Vendors often share images from weddings that took place last year (or a couple years ago). Also, we all know what magicians photographers are. If you are sensitive about masks at your wedding, talk to your photographer. They artfully frame out guests with masks and have become skilled as safely taking wedding party portraits without masks (these are likely to show up in your feed).
“But I don’t want to think about COVID or see masks in my photos/video!”
That’s okay. Talk to your photo and video team. Talk to your planner and venue. Let them know. Let your team work together to provide you with solutions.
All of the images in this post are from Maryn Graves Photography. Maryn was amazing to work with during this wedding. She skillfully captured amazing images for the couple (both with and without masks, as they were not bothered by either and wanted a few images with masks on) and politely set the family at ease, working with different comfort levels to keep everyone safe.
Again, keeping things outside, with proper spacing will reduce the need for a masked wedding party, but unless you are also properly spacing your guests outdoors, they should have masks. Another perk of having a small guest list is being able to assign guest seating at the ceremony, allowing you to place households together in rows, and spacing your rows to have 6 ft between each row.
I’ve talked a lot about how documentary our videos are in nature. I don’t see masks as a deterrent to a great wedding (and have filmed a couple of really amazing weddings, with different degrees of masking). Masks are just a part of life right now, and personally, I think it’s okay if a few of your photos or your video reflect that. But also, it’s your wedding day, and we want to work with you to deliver the video that you love.
Do Not Invite COVID to Your Wedding
I wish I could wave a magic wand and make this all go away for you. But since I can’t, I want to be extra sure that your wedding is safe and leaves you only with happy memories. For that to happen, you can’t have COVID at your wedding. We’ve talked about all the ways to keep healthy (or asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic) people healthy. Let’s just rip off the band-aid and talk about the worse case scenario:
Someone wakes up with symptoms on your wedding day.
I want to include a personal story here, of my own wedding day. Hop in a time machine, and go back with me to 2003. I wake up on my own wedding day. My phone rings, and it’s my flower girl’s mom. The flower girl has been up all night, sick with a GI virus. Her mom asks what I think they should do. She might be better. They could give her some meds and show up if I want.
I look over, and see her tiny dress, hanging next to mine.
And I let her mom know that’s okay. They should stay home and rest. I got married without a flower girl, and everything was just fine.
Now, GI bugs are gross and unpleasant (and super duper contagious) but also usually not deadly. COVID is deadly. So don’t allow it into your wedding. Let your guests, family, and wedding party know that if they have any doubt, they should stay home.
If the worst should happen, and one of you wakes up with some symptoms, then reschedule. It is not worth it to proceed.
Consider a Pre-Wedding Quarantine
If you want to be extra sure this doesn’t happen, consider a little pre-wedding quarantine. If you can’t fully quarantine, try to avoid as many of those high risk places like stores, gyms, bars, and restaurants for the two week prior to your wedding.
This can be difficult, because often the two weeks before you wedding are filled with last minute errands. Try to get all of those out of the way beforehand (though some, like nail appointments, may be necessary). Getting all of that hustle and bustle out of the way in advance may have another side benefit: you’ll spend the final two weeks before you wedding WAY less stressed. Without a million places to go and things to do, you can relax and bit, reflect on what you’re about to do, and spend time working on small personal and meaningful details. Maybe even get a jump on all those thank you cards for the gifts you’ve already received!
Add On Video Streaming
Video streaming used to be something we rarely provided for couples. Chris has a ton of experience with live broadcast and streaming technologies through his work in sports broadcasting, and every once in awhile we would get a request to add it onto a wedding. Now it’s becoming almost common. Video has emerged as the easiest way for us to stay connected, even if we need to be physically distant. To fit this need, we’ve developed two different wedding video streaming packages. I’m going to share more details about those in another post next week, but if you’re in the midst of planning your wedding, contact us today for details and to start planning your MotionWorks Wedding Film.