Weddings in the Time of Covid
“We got to have a beautiful and meaningful ceremony despite the absence of in-person guests, a bridal party, readers or a reception."
Anne and Jesse were among millions of couples faced with an unexpected decision: whether or not to have a wedding in 2020. Why, when you can't have a big celebration, would you still want a wedding?
The twenty couples I married in 2020 (and some, again, in 2021!) all had their own answer.
As Anne told me in her initial inquiry, “Our big wedding in August 2020 obviously had to be cancelled, but we very much want to be married to each other. Our families are not in the area, so it will be just the two of us with our families over Zoom." She went on to say:
“The more we feel how uncertain things are with the virus,
we want to do something special and real now."
Jesse and Anne weren't sure if they'd get their “big wedding" later, so they decided to keep their venue, photographer, attire and more. Anne wrote, “We are grieving what would have been, but trying to make this a really special experience with a meaningful ceremony." In the end, that was the part that mattered most.
Many Covid-19 weddings were essentially elopements, with or without a later “redo." FaceTime, Zoom and videos helped couples feel connected and share the moment with their loved ones.
One bride (above) wrote, “My fiancé and I were originally supposed to have our wedding in September but we are pushing it back until next year. We don't want to wait to get married, however." They recognized that weddings and marriages are not synonymous.
And while you can get married just about anywhere — in a courthouse, at an event venue or safely socially distanced in a park, as many did in 2020 — couples who invested time and intention in their ceremony understood that a signed license is only the final seal on their marriage.
Weddings with guests in attendance were mostly limited to immediate family. While Covid-19 stripped away most other aspects of the event, these tiny or “micro" weddings retained at their heart a beautifully personalized ceremony to celebrate the couple's journey and include their loved ones in their marriage.
With this as one of, if not the only part remaining of their original wedding plans, couples got to see how singularly important the ceremony truly is. No longer a footnote or something to simply “get through" before the reception, the ceremony — the wed-ing — became the wedding. As Kristy and Andrew (above) wrote:
“We're so grateful to Hannah for helping to make our wedding a
bright spot this year for us and our families."
Fear and love were diametrically opposed in Covid-19 weddings; precautions and safety weighed heavily on the minds of all attendees. Thus, beautiful outdoor spaces were well-appreciated in 2020! One couple wrote, “We were in the midst of Covid-19 and all of the unknowns that came with it. Hannah allowed us to go forward while still feeling safe."
Many couples spoke about the additional stress of navigating all the twists and turns of pandemic wedding planning: location, guest count, health status, masks, distancing, food, hand sanitizer... Blessedly, while the outward form of their weddings had to change dramatically, their ceremonies didn't have to. As another bride wrote:
“Planning a wedding during a pandemic was not ideal, but our ceremony remained the one sure thing throughout COVID."
Many weddings had guests attending via Zoom, but couples differed in how they included technology in the ceremony. Most everyone wanted to acknowledge their loved ones who couldn't be there in person, but a few wanted to make it an even more central part of their ceremony.
One couple (above) asked their Zoom guests to light a candle at home while we at the venue passed a flame from candle to candle. The couple then shared a slideshow they'd made of all the family members and friends they wished could have been there. Afterward, they wrote:
“Since we had to scale back, we invited all our guests virtually. Hannah made it feel completely cohesive despite unusual circumstances."
I got to be part of the 2020 and 2021 ceremonies for three couples: first, the intimate marriage ceremony, and next, the big celebration. It was wonderful to share in not just one once-in-a-lifetime day, but two! And with two weddings and two consecutive rounds of planning, we got to grow an even deeper connection. As one couple (above) shared:
“We feel that because of the genuine relationship we built with Hannah, both ceremonies she created for us were deeply authentic."
The following ceremony excerpt shows how each event fit together into a unified whole.
Couples who postponed their celebrations until 2021 were on a long rollercoaster ride, with all their planning and preparations taking place over Zoom and email. One bride (top) wrote: “Especially during the pandemic, Hannah was a sea of calm in a world of chaos."
It wasn't only the stress that was hard, but also the sorrow of letting go of cherished plans while trying to envision an unknown future. Another bride (above) shared, “Our big day was supposed to happen in June 2020, but we had to postpone our wedding until 2021." She went on to say:
“Hannah was such a calm and positive presence through all of the stress and sadness of having to replan and wait an extra year. We valued our conversations with her throughout the process."
And finally, a shout-out to the three patient couples I worked with who waited an extra two years to have their big celebration! Two of them also waited to get legally married, while one (above) had a small ceremony with only their parents attending before the wedding day they shared with everyone in 2022. The bride wrote:
“Though we had already gotten married, Hannah created a beautiful space and provided a special ceremony for our friends and family."
There were 1.7 million weddings in 2020. That's 1.7 million couples trying to discern what mattered most to them in the face of a new, frightening and utterly unknown reality. But the couples whose weddings I got to officiate in the pandemic all understood that within their ceremony was that which remained unchanged:
And, despite distance, connection.
The following ceremony excerpt is a perfect summary of a 2020 “micro" wedding.