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How Socially Distanced Weddings Can Still be Close to the Heart

By Rebecca Padgett

When I sat down to write this article, I had every intention of covering a topic such as finding the perfect venue or selecting catering. Yet, I found myself incapable of writing those articles. Before I get to those subjects, and trust me I will, we need to talk about it: planning a wedding during a pandemic. 

Wedding planning is expected to be stressful. You go into it knowing that curveballs will be thrown at you, but it will be worth it on your wedding day. If you’re like me and planning a wedding in 2020, you likely never expected a global pandemic to be the stressful curveball tossed into your wheelhouse.

Let’s start with this — it is completely justifiable to be upset and stressed. This being said, I promise you, it will be OK. We can have our cries and our long talks where we vent to our friends, but we need to get back to the work of planning our weddings. 

This is a preparation for your marriage, which also will not be easy. Big and small life changes, money, unpredictable forces, pandemics and much more will cause ripples in your relationship. You, as a couple, must be able to navigate your ship through the storm. And guess what, 2020 couples, that’s exactly what we are going to do. 

We must reckon with the fact that our weddings will likely look different than how we first imagined them. With so much uncertainty, we should have backup plans in place because circumstances can change rapidly. 

Step 1 is to sit down with your partner and discuss the best plan for your wedding day should it be affected by COVID-19. There are more options than you think. 

If it is important for you to be married on your selected date, then do so. This could involve a very small ceremony or taking all necessary safety precautions as mandated by your state and your own health and safety needs. 

A small wedding can still involve your vendors, even if they are providing services for a smaller number of guests. Another option is to hold a ceremony in which you become legally married but postpone the reception to a later date.

Assuming that social distancing will be in place throughout 2020 and into 2021, here are some ways weddings are adapting to comply with social distancing and maintaining optimal health and safety for guests.

Smaller Guest Lists

It’s not fun and it’s not necessarily something you want to do, but cutting your guest list is proving to be the safest way to conduct weddings during these uncertain times. Due to the unprecedented circumstances, friends and family are more likely to be understanding when they don’t receive an invite, especially when many venues are capping capacity. On the plus side, smaller weddings lead to more intimacy and more valuable one-on-one time spent with your guests. 

Elizabeth Lehman with Wonderstruck Media

Seating and Space 

Consider your wedding to be like a restaurant or any other space where people can gather and be in contact with one another. At your ceremony, opt for spaced clusters of chairs rather than cramped benches. At the reception, you should space your tables 6 feet apart. When making the seating arrangements, consider seating people together that either live together or interact often. Tables should contain no more than 10 people. The fewer, the better. For dancing, consider a larger dance floor with signs posted to dance with distance or place smaller dance floors throughout the venue. 

Outdoor Venues

This is a wonderful option as people are not packed into one place. Outdoor venues provide fresh air that freely circulates, and they’re easier to arrange as they provide more flexibility for event design and seating plans. 

Lily & Sparrow Photo Co.


Alert your guests that masks are required. You can do so via your invitation and your wedding website. Encourage guests to have fun with their masks by dressing them up and picking fun fabrics. For those who don’t bring one along, have masks available at the entrance. It is up to you to specify if there are times when you deem removing masks appropriate.

Sanitization Stations

Have hand sanitizer readily available at every turn. You can set up a sanitization station that can be made to fit in with the decor of the evening. Include mini bottles of hand sanitizer in their welcome bags. Have a bottle on each table. To class up the occasion, put the sanitizer inside of pretty glass soap dispensers or jars. 

Plated Meal Service

To avoid the high contact areas of buffet style service, opt for seated, served meals. You can still serve the same foods you love — just in a safer way. If you had a carving station or interactive dining experience planned, consider having your caterer come table to table to present the food. Your caterer will be able to help you have a dining experience that fits your style while being safe. 

Photo by Black & Hue Photography

Virtual Weddings 

Remember those guests you thought couldn’t make the list? You can still invite them to join the ceremony virtually. This option could be especially beneficial for those who are elderly, have health concerns or live far away. 

Comfort Cues

Color-coded wristbands can be great indicators for comfort levels. Red means keep your distance, meaning 6 feet. Yellow is code for proceeding with caution. Inquire with the wearer if you can approach and what interaction they are comfortable with. Green signals that they are OK with interaction. This could be any variation of a color system and can range in wearable options, from a flower pinned to your outfit to a ribbon. 

Multiple Celebrations 

Maybe you decide to keep your wedding date but only have 10 or fewer close friends. Then you plan to invite your guests to a large future reception. Or you could opt to hold multiple small celebrations with different groups — your family, your extended family, your college friends, your work friends, etc. This could allow for many ways to intimately celebrate and appreciate those dear to you.

While the heartache of changed plans is heavy, couples are still choosing to put love first. Above all, we must be reminded of the resilience and reward of marriage, which is an unwavering union no matter how large or small your wedding may be.


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