Having planned weddings professionally for ten years, I have learned that even with the best will in the world, the very best laid plans can and often do fall apart without well thought through contingencies in place.
Creative thinking, flexibility and resilience are just some of the competencies I have fine tuned during a decade of experience as a professional Wedding Planner. As such, ‘present me with a problem and I will offer you a solution’ has long been my mantra.
If I had spoken out prior to the middle of March 2020, I may have claimed to have already encountered EVERY possible imaginable scenario in wedding planning… until the impact of a Global Pandemic forced me to become an expert in postponing and re-organising weddings. It literally happened overnight! Without exception, every single wedding I was due to deliver between March and September 2020 has now been postponed to next year.
Dealing with the consequences of Covid-19 and witnessing its effects on so many couples, with whom I have developed close relationships and strong bonds, has been tortuous.
LOCKDOWN MEASURES HAVE HAD A PROFOUND IMPACT ON WEDDINGS IN THE UK
Measures announced by the UK Government, forcing the country into lockdown from 23 March 2020, have had a profound effect on weddings in the UK. By their very nature, in bringing families and friends together, weddings are particularly vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19.
But marriages and civil partnerships are a vital part of our society, uniting couples to start their new life together and affording certain legal rights. As such, on Monday 29 June 2020, the UK Government introduced new guidance, reducing certain restrictions enabling small weddings and civil ceremonies to take place from 4th July. The rules for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland differ but this development enables couples in England who wish to be legally married to do so in a Church or licensed wedding venue, providing the number of people in attendance does not exceed 30 (including the couple, the Officiant(s) conducting the ceremony and any vendors such as Photographers or Videographers).
The guidance sets out how this can be done in a manner that is safe and in line with social distancing guidelines, in order to minimise the risk of exposure to infection for all individuals attending the marriage or civil partnership, including those who work at the venues.
In a previous article, I set out the Church of England’s interpretation of the guidance.
WEDDING PLANNING IN A SOCIALLY DISTANT WORLD
I hold strong values. I believe in doing the right thing. I am a rule follower. I always tell the truth and believe in Karma. Asking for forgiveness rather than permission really isn’t my thing. Hence, it’s vital that anyone reading this article understands and appreciates that any advice offered here is underpinned by a desire NOT to break the rules, but perhaps to present some creative ideas enabling certain things to happen without any adverse consequences or risks to anyone’s health and wellbeing.
SOCIAL DISTANCING IS A TERM WE’RE ALL ACCUSTOMED TO, BUT WHAT DOES IT ACTUALLY MEAN?
We must maintain a distance of 2m (if possible, otherwise a min of 1m+) from anyone with whom we do not share a household or who isn’t in our ‘support bubble’.
‘Support bubbles’ were introduced during mid June 2020 in order to allow single person households to enjoy close proximity and physical contact with members of one other household, without social distancing.
CAN WE STILL GET MARRIED IN A CIVIL CEREMONY AT A LICENSED WEDDING VENUE?
All licensed venues are required to carry out a Covid-19 Risk Assessment for marriages and civil partnerships and confirm with their local authority when they intend to reopen for wedding ceremonies.
Although new rules may differ from one registration district to another, I am aware of at least one registration district where the couple are required to sit at the signing table throughout the ceremony, with witnesses seated at an appropriate distance. The Registrars may also choose to remain seated throughout the ceremony as opposed to moving around and risking the safety and wellbeing of themselves and other people present.
Do bear in mind that it is necessary to give notice at least 29 days before your wedding day and sufficient time (at least three weeks) must be allowed for banns to be read in a Church, unless a common license is applied for, which can be granted in certain circumstances.
CAN WE HAVE A CELEBRANT LED WEDDING CEREMONY?
Currently, under the most recent guidelines issued on 29 June 2020, Celebrant led ceremonies are not permitted. For a celebrant led ceremony to take place, it would have to take place outdoors with a maximum of six people present, including the couple and the Celebrant.
PLANNING A SOCIALLY DISTANT WEDDING
Keep them as low as possible. Ultimately, the number of people permitted to attend may be determined by the capacity of the Church or venue. Clearly, even without the current limit of 30 people, the capacity of a venue can be drastically reduced when social distancing measures are adhered to.
INVITE ONLY YOUR NEAREST AND DEAREST
Share the most precious moments of your wedding with the special people who have supported you in reaching this point in your journey. These might be your Parents, or they might be your best friends.
INVOLVE THOSE WHO ARE UNABLE TO BE PRESENT
It is possible that some very important people, such as Parent or Grand Parents may opt not to attend because they are shielding. Use Zoom or Facetime to involve them virtually. Live stream the ceremony as it happens or hire a Videographer to capture the moments as creatively and sensitively as possible. A beautifully crafted and edited film is the perfect keepsake of your actual wedding ceremony. If a picture paints a thousand words, a film can say a million other things.
Place photographs of the people who you would really love to be there on the seats or pews. They’ll love the fact that their faces will be part of the memories captured in photographs and/or on film forever.
Image credit : www.vicensforns.com
CURRENTLY WEDDING RECEPTIONS ARE NOT PERMITTED
We can only hope that as restrictions are lifted following the gradual easing of lockdown, the number of people allowed to gather together will increase. Having said that, whatever limits may apply in the future, it is still highly likely that social distancing rules will be in place for quite some time.
TEN THINGS TO THINK ABOUT IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING A SOCIALLY DISTANT WEDDING
- Weather permitting, aim to host as much of the event as possible outdoors. It is absolutely categorically clear that outdoor spaces with higher degrees of ventilation are less problematic environments.
- Under the current guidelines, family members living in one household or those defined as ‘bubbles’ may be seated together, subject to a maximum of two households being seated together.
- Dining tables would have to be positioned at least 2m apart.
- Perhaps you could limit the number of people involved at any particular time by staggering their arrival? i.e. groups of family members and friends consisting of no more than two households or ‘bubbles’ arrive and leave at specific times in order to congratulate the Bride and Groom whilst maintaining an appropriate social distance.
- Hand sanitiser, face masks and gloves could be offered to guests and would be imperative if for any reason social distancing could not be maintained.
- A guest book or some other creative means of allowing guests to leave personal messages for the couple, such as a Video blog, would be a particularly special memento.
- Pre-packed food such as gourmet pic-nic boxes could be served to guests to enjoy during their visit or to take home.
- Offering individually bottled drinks such as mini bottles of Champagne reduce the likelihood of any spread of infection through the use of glassware which must be thoroughly cleaned.
- Music cannot be played loud enough to warrant people raising their voices. Perhaps a soloist or some live acoustic background music will enhance the atmosphere without putting people at risk?
- Communicate, communicate, communicate. Make sure those who are attending know precisely what to expect and what is expected of them. Use thoughtfully worded signage and polite notices as gentle reminders.
SMALL INTIMATE WEDDINGS REQUIRE EXTREMELY CAREFULL ORGANISATION
Small weddings are not necessarily easier to plan, neither are they kinder to your budget. Often, they allow you to spend more per head, enabling you to go all out with your planning.
Arguably, a small wedding feels more intimate and with fewer guests to consider, you can invest time in identifying all of the little touches which help to personalise the experience for each individual guest. It is often the smallest, thoughtful details which make the greatest difference and are the most memorable.
To help you achieve this, you will almost certainly benefit from working with a professional Wedding Planner as opposed to relying on Bridesmaids and Groomsmen. Besides advising and inspiring you with lots of creative ideas, they will work with you to pull everything together and ensure no detail is overlooked.
YOUR FREE CONSULTATION
I offer an initial Wedding Planning consultation which is always entirely free of charge and comes with no obligation whatsoever. By all means give me a call to discuss your exciting plans on 01482 871053/07561 107888 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you.