Planning a Wedding During COVID-19
Planning to Keep Your Wedding in 2020!?
How to plan a less-risky socially-distanced wedding, and still have a great time!
The Metropolitan Players played their first in-person wedding since quarantine on Saturday, June 27, 2020. It was also the first wedding for the venue, the photographer, the videographer, the makeup artist, the florist - and of course - the couple. Before we say anything else, we have to say that it was an absolute JOY being back in action. Our couple was fun, sweet, easy-going, and surprisingly super calm. That really set the tone for the whole night, which was an absolute blast.The guests were amazing, the vendor team was great, and the band was thrilled to be celebrating with our couples again!
Everyone involved did their best given this was a very new situation for all of us. Yes, we’ve all read the blogs, and have paid attention to the governmental guidelines - but actually being in person is a whole new ballgame!
So many things were done extremely well. For example, every single vendor and every venue staff member wore a mask the whole night. There were sanitization stations set up throughout the venue in most of the entryways and high traffic areas. There were signs posted that encouraged guests to keep their distance, and only one person was allowed in the restroom at a time. The tables were spaced 6 feet apart, and the couple had downsized their wedding from over 150 to 60 guests to accommodate gathering size restrictions and recommendations.
Before the wedding, we had a discussion with our couple regarding the size of the band, and decided on a 4-piece group to better accommodate the space and wedding size restrictions. The couple expected their guests to be a bit too cautious to dance, so they requested low-key, cocktail style music, and agreed we should play to the vibe in the room if the vibe happened to change.
As soon as we started playing the kind of music they requested, the dance floor filled up with couples slow dancing with each other. So we decided to pick up the tempo a bit, and just about every single guest ended up on the dance floor.
We quickly found that after so many months in quarantine, cooped up with the same people, doing the same old routine, people were ready to dance. Our job is to get everyone dancing and having a great time - and that’s something we’re pretty darn good at doing - so we weren’t totally surprised. That said, I don’t think any of us expected all of the guests to so freely join the dance floor - most without masks.
Since this wedding went so well, we’re using this wedding as a learning experience to offer recommendations and advice to help keep you, your guests, and your vendors comfortable, and to minimize the risk of spreading COVID at your wedding. So if you’re planning to keep your wedding in 2020, we’re here to say that it’s totally possible - and here are some things to consider when it comes to music and dancing!
Ask Your Band if they’re flexible, and can send a smaller band if needed
Although we’re sure many of the couples reading this are working with us (The Met Players!!!), if you’re not, and you have a band booked, it’s worth asking them if they’re willing and able to downsize the band if you have headcount restrictions, or are significantly downsizing your guest list.
Our 6/27 couple asked for this as soon as they knew they might have to downsize, and they’re the whole reason we’re now offering this to other couples. In our experience, most wedding vendors are trying to be flexible with their service offerings, and provide options that better fit the current circumstances. So it doesn’t hurt to ask! Your vendors are going to know their own area of expertise best, and should be able to offer their best recommendation on how to proceed.
Downsizing? We recommend sticking with a large room!
At this particular wedding, the couple downsized their wedding from about 200 people in a large ballroom to about 60 people in a smaller space typically set aside for an indoor cocktail hour. The tables were 6 feet apart, and the dance floor was downsized to about an 8x8 square. This was a perfect size because the only planned dancing was the first dance, and parent dances.
If you’ve read this far, you know that we did a little more than the special dances! So if like this couple, you need to downsize your wedding guest list to accommodate size or capacity caps, we’d suggest keeping your wedding in a large room or space rather than downsizing to accommodate the smaller guest list. Once again - downsizing the room on 6/27 wasn’t the wrong decision - it was the best decision anyone could have made at the time, based on expectations of what the celebration would look like. But now that we know people will want to dance, we can help the rest of you plan ahead!
The hope is that your venue will be understanding and accommodating to this type of request, even if they typically reserve their larger rooms for larger guest counts. The least you can do is ask to see if they’d be willing to either keep, or move you into a larger space. That way, you, your guests, your vendors, and the venue staff will feel more comfortable moving around freely. And your guests will be more inclined to dance, knowing there’s plenty of space.
Creative dance floor plans to keep your guests socially-distanced
Once the wedding gets going, and your guests have a few drinks in them, it’s going to be harder to manage and enforce social distancing and mask wearing. Our suggestion is to assume your guests are going to dance, and consider setting up the room ahead of time to encourage your guests to keep their distance.
Design the Dance Floor
If you have a large space for dancing in the center of the room - or even off to the side of the room - we’d suggest adding a design to the dance floor that encourages your guests to dance in pods with their household, significant other, or table. You can add circles or boxes at least 6 feet apart from each other, with table numbers in the center so people know where to go. You can place “polka dots” across the dance floor at least 6 feet apart, then instruct your guests to stick with their significant other, date, or small household on those dots.
Yes, this takes a little extra thought and planning, but it will make for less of a headache later if you can feel comfortable knowing that your guests understand where to go, and how to dance at a safe distance! Nobody is going to have a tape measure on them, so defining the spacing ahead of time can help to ensure your guests stay at least 6 feet apart.
Spread Dance Floors throughout the Space
The cool thing about most portable dance floors is that they’re usually constructed by putting a bunch of small squares together, so that the size can easily be changed.
Rather than setting up one dance floor, consider setting up several small dance floors throughout the room. That way, there will be less of a chance your guests are going to congregate in the same space. You can either designate which squares are available for which tables, or communicate a maximum number of guests per square so they know to move to a new one if a particular square is full.
Whatever you choose regarding the dance floor design, you can always ask your band/emcee to announce the dance floor guidelines so that your guests are reminded throughout the night.
And if you decide against adding special designs, or setting up multiple dance floors, we suggest that you opt for just as large of a dance floor as you’d normally have at a wedding with 100+ guests. Your venue may be under the assumption that people won't dance, however we can tell you from experience that your guests will most definitely dance! So if your venue is offering a 10x10 dance floor with the assumption your guests won’t dance, we suggest asking for a larger dance floor. That way, if (and when) your guests do dance, they’ll have plenty of space to do so!
Start having conversations with your future spouse, family, and venue about risk and safety
We’re pretty sure that when you started planning your wedding several months ago, a global pandemic wasn’t even a thought. Even if you considered worst case scenarios, it probably didn't come up in a plan B, C, D, or even Z. Now that you’re in the middle of it, and about to host a wedding, we’d suggest having some conversations about risk and safety with your family and venue.
The best thing you can do at first is discuss where you’re at personally (as a couple), and how you’re feeling when it comes to safety at your wedding. Start with your ideal pandemic wedding scenario when it comes to masks, sanitizer, dance floor design, number of guests, etc. then jot down a list of pros and cons for that scenario. If the cons list is much longer than the pros, you may need to tweak your plans just a bit to balance the list, or make the pros list slightly longer than the cons.
Bring this list to your most trusted family members, and ask for their thoughts on your plans. They may be able to offer some good ideas, tips, or might think of a few additional pros or cons you forgot to consider. Once you’ve honed in on what would make you and your family feel most comfortable, have a discussion with your venue about how to make it all happen.
To be open at all right now, venues have pretty strict guidelines from local governments on how they can operate most safely (at least here in the Tri-State area). So share your ideas with them, and find out what they’re able to accommodate, and what shifts you might have to make to comply with governmental guidelines.
And at the end of the day on this front, our biggest piece of advice is to embrace the pandemic planning process. It’s definitely unique, and a once-in-a-lifetime experience! If you’re worried about masks in all your photos, consider getting matching face masks for your guests and giving them out as favors. You can get them personalized with your name and wedding date, or get plain colored masks so that everyone matches.
If you’re most worried about people remembering to sanitize, ditch the personalized candle favors, and go for hand sanitizer instead. There are plenty of ways to be creative and have some fun in the process.
We know that having your wedding in the middle of a pandemic isn’t ideal - but at least you’re still able to have your wedding! You still get to marry your sweetheart, you still get to celebrate, and you also get to leave with peace of mind that you deeply considered the comfortability, risk, and safety of your guests.
If you have the option to hold your wedding outside, definitely consider it!
We’re sure you’ve heard at this point that the virus spreads much more readily inside than it does outside. The airflow and elements outside help to disperse virus particles, and even break them down so that they can’t last in the air as long.
If you have the option to hold your wedding in a tent on the lawn of your venue instead of inside the room you were originally planning, it might be worth considering! We’ve had the pleasure of seeing some GORGEOUS tent designs over the years, so we know there are plenty of ways to make the space still feel beautiful. We’ve played weddings in the fall with heaters, and weddings in the summer with fans. We’ve even played a tented wedding in the midst of a crazy rainstorm that flooded part of the tent - and it still went off without a hitch.
If you fell in love with your venue because of the indoor space, we can understand that this is a hard move to even consider, and is an especially hard decision to make. We don’t know what the next few months are going to bring, so you may not need to make this decision right away. But if you’re anxious about having your guests together in close quarters in an indoor space, we’d suggest at least considering this as an option!
By asking your guests to maintain distance, wear masks, and by moving your wedding outdoors, you’re minimizing the risk of the virus spreading should someone have it and not know it.
If you have ground rules or safety tips, find a fun way to share that with your guests!
We’re living in unprecedented times, and there are lots of additional things you’re sort of forced to consider as you decide to continue with your wedding plans. So as you’re gathering information, safety tips, and deciding what matters most to you, don’t hesitate to share that information with your guests.
There are plenty of ways to communicate wedding day ground rules with guests to ensure you’re all on the same page. You can message all of your guests ahead of time with the expectations, provide some tips to stay healthy on the back of every menu, ask your emcee to make an announcement with your wishes, or share some of your protocols at the start of the wedding by making an announcement yourself.
Setting ground rules might feel a little strange, since it’s unlikely you’ve ever been to a wedding where you had to follow such specific guidelines! But since we’re in the middle of a pandemic, we’re sure that your guests will understand! And you can even get creative on how to share these guidelines with your guests!
Maybe you can write out some safety tips and guidelines in the form of a poem! Or maybe you can add some humor into the announcement by making jokes about what quarantining with your new spouse has been like. It doesn’t have to be sad and serious, or long and drawn out. It just needs to be a quick, light reminder that you want to keep everyone safe!
This list is certainly not exhaustive, but hopefully it helps you to feel a little better about your upcoming plans. From experience (thanks Corinne and Andrew!!) we know that it’s totally possible to celebrate your wedding during this time. With a few additional considerations, and some creative ideas, you can make it happen and still have a great time in the process.
Although we don’t have all the answers, we’re always happy to offer advice when we can! Don’t hesitate to reach out to us at email@example.com if you need help with anything! We’re here for you!
This post is for general informational purposes and does not intend to provide legal or financial advice. The information in this post is representative of the personal opinions of Drew and Erin Coles of The Metropolitan Players. Drew and Erin Coles are not medical professionals, epidemiologists, or experts in disease prevention or transmission. Government guidance and restrictions for events and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic vary by location. Before implementing any safety measures for your event, we recommend consulting the government guidance in your area, or your legal advisors.