There’s good news for couples who’ve had to postpone tying the knot this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Starting from July 4, wedding ceremonies and civil partnerships can once again take place in England. In Northern Ireland, weddings of up to 10 people are already allowed outdoors; in the Republic of Ireland, small, outdoors ceremonies are permitted; in Wales, social distancing must be observed; and in Scotland, outdoor weddings and civil partnerships can take place with ‘a minimal number of guests’.
But understandably, there are rules governing how to make one’s Big Day ‘Covid-secure’, with guidelines around numbers of people allowed to attend (up to 50 people during July, and 100 people after July 20th), to social distancing, group singing and receptions.
Some couples are therefore choosing to postpone their weddings until next year, but what if you’re still planning to go ahead this summer?
"It’ll be a story to tell, ‘We got married during a pandemic’," says celebrity wedding planner Mark Niemierko."It’s like if someone got married during the Spanish Flu 100 years ago, I’d love to know that story. I think couples can make a thing of it."
There is another major advantage to having a wedding in 2020. "Many couples who have cancelled their original wedding plans now have larger budgets to spend on smaller scale weddings," says Rebecca Goodwin, co-founder of The Dress Tribe. "So they are spending more money on the things they can still include, such as the wedding dress and a photographer that can work well in more intimate spaces and really capture the essence of the couple and their personality."
With that in mind, here are some expert tips for making small weddings extra special…
1. Embrace the strangeness
"You’ve got to embrace it, you can’t try and hide what’s going on," says Niemierko. "So make a feature out of, for example, the hand washing restrictions. Normally you’d have the best man to carry the rings or a pageboy or flower girl would come up with them on a cushion. Instead, on the desk of the registry office or the altar, wherever you’re getting married, have the rings on a chic cushion and right by that, have a beautiful glass decanter filled with hand sanitiser – that is a photo opportunity."
2. Have a garden wedding
You don’t need a massive venue to hold 30 people, so why not relocate the wedding to your garden if it’s big enough to allow for social distancing?
"Holding a wedding in your own garden means there are also so many options to use the natural elements of the outside world and existing household items as decoration," says Goodwin. "From choosing to use garden rose petals as confetti or jam jars as candle holders, the options are endless."
3. Ditch the huge dress
"For brides going ahead with smaller weddings, the type of dresses they are looking for has also massively shifted," says Goodwin. "Rather than browsing ballgowns and A-line dresses, they are going for looks with a removable skirt, a sassy mini, a danceable jumpsuit, or a two-piece suit."
Dayna Isom Johnson, Etsy trend expert, says the tailoring trend is starting to influence bridalwear choices too. "We’ve already seen a 24% increase in searches for bridal jackets, and we have a hunch that more and more brides are about to start swapping ball gowns for suit sets."
Niemierko, who plans just five high-end wedding as year, has also seen some fabulous alternatives to the traditional dress: "I had a bride wear a Valentino jumpsuit and it was stunning."
4. Offer wellness favours
Another lifestyle trend having an impact on weddings is wellness. "Couples are sending their guests home with items that not only look beautiful in a display of favours, but also promote wellness," says Isom Johnson. Etsy has seen a rise in searches for soap, candle and even crystal favours as couples "prepare to give their guests the gift of relaxation."
5. Go big on the bouquet, not the flower arrangements
Even if your budget is now bigger, Niemierko believes registry office ceremonies should be kept simple. "I’ve got brides that are spending hundreds of thousands, and if they do a ceremony in a registry office, I refuse to do any flowers there."
You shouldn’t scrimp on the bouquet, however, he warns. "I believe the bouquet is one thing you shouldn’t really play with – I think it should just be lily of the valley.
"The Queen just revealed during the virtual Chelsea Flower Show that lily of the valley is one of her favorite flowers, it’s always in the royal bouquets and it’s just so classic."
6. Homemade food and drink
"Regarding food and beverages, many brides are choosing to use this area to really personalise their menu and get friends and families involved," says Goodwin, recommending celebrating over homemade infused vodka.
7. Make the video a party invitation
"If you are lucky enough to afford to have [your wedding] videoed, it’d be quite lovely to incorporate the video as an invitation to a bigger party for everyone that couldn’t be there for next year," Niemierko suggests. Even if you don’t have a pro videographer, you could use a selection of photos and video clips to edit your own highlights reel to send out.