Published: Monday, Jul. 27th, 2020

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

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.


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