Planning an Elopement or Small Wedding During Covid-19

6/13/20

In March, after the world shut down, I wrote a blog post about the 3 Wedding Planning Steps to Take During Covid-19 Quarantine. That was a scary time, with lots of unknowns. This, understandably, caused stress for Spring and Summer brides & grooms. My goal was to give advice and encouragement to help couples stay optimistic and realistic, and to keep planning their wedding through the chaos.

Fast forward to June. The future is still unpredictable, but it’s not nearly as scary as in the beginning. Now that weddings are starting to happen again, it’s time for an update!

In May, I photographed 3 weddings. All 3 of them were smaller, scaled down versions of a larger wedding they had originally planned. (Scroll down to read advice directly from the brides!)

Think of these couples as pioneers. They planned their weddings with little information about the future and absolutely no roadmap in front of them. It was tough, but they freakin’ DID IT. Honestly, I’m super impressed with their flexibility and ability to focus on each other and on the bigger picture.👏 🥳

I want to be an open, candid source of information for bride & grooms, so I’m going to share my behind-the-scenes experience of photographing weddings affected by Covid-19. 2020 & 2021 couples… I want to help you learn from these awesome couples who found safe and fun ways to hold their weddings during uncertain times.

Here’s what happened

“So what actually happens at a small wedding?”

Good question! Here’s the general timeline of the 3 weddings I photographed:

  • Detail photos, candid getting ready photos
  • First Look / Around-the-corner first look
  • Ceremony (with some in-person guests and many more online)
  • Family photos
  • Bride & Groom photos
  • Reception with cake and special dances

 

You’ll probably notice that this timeline looks really similar to a normal wedding timeline. I wanted to make sure these couples got to experience a taste of everything they had originally planned to do. And I literally mean “taste”, because you can still have a meal and cake if you want to! 😋

These weddings each had 4-6 hours of photography coverage. (At a full length wedding, I’m usually there for 8 hours.)  Some of these couples are also planning to have a larger reception with more guests later on, once it’s safe to do so.

Elopements vs. Small Weddings

I use the word elopement to describe an adventurous outdoor wedding with a very small guest list (fewer than 10 people). Some elopements are only the couple, a photographer, and an officiant. Sometimes they involve hiking to a cool area for the ceremony. ⛰

It is a MYTH that elopements are always unplanned and spontaneous, only happen in Vegas casino chapels, and don’t allow any guests. Elopements are perfect for couples who want to focus on each other and want to get married somewhere unique or special to them.

Small weddings are just that; a small version of a regular wedding! They’re short and sweet, with few guests (fewer than 30). 💍  They can happen in your home town, at an amazing destination, anywhere!

 

Ways to make your wedding Covid-friendly

  • Pay attention to state/city/county rules for the specific address of your venue.
  • Have hand sanitizer available in multiple places, and encourage guests to use it often.
  • Spend as much of the day as possible outdoors.
  • Ask guests from different households to sit with space between them.
  • Ask guests to stay home if they’re feeling sick.
  • Ask vendors to wear gloves and a mask during set up/ tear down and while preparing food.
  • Send out a live-stream! Unlike a physical wedding venue, there is no limit to the number of people you can invite to watch your wedding online!

 

What I noticed

  • Your guests understand. Everyone is being as gracious and flexible as possible. If you need to narrow your guests list from 125 to 25, people will understand.
  • Your guests WILL watch online, cheer you on virtually, and have a great time! Facebook Live or Zoom are great ways to do this. Due to the technical aspects of running a live stream, it’s best to assign this responsibility to a certain person (NOT you).
  • As much as I love pretty details, that’s not what a wedding is really about. Scaling down your decorations isn’t the worst thing in the world.
  • If you elope somewhere beautiful, you don’t need many decorations.
  • That being said, you CAN still have beautiful decorations and detail photos! These weddings had 2-3 decorated tables with flowers, picture frames, candles, etc. It’s amazing how just one bouquet can give your wedding photos an elevated, editorial look.
  • After months of stressful decision making, it’s best to let go of the reins, go with the flow, and enjoy your day. 😊 My couples were awesome at this!
  • None of these couples regretted going forward with their wedding, even though it was small. They all had an amazing time and are happy to be married!

 

Hear from LG Brides

My May 2020 brides & grooms were seriously AWESOME. I can’t say enough good things about these couples. And because they’re the reining experts of planning weddings during Coronavirus, I asked them to share their advice with you.

Kaley & Martin

Outdoor wedding at The Addison Grove >

“The hardest part about scaling down our wedding was replacing the visions I had of my “dream” wedding. Once I got over the fact that it wasn’t going to be a huge party, like I had originally wanted, it was actually freeing. Having a smaller wedding meant eliminating a lot of the stress that comes with a big gathering and it allowed us to focus on the fact that what we truly wanted was just to be husband and wife. We were also confident that when the time comes, we will be able to celebrate with our friends and extended families so really we just spread out the joy.”

“I truly enjoyed having a smaller ceremony. I called it the “highlight reel” of weddings because we still included our favorite parts of our original plans: vows, cake, first dances, and pictures with our family.”

“Marty and I had a blast sharing our feelings in front of our families and our friends (in person and on the live stream). We are so happy to be married and we feel like a huge cloud of “what ifs” has been lifted from us since we decided to go through with a smaller ceremony. Also, we plan to use the money we saved to go toward buying a house!”

“It is okay to mourn losing your dream wedding. Personally, it was a very emotional decision for Marty and me because we knew it came with a lot of sacrifices. At the end of the day, you have to decide what feels best for your relationship and go with your gut! It won’t be an easy decision to make, but it will be worth it.”

 

 

Darby & Cody

Outdoor hill country elopement  >

“The hardest part about scaling down my wedding was realizing that so many close friends and family members that I love could not physically be there on our wedding day. I knew that having a very small wedding was the safest decision, but it was really hard to accept. My bridesmaids made me a sweet video to watch the morning of the wedding, and I had a virtual bachelorette party the night before on Zoom. We did a Zoom video call so loved ones could watch our wedding which made me feel a lot better.”

“Even though my wedding looked much different than I expected, we still had a wonderful time. At the end of the day, the only thing that mattered to me was getting married to Cody. Our wedding was beautiful and very special. I am so happy to be married!”
“I know that anyone who is planning a wedding right now must be so stressed, and I completely understand! The best advice I have is to focus on how excited you are to be married. Even if your day looks different than you imagined, I am sure it will still be so special and exciting. Everyone will understand if you have to change your plans or scale down your wedding, and they will still be so excited to celebrate you when people are able to gather!”

 

Thinking about eloping at a cool destination? I’ll be there! >

comments +

  1. […] Tips for planning an elopement or small wedding during Covid-19 > […]

  2. […] Planning an Elopement or Small Wedding + Tips from my May 2020 Brides > […]

  3. […] If you want to get married in 2020 or 2021, the reality is that you likely won’t be able to have a large wedding. You may not be able to have 150 guests, and that’s OK. I’ve photographed weddings recently with 30 guests. I’ve also photographed elopements with no guests at all. And they were all awesome. Read more about planning an small wedding or elopement during Covid-19 > […]

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