It’s been five months since we kicked into quarantine-mode over here. This global pandemic has proven to be a disheartening and challenging issue for us all. Life has become a strange series of familiar routines paired with disconnection from those we love. So, yeah—it’s a tough time to be planning a wedding. I’m so sorry for how frustrating it’s been, dealing with so many revisions and so much uncertainty about your special day. It’s not fair.
While wedding planning can sometimes be stressful, it sure as hell isn’t meant to be this stressful. I hope you’ve been giving yourselves grace and as much self-care as you can in these strange times. Forgive yourself for stress-eating or binging junk TV. Whatever gets you through. At weddings, we often talk about how marriage is about working through good times and tough times, so you’re getting a lot of practice in, early!
Here are some resources and things to consider as you plan your next steps.
Well, first of all, I’m so terribly sorry you’ve been faced with this rough decision. To have to add this burden to the already heavy burdens you’re carrying in the midst of the pandemic… well, it’s a lot. My heart goes out to you! I know these aren’t decisions you take likely, and that you need to weigh out quite a few factors to figure out what the wisest course of action will be that works best for you. Ensuring you can keep everyone safe, while evaluating your priorities and options is so important!
Most clients are choosing to postpone entirely, to hold a small event now and a large one later, or to proceed with their original date at a much revised size and scope. Here’s a shortlist of factors you may want to consider as you evaluate your options. These may help you decide whether it’s best to postpone your day, or to reshape your plans to adapt to the new normal.
01.Defining your priorities
First things first, before you go changing anything, the most important thing to do is sit down with your partner and discuss what’s important to you. Make a literal list—it may help to see your priorities written down. It’s not easy to order these, but once you see this list, it will become immensely clear what can be done away with, and what cannot be lived without.
02.Moving things outdoors
This is one I highly recommend. Interior environments have been proven to generally be the most risky in which to bring people together. If your plans were partially or fully indoors, consider relocating to an outdoor environment. Many venues will be able to accommodate an outdoor ceremony and reception area, to allow much more flexibility for social distancing. Particularly if you’re limiting the number of guests. Which brings us to…
03.Cutting down your guest list
This is probably one of the more obvious things that has been on your mind. Large volumes of people have been an issue and legally may no longer allowed depending on your area. Many folks are trying to decide if it’s possible to just cull their guests down and keep their wedding plans otherwise intact. This will depend a great deal on the local regulations for where you’re holding your event, as gathering size allowances different so much from place to place. However, it may be a good place to start. Find out what the gathering limitations are in your area (if there are any), and go from there.
Times are complicated, and your guests will understand if you need to let them know your event plans have changed in scope and that you’ll celebrate with them another time. If you can’t imagine celebrating without every single one of the people on your list, well, that pretty much makes it clear that postponement is the best choice for you. A particular thing to keep in mind right now is that many guests may not be able to, or may be unwilling to travel for a long time yet, so if you had a long list of out-of-towners coming to your event, that may be an important concern.
04.Changing Venues Entirely
Is your venue is a small room and you have concerns about the ventilation and density? If it doesn’t offer alternative outdoor options, the safest choice may be to relocate completely. I know that compromising your vision may feel frustrating, but you may find that once you start exploring other opportunities, you might fall in love with a new space. It can be hard to let go of something you’ve put so much time and effort into, but it could be freeing. Gripping tightly to something that just won’t fly under the new normal may prove to be a frustrating disappointment if you can’t execute your original plans. It’s also important to keep in mind that legally, your venue may not even be allowed to open in time for your event, or they may simply choose not to due to health concerns. So if your venue is the perfect place to bring your dream to life, then your best bet may be to postpone far enough out to a point where you’re not facing any sacrifices.
05.Reimagining your vision
Did you imagine long rows of farm tables with guests seated densely? Were you basically banking on 90% of your day being a dance party? If this is your vision, the fact is, it’s unlikely to be able to safely execute under our current pandemic precautions. So rethinking your table arrangements may be necessary, and forgoing a traditional dance party may be wise. Otherwise, your best bet may be to reschedule to a time when you don’t need to sacrifice these aspects of your plans.
06.Exploring new dates
While this may feel a little heavy to have to face, it’s better to get out from under this thing early, so if you think you might postpone, then contacting your venue to ask about remaining date availability would be wise to do as soon as possible. Remember that everyone getting married this year is facing the same difficult choices you are, and so date availability is getting more and more limited, particularly if you’re fixated on a weekend date. If you don’t want to have to wait, being open to choosing a weekday date might give you more options.
Keep in mind that finding a new date that works for you, your venue, and your whole team of vendors may be pretty tricky. Make sure you contact your vendors with a shortlist of date options, preferably enough so that you can narrow down to the option that the most people can accommodate. For us, being given at least three or four dates, and making some of them weekday choices, has been much easier to find overlap, as opposed to just one or two Saturdays.
What about a best-of-both-worlds approach?
While this may not have been the original plan, you may find yourself quite taken with the number of benefits that come from the elopement-now, wedding-later philosophy. Convenient and helpful, this may resolve some of the frustrations/challenges you’re dealing with, while accomodating your most immediate concerns. Here are a few points that you might find compelling.
- Taking care of businessBeing married on paper can be beneficial
Getting the government involved in your wedded bliss is the least delightful aspect of weddings, but one of the most important. In this country, you most often need to be married to be able to be on your spouse’s health care, to be able to make decisions for them in times of hospitalization, and to gain a whole bunch of tax benefits. Documents need to be picked up in advance, filled out perfectly, and sent off without any errors… it’s fussy. Not having to worry about that when your reception day comes can be a relief. So while it’s probably the least sexy point, getting the technical document checked off can simply make your life easier.
- Getting the stress off your shouldersWith your ceremony completed, your eventual reception can be a relaxed party
Many clients find the planning of their wedding ceremony to be among the most stressful parts of hitching their lives together. Being apart, writing vows, and saying them in front of your guests… this all can feel like a lot of pressure. So if you’re someone who feels anxious about your ceremony, making it significantly smaller may be a great way to take the weight off your shoulders. Particularly if you lean shy or introverted and don’t love speaking in front of a large group. And also a great way to be free of the most intensive of obligations once your ceremony is out of the way.
- Freedom is excitingKeeping things tiny frees you up from many restrictions
One of the big things that can be frustrating on your wedding day is figuring out your timeline. There is only so much available time. You want to relax, enjoy the party, you want to dance and drink and eat and celebrate, and you want to maximize your facetime with every guest. Accommodating all of your ideal goals means an often tight/limited timeline for all the things you want to do. Enter: elopement. You suddenly have a whole extra day to move some of the things you would have done on the wedding day, making your timelines on both days more flexible. And because so few people (if any) will gather with you on your elopement day, it means you can do anything/go anywhere you fancy, without the volume of obligations that a single wedding day may have. Want to go downtown, to the beach, and to the woods, with a pit-stop for pizza halfway? No problem. It’s just us, so we can make anything happen.
- You can still have another ceremony laterVow renewals as a shared experience with your guests may still make a second ceremony unique
You may feel like once your small ceremony in the near future is wrapped, there’s no point in another one later. But that’s really not true. Sharing your union with all your guests down the road can be considered an equally important but completely different kind of experience. You’ll no longer be required to include any specific thing in your ceremony because that will all have been already taken care of. So you’re freer to make your second ceremony whatever you’d like it to be. Have folks speak, sing, read, or be involved in some way. Do something memorable, kooky, or tender. It can be anything you’d like, it doesn’t need to be a duplicate. Gathering your favorite people as participants in committing your lives to one-another may very well be the thing that really and truly makes your union feel complete. So while you don’t need to do a second ceremony, you may find it rewarding to still do one, just with a little less pressure.
I know it feels scary to think about the future. I’ve spent the last few months planning a safety strategy that will ensure the protection of all my clients as well as myself, so we can keep everyone safe and healthy during these unprecedented times. So I wanted to tell you a little about what I’m doing in all of my sessions and weddings to protect everyone. I’ll be taking these precautions at all events that occur before yours, in order to ensure your protection, and that of your guests, at your event. Basically, these steps help me make sure I won’t get sick at a wedding prior to yours, in order to ensure I can be present at yours, and present for those that follow yours.
- Social distancing: my radius is ten feet, just to be extra-safe. I do not shoot in environments in which I cannot maintain a minimum of six feet of radius from all other persons. I have an arsenal of a whole bunch of long lenses that allow me to get close detail from a distance.
- Mask-wearing: I’ll be wearing a well-fitted mask with a filter, over my mouth and nose, for the entire duration of our time together with the exception of water and food breaks. You may obviously remove yours for photographs, of course, but mine stays on. Should you have guests present who are not wearing masks, I will be keeping my distance for their safety as well as my own.
- Hand-washing: In addition to carrying sanitizer with me everywhere in order to clean my hands every time they come into contact with another surface, I will be pit-stopping to wash my hands with soap and water as frequently as feasible (without compromising on your coverage).
- Eating & Drinking: Since eating requires the removal of my mask, I will not be sitting down with your guests to eat or drink. Most caterers have offered to box meals or serve them to vendors in a separate location, so we can consume them from a safe distance of others for their safety and our own. If this isn’t possible, please let me know so I can prepare my own food. Additional time to accommodate the safe distance for food consumption may be necessary.
- Group Posing: It’s your prerogative and that of your guests to decide what you’re comfortable with, so I’m leaving this up to the individuals in the photograph. If they’re comfortable being close to one another, I’m happy to document your groups, but I won’t ask anyone to get close to each other who isn’t comfortable with this. Same goes for removing masks—I won’t ask anyone to remove them if they’re uncomfortable doing so. We’ll work on your family groupings lists together, so once it’s completed, please discuss this with those listed, so that you know in advance what their level of comfort is, and you can all make informed decisions.
- Outdoor coverage: Until we see a significant shift in the statistics of the severity of this pandemic, I am committed to exclusively shooting in outdoor environments only, unless all people present are also in masks. I’m happy to help you with re-examining events planned indoors so we can get them out and into a more safe environment that allows for better social distancing.
- Dance Floor Distance: As much as I love shaking my tush, I won’t be getting on any dance floors or other dense environments, it’s just not possible to social-distance in this manner. I will provide coverage of any density from a safe distance off the perimeter of the dance floor.
- Pre-Event Safety: I am practicing these guidelines not just at all of my weddings, but every day. This is a way of life. Every new item coming into my home is being carefully cleaned. I am washing my hands with the same dedication, wearing my mask when out, and keeping my distance from others. Protecting myself, in order to make sure I stay healthy so I can provide you with excellent service on your day, is always guiding my interactions with the world.
Practicing the above guidelines at every event that leads up to yours is what will help me make sure I can do my job for you. I’ll, of course, be following the same protective guidelines at your wedding, as well, to protect the couples that come after you. I hope this short list can help to reassure you that I’m doing everything I can to be healthy, strong, and safe so I can do my job on your special day, while protecting you and your guests. I appreciate your understanding as we all figure out how to navigate events safely during these times. If you have any questions for me about these, or even ideas about safety that you’d like me to consider, I would love to hear from you.
Many clients are ultimately deciding that’s the best course for moving forward. If that’s the case for you, as soon as we agree on an available date and you finalize the change with your venue (please reach out to us before finalizing so we can ensure availability), I’ll draft a new contract for you. Obviously, we’ve learned a lot in the face of the pandemic, so I have added ample new language to address the full scope of how we handle postponements and changes to your date. Once the new contract is signed, the previous one is null and void, and our obligations on your previous date will be lifted. You’ll complete your second existing payment as a retainer to hold the new date, and then we’ll be all set.
Take it from me: you never know what the future holds, and preserving important dates is ALWAYS worth the effort. I can help you make it a wonderful, memorable, and inspired experience that feels absolutely worthy of documentation. Even if it’s just the three of us and your officiant, there’s no need to dismiss it as no big deal. Whether we get you hitched at the courthouse in the morning and then go to brunch, or hike to a majestic view at the top of a mountain, you’ll be creating unique memories that deserve their place in your home, and to potentially share with friends and family down the road, should you choose to tell them. I very often hear stories from couples at events who express appreciation for the work we’re doing “since we so regret not having our union documented.” Big or small, your wedding experience deserves to be preserved.
This turns out not to be a simple question, thanks to local regulations and requirements about gathering sizes varying wildly and changing from week to week. Assuming local regulations are not an issue, I normally allow for 10-12 guests for an elopement and up to 50 for a ‘small wedding’. But, let’s face it… times are weird. So I’m not capping this too precisely, provided we aren’t breaking any legal rules, are social distancing outside, etc. Keep in mind that if we’re at the courthouse or any other venue, they may have a cap on how many guests are allowed in attendance.
We realize that the current landscape of things is filled with unknowns and uncertainties. We are currently accepting bookings through mid-2022, in order to accommodate those that simply prefer to wait things out. As mentioned above, if you are seeking a Saturday, which is obviously the most common day for weddings, or a Sunday, which isn’t far behind you may need to schedule it fairly far in advance. Right now, our 2021 is filling fast, so considering Fridays or other weekdays is a wonderful way to avoid having to wait longer than you’re comfortable with.
Obviously, many folks commonly choose to wed at the convenience of the courthouse. In San Diego, where I’m based, it’s actually the County Administration Building. It happens to be a lovely art deco building with charming gardens (so long as you ensure to book the outdoors ceremony in advance). I love doing elopements there because it’s an easy walk to the water for a view, to Little Italy for tasty treats, or a short drive over to Balboa Park for a classic slice of San Diego. But the truth is, we can do your elopement anywhere you’d like, really. I can recommend an incredible officiant that will help craft the absolute perfect ceremony for you, and many other vendors who can help bring your teeny event dreams to life.
If you’re more private and low-key, your backyard may suit you best. If you love nature, being in the forest or on the beach might be the perfect choice. It’s about what would make you happiest on the day. I’m happy to travel, and truth be told, your ideal location that wouldn’t have worked for a full wedding may now work for an elopement. I’ve shot small events in the redwoods, on the coast of Mexico, in the islands of the pacific northwest… what inspires you? Reach out if you want to throw around some more ideas that will be the best fit for you both. For other specifics, check out this page I put together about elopements with plenty more location ideas.
I’m on the up-and-up, so if you intend to proceed with an event that conflicts with local laws or regulations about gatherings, social distancing, or mask requirements, then I’m afraid I can’t accommodate you. As long as you’re adhering to local legal requirements as well as the safety precautions described above, I would be happy to help document your union.
So, what's next?
Weddings as we knew them may look different for quite some time, so bear in mind that postponing just a couple of months may not be sufficient time for us to be out of the woods. Even after regulations are lifted, many vendors and venues may choose to continue to require a certain level of safety precautions in order to provide their services safely to all. Many of your guests may choose to do the same, continuing to wear masks or take other precautions for a while yet, particularly those with existing health issues, or family or friends with immunocompromization concerns. Even next year, your photos may include some folks in masks, or still practicing social distancing. We suggest you get comfortable with this idea, as our new normal isn’t going anywhere for a while.
This is an unparalleled historic event, and looking back on your photos years from now, these images will help preserve your shared history, including the masked times you were living in. Embrace the fact this is part of your lived experience, and as strange as it is, it’ll be an honest reflection of your world. One day, you can regale others with stories about how your love survived and thrived in the time of Corona. In the meantime, hang in there. We’re here for you.