The coronavirus pandemic effectively put a kibosh on the 2020 wedding season, leaving many engaged couples hanging in limbo. Likewise, wedding vendors such as venues, caterers, florists, and photographers are left scrambling to recoup lost income. That leads to the question: Should you be postponing your wedding during the pandemic?
Some couples and vendors are finding ways to proceed with nuptial plans—whether that means holding smaller ceremonies or using loopholes in state and local social distancing mandates to their advantage.
And though there are certainly ways to hold a wedding while reducing health and safety risks, the CDC still advises that Americans reconsider these types of gatherings in lieu of virtual events. While there is still risk involved for in-person events, the CDC recommends smaller outdoor gatherings in which individuals from different households but from the same local area can remain spaced at least six feet apart, wear cloth face coverings, and refrain from sharing food or objects. And you can probably forget about buffets for now.
“The word ‘safe’ doesn’t apply right now. Nothing is 100% safe when you talk about COVID-19 risk,” Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, told Health. “With any decision these days, it’s instead important to think about what are the risks and how can we reduce them?”
Due to their very nature, Schaffner warns that pandemic weddings are extremely high-risk events for COVID-19 transmission. “A wedding is one of those occasions where there will be an epidemic of hugging and kissing that goes on,” he said. “Can people try to be restrained? It’s unlikely.”
Dr. Prathit Kulkarni, an assistant professor of medicine-infectious diseases at the Baylor College of Medicine, echoed these sentiments, emphasizing that one should consider risk assessment when making the decision to attend a wedding. “A large event with plenty of people … at this point, based on the current transmission dynamics, it’s not recommended,” Kulkarni told Health.
“It’s more of a case-by-case assessment situation rather than an absolute yes or no,” Kulkarni added.
The appeal of going much smaller to avoid postponing your wedding
Even for couples who have decided to postpone weddings until 2021 or 2022, it might be a long time before large, traditional weddings are once again the norm. Instead, many couples are opting for so-called “micro weddings” or “mini-monies” to exchange their vows—particularly those who are in a rush to get married before they start a family.
“Weddings are about the actual ceremony of two people … coming together for life,” wedding planner Gabrielle Wile told NJ Advance Media. “Doing whatever we can to preserve that is our priority.”
Wile’s Asbury Park-based company, Wile Events, began offering a micro wedding package after the coronavirus pandemic broke out and has been booking steadily since early June. “It’s really challenging right now in the events industry, there are a lot of people out of work,” Wile said. “The challenge is just to be very flexible and nimble.”
“Some clients have already waited a whole year to have weddings and waiting another year isn’t really attractive,” she added. “It’s been a really great opportunity for us to serve them, and safely.”
Grounds for Sculpture, a popular 42-acre sculpture park in Hamilton, New Jersey, will begin hosting micro weddings in mid-July at the park’s onsite restaurant, which reopened for outdoor dining on June 25. Already, the restaurant, which has a terrace and outdoor pavilion, has booked about a dozen micro weddings with up to 50 guests each.
“Basically the last two weeks it’s like the floodgates opened,” said Kathleen Newman, director of catering. “People are anxious to get on with their lives.”
These smaller, more intimate weddings may even dictate future trends, as couples who had once envisioned a huge bash may now model their own wedding day after current-day small ceremonies. “Small wedding ceremonies could, in other words, become more common not just for health reasons, but because coziness and intimacy might organically become trendy,” writes the Atlantic.
Given the devastating financial effects of the pandemic, grand lavish weddings that were once the norm may begin to seem like even more of an unnecessary extravagance—and not just for couples and their families, but even wedding parties and guests. According to The Knot, the average cost of a wedding in the United States, including a reception, had skyrocketed to just under $30,000 in 2019.
As the Atlantic points out, these types of smaller, cost-effective weddings will likely come as a relief for many Americans who are financially struggling. “Sometimes the new plan ends up being a better plan,” Wile said.