Planning a wedding pre-pandemic was already a stressful task. Planning a wedding during the pandemic is even more overwhelming; there are so many unpredictable factors which you need to consider when trying to get married during these difficult times, including securing wedding vendors and paying deposits, without even knowing if your wedding will happen on the chosen date. On my end, I want to make sure that couples who decide to book me as their wedding photographer will have clarity about my COVID-19 policy.
If you need to reschedule your wedding due to the pandemic, I will be happy to reschedule your photography session to your new wedding date. There are no additional costs for moving your day due to this situation. As long as I can accommodate the move, I’m happy to do so.
Most of my 2020 weddings were moved. I worked very hard with each couple to make sure that I was able to accommodate their new wedding date, as I could feel and understand their stress and fear of the unknown.
That’s why I decided to ask five couples whose weddings I photographed during the COVID-19 pandemic about their experience. What was the most difficult part, what turned out better than expected, and what advice would they give to couples who are planning their weddings during the pandemic?
I hope their experience will help you to plan your dream wedding during these uncertain times.
1. What was the most difficult part about planning your wedding during the pandemic?
Patricia and Simon: “The most difficult thing about wedding planning during the pandemic was the uncertainty. We were never quite sure what the rules would be or what might change so it was difficult to make firm plans. I found it especially difficult when it came to figuring out the guest list and booking vendors. Since we got married mid-summer we benefitted from the restrictions being eased as cases went down but we were needing to send out invites and book our vendors before we knew for sure how many people would be allowed to attend.”
Emilia and Mitch: “The timeline. I had more than half of our original wedding planned by the first lockdown. When people started to cancel/postpone their weddings, I didn’t plan anything else for months, because we just had literally no idea what to expect – we didn’t know if we were going to be allowed 5 or 150 guests. By the time we were pretty confident that we would be able to have up to 100 people gather outdoors on our date, I had about 2 months to plan the whole thing, which really just wasn’t enough time. It was a very DIY wedding and I did my best to organize everything and everyone, but it was a very stressful and very last-minute planning experience and that was super frustrating because I like to over-prepare. I had to let go of some ideas the day before, because we just did not have the time to make them happen.”
Lori and Michael: “The hardest part was probably making a decision that we wanted to get married while knowing that our loved ones were not able to be there with us! We got married in the middle of a pandemic and we were not able to celebrate that day with Michael’s parents in another province. My parents were on the other side of the world. Making that decision was so hard – but we didn’t want the pandemic to interfere with our life that it had already had! So we decided just to go for it. God we are glad that we did it because we couldn’t have waited another year.”
Hazel and Mark: “Our wedding was originally scheduled for May 23, 2020. Both myself and my (now) husband have very large families so we had initially planned for large wedding with lots of food, dancing and reuniting with family we haven’t seen in a long while. When the pandemic hit, we didn’t know what to expect but within a month to the wedding we decided to postpone the wedding to October 23, 2020. We quickly learned that cases we’re rising and there may be a chance that our wedding scheduled for October may not happen. We took matters into our own hands and decided to get married on August 22, 2020 with 7 of our closest family members.
I think the most difficult part of planning a wedding during a pandemic is accepting that we would not have our dream wedding we planned to have. It was very difficult to not have our family and our closest friends with us on our special day.
Blayne and Jason: “Definitely the unknowns. We changed our date 4 times because we couldn’t figure out when would be the best time in terms of restrictions. We also had to cut our guest list and at one point had cut it to 20 people but our family was unhappy with that. It was very difficult to balance everyone’s wishes and the restrictions all at the same time.”
2. What turned out better than you expected?
Patricia and Simon: “The ceremony was way better than I expected! When we first started our planning pre-COVID we always planned to have a small ceremony of just over 20 people (only parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles) and then have a larger reception later in the day with all our friends and family. We were really nervous about getting married in front of a large crowd so we wanted to keep the ceremony part pretty private but still have the opportunity to celebrate with all our loved ones.
Since having a separate party was out of the question for a COVID wedding the only option we had was to invite all our guests to the ceremony. Even though we were nervous about it I am so thankful that it ended up that way and that we shared that moment with our closest friends and family. We also ended up doing some home made decor items that I don’t think we would have done otherwise and I am so happy with how they turned out.”
Emilia and Mitch: “The reception was perfect. My parents did a beautiful job of decorating the backyard, and there were twinkle lights everywhere. We ordered Thai food and hung out with our bridal party, immediate families, and best friends all night (and we got to spend so much more time with the people we are closest to because we had 30 reception guests instead of the originally planned 170). We all got tested before the wedding, so it was the one night without social distancing that whole year, which made everything extra special.”
Lori and Michael: “Since we had an intimate wedding just 5 people, we thought it would be a bit awkward, none of us had even been to a wedding that intimates before. We would envision that during the ceremony. Who would like the awkward silence!? But honestly, we were so wrong. The day itself was so magical. Every bit of it just worked perfectly, better than we ever could have hoped.”
Hazel and Mark: “I would’ve loved to have a large wedding with our loved ones but our small and intimate wedding was better than I expected. We saved a lot of money with having a smaller wedding and resulted to having enough money to get a place of our own. I think if we had a large wedding, we probably would not be able to get a place to call our own.”
Blayne and Jason: “We got very lucky in that we were able to have 50 people on the date that we finally settled on. it was basically the last weekend before more intense restrictions were put back in place.
It was also great to have a smaller amount of people because it was all very close friends and family and we got to spend some real quality time with everyone. This made it less stressful too because I wasn’t as concerned about impressing people.
We also got very lucky with all of our vendors. The only one we had to switch was the photographer but our other photographer was very understanding. The venue was the most important for us as we couldn’t get our deposit back and I was willing to change all of the other vendors to fit the date the venue gave us.”
3. Based on your experience, what advice would you give to couples who are planning their wedding during the pandemic?
Patricia and Simon: “If you are planning your wedding now there are a few pieces of advice that I would share. First, a zoom wedding is not as bad as you might think. We had some friends and family join us for the ceremony through zoom and while it may not be ideal, it made it possible for them to be there and witness our marriage. It also made it possible for international family to attend who may not have been able to travel here for our original wedding. We made a point of saving certain things for zoom guests only so they still felt included. For example, we cut our cake indoors in front of our zoom guests while our in-person guests enjoyed some music outside.
Finally, enjoy the fact that you are off the hook. Expectations around weddings, especially weddings during COVID, are really changing. That allows the day to feel a little more casual and laid back than it might have been otherwise. Take advantage! We started our wedding say with some yoga and stretching. I never would have been able to enjoy a relaxed morning if we had the wedding we had been planning pre-pandemic.”
Lori and Michael: “We would say please try to enjoy the moment. Yes, certain elements that you may have always dreamed of in your wedding may not be possible, for us this was our family not being able to travel to our wedding, however, once we came to terms with that we were able to start to really focus on the parts of our wedding that would only be possible during the pandemic. For us, this was securing an incredible location and the master suite of a top hotel downtown Toronto with the most incredible views and then being able to walk downtown to take our photos on near-empty streets. I do not think it would be possible to get the wedding photos we got without the pandemic.”
4. Is there anything that you would do differently?
Patricia and Simon: “Some things I might do differently with the knowledge I have now would probably be to go ahead and book more vendors. We didn’t book catering because we weren’t sure if it would be allowed but I think if I could go back I would probably just book it. Most vendors were incredibly understanding given the circumstances so I am sure we could have made an arrangement that would have worked. In the end we ended up having a home cooked BBQ, which was amazing, but it was definitely a lot of added work for our families since they were helping us with everything.”
Emilia and Mitch: “I don’t think there’s anything (realistic) that I would have done differently. I will say that both me and my husband had American bridesmaids/groomsmen who weren’t able to be at the wedding in person, and that was super sad. Overall, our wedding was the best day, and because of the pandemic, we did miss out on some really important experiences at the same time. We are going to try to get creative with some of those experiences, like having your whole community gather together – just because they are typically a part of a wedding doesn’t mean they can’t happen outside of a wedding.
I wouldn’t change the way that we did our wedding, because it was unique and special and we got married surrounded by people we love.We set our wedding date a year before the pandemic started, but it turned out to be the perfect date.
We were super lucky and our experiences would have been very different if we had had a 5 or 10 person gathering limit, and I struggled a lot with the possibility of not having our immediate families and our bridal party with us on our wedding day. All of my feelings about the pandemic wedding changed once we were allowed to gather about 30 people. We also got married the last weekend before the 100-person limit dropped to 25, and if that had happened a week earlier, we would have had to call about 60 extended family members that attended the ceremony to uninvite them. Overall, there were so many frustrating things about planning a wedding during a pandemic, but we did get really lucky in the end.”
Lori and Michael: “Not really! We would definitely do it again! If there was anything, Michael kinda wished that he didn’t cut his hair three days before the wedding and I wish he had taken his glasses off for some of the photos!”
Hazel and Mark: “I don’t think I would change anything. Our wedding day was a happy, exciting, stressful and all kinds of emotions. Although, I would have loved to wear my actual wedding dress but with the stores closed at the time and the limited time we had, there was no way my wedding dress would be ready by then.”
Uncertainty, unknown and flexibility: These are three words which describe planning a wedding during the pandemic. But as you can see, all the weddings turned out better than expected. By the end of the day, the most important thing is the celebration of your love with your partner and being able to cherish every moment with you loved ones, even if your wedding day looks different than you were planned.
Thank you to these five amazing couples who took their time to answer my questions. I love that they were open enough to share their experiences. I always believe that by sharing our knowledge and experiences, we can make other people’s lives a little bit easier.