It’s been well over two years since we kicked into quarantine-mode over here. This global pandemic proved to be a disheartening and challenging issue for everyone. Life became a strange series of familiar routines paired with disconnection from those we love but this year was a real relief to emerge from that very restricted way of living. So, yeah—we understand it can still be a little anxiety-inducing to be planning a wedding. I’m so sorry for how frustrating it’s been, dealing with revisions, adaptations, and uncertainty about your special day. That said, I’m so happy to see how successful vaccine and booster distribution has been. The 2021-2022 seasons have had us just as busy as ever, and that is a great sign for the future. Things are looking up!
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 as you navigate these strange times, forgiving yourselves for stress-eating or bingeing 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, right?
Here are some resources and things to consider as you plan your next steps.
Well, first of all, if this is a question you’re having to ask yourselves, I’m so terribly sorry you’ve been faced with this 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!
Over the past two years, many clients either chose to postpone entirely until they feel safe to proceed, held a small elopement-style ceremony in the immediate and a large reception later, or to proceeded with their original date at a revised size or 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 how things work now. Or, fingers, crossed: that you don’t need to change things at all!
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. You may each have differing ideas on what’s at the top, and that’s okay. 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 proved 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 alternative if social distancing would be difficult to maintain indoors, particularly if facing a pandemic surge or new variant. 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 have sometimes been restricted, 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 still 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 if a surge is happening. 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 in 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 it’s possible 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 end up being freeing to rethink things. 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 your venue may have changed their rules/inclusions/options, and it’s worth checking in with them about. 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, those priorities may not be possible to safely execute when under strict pandemic precautions. So rethinking your table arrangements may be necessary, and forgoing a traditional dance party may be best if things take a turn for the worse with public health. 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 in the midst of these strange times 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.
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 them 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 accommodating 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 beautiful portraits, 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 or verbiage 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 two years developing a safety strategy that will ensure the protection of all my clients as well as my staff, so we can keep everyone safe and healthy during these unprecedented times. So I wanted to tell you a little about what we’re doing for our sessions and weddings in order to protect everyone. We’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 us make sure we won’t get sick at a wedding prior to yours, in order to ensure we can be present at yours, as well as for those that follow yours. One note is that we’re all fully-vaccinated and boosted, and that gives us a little more flexibility in feeling safe and protected and adaptable to your changing plans.
- Social distancing: We’re maintaining a six-foot distance from both our clients and their guests whenever we deem it necessary, particularly when indoors. We have an arsenal of a whole bunch of long lenses that allow us to get close detail even from a distance.
- Mask-wearing: Though we’re all fully-vaxxed and boosted, we may still be wearing well-fitted masks (over our mouth and noses of course), during any periods of our time together where we we deem it necessary—primarily in small indoor environments. If you’re comfortable with it, we may remove our masks when outdoors or sufficiently socially-distanced, however we may decide it’s in our best interest to remain masked all day. You may obviously choose to go unmasked, of course, but ours will stay on whenever we feel it is appropriate. Should you have guests present who are not wearing masks, we’ll be keeping our distance for their safety as well as ours. Sometimes small children and pets have trouble connecting if our masks are hiding our faces, so occasionally, and with your permission, we will remove our masks briefly when safely distanced, to show them we’re smiling and approachable as well.
- Hand-washing: In addition to carrying sanitizer everywhere, in order to clean our hands every time they come into contact with another surface, we’ll be pit-stopping to wash our hands with soap and water thoroughly whenever feasible.
- Eating & Drinking: Since eating requires the removal of our masks, we 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 from others for their safety and our own. If this isn’t possible, please let us know so we can prepare our 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, we’re happy to document your groups, but we won’t ask anyone to get close to each other who isn’t comfortable with this. Same goes for removing masks—we won’t ask anyone to remove them if they’re uncomfortable doing so. We offer it as a choice. We’ll work on your family groupings lists together, so once it’s completed, please discuss this with those listed, so that you understand in advance what their level of comfort is, and you can all make informed decisions about your group photos together. That way you’re not blindsided and stressed on the big day.
- Indoor coverage: With the widespread prevalence of the vaccines being distributed, indoor venues reopened mid-2021. Now that we’re fully vaxxed and boosted, we’re happy to operate in indoor spaces but occasionally we may deem it necessary to remain socially distanced and/or masked, as long as we’re adhering to all governmental restrictions regarding capacity.
- Dance Floor Distance: As much as we love shaking our tail feathers, we won’t be getting on any dance floors or other densely crowded environments if we deem them as too crowded or difficult to maintain safe radiuses. We’re continuing to provide detailed coverage of dense environments masked, or if very dense, then from a safe distance off the perimeter of the dance floor.
- Pre-Event Safety: We’re practicing these guidelines not just at all of our weddings, but every day. After over two years, this has become a new way of life. We’re washing our hands with the same dedication, wearing our masks when we leave the house, and keeping our distance from others. Protecting ourselves in order to make sure we stay healthy (so we can provide you with excellent and safe service on your day along with all of our clients) is always guiding our interactions with the world.
Practicing the above guidelines at every event that leads up to yours is what will help us make sure we can perform for you to the best of our abilities. We’ll be following the same protective guidelines at your wedding, as well, to protect all the couples that come after you. I hope this shortlist can help to reassure you that we’re doing everything we can to be healthy, strong, and safe so we can do our jobs effectively on your special day, while protecting you and your guests. I appreciate your understanding as we navigate safety for events 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 postponing is 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 with several date options before finalizing so we can ensure availability), I’ll draft a contract amendment for you. Being flexible and adaptable in the face of this is important to us, as we understand how frustrating and confusing this all has been for our clients, and we want to keep things simple and driven by empathy. Obviously, we’ve learned a lot in the face of the pandemic, so all my contracts address the full scope of how we handle postponements and changes to your date. Once the amendment is signed, our obligations on your previous date will be lifted and reassigned to your new date. We do not charge rescheduling fees, you’ll just need to complete your second payment (of the original three) 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 experiences is ALWAYS worth the effort. Many of our clients have had family losses the past couple of years. Even small low-key events are important. 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 (I’ll happily be your witness!), 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 guests 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 over the course of this pandemic. Assuming local regulations are not an issue, I normally allow for up to 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, adhering to capacity restrictions, 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 during the pandemic. Mostly the restrictions will come from your venue. I do NOT recommend filling to the full capacity of a venue (regardless of pandemic issues). They always over-estimate how many people can fit and it can end up pretty uncomfortably squeezed.
We realize that the current landscape of things is filled with unknowns and uncertainties. We are currently booking for 2023 onward. 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 sooner than later. 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, the interior rooms are not very special). 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. That said, for the first year of the pandemic, they had some limitations on elopement options at a spot called the ‘Wedding Hut‘ (a literal temporarily converted anteen building) which is significantly less photogenic and probably not what you were envisioning so it would be good to check with them on where they’re conducting ceremonies. A secondary courthouse option is to wed at the County Admin building in Santee, which has an outdoor arbor area for elopements.
All that said, we can do your elopement anywhere you’d like by hiring your own officiant, so any dreamy spot can become an elopement spot! 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 these articles I put together about great locations: Beach locations in San Diego / Rustic locations in San Diego / Balboa Park locations / Desert locations
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 still look a little different for a while, 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 though all regulations have been lifted, many vendors and venues may choose to continue to require a certain level of safety precautions and testing 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 for the next year, your photos may include some folks in masks, or still practicing social distancing. We suggest you get comfortable with this possibility.
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.