Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: Wedding receptions are not going to be the same for a very long time. With strict protocols on social distancing, dancing is a thing of the past. Essentially, the party component of your wedding day will longer exist for the foreseeable future.
On top of this, you can pretty much say goodbye to having a bridal party and having extended family and friends witness you exchange vows in-person.
The good news: sometimes, it can be better to embrace a more positive outlook on life in spite of our new normal. These include:
- The ability to have a very intimate wedding ceremony the way you want it. Perhaps the idea of an adventure wedding is no longer so far fetched/
- The option of having a private nuptial ceremony almost anywhere you like in the great outdoors.
- The flexibility of moving dates without having to cancel a whole bunch of services.
- Less moving parts to plan.
- Not having to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a formal sit-down wedding reception (perhaps repurpose that money towards buying your first home).
- Not having to argue with parents and in-laws and stress over guest numbers and table seating charts.
- Plus, maybe, just maybe you get a wedding dress that is more daring and less traditional.
See? It’s not all bad.
PS – this guide is for marrying couples who are beginning their wedding planning journey. If you have already made plans and paid a few deposits and want to know where you stand, WedShed has a comprehensive guide that you should check out.
How COVID-19 has changed wedding days
For those of you planning to get married in NSW, certain social distancing protocols apply.
These are the biggest changes to traditional weddings in NSW:
- Hugging, kissing and handshaking between guests – this is perhaps the biggest change. Can you really imagine not being able to give and receive hugs on your wedding day?
- Fewer guests – at the time of writing, the number of people who may attend a wedding is limited to 150 or the maximum number of people allowed on premises in accordance with the one person per 4 square meters rule. In addition to this, grandparents are unlikely to attend – which is just heartbreaking.
- Guests must stay seated at all times – mingling, grazing menus, roaming canapes, and dancing are currently restricted. This will make formal receptions pretty dull. Given that the dance floor is the place to unwind, not being able to dance with your friends is a real mood killer.
- Interstate and international guests are unlikely to be able to attend – as long as border crossings remain restricted, many people who you’ll want to be there with you will be unable to be present. And even when borders open again, many people will feel hesitant to attend large events.
And even if you had every intention to follow a COVIDSAFE plan, the chances of people not mingling, not hugging, not standing and talking in close proximity exponentially increases as the day progresses.
For a full list of coronavirus-related information that relate to planning a social gathering such as a wedding, please refer to the following NSW Government resources:
- Industry guidelines for weddings ceremonies and receptions
- Symptoms and testing
- What you can and can’t do
- COVID-19 advice for seniors
- Travel and transport advice
So what does this mean for you?
For starters, small weddings have gotten even smaller.
Up until early 2020, small weddings were used to refer to weddings with up to 100 guests. These days, a small wedding has 5-20 people in total. Essentially, amid coronavirus, micro weddings and small weddings are the same thing.
Secondly, the reception venues we once recommended may be less appealing.
While event spaces such as Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel, Doltone House Jones Bay Wharf and Le Montage can accommodate a large number of people that meet the one person per 4 square meter rule, no dancing, no live entertainment to encourage dancing, and no hugs really kill the entire vibe of a wedding reception.
And even if you could overlook the new normal of how people must be spaced out, many guests including key family members may decline to attend your wedding.
Unfortunately, many wedding-related businesses will be forced to close down as they can no longer survive. with zero cash flow. This is the harsh reality we all need to accept.
So instead of sitting on your hands and hoping and waiting for the pandemic to come to an end, there’s still a practical way you can have the most epic of wedding days.
Eloping is (definitely) a solution
It’s pretty clear that the old way of large weddings are over (for now at least). But this does not in any way spell the end to meaningful and beautiful wedding days. In fact, if you choose to see this as an opportunity rather than as a restriction, you may be pleasantly surprised.
Eloping has been gaining popularity over the past few years – especially in certain parts of North America and Europe. Elopement weddings certainly hasn’t become mainstream but they’re becoming the new normal these days.
But what does eloping mean in the modern context?
Intimate weddings, eloping, micro-weddings, and adventure weddings are pretty much the same thing. Instead of having a formal ceremony with guests in attendance followed by a sit-down reception, the concept of an elopement is to remove all the restrictions tradition and cultural norms place on a wedding day.
Some examples of cultural norms applied to weddings include:
- Exchanging vows in front of a crowd – whether it is in a religious setting our in a beautiful setting, the majority of couples end up ‘performing’ their most personal part of the wedding day in front of others.
- Putting on a show – a wedding reception can feel very much like organising a (very expensive) entertainment event, complete with food and beverages, lighting and music. It can often feel like prioritising others instead of you and your spouse-to-be.
- Bridal party – not only are you expected to have a bridal party, there are expectations on who should be invited to be in your bridal party (e.g., best friend, sibling) and how many people you should have in your bridal party.
- Flowers – why are bridal bouquets and buttonholes necessary?
- White wedding dress – if it’s not white and formal, is it even a wedding?
- Food and beverages – it is expected that you provide your wedding guests with refreshments.
- Family drama – there’s always drama involved when it comes to family and a milestone event such as a wedding. There is an unstated expectation to please your parents, relatives, and extended family.
- It should be held on a weekend, preferably on a Saturday – Saturday is the most popular day for a wedding because it allows your wedding guest to enjoy the day/evening without having to take a day off work.
- There has to be a wedding cake – by the time the wedding cake is cut and served, most of it goes into the bin.
Where in the past elopement weddings conveyed a sense of running away from expectations and responsibilities, elopements these day put the decision-making back in your hands.
To elope is about being intentional – who you invite, where you will go, at what time, and why.
After all, it is your wedding day and if a global pandemic is going to restrict a whole heap of things that you cannot do, you may as well do as many things as you can your own way.
Here’s a few ways you can have the best wedding day amid COVID.
Step 1: Pick a picturesque backdrop
This is perhaps the most liberating and exciting feature of a micro-wedding.
If you’re someone who loves the great outdoors, you now have unlimited options because you are no longer anchored down by logistics.
From coastal headlands to mountain ridges to on a lake – you can choose where to exchange your vows. There are so many non-wedding ceremony venues to choose from within NSW, especially if there’s only a handful of you.
Similarly, now you can pick a time of day that suits you. From dawn to twilight – again, you can let your imagination run wild to suit what your dream wedding looks like.
Step 2: Small ≠ low impact
While there are benefits of a loud and big wedding, less can often be more.
“When it’s just the couple and 2-3 select guests, I have found that the emotions expressed are far deeper than at your conventional wedding.” Jack of Jack Chauvel Photography says. “I think it is a mixture of not having to maintain a poker face and letting your feelings surface. Quite often, I’ll see grown men go beyond a teary eye and break into a full out cry.”
When there are less eyes watching you, and everything around you has been designed to have meaning, your nuptial ceremony can be extremely powerful. When the wedding ceremony is 100% about the beginning of your marriage, the impact will be everlasting.
Step 3: Prioritise experiences over things and stuff
A traditional wedding places a lot of emphasis on material things that lead to a lot of stuff that ends up in the landfill. Eloping removes a lot of the material fluff and shifts the focus back on what is important.
One of the benefits of an intimate elopement is the flexibility to pick a location that is off-the-beaten-track. This allows for stunning photography and video that will beat any typical commercial wedding ceremony location.
Secondly, you can still invite a few select people to your wedding day and due to the reduced guest numbers this opens the possibility of having a degustation dinner at a fine dining restaurant rather than a mass produced banquet menu.
And maybe, just maybe, there will be a few impromptu speeches at your degustation dinner at that hatted restaurant you have always wanted to dine at.
How special would that be?
Or, perhaps there is a special place that you have always wanted to stay in NSW at but never found the right reason to do so (because it costs $3,000 per night or is a 6-hour drive from Sydney).
Well, now’s the opportunity you have been waiting for.
As you can see, we’ve just only begun to scratch the surface of what you can gain from choosing a microwedding.
Step 4: Hire a dream team of wedding professionals that get you
Traditional weddings are baked from the same cookie-cutter mould.
Getting ready > wedding ceremony > photos while guests find a way to fill up 2-3 hours of their time > wedding reception.
And as a response, many wedding service providers have set packages to reflect this boring formula. But the days of 6-12 hours of wedding photography coverage are over because there isn’t 6-12 hours of things happening anymore.
As wedding professionals adapt to the changing new normal, this is your opportunity to gather a group of link-minded people who understand what you want. From a civil marriage celebrant who will personalise your ceremony to a videographer who can come up with a solution that will give you endless years of joy, now is the best time to hire your dream team.
Step 5: Get a celebrant who actually gives a f*ck
Without a celebrant, you’re not actually getting married. So recruit one who understands how micro-weddings different from traditional weddings.
If it’s going to be just the two of you and 2 other witnesses, the format is going to very different. If your adventure wedding will have a few more guests, again, hiring the right civil marriage celebrant will ensure that everyone present is emotionally invested.