Tips for Planning a Covid Wedding From a Covid Bride

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November 25, 2020

When I got engaged in 2019 I can tell you confidently that “Covid Bride” is a title that I never saw coming. And now looking back, it’s still not a title I’d choose. But it was one that taught me an awful lot and I hope it will be used to teach a lot of you! I want to share a bit of my story about planning my dream wedding in the midst of a global pandemic with the hopes of offering helpful tips and making you feel less alone if you’re in the same boat!

My boyfriend proposed to me on November 18, 2019 after 10 months of dating and a 2.5 of years of being coworkers and really close friends. If I’m being honest, we basically started planning the wedding on the drive home from getting engaged. I think we both knew that I am 100% the type of girl that’s been planning her wedding since middle school (and my secret Pinterest boards reflect that). I pushed for a long engagement because I wanted a season of life to enjoy being engaged and to take our time planning the best wedding ever. My fiance, however, was ready for us to be married and I couldn’t blame him! We decided on May 16, 2020 and jumped right into wedding planning!

However, by March I knew that none of our plans were going to be able to happen as they were supposed to. The world was rapidly shutting down, no one was leaving their homes, and I was frantically texting my engaged friends who were also planning summer weddings to see what their plan was. I was desperate for someone (anyone) to tell me that our wedding would be okay and that we should proceed as planned. But in April we made the tear-filled decision to post-pone our big wedding to August and to get married in a small and intimate way on our original wedding date. We built a little altar and in the parking lot of the church, in front of our immediate family and bridal party (who were tailgating basically!) we said yes to each other and it was beautiful and simple and the most joyful day of my life.

But even though it ended up being my new dream wedding, the path to get there was still filled with tears, hard decisions, disagreements and a roller coaster of emotions. We also were incredibly blessed and were still able to hold our big (vow renewal) ceremony and reception on August 8th. While this day was the venue and plans of my dreams, that too came with unique challenges and hardship and again so many emotions. But in all of it, I want to share what I learned:

It’s OKAY to mourn the loss of the wedding you had planned! 

It sounds dramatic to say this, but I wasn’t really a crier before March. For me, it was about a monthly occurrence, if that! But once covid-19 hit, crying became an activity that I participated in at least every other day. Not only was I fearful of all that was happening around us, I was also literally grieving the loss of the wedding that we had planned. Because it is a huge loss and should be treated as such! We had planned our day with such care and attention to detail. But more than that, we had labored over our guest list to ensure that all of the people that we love most could be there! And the thought of getting married without those people with us was heartbreaking to me. And I learned that it’s okay to say that!

Looking back, I felt pressure to not be sad because I knew I was getting married either way and I thought that should make me happy (and it did/does!). But also, I needed to be constantly reminded that changing the plans for our wedding and people no longer being able to come is not how it’s supposed to be and it’s NORMAL to be incredibly saddened by that! I promise you that walking through a period of mourning the “normal” wedding will give way to a time of joy and celebration as you look forward at new plans!

small backyard covid wedding in Iowa

Self-care

If you are in the thick of planning (or re-planning) or even if you’re still in the grieving stage, there’s a temptation to spend every free waking moment thinking about or planning for the big day. What I learned was that I needed to give myself time and space to distance myself from our wedding and do things that I knew would be life giving to me. Granted, this was in the thick of quarantine so I couldn’t really go out and do things.

But I found the (safe) things that felt restful and joyful! For me this meant that I used the hot tub at my parents house, or I would let myself enjoy a few more treats (perfect wedding body was basically out the window at this point – not that perfect even exists!) or I would spend too much time watching that trashy TV show on Netflix. These things felt like a solace from the worries of the wedding and world. I would highly encourage you to make time for these things too! Pick the happy thing and do that – at least once a day!

Be flexible and understanding

When you’re ready to dive into the planning, do everything you can to go with the flow. This was a foreign concept for me and wedding planning, but it was imperative to having a covid wedding! Whether it’s that your cake is going to have to be pre-cut and packaged, or the tables need to move farther apart, or you need to figure out a way to make hand sanitizer look cute. Whatever it is, I know that in the moment it feels like big things, but as soon as the day comes, all those things fall by the wayside and you’ll hardly notice them!

However, I know for a lot of you the biggest hardship isn’t actually in the details, but it’s in the people who no longer feel comfortable attending your wedding. This was the thing that caused the most tears for both my husband and I. I know the sting of the constant stream of people contacting you to say that they no longer feel comfortable attending. We were getting these texts basically up until the ceremony started! And while it does hurt every time, try your hardest to be understanding and sympathetic to those who desperately want to celebrate you, but just don’t feel safe. And as hard as it is to imagine, I promise that once you’re at your wedding day, you will notice who IS there way more than who isn’t!

Celebrate the simplicities 

Because we had an intimate ceremony in May and a bigger reception in August, this actually relieved a lot of the pressure for both days! On our wedding day, I had a slow morning with my sisters eating waffles and watching the wedding episode of the the Office while my fiance golfed with his friends. I don’t even think I hopped in the shower until around noon! Never would I have thought a wedding day could feel so carefree, but looking back that was such a gift! I got to enjoy each and every moment of anticipation without feeling the panic of needing to be at the next destination ASAP!

Our ceremony even started 15 min late because my grandparents (who were driving in and staying in their car of course) had lost track of time and were just sitting down to dinner. Even when we had our big reception in August, the pressure of getting married that day was gone and we were free to just enjoy the day with our friends and family! These are not typical aspects of a normal wedding but I think they should be! Covid wedding or not, make time in your wedding day timeline to just rest and feel all the excitement of what’s to come!

No matter the size of your wedding, plan your dream wedding

About a month before our wedding I said to my husband, “why are we even planning this amazing and beautiful day, it feels like no one is even coming to see it!” First of all, I was being dramatic. We still had about 200 people at our wedding because our starting list was way too big. But also, because we had created the space of our dreams, our pictures and video turned out amazing! And even though there was a lot of family that wasn’t able to make it, those are the people that are still asking us to see our video or for the link for our pictures. Celebrating with people looks different than it used to, but being in small groups of family members re-living our day through video or pictures is such a gift!

Make your wedding everything you want it to be because you will look back and be delighted in the day regardless of how many people see it. As a side note, it is SO worth it to have as many photos and videos as possible. I know I’m a little biased, but hiring a photographer was such a worthy expense for us because now we get to look back at the beautiful images, as well as sharing them with the people who love us!

intimate backyard wedding reception

Communicate with vendors

From a practical standpoint, you can’t over-communicate with your vendors in this time. If you are just jumping into planning, make sure you’re asking your vendors what they’re doing to stay safe and keep the guests at their events safe. It’s also wise to ask about date-change and cancellation policies. If there’s anything we’ve learned this year it’s that things can change quickly and you want to make sure that you aren’t tied to anything should things get bad again. I also learned that vendors want to help and accommodate you! Our vendors were so flexible and really came alongside us as we tried to figure out what the safest options were. Ask a lot of questions and work together to ensure that you are inviting your friends and family into a space where they are protected and feel comfortable.

Lean on your community and ask for help!

I obviously don’t personally know everyone who is reading this, but I can confidently say that if you’re a covid bride (or any bride really!) you probably have people in your life who want to walk with you through this! I found that my friends were incredibly empathic and would jump at the opportunity to help us in some way! Whether it was decorating, photographing, or still making me feel so loved and celebrated, the people that came alongside us made the wedding planning season that much easier to go through! I even had a friend who flew home from California while she was 7 months pregnant to be there for our parking lot wedding!

intimate covid wedding
This sweet couple had an intimate private wedding, and their original guests greeted them with a fond farewell outside their church.

I say this because I thought that if our wedding wasn’t the big event that we had planned for, I thought people wouldn’t see it as a big deal – but I could not have been more wrong! It’s okay to let people celebrate you and even to ask for help from those same people. Because chances are, they’re looking for a way to help anyways!

Remember the focus of the day

I know it sounds cliche, and I will probably be the 48th person to tell you this – but remember what your wedding day is all about! Regardless of what the day looks like, you will still be married at the end of it and that is a big deal! Don’t let all the ups and downs get in the way of looking forward to the day where you get to say yes to your best friend forever! When the day comes, all the details, all the emotions, all the best and worst parts of planning will all fade into the background as you walk down the aisle (or for me it was the parking lot) towards your groom! I’m getting excited for you just thinking about it!

Look forward to the days that you will look back with gratitude! 

This is easier said than done. But when you’re deep in planning mode, and you’re feeling the emotions of yet another changing plan or another shift in the guest list, do everything you can to think about how you’ll feel 3 months after your wedding. When everything is said and done and you’re making dinner with your spouse or watching Netflix or whatever it is that you like to do – you will look back on your wedding day and feel two prominent emotions. Relief that it’s over, and gratitude about how the day went.

Even if literally everything goes wrong, I can confidently say that you will look back on your wedding with gratitude for the highs and the lows because it got you to where you are now! Everyone says don’t sweat the small stuff, and you probably still will, but remember that someday these worries will no longer be present, and that alone is something to celebrate!

I say all of this knowing that the season of being a covid bride perfectly embodies the phrase “bittersweet.” Really high highs and really low lows, but I promise you it’s all worth it!

If you have any other questions or are just needing someone to process with, don’t hesitate to reach out! I found it helpful to surround myself with a couple others who were going through the same thing. If you are looking for someone who understands what you’re going through, you should probably just let me buy you a cup of coffee and we can chat!

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