Stay up to date with the latest wedding ceremony trends, script writing inspiration, tips and advice for first-time officiants, and news that matters to couples and wedding ministers.

What is a shift wedding? How engaged couples are keeping their wedding guest lists.

Published Monday, Jul. 27th, 2020

After talking with hundreds of our ordained wedding officiants across the country, we discovered that most engaged couples are not canceling their weddings. Instead, these couples are changing formats, locations, and other factors to keep their original dates and get married on time.  
One area where things are changing fast is ceremony and celebration formats, where couples are balancing restrictions and options to find something that works for them.
One such format that we are hearing about for the first time is the “shift wedding.” This format allows couples to safely celebrate with more people from their guestlist, but at different times.
The concept of a shift wedding appeals to couples that want to celebrate with a big list of people.  This kind of wedding works well for couples that have a big list of local invites, who all still want to show up by letting them celebrate together, but in shifts.
Here’s how it works. Couples divide the guest list into groups that share similarities (such as age, social relationships) and invite them to show up at the venue at a specific time. For example, the wedding might start with the ceremony, and that could be a small affair with older relatives and close family like grandpa, grandma, mom and dad and a few cousins. That way, ceremony guests can social distance while still being present.
The next phase of the celebrations is the reception, and while older relatives can go home, younger guests are able to show up and get hammered at the open bar (if that’s your jam). Alternatively, an outdoor ceremony with more people could be followed by an indoor reception with a smaller younger crowd. It’s all about meeting people's comfort and safety requirements.
With shift weddings, couples are able to keep their original venue and their full team of wedding vendors, and essentially create their original vision. They are also able to adhere to social-distancing guidelines and event capacity restrictions.
For this sort of format to be successful, venues need to clean and sanitize between groups.
For many couples, one of the most important parts of the wedding is the guestlist. It’s just not a party until Uncle Ahmed gets into the Red Label and starts tearing up the dance floor. Of course, there will always need to be some distancing and sanitation considerations, and even with a shift wedding, there is a risk of transmission. So if you choose this format, please adhere to local and federal safety guidelines, and use common sense.

Lewis King
Lewis King

Staff Writer

Lewis loves exploring the space between power, discourse, and material reality where institutions like marriage are defined. He also wears other hats at AMM, like taking out the recycling and restocking the sparkling water.

How To Officiate By State

Will You Marry Us? Gift Package

Who Will Officiate Your Wedding?

Choose Your Officiant with our "Will You Marry Us?" Gift Package.

Signature Wedding Officiant Package

Signature Wedding Officiant Package

Our premiere package contains everyting you need to officiate like a pro.

The Book of Wedding Vows and Ceremonies

The Book of Wedding Vows and Ceremonies

It's finally here! Timeless scripts and heartfelt vow inspiration to bring life to your ceremony.

Professional Wedding Officiant Certification Course

Learn from the Pros to Officiate with Confidence!

Wedding Officiant Training

Wedding Officiant Training

Everything you need to know to officiate.

Read our sample wedding ceremony scripts online

Sample Wedding Ceremony Scripts

Need inspiration? Check out our free ceremony scripts!

Subscribe To Our Newsletter!


Become a Wedding Officiant with Our Free Online Ordination!