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Can't have an in person wedding reception? Try these 4 options instead.

Published Thursday, Nov. 19th, 2020

Illustrations by Jessica Levey

Multiple states are facing new restrictions to in-person gatherings as the COVID-19 crisis continues. These restrictions, like those just implemented in Washington State and Michigan, mean that for now, couples planning wedding receptions will either have to wait until things normalize, or else get creative.


If you’re getting married soon, or just planning ahead for any possibility (which seems wise given how quickly recommendations and rules are changing), consider these physically distanced post-ceremony celebrations instead of a traditional wedding reception. 


Drive By Wedding Reception 


Cars provide their own tiny ecosystem, a little bubble of familiarity and added safety during a time defined by social distancing and safety barriers. Families have used car parades to celebrate everything from birthday parties to wakes to bridal showers this year, and we can’t see a reason not to extend this unconventional party style to wedding receptions. 


Set out a row of individually packaged desserts or cookies, tiny sealed bottles of champagne, or grab-and-go gift bags arranged at the curbside, and let your friends and family celebrate you with a clamoring procession of happy honks and princess waves. Don’t forget to set up an extra table for gifts, too. Let the whole block know you’re hitched! 



Virtual Wedding Reception 


Everything’s online these days. Symphonies, classrooms, first dates, weddings, and even receptions. Whether you choose to livestream your reception or host something over Zoom or Skype, virtual events let guests join you from all around the world without any pesky travel arrangements, hotel costs, or risks to health and safety. They offer one of the most affordable options for wedding celebrations and receptions ever! That alone can make the more unconventional aspects worthwhile for many couples. 


For a more traditional feel, send printed or DIY invitations to your guests in the mail. You’ll be helping the Postal Service, and your friends and family will have a unique memento from your celebration. If you’re hoping for a few gifts to get you started in a new home, or hoping to store a few dollars away for a honeymoon when things start opening back up, consider linking a lovers’ Venmo or PayPal account in the chat section of your reception. 


drawing of two women on a computer tablet attending virtual wedding reception beside champagne flutes

Virtual wedding receptions are low cost and you can invite guests from around the world! 




One-Year Anniversary Reception 


AMM spoke with many couples this year who were choosing to postpone their wedding receptions until a later date, when their community could once again gather in person for laughing, dancing, dinner, and photos. If this seems more your style, consider booking your reception on your one-year anniversary as a way to celebrate your marriage not just once, but twice! 


Coincidentally, this tradition of celebrating a union on the one year anniversary, kind of reminds us of traditional Year-and-a-Day celebrations, a common choice for those who embrace Celtic or Pagan rituals. Whether you choose to reimagine your celebration this way, or just celebrate with friends when you hit your one year mark, this can be a great alternative to a traditional reception. 



Sweetly Distanced Outdoor Wedding Reception 


If you don’t want to wait, and you don’t want to go virtual or indulge in a personal parade, a tiny outdoor celebration with only your closest loved ones offers another alternative. This in-person choice comes with the most risk, of course. And in-person gatherings may not be allowed at all in your area, or may only be allowed under specific conditions. (For example, in Washington state, where AMM’s offices are located, restrictions continue to change. At the time of this writing, outdoor gatherings were limited to 5 people outside the household.) 


Double check your local restrictions. If a gathering is allowed, hold the reception outside to provide good airflow, and maintain a safe physical distance throughout the event. And of course, mask up! This goes for the couple, too… we know you’ll look adorable no matter what. And hey, wedding masks are probably the next family wedding heirloom, so make sure they make it into all your photos! 

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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