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Weddings after COVID-19: How to Ensure Guests Have the Best Time on Your Wedding Day

What weddings will look like over the next few weeks and months is a little uncertain right now, but there are plenty of ways you can plan a safe and happy wedding after COVID-19

What’s going to happen once we’re allowed to have weddings again? What will social distancing at a wedding look like? How can you keep loved ones safe? These are the question on the lips of brides and grooms, guests and the wedding industry as the world begins to open up again after the Coronavirus lockdown.

The truth is, it’s uncertain at the moment. The Government have said that “small weddings” can hopefully go ahead from the 1st June 2020, but there’s no guidance yet on whether that means five guests or 50. What we do know is that there will be a new normal for weddings and there are plenty of ways you can start planning and adapting your big day now to meet this new reality.

While your wedding might look a little different, the love, joy and festivity won’t. Here we have 26 ideas to make sure your day as safe as it can be while throwing a fantastic celebration. From hand sanitising stations and virtual planning appointments to sequel and shift weddings, here’s how to ensure your guests have the best time at your wedding after COVID-19. At Prestige Carriages, our wedding car hire specialists are here to share some tips on how to ensure that your guests have a great time at your wedding.

Health and Safety Measures

“COVID-compliance” measures will be the new normal at weddings as venues, suppliers and couples endeavour to make their day as risk-free as possible. Your venue and suppliers are likely to introduce lots of new measures such as contactless taps in kitchens and bathrooms, deep-cleaning before and after the wedding, and staff wearing PPE. Ask them ahead of time what they plan to do and ensure you’re implementing the health and safety measures you can too, like these:

1. Add Hand Sanitising Stations

Your guests will be opening doors, picking up glasses, touching chairs, shaking hands. The best way to contain any spread of germs is to have lots of hand sanitiser and wipes available for your guests to use and display them in a creative way.

  • Buy sleek and contemporary chrome touchless automatic soap dispensers and fill them with hand sanitiser. You aren’t going to get away from the fact that the sanitising items themselves might not fit in exactly with your theme, but you can arrange them so they work. For example, set up your sanitising station on a vintage dresser with flowers tumbling out of lower drawers for a boho, rustic or festival theme. Lean into cool chrome and geometric shapes if your theme is elegant and modern
  • Include personalised bottles of sanitiser in welcome bags that can be left in guests’ hotel rooms or sent to their home ahead of the ceremony
  • Have serving staff pass round little bottles of hand sanitiser on trays or walk around with a large bottle that they can pump out so guests don’t have to touch it
  • Put packets of sanitising wipes in pretty tissue boxes

2. Provide Gloves and Masks

Let guests know from the start if you expect them to wear gloves and masks so they can provide their own if they wish. Otherwise, decide how you will distribute gloves and masks to your guests, such as leaving them in an organza bag on each seat in the ceremony room or have ushers handing them out as guests arrive.

Disposable gloves and masks need to be changed so make sure there are accessible supplies in places such as your reception room or bathrooms, with bins and hand sanitiser nearby. Otherwise, you may choose to buy customised fabric masks that fit in with the theme and design of your wedding and guests can take home.

3. Serve Plated Meals Rather Than Buffets

Buffets and family-style sharing platters have been popular for while, however, they’re likely to lose favour as stringent safety measures come into effect. Plated meals will be the standard way of serving, where guests aren’t touching the same spoons or getting too close to the food.

Your caterers will put in unprecedented safety measures from serving staff training to guidelines on how the chefs taste and dish up your food. Speak to your caterer now to discuss adapting your wedding breakfast to plated meals, hors d’oeuvres to individual bowl food, and ways to keeping your dessert table or cake display safe.

4. Hire Food Trucks

If you want that feeling of choice that a buffet creates, opt for food trucks where guests can queue safely and avoid communal serving implements. Just make sure they wash or sanitise their hands before eating. A funny reminder from your MC or toastmaster is a great way of doing this.

5. Place Signs at Your Venue Entrance About Social Distancing

It’s going to be tricky to keep your guests two metres from anyone outside their household or ‘social bubble’ at your wedding. Placing a clear sign at the entrance to your venue stating that you’d like everyone to maintain the two metre social distancing rule will at least make your intentions clear. This is done out of love and respect for the safety of your guests, and they will understand that. If it feels too preachy, try adding some humour.

In terms of design, we don’t mean a taped up piece of A4 with comic sans on it. Ask your stationer to make – or try to DIY – a nice sign that fits into your décor, e.g. a rustic wooden pallet with calligraphy-style writing.

6. Encourage an Unplugged Wedding

You might want to have an unplugged wedding where guests don’t take photos on their phones. The reason is that handing your phone to someone to look at a picture or take a photo can spread bacteria. If you have a professional photographer taking lovely group and candid shots, it might be nice to ask guests to refrain from using their mobiles or at least not touch anyone else’s.

If all else fails, have alcohol-based wipes for people to use on their screen and cases.

New Wedding Layouts and Seating

The two-metre social distancing rule is going to throw some spanners in the works for your traditional wedding seating. The post-pandemic mindset will be careful about spacing guests out by household and find creative ways to arrange your ceremony and reception spaces. You still want your guests to feel like you’ve gathered together – without actually gathering too close together.

7. Have a Smaller Guest List

Weddings will inevitably become more intimate, whether that’s due to Government guidelines or couples wanting to reduce the potential impact of their big day. Couples will become more intentional with who they’re inviting and whittle guests down to closest friends and family; those who aren’t invited will understand.

A smaller guest list doesn’t mean less of a celebration or occasion. In fact, you’ll have more budget to play with, which means you can go big on the guest experience and splash out on your priority items like amazing food, decor, live entertainment or floral displays.

8. Use Outdoor Spaces

Wherever possible, use outdoor spaces for the different sections of your day. Find ways to incorporate open-air elements, like an outdoor ceremony, photographs and reception drinks on the lawn, and an outside lounge area with fire pits for guests to mingle in the evening.

If outdoor isn’t possible, speak to your venue about using the largest rooms they have available so you’re not crammed in. We’ve got plenty of ways for you to make a large space feel more intimate, while encouraging distancing and airflow.

9. Adopt Alternative Ceremony Seating

Ceremonies will change greatly to keep guests at a distance. Circular or semi-circular seating will become more popular, with spaced out rows of guests around the edge and the couple in the centre. Small bench seating that will hold two to three members of the same household will be placed ‘in the round’ with the couple at the centre to allow everyone to get the best views.

Guests may even be assigned ceremony seating in the same way as a reception. This way you can keep family units and ‘social bubbles’ together and avoid seating elderly grandparents or at-risk loved ones near someone you know may be more exposed in a key worker role.

Don’t be surprised to see short ceremonies with guest standing for the whole time too!

10. Ditch the Receiving Line

The idea of greeting every guest in person with a hug or handshake won’t happen for a while. Instead, choose a contactless form of greeting that still allows you to say hello to everyone and thank them for being there. What about a bow, a wave, a foot tap or – like in Tibetan tradition – sticking your tongue out?

11. Create Break-Out Dance Floors

Dis-dancing, or dancing at a social distance, is still very possible. Consider having multiple smaller areas for dancing around the reception room to avoid too many people in one space. We love having an X-shaped reception table design with two long banquet tables that essentially splits the room up into four quadrants. Another alternative is to have a silent disco (make sure headphones don’t get mixed up) and create satellite dance floors for each of the different channels off a central area.

The Guest Experience

With more intimate weddings becoming the norm, couples will focus on making the guest experience all the richer. From hyper-personalised weddings to alternative ways to communicate, there’s so many ways you can give your guests an unforgettable day.

12. Find Unusual Forms of Entertainment

Any entertainment that’s hands on is out the door – we can’t all be using the same giant Jenga set! But there’s plenty of cool alternative ideas you can include:

  • Hire an old-school ice cream van that guests can queue up for – just make sure the server is in PPE and the queue is distanced
  • Have a string trio or an acoustic musician playing background music for during the day, then get a live band in for the evening
  • Set up an outdoor photo booth – but ditch the props and ask guests to pull the silliest poses instead
  • Circus performers, such as stilt walkers, hula hoop dancers or fire eaters, often maintain a distance from guests anyway for safety so are ideal for creating an exciting, festival atmosphere
  • Throw a fireworks display at the end of the night
  • Contactless outdoor games that’ll keep kids entertained include the limbo, hide and seek, hopscotch, Simon Says, and Freeze (where you have to do your craziest dance moves and freeze when someone shouts it)
  • As long as you sanitise the stick between hits, a piñata is serious fun, especially for kids
  • Serve churros and a chocolate fountain. Make sure guests pick up a little shot glass to catch the chocolate sauce in (no double-dipping here!) and it’s ideal instead of a dessert bar where guests might touch things with their fingers
  • Table games, like ice breaker cards and speech bingo, always go down a treat
  • You want to avoid giving food wedding favours unless they’re well packaged. How about a mini origami kit on each place setting that guest will want to take home?
  • For a tropical feel, how about hiring a steel band and have barmen mix up delicious mocktails?

13. Personalise Everything You Can

With fewer guests and more time to plan, you might want to think of micro ways you can customise and personalise your wedding for guests. Because you may not have the same level of physical contact with the people you love, you’ll want to find different ways to connect, laugh, and communicate your gratitude to them.

  • Write notes to each of your guests and leave them in their place settings
  • Commission personalised wedding signs and illustrations of you and your venue for your stationery, display family wedding photos, serve drinks with monogrammed napkins and cocktail stirrers
  • Include flowers grown in loved ones’ gardens in your bouquet or centrepieces
  • Mail welcome bags to your guests in advance, and include a small personalised bottle of sanitiser and a mask
  • Name tables after the favourite places in the world you’ve travelled to and where you’ll go on your honeymoon
  • Wear a bespoke dress or suit, or design your own wedding rings – you might not be able to bring lots of friends or family with you to boutiques so this will make the process more personal
  • Leave a note to your other half on the sole of their wedding shoe – a lovely thing to discover on the morning of your wedding!
  • Serve signature cocktails that include all your favourite spirits and flavours, even better if you can serve them with fun pun names based on you as a couple
  • Serve food and late night snacks you love and ditch a traditional sit-down meal if it doesn’t feel right
  • Ask guests to nominate songs for your reception playlist or for your band to learn for the night
  • If you’re having an informal affair, get all your guests to join you in a shot after saying your vows. It’ll get the party started!
  • Instead of a sparkler send-off which requires you to all be close together for a good photo, think of a creative send-off such as bubbles

14. Livestream Your Wedding

For loved ones who can’t attend, we’ll see more couples live streaming their wedding. Elderly relatives or those at-risk may not want to be in a large group, so take a digital-first approach right from the start. Allow them to watch your wedding live on a video platform, record a message for a digital guestbook, and share in your day by sending them a little bottle of champagne and a wedding favour and emailing the order of service ahead of time.

15. Lost Loved Ones Will Be Honoured

Whether you’ve experienced the loss of a loved one during the pandemic or you want to honour those who can no longer be with us, your wedding will be the time to celebrate their role in your life and add perspective to the day. Light a candle for them, set up a photo display in tribute and take a moment to remember them in speeches.

Communication and Planning

16. Shift Everything Online

Update your guests regularly to keep them in the know and feeling safe. Ditch paper stationery in favour of technological means like a wedding website and paperless invites.

Make sure your website has a section on how you’re going to be introducing health and safety measures, and gentle reminders of best practices for your guests (two metres is very important, even if you’re dancing!). Include a list of FAQs too, such as booking new accommodation or how to move your reservations.

17. Plan Using Virtual Appointments

Everything from venue showrounds to looking at dresses in a boutique could become virtual as more and more wedding planning happens from the comfort of your own home. Most suppliers are conducting virtual video appointments, caterers and cake makers are delivering tasters, bridesmaids dresses can be sent to your girls’ houses for them to try on, and venues are embracing virtual tours and digital tools to help you imagine your day in the space.

18. Weekday Weddings Will Become More Popular

Couples will be more open to weddings on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays as the postponed weddings from 2020 join the weddings planned for 2021. A Hitched survey found that more than three quarters of couples affected by lockdown are postponing their weddings and the majority are moving them to 2021. A weekday wedding increases the likelihood of your venue and whole supplier team being available, and ensures you can marry in the season you want if weekend dates are busy.

19. Set Expectations Before the Big Day

If you’re having paper invites, add an insert card in your stationery that advises guests about what to expect at your wedding regarding face coverings, social distancing and any other measures you might implement. With everything set out in advance, there’s less stress ahead of the day. Try to add a dash of humour to your message – we adore this downloadable Bruce Forsyth print.

Different Types of Celebration

Hold onto your hat, we’re about to give you a whirlwind tour of the different types of weddings you’ve about to see everywhere in 2020 and 2021. The traditional wedding day with 100+ guests might not be seen for while, instead you’ll see:

20. Minimonies

A minimony is a mini-ceremony with a small group of loved ones, in person or virtually. This isn’t just a way of honouring your original date; your minimony is your wedding ceremony, whether that’s a legal ceremony with an officiant or a commitment ceremony with a celebrant. Wear your wedding outfits, order a mini version of your wedding cake and bouquet, have your first dance, and hire your photographer to take photos. Your minimony will be followed by a wedding at a later date, where you can either have a reception with all your loved ones or have a blessing ceremony too.

21. Micro Weddings

A micro wedding has fewer than 20 guests, and right from the beginning, that’s the number that the couple were always planning to invite. It isn’t about whittling down a guest list; it’s for those who love the idea of a really intimate wedding in the UK or abroad. You’ll use your budget to splurge on your guests, with incredible food, entertainment and a unique venue. Traditionally, with a micro wedding, there’s no future, larger reception planned.

22. Sequel Weddings

Sequel weddings typically refer to weddings where there are multiple ceremonies for cultural or religious reasons, but from 2020, we’ll see it adopt a different meaning. A sequel wedding is the large celebration that takes place after your minimony. You’ll honour and solidify your small original ceremony with a wedding at a later date that finally brings your vision to life and lets you celebrate with all your intended guests.

23. Shift Weddings

Don’t want to cut down your guest list? There’s a way around that: the shift wedding. You’ll throw your original wedding day at your venue with your supplier team, but guests will come in shifts to keep the overall numbers down at any one time. Between these shifts, the venue will be sanitised and it makes it easier for you to maintain social distancing. It means that if you have any relatives who have been self-isolating, they could come for the first shift (for example, for the ceremony) when it will likely be a smaller group of family and friends, most of whom will be in their social bubble.

It might seem an odd concept, but bear in mind that you often don’t get to spend much time with all your guests at a large wedding, so this way, you get to have the festivities you planned and more quality time with those you invite.

Your shifts could be the ceremony and reception drinks, followed by the wedding breakfast and evening reception. Everyone will get time to mingle and experience an important part of the day (ceremony, speeches, first dance, cake cutting etc).

24. Multiday Weddings

Multiday weddings include festivities over the course of three days, with a pre-wedding rehearsal dinner, the wedding day, and a next-day brunch or lunch. You can invite different groupings of guests to each separate events, meaning those groups don’t overlap at all and you can keep the numbers for each event down while celebrating with your whole large guest list.

25. A New Focus Will Emerge

Whatever wedding set-up you have, there will be a shift in focus on the day. As a couple, you’ll need to work through the sadness of postponing your wedding or adapting your vision, but it will bring the real meaning of why you’re marrying into focus. Weddings after Coronavirus – when we’ve been separated from our loved ones and dealt with higher levels of anxiety and stress – will have the couples’ commitment to one another at their heart. The celebrations will still be the same, but the ceremony and having your loved ones with you as you exchange vows will take on a new level of significance and joy. The most important thing for many couples is that they are able to say ‘I do’ and the party can wait for later.

Couples will no longer take for granted the fact they can celebrate either. Every toast raised, word of gratitude in a speech, and moment spent dancing with friends will be so cherished.

FYI, postponing doesn’t mean you can’t stop planning – here’s 17 wedmin tasks that are easy to tick off from home.

By Helen Pye for Hitched

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