The coronavirus or not, this is certain: People will fall in love, and, somehow, they will say their vows.
“Love is going to survive this,” said Kate Edmonds, a wedding and event planner in New York. “I don’t think it’s emotionally sound to keep postponing weddings. There needs to be something to celebrate.”
And celebrate they will. It just might take some finessing and extra planning. It’s likely that many of the adjustments we have seen over the past few months are here to stay.
Kristen Maxwell, editor-in-chief of the online wedding planning site the Knot, expects 2021 weddings to have a greater focus on health and safety. Masks and gloves will become de rigueur, as will hand-sanitizing stations (and sanitizers as party favors), numerous dance areas and bars, several smaller celebrations, and the rise of the “minimony,” or microceremony. There will be more room for standing, socially distanced seating and a “gesture” line rather than a receiving line, where guests wave or nod instead of hug or kiss.
But that doesn’t mean that guests will be held at arm’s length in the figurative sense.
“With a longing to connect more with friends and family following months of separation, we anticipate couples looking for more ways to involve their closest friends and family members into their weddings,” Maxwell said. “Whether inviting guests to join in on the ceremony vows or sharing favorite memories of each guest in a unique seating arrangement display, we won’t be surprised to see guest interaction and the honoring of loved ones increase in the near future at weddings.”
There probably will not be dance floors. No three-day destination weddings with endless booze and a luau. Instead, social distancing will be the two most popular words (besides “I do”).
What else can you expect from upcoming wedding celebrations? Here are some expert predictions.
Virtual “I do’s.” Livestreaming is here to stay, whether it be via Zoom, Facebook Live or FaceTime. And why not? It is cheaper than traveling and accessible to a worldwide audience.
The ceremony itself might be done virtually, which some states consider legal. Even in states where a remote wedding isn’t binding, some couples might choose to go with a video ceremony for their guests and then do the official service privately either beforehand or later.
Keep in mind that these will not be homemade videos. Rather, videographers and photographers are expanding their repertoire to include livestreaming services.
“While some couples have tried to FaceTime or use their mobile phone apps, these are not 100 percent reliable,” said Tori Rogers, owner of Hawaii Weddings by Tori Rogers.
“In addition, they tend to pick up the ambient sound and not the officiant or couple speaking. When professionally done, the couple and the officiant are mic’ed up so that they can be heard over the waves, wind, birds and other people.”
Amy Shey Jacobs, founder and creative director of Chandelier Events in New York, recently started a division of her company called Don’t Let the Day Go By, which merges virtual events with real-life experiences.
“It is certainly not one that will replace the dream weddings we are planning for our couples,” she said. “But for the couple who want to say ‘I do’ now and celebrate later — this can be a truly special way to do it.”
Small is the new big. Intimate and cozy is how wedding experts are describing upcoming events. This, too, has an upside. With a smaller event, couples will be able to save money or use their existing budget to splurge on a more expensive meal, top-shelf liquor or entertainment.
But that also means that making the cut on the guest list is going to be harder. “It may not be a big dance party, but there will be a reception and something happening,” Rogers said.
Bye-bye, buffets. Edmonds is bidding farewell to the buffet dinner and focusing on plated meals. She also expects to eliminate hors d’oeuvres, or at least change the kinds she serves.
“Maybe individual plates with a few hors d’oeuvres, maybe a couple of bite-size hors d’oeuvres mixed with prosciutto, tomatoes and basil and a cocktail fork so you’re not dipping,” she said. She’s also adding hand-sanitizing stations with a timed 20-second jingle.
Multiple celebrations. Taking a cue from Justin and Hailey Bieber, Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner, and Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra, many couples will have multipart or sequel weddings, where they make appearances at several smaller events, either “in different hometowns or even elaborate dinner parties with different sets of friends and family,” said Sara Fried, owner of Fête Nashville Luxury Weddings.
Another iteration is the so-called shift wedding, in which guests show up at staggered times. This gives the venue time to sanitize the space between groups, and also lets the couple spend more time with guests.
Costume changes. Smaller gatherings do not mean that people will arrive in a T-shirt and jeans.
“Without the grand event, the dress, and the bridal party’s looks, will be the primary means of self-expression,” said Neil Brown, chief executive of Amsale, a luxury bridal house. “Brides will focus even more on styles that are a true representation of their tastes and personality and lean toward looks that accentuate their natural beauty.”
To that end, Brown believes that bridal dress shopping will evolve, too. “Social distancing requirements will mean retailers can offer fewer appointments and, with safety in mind, prospective brides will likely minimize the number of stores they visit,” he said. “Virtual shopping appointments will become more prominent, either to help brides prepare for their in-person appointment and narrow the choice or retailers, or to include the friends and relatives unable to attend because of travel or social distancing restrictions.”
Big bashes will be back — eventually. The grand, party-’til-the-cows-come-home weddings will return — someday. And when they do, they will be grander than ever.
“While some couples may eschew conspicuous celebration out of respect for the suffering caused by the pandemic, others may go bigger than before,” Brown said. “As we saw after the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, there may be another Roaring ’20s era. Either way, weddings will have a strong focus on family and valued friendships; the lockdown has truly elevated the meaning of connections to those we love most.”