Love in the Time of COVID-19 

Creative wedding trends prove that love will prevail despite the pandemic 

Khayla Kanitz Photography

From large and energetic to intimate and reserved, wedding festivities have been occurring since ancient times, each new season bringing a unique twist to tie it to its place in history.

The long-vanished custom of a bride and her bridesmaids wearing identical dresses to confuse evil spirits and trick past lovers took place in the late 1800s. Scheduling nuptials at noon on a weekday (Saturdays were considered bad luck!) was a prevalent practice in the early 1900s. And garlic had a surprisingly prominent place in bouquets during primeval times all over the world.

The era in which it takes place undoubtedly dictates elements of the big day, and present day is no exception. Discovering what holds value while remaining flexible in the wake of a global pandemic is vital for engaged couples now, during a time in history that will inevitably be known as that of the coronavirus. 

“The wedding industry has drastically changed in 2020 with the lingering effects of COVID-19,” says Lauren Morin, owner of Flower Mill in Appleton. “I’m not sure any of us expected the pandemic to go on for so long. Many of us small business owners, particularly in the wedding industry, are learning to adapt and cope…”

This wedding season has seen its share of cancelations and postponements, plus a surge in elopements and virtual weddings, but many brides and grooms have chosen to go forward with their gatherings by including both slight and major modifications, not to mention heavy doses of creativity and flexibility. 

Matt Lien Photography

The way couples are getting married is changing because of the virus, but the overall mood and festive nature of the celebration isn’t.

Local wedding planner Alliey Kline, owner of Alliey & Co., suggests brides and grooms respond to the ever-evolving and uncertain times by primarily focusing on what they want their loved ones to experience.

“Keep your guests’ comfort at the forefront of your planning,” she says. “Make sure it is a reflection of you and the experience you want to give and have others remember.”

Typical wedding checklists are still a great starting point and should incorporate the standard components; however, additions that are specific to ensuring guidelines are being followed and safety measures are being taken seriously are crucial. Timelines may change, and last-minute decisions are more common.

Smaller, more intimate guest lists and changes in food service—from buffets or family-style to plated dinners—and venues are often necessary to provide outdoor options and more space to observe social distancing.

“I’ve noticed a lot of my couples are splitting their weddings into two dates,” Morin says. “They are keeping their original date and eloping with just their family attending. The couples are then rescheduling their reception for the same or similar date the following year.

“Not only is it so beautiful and intimate, but couples can oftentimes afford to splurge on larger, more unique items like installations or the giant arbor they always dreamed of because they don’t have the overhead of having a wedding party to provide for and they have an extra year or more to save for the big dinner and party.”

Kline, a 12-year wedding industry veteran, and Morin, having been involved with weddings for eight years, agree that the current climate creates a perfect storm that may require more expert help than in years past.

“For couples who are currently planning a wedding, my biggest recommendation is to make sure you are working with vendors who understand your pandemic requirements and requests…your values are important to us and we want to make sure we are providing the best and safest services for you,” Morin says.

“All the details come together in the planning before the wedding day,” Kline adds. “It is essential to have a professional on your side, coordinating all your vendors and executing your vision.”

In light of constantly changing mandates and regulations, couples should consider providing their guests with an avenue for last-minute communication in the form of a website or email thread to share updated information.

Other common COVID-related changes: 

  • Downsized guest lists, virtual streaming of ceremony
  • Personalized face masks and hand sanitizer as wedding favors 
  • To-go boxes of desserts and/or snacks
  • Cocktail service and appetizers to tables instead of creating lines or clusters of people
  • Socially distanced guest tables, with one household or family per table 
  • Use of outdoor space, weather permitting
  • Color-coded wristbands to represent comfort levels (For example, green: open to shaking hands, hugging; yellow: no touching but open to talking; red: please keep your distance) 

If 2020 has taught the wedding industry anything, it’s the importance of celebrating love by prioritizing and cherishing the opportunity to commemorate it through a wedding—whether it’s celebrated with 10 people or 100.

“Anything can happen at any time in life,” Kline says. “We are here to create memories and celebrate this life together.”

Emilie + Mitchell Melendy

Originally a 300+ guest event quickly evolved into an intimate, glamorous affair.

Khayla Kanitz Photography

October 24, 2020 marked Emilie and Mitchell’s big day, a “really large wedding” they had been planning after dating for four and a half years. 

COVID-19 had other plans. 

“Mitchell and I sat down one night, three weeks before our wedding date, and talked about the feasibility of our plans,” Emilie explains. “We came to the realization that our envisioned large wedding no longer felt like the right choice for us. We…dramatically cut our guest list because… we wanted to celebrate while knowing we were being safe.”

“The memory we knew we wanted from our day was to be magical, fun and positive,” Mitchell adds. “We didn’t want fear and remorse from what could have happened with a large wedding and people getting sick.” 

With an original guest list of 330 people, the couple reduced it and their bridal party to just over 20 people at Mitchell’s family home in De Pere. A rented tent, heaters, and tables and chairs helped hold both the ceremony and reception outdoors. Catering staff wore masks, and the ceremony was live streamed for loved ones to watch from afar.

“Although it was not how we originally planned, it turned into something truly spectacular. We were given the chance to spend quality time with each of our guests, and really enjoy our wedding,” Emilie says. “In an unexpected way, having such a small guest list made everything feel very special.”

“It was a fairytale ending to the story we never knew we were writing,” Mitchell adds. “At the end of the day the gift of marriage is for you and your significant other to be together, and when that happens, regardless of the venue, weather and what have you, nothing else matters.”

Claire + Alex Tassoul

A summer wedding in Michigan turned to a fall celebration in Green Bay.

Matt Lien Photography

Claire and Alex became engaged to be married in March 2018 and had plans to hold a black-tie event in Holland, Michigan on June 20, 2020. When restrictions in the state became more intense and the risk increased, they moved their dream wedding to Green Bay.

“We realized in late April that it wasn’t going to be realistic to have it on June 20,” Alex says. “There were just so many unknowns.

“The biggest stressor was changing our date and hoping and praying that our vendors were still available. We had not only switched our date, but in July we completely switched states and picked a venue that would be back home (in Wisconsin).”

The couple offered their guests a five-course meal instead of a family-style setting to decrease handling of dishes, as well as properly spaced tables and seating to ensure each person felt safe.

“The thing that I remembered most was the reactions of guests when we told them that we secretly eloped on our original wedding day,” Claire says. “It was incredible and so emotional all at once. Some great advice we received was to just take in every moment. Alex and I both wanted to be in the moment together.” 

While they were able to stick to many of the details of the original wedding plans, some of the necessary changes came as a pleasant surprise for the self-proclaimed high energy couple.

“I never thought that I would say this, but the smaller the better…everything feels more intimate and the time is more sacred,” Claire says. “You’re able to have more one-on-one time with each guest and really appreciate everything that goes on. There will never be another event such as this when family and friends come together to celebrate your love.”


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