Published: Wednesday, Aug. 19th, 2020

7 Tips for a Stress-Free & Socially Distanced Wedding Ceremony

Planning a wedding is easier with a little guidance from those who’ve gone before you. In a wedding season defined by social distancing, Zoom accounts, and masks that match your suit and tie, the more guidance the better. 


Here are some suggestions and tips that helped other couples and their officiants create memorable wedding ceremonies, despite the challenges of COVID-19:


1. Don’t skip the rehearsal.

It might seem desirable to skip the rehearsal step when planning a wedding ceremony where only a few people will be gathering. But having the opportunity to practice a new wedding format and new technology with your officiant and one or two attendants is a great idea. Especially if you plan on documenting the event or inviting others to join you virtually and want things to go smoothly! 


A rehearsal can be very casual. The newlyweds we spoke with suggested meeting the day before the ceremony or earlier the morning of to run through each part of the ceremony. It was a chance to discuss where the photographer would be positioned (if you’ve hired one, or where a family member or friend might stand to get the best shots), where a computer or camera can be set up for streaming virtually, and how far away guests will be positioned. 


You can also take this time to figure out what to do with your hands to avoid looking awkward… Shove them in your pockets? Bring back jazz hands? You decide. 


Speaking of documenting the event...


2. Document the ceremony so that friends and family can share the moment later. 


Several of the couples we spoke with described minimonies as their version of eloping… seizing the opportunity for a smaller, low-stress ceremony and saving the planning and potential complications of a large party with extended family for a later celebration. 


But one piece of advice we heard over and over, even from those ‘eloping’ with minimonies, was to document everything! Have friends or family take photos, record vows and kisses with video, use laptops or phones to stream the event to friends and family over Zoom or other platforms, and hire a photographer if it’s in the budget. Don’t forget to snap photos of the behind-the-scenes moments, too, like arranging foods and flowers or fixing your makeup. All of these memories are important, even if your wedding looks different than expected. 


Which reminds us...


3. Test your recording and streaming equipment and connections.


This might seem obvious, but we heard from several folks who wished they hadn’t waited until right before the ceremony started to test their equipment. 


Experiment with the settings on the camera you’re borrowing from a friend. Make sure all equipment batteries are charged and ready to go. If you’ll need internet access, make sure connectivity is strong wherever you’ll be setting up. If you plan on live streaming your wedding over YouTube or Facebook or Instagram, consider hosting a pre-event practice run (or dance party) with friends. 


It can also be helpful to reach out to older or less tech-aware guests who will be joining your ceremony virtually. Check in with them to see if they’re comfortable navigating your chosen platform and offer tips as needed.


4. Get married outside. 

This was the most common suggestion. If the weather will cooperate in your area, consider an outdoor ceremony


The couples we spoke with all agreed that having an outdoor ceremony with fewer safety precautions to think about made the entire event smoother, happier, and all-around less stressful. An outdoor ceremony means you won’t have to spend as much time thinking about ventilation and time restraints, and can focus your energy on celebrating.


Find a state park, a friend’s backyard, or any open space where you can comfortably gather together. 


This tip actually goes for any planning meetings too... If you’re meeting with your officiant or attendants during the weeks leading up to your ceremony, arrange to meet outdoors whenever possible.


5. Consider food safety!


Most of the couples we talked to decided to include some food in their ceremony plans, because sharing a delicious treat is a wonderful (and popular) way to celebrate a new union! To reduce many of the current risks involved with sharing food, they recommended preparing individual portions set out in advance or choosing meals that arrive individually wrapped. 


We heard suggestions of individual quiches for a festive breakfast the morning before the ceremony, or sticking to small desserts and treats on individual plates instead of trying to serve an entire meal. Another great option is to order take-out of individually packaged items from your favorite restaurant. 


Bottled waters and pre-made drinks (think cute mason jars with lids!) can also help alleviate risk and worry.


6. Keep it simple.

Another common recommendation was to simplify, and it’s easy to see why this option is so very appealing. You get to focus on the fun parts, without the not-so-fun parts! 


The couples we spoke to still dressed up in their most festive wedding attire—fluffed, sequined, curled, and bedazzled to perfection. But many of the other typical details were simplified. Fancy wedding venues were replaced with neighborhood parks and friends’ backyards. Guests lists of nearly a hundred people became three or four closest friends or family. Large receptions were traded in for the promise of anniversary or vow renewal celebrations down the road. Expensive hotel reservations and coordinated airport runs were swapped for Zoom passwords and glimpses of distant cousins’ living rooms.  


With so much less to worry about, this approach can help soften the disappointment of missing friends and families.


7. Embrace the time.

The coronavirus pandemic has given us all a chance to reflect and adapt to new circumstances, both in wedding planning (and officiating) and beyond. Several of the couples we talked to found it easiest to embrace and incorporate their current reality into the smaller details of their events.


They found COVID-themed wedding cake toppers of masked-couples canoodling, Mr. & Mrs. masks with matching script across the front, matched their masks to their and their officiant’s outfits, and even decorated bottles of hand sanitizer for each table. 


This new way of doing things might be around awhile, and having a little fun with it can make all the difference!


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