Shelly Pate

What 2020 Taught Us About How to Plan a Wedding

Family embraces at COVID-restricted wedding

After the restrictions and uncertainty that was placed on the weddings of 2020, we thought that 2021 would bring an end to all of this. But, with 2021 now behind us, we’ve realized in the wedding industry that nothing will ever be exactly the same. We have pre-COVID and post-COVID weddings now and with each year things continue to look slightly different. Here are snapshots of a few COVID-restricted weddings and some tips on how to plan a wedding moving forward no matter when you get married!

Couple walks down aisle at COVID-restricted wedding

TIP #1: Use creativity on your wedding day making it more intimate, intentional, and personal.

Couple is greeted outside by guests at COVID-restricted wedding

It was May 2020 and everything regarding how to plan a wedding amidst all the restrictions was still pretty new. Jeremiah & Krysel’s plan was to keep the ceremony to the immediate family only. The wedding was still held in a beautiful church with the bride walking down the aisle to music and everything!

These newlyweds were surprised by a large group that greeted them in the church parking lot! They were welcomed by a lot of cheering when they exited those church doors! Surrounded by balloons, bubbles and signs, many of their loved ones joined the couple to watch the first dance.

Krysel’s parents worked with other family members to coordinate this first dance celebration, putting together goodie bags for everyone. The bags had the ceremony program, bubbles for the first dance, a little champagne bottle, and glasses for the toast. The couple was so surprised by the number of people who joined them just for their first dance and toast! 

TIP #2: Put yourselves and what you want first rather than doing traditions for traditions’ sake.

Couple kisses at COVID-restricted wedding

The three most important things that this couple wanted to remember from their wedding was the groom’s reaction to the bride walking down the aisle, their first kiss as husband and wife, and praying together. They were able to accomplish this AND still get some precious time with their friends and family.

As the couple put it, “There was a lot of praying and looking deeper into what was important, instead of focusing on everything we wanted. It took some time, but realizing this lightened the burden of all the last-minute changes. It also allowed us to focus on each other instead of the smaller details. This really was the intimate wedding we didn’t know we needed!”

TIP #3: Your family both supports and accepts that the wedding day is going to be different than previously planned.

Couple has video calls with family at COVID-restricted wedding

A couple that feels the freedom to create their day in a personal way whether it is smaller or just the two of them is so crucial! Casey and Dylan opted for a rooftop ceremony for their Line DC Hotel elopement. They included family and friends by having video calls with their immediate family as well as watching pre-recorded messages from others who wanted to give their well wishes! Using tactics like these enabled the couple to still include their family by setting aside time to specifically hear from and engage with their virtual guests.


Couple has video calls with family at COVID-restricted wedding

No matter what, your wedding day should represent you two and your shared personalities. How you plan y’all’s perfect wedding day together should be whatever is most suited to you! When you strip it down to just that, everything becomes more meaningful. Families can still be present and get creative in their involvement!

TIP #5: Allow yourself to feel how joyful your day can be when you let go of what couldn’t be and enjoy the sweetness of finally being able to say those vows!

Couple stands holding hands outside of a-frame cabin at adventure elopement

This adventurous elopement only involved the couple, their officiant, and myself. The family had to get creative to be involved! For starters, the bride’s mom made her dress from scratch!

Meredith and Conner found this whimsical A-Frame cabin that provided a perfect adventurous elopement spot. Sitting in the middle of 100 acres of forest, this custom-built A-Frame cabin created the perfect hideaway for a private ceremony. Since they lived in the city, they wanted a spot out in nature without leaving the DC Metro Area.

This elopement proves that you can have an amazing adventure close to home and loved ones can still be with you–even if it isn’t physically. They literally had a cabin in the woods that transported them to an adventurous elopement retreat!

Couple kisses in field at a-frame cabin adventure elopement

Final Thoughts From a Wedding Photographer

Couple shows off wedding bands at COVID-restricted wedding

Now more than ever, there are no hard and fast rules for how to plan a wedding. As a photographer, there are many changes I’ve witnessed that I think should continue to be normal for modern weddings. I’ve been amazed by how the wedding industry pulled together to help each other out through all the reschedules! These changes to the wedding industry have created a sense of community both between the vendors and the couples themselves.

I hope that weddings planned out of pressure and obligation will only continue to decrease as the frequency of smaller weddings and solo elopements increases. In the coming wedding seasons, we should see the community that’s been forged over these past few years only continue to grow!

Couple puts their hands in the air at COVID-restricted wedding

Here are more resources for planning your wedding:

  1. What To Do if Your Wedding Day Is Postponed
  2. A Photographer’s Top Reasons To Do Wedding First Looks
  3. How To Plan a Wedding in 2021
  4. The Knot: How to Prepare for 2022 Wedding Costs and Possible Supply Chain Delays
  5. The Knot: How to Plan a Wedding in 2022 & 2023
Couple runs through field at COVID-restricted wedding

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