Your Socially Distanced Wedding

So, no one saw this coming - especially couples planning their dream wedding day; but here we are in mid-2020, trying to make sense and make the best of the situation that COVID-19 has led us to; how to host a beautiful wedding, whilst implementing social distancing.

At the time of writing, we are being asked to keep two metres apart (or 1 metre with risk mitigation, where 2 metres is not viable) from anyone outside our social bubble, but how can this be achieved when you're hosting, say, 100 guests on your wedding day? Initially, you might need to reflect on your guest list. Ordinarily, couples are looking for wiggle room to add additional guests, but now you're likely being asked to do the opposite. Were there some guests you invited merely out of politeness? Could that distant relation that your promised your parents you would invite now be left off the final guest list? (You’ll probably need to liaise with your venue about the minimum number of guests attending your wedding as your contract with them might state this; however, in the light of current circumstances, this might be flexible). Looking on the bright side, a shorter guest list will provide a more intimate occasion; one where you can spend quality time with your guests rather than a fleeting “hello” during your receiving line. (By the way, receiving lines - where you greet your guests individually - will need to take a break for a while too, sadly).

If cutting down your guest list is not a palatable option for you, think about your guests coming for a particular element of your day – in shifts. You could have Team Ceremony (group 1) of your guests attending just your civil ceremony and drinks reception. The majority of these guests would then leave. Team Foodie (group 2) would then join you for your wedding breakfast and speeches. After their departure, Team Dance (group 3) would arrive for the cutting of your wedding cake, your first dance and then socially-distanced partying into the night. With this plan is place, everyone is still included, just not all at this same time and in the same space.

When hosting your civil ceremony, you'll need to consider seating guests within their social bubbles and some venues might not have the space for this, so contemplate hosting the legal part of your ceremony (this needs to be conducted in a permanent structure) for a handful of your nearest and dearest, followed by a larger, non-legal ceremony, which can be hosted anywhere and in a place where guests can spread out. Don't forget to think about amplification for this, so everyone can hear what's being said. You might be lucky enough to be able to host an al-fresco civil ceremony, such as **shameless plug alert** at Penshurst Place, where there’s space for an outdoor ceremony - in our case in our secluded Inner Courtyard - where you can exchange vows and your guests are seated well-spaced and outside. The best of both worlds! All you need is for the Great British weather to be kind to you.

Your guests will still need to socially distance for the rest of your wedding day. During your drinks reception, rather than waiting staff mingling with your guests to offer beverages and canapés, each social bubble of guests may need to collect their drinks and nibbles from a pre-set serving table.

During your wedding breakfast, you may only be able to seat a few guests at each dining table. Your venue might be able to offer additional banqueting rooms to host your meal, especially if you have exclusive hire. The style of catering might need to be reconsidered too; buffets, barbecues and hog roasts (anything where people serve themselves) will need to be revised. Perhaps al-fresco dining with picnics in hampers on rugs (spaced two metres apart, of course) on a fine summer’s day would be an option for you.

In the evening, it's traditional to squeeze as many guests as possible onto a packed dance floor. But COVID-19 says “not for now”. Can we still dance the night away? Yes, but in a different way. A band might need to be substituted for a DJ. Do away with the dance floor. Perhaps your venue has a large enough space to spread out and make use of the whole area? They'll need to mark out 2 metre areas for each bubble in which boogying can be confined. You could source a silent disco where everyone has their individual headphones. Not only do dancers naturally allow themselves more space (apparently), but it means that those choosing not to dance don't have to get too close to each other to be heard over the music.

We are all feeling our way through this. Some of these ideas might work, some may not. You may have to be the first to try out these ideas at your chosen venue. Be brave. Be creative. Your wedding day will be all the more special and unique for this experience, and will focus more heavily on the only part that really matters, saying "I do" to your best friend.