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

Published Wednesday, Aug. 19th, 2020

Planning a wedding during the pandemic? Try these safety tips for gathering with friends and family so you can relax and enjoy the day!




Planning a wedding is easier with a little guidance from those who’ve gone before you -- and that's especially true now! As wedding season continues to be defined by social distancing, virtual planning meetings, online wedding ceremonies, and custom masks that match your suit and tie, the more guidance the better. 


Related: Planning a COVID Wedding: Our Most Popular Articles & Advice, All in One Place


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



1. Don’t skip the wedding rehearsal


It might seem desirable to skip the rehearsal when planning a wedding ceremony or elopement where only a few people will be gathering. After all, there's not as much to organize.


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 for a hybrid wedding, 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. This is 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. 


Related: What Should I Do With My Hands? 4 Tips For First Time Wedding Officiants


Speaking of documenting the event...



A selfie of two newlyweds, a groom and bride holding out a camera for a quick post ceremony picture



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 favorite 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 or second ceremony. 


Related: Must-Watch Video For Anyone Planning a Sequel Wedding Ceremony


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...



A camera on a tripod is set up in the foreground, with a bride and groom in the background, surrounded by trees outdoors on a sunny day for a wedding ceremony



3. Test your recording and streaming equipment and internet connection


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, Facebook, Instagram, or another wedding streaming service, 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.


Related: 3 Terms Every Officiant Should Know in the Virtual Wedding Era



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. (And you can still include day-of rapid tests, masking in crowded outdoor spaces, and other precautions, if you prefer an even safer outdoor ceremony.)


Related: Covid Testing Before Your Wedding -- What’s the Best Strategy to Avoid Last Minute Cancellations?


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 with your wedding officiant too... If you’re meeting with your officiant or attendants during the weeks leading up to your ceremony, arrange to meet outdoors whenever possible.



Wedding cocktails served in individual jars sit on a table at an outdoor ceremony, with grass and bushes in the background



5. Consider food safety


Most of the couples we talked to decided to include 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.


As an added precaution, consider having guests from the same household eat together, then mask to rejoin the larger group. 



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 on what's most important to us and adapt to new circumstances, both in wedding planning, 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. or Mrs. & 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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Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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