It was supposed to be the most magical day of their lives. Months of planning every little detail - the flowers, the candles, the dress - all leading up to the special occasion. Carefully curated Pinterest boards; hand-picked canapes and, well, thousands of pounds, all part of The Big Day™.
In light of the global pandemic, the UK government announced lockdown measures on March 23rd that included a ban on all social events and gatherings. Namely, weddings. Very quickly, those planning to tie the knot had to come to terms with postponed nuptials and rearranged receptions - many of which won't happen now until a post-lockdown world.
How have weddings been impacted so far?
64% of 2020 weddings have been directly impacted by coronavirus so far, Bridebook say, meaning the majority of those hoping to walk down the aisle have had to put plans on hold.
Couples have been forced to make the heartbreaking decision to either cancel indefinitely or take a gamble on a new date – which hasn’t paid off for some. Natasha, 27, from Neath, was due to marry her fiancé Jonathan in April, but had to postpone her wedding twice. "We moved our wedding from April 2020 to August 2020, and then again to May 2021," she tells Cosmopolitan UK. "I can’t even get excited for it, because there’s a looming feeling that it still may not go ahead."
Others have staged wedding ceremonies on Zoom, with loved ones joining them to virtually tie the knot. The trend has even prompted law-makers in some parts of the world, such as New York, to allow digital weddings to become legally binding – and there’s a petition to get the UK to do the same.
Will I be able to get married this year?
With lockdown measures starting to ease and one in four ceremonies being postponed to later in the year (via Hitched), what does a wedding actually look like for those couples planning to get married before 2020 is out?
The UK government expects places of worship to reopen in England on July 4th, perhaps making it possible for small-scale weddings to go ahead. Five attendees is the legal minimum for weddings (the person officiating, the couple, and two witnesses), and the current lockdown rules allow for six people to meet at a social distance, meaning it's potentially a possibility.
Similarly, registrars across the country have said they’d only allow three to five people at ceremonies until at least the end of August. Zoë Binning, a wedding business consultant, thinks that any wedding taking place in 2020 will probably have to be lowkey. “I genuinely don’t know if we’re going to be able to do large-scale weddings this year,” she tells Cosmopolitan. “I imagine social distancing will still be in place well into the autumn, but even then, a maximum of 20 to 30 people sounds likely."
With no longer-term guidance out there, couples due to get married later this year understandably feel unclear about what will be allowed to go ahead. That’s why many wedding planners are encouraging those couples with a list of non-negotiables for their big day to consider postponing until 2021 or beyond. "It’s going to be interesting to navigate through this section of, ‘OK, we can host weddings but they’re not going to look the same as you’d originally planned,’" says Rianna Elizabeth, wedding planner and co-host of The Wedding People podcast. "That might be harder for a lot of people rather than a straight swap [to 2021]."
What will weddings look like in 2021 and beyond?
While 25% of weddings have been postponed for late 2020, 44% of weddings have been rescheduled to 2021 - making it an extremely busy year for wedding businesses and brides-to-be alike. With little certainty around what the long-term impact of the pandemic might look like, an understanding of what weddings might look like in a post-lockdown world is murky. But what do we know so far?
All the experts Cosmopolitan UK spoke to agree that there’ll probably be a surge in mid-week and winter weddings thanks to the coronavirus backlog. We should also prepare for our future inboxes to be flooded with party invites, as couples may opt to do a scaled-back ceremony this year with a big bash planned on anniversaries, when limits on social engagements no longer exist.
As research suggests being outdoors decreases coronavirus spread, Zoë also thinks couples will opt for outdoor, celebrant-led ceremonies. She predicts newly weds will choose to do the “legal bit” at a registry office first and celebrate with a socially-distanced ceremony with friends and family later on.
According to Rebecca Brennan-Brown, wedding planner and co-host of The Wedding People Podcast, we can also expect receptions to look a little different. She predicts venues will have to utilise long tables rather than the traditional round ones, and sanitising stations will be dotted “as standard".
Nikki Taylor agrees, and thinks that the photo booths she rents may become a thing of the past. “The major part of a photo booth is you all go in, huddle together and put the props on... I can’t imagine that ever happening again.” This could mean that wedding photographers will have to get a little more creative with how they capture the big day, from Photoshop (!) to separate household portraits.
Food and Drink
We can say goodbye to those grazing boards and sharing platters at receptions, says Rebecca: “You won’t be able to share utensils anymore.”
Sit-down meals are likely to become more common, and catering staffing may have to wear gloves and masks – but it could be in-keeping with a stylish uniform so it doesn’t look too “intimidating,” adds Rianna. “People are going to have to get quite creative.”
And as for champagne-filled bashes, it’s also likely that we’ll have to rethink alcohol intake altogether at weddings. If getting tipsy means guests flouting social distancing, experts think we’ll see an increase in dry or low-alcohol weddings. Could wedding breakfasts be a thing?
For those couples who are eager to go ahead with intimate, low-key (or even digital) nuptials, tying the knot post-lockdown might become possible sooner than we first thought. But for those who have their heart set on a large-scale, show-stopping wedding day with a guest list to match, then the chances are we’ll have to wait a little longer.
But that doesn’t necessarily have to be a negative thing, according to Zoë. “I do think it will make people prioritise why they’re getting married again,” she says. And whilst the Instagrammability factor has become a huge part of wedding planning, Zoë predicts this could change post-lockdown: “I think this will make couples rethink their spending and focus on what’s really important.”
Amen to that!
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