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How to Plan A Small Wedding At Home During The Pandemic

Image Credit: B Floral

A wedding at home might not be the big day you had always envisaged, but this has become a reality for many couples with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While international travel is off the cards for now and guest numbers have to be restricted for safety reasons, it doesn’t mean your wedding has to be cancelled or postponed. If you are one of the many couples who want to push ahead with marrying your soulmate, not even a pandemic has to stop you.

More couples are planning small weddings at home or in their local areas. With some safety precautions and creative touches, you can create a truly memorable day for yourself, your partner, and your closest family and friends.

To help you get started, we have spoken with seven wedding experts including event planners, caterers and venues, to share their best advice for planning a beautiful small wedding at home or in your local area.

Should You Consider Getting Married at Home?

Image Credit: Lauren Balingit / Chicago Vintage

For many engaged couples, the big question is — should we postpone the wedding to next year or change our original wedding plans to an elopement or micro wedding at home? Our experts share some thoughts.

A Home Wedding is the Most Reliable Option

Postponing is a possibility but it’s difficult to nail down a date in the future when travel and large gatherings will be permitted. “Because COVID-19 restrictions are ever-changing, we feel that planning an intimate at-home gathering is the most reliable wedding plan for 2020,” says the team from B Floral, a full-service event design and production firm.

And you don’t have to be restricted to your home. “With evolving challenges and uncertainties, it makes sense for couples to consider planning a wedding locally to avoid the impact of travel limitations and secure a safe spot that is easy for close friends and family to attend,” says the team at the Wolverton Inn, a romantic and historic country estate near New Hope, PA and Lambertville, NJ.

A Home Wedding is More Budget-Friendly

Wedding budgets can famously blow out to epic proportions and often saddle couples’ with debt for years to come.

“Whether you have your small wedding at home or a local venue, it’s guaranteed to be far more budget-friendly than a larger event, plus you can put more thought into each guest’s experience,” says the team at Chicago Vintage Weddings, one of the city’s top luxury wedding planners. “A lot of the pressure has been taken off couples to host large, elaborate events, which can feel very freeing,” they say.

A Home Wedding is Less Stressful

Weddings can be stressful, especially when travel and large numbers of guests are involved. The team from Apple Brides, a northern Idaho-based publication who inspire and assist local brides and grooms to plan the wedding of their dreams, says that local weddings can be a lot more relaxing for everyone.

“The comfort of the couple and guests is of massive importance, and there's no reason you can't have your beautiful dream wedding when utilizing vendors in your local area.”

The team at Woolverton Inn agrees. “A local wedding close to the homes of friends and family will allow you to have loved ones by your side on your special day and minimize the added stresses that often arise when planning such an important and complex event from a distance.”

Why Not Plan Your Reception Next Year to Mark Your Anniversary?

Just because you can’t throw a big party for your family and friends right now, doesn’t mean you have to give up on the idea completely.

“We are seeing many couples rescheduling their full wedding receptions and having them a year later, marking their first anniversary. This approach really offers the best of both worlds and even gives couples more time to plan and enjoy their time as newlyweds,” says the team at EBE Talent, an industry-recognized entertainment, event planning and production company.

A Small Home Wedding Can Still Be Special

One of the benefits of a more intimate wedding is the ability to focus on the really special details. Discuss what matters most to you and your partner and bring that vision to life with a few simple touches which are likely to make an impression on your guests.

“A home-based event doesn't have to mean DIY if you don't want it to. Hiring a great team of professional vendors will make things easier and ensure you're abiding by all best practices and safety measures,” says the team at Apple Brides.

Find a Good Local Wedding Venue

Image Credit: Lemon Hill Studio / Woolverton Inn

If it’s not possible to host a ceremony in your home, or you simply want more support on your special day, you can still consider a local wedding venue. “You may wish to have the support and ‘hands-off’ benefits that a professional venue provides,” says Chicago Vintage Weddings.

The team at Pearl Events Austin, who provide customizable event planning services, says many of their clients are moving their weddings to locations in the US which are easily accessible for their guests.

“That doesn't necessarily mean staying in their hometown, oftentimes it's a city that is easily drivable for a majority of their guests so they don't have to get on a plane during the pandemic.”

There are many benefits to using a local venue, the team at Woolverton Inn explain. “Working with local businesses and selecting vendors recommended by the venue enables easy, personalized, update-to-date communication with people who are operating in the same environment. The cohesion in the local community will ease problems that could result from trying to source services at a distance.”

Your Checklist for Planning a Wedding at Home

If you are hosting any sort of gathering during the pandemic, no matter how small, safety has to be your first priority. Here are some things to consider when planning a small wedding at home or in your local community.

Keep Your Guest List Tight

Unfortunately, you probably won’t be able to invite everyone you would like to your wedding, but you can still try to ensure those closest to you are able to share your special day. “Keep it small for now and plan your all-out celebration for next year so it doesn't become overwhelming and everyone stays safe,” says EBE Talent.

Stagger Your Invitations

With restrictions constantly changing, Pearl Events Austin strongly recommends staggering your save the dates. “If you've seen your city imposing a limited amount of guests at your venue then don't send out more save the dates than what you've seen the lowest capacity, then send out more save the dates when the venue's capacity increases.”

Woolverton Inn agrees. “We are seeing some couples set a core list of the immediate family required guests, and then a second or third tier of family and friends so that they can adjust their guest count if the guidelines change during the final weeks before their wedding day.”

Host the Wedding Outdoors if You Can

“An outdoor, socially-distanced wedding is your best option,” says the team at Roaming Hunger, the central hub for food truck catering. Do you have a backyard you can convert into a charming space for your wedding, or are there local venues with outdoor space you could use?

Check You Have Enough Space to Socially Distance

During these challenging times, you will need to be extra prepared. “If you are inviting guests beyond your closest circle, make sure there is enough space for everyone to be able to socially distance at all times – from the ceremony to the reception,” says B Floral.

EBE Talent suggests the following: “Count your guests by household groups to determine how many guests you can seat together and the size tables you will need to accommodate them. Then make sure you have enough space to spread each table 6 feet apart.”

Choose a Safe Food Service Option

Foodservice has the potential to spread germs, so think carefully about how you manage this aspect of your wedding. The team at Roaming Hunger has some tips.

“When it comes to suppliers, we believe that a food truck, trailer, cart, or tent, will be safer than a buffet line or out of a commercial kitchen. There will be fewer people serving your guests, plus a food truck can operate with 3-4 people so it’s also less expensive than traditional catering.

They also ensure their food truck suppliers adhere to safety protocols such as wearing masks and gloves, limiting communal items like condiments, and promoting safe distancing practices.

Keep Your Guests Protected

Your guests’ safety will be your top priority. If you are hosting older family members like grandparents, this is even more important. Ensure you are fully stocked up on items like masks, hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies.

“Make sure you thoroughly clean and sanitize restrooms, doorknobs, and any surface your guests will touch before and after your event,” says EBE Talent.

A professional planner or coordinator will be able to help you navigate the additional measures you can take to ensure everyone is safe and comfortable, like keeping guest count small or renting sanitizer stations,” says Apple Brides.

While the bride and groom can still share that all-important first dance, other guests probably won’t be able to boogie the night away due to the health risks. Make sure guests know what they can and can’t do before the wedding to avoid any confusion in the day.

Check That Your Vendors Are COVID-19 Prepared

Image Credit: Thomas Kolnowski

From caterers to local wedding photographers, it’s important to do your due diligence on any vendors you intend to use.

“Always talk to your suppliers and vendors before making any major decisions,” says B Floral. ”Because most event vendors are having to cope with Covid-19 changes and restrictions, they’ll likely have insight into current rules and will be able to help you create a new wedding plan that’s right for you.”

You should also take extra care when choosing who to work with. “There are few, if any wedding vendors who have not been impacted by the pandemic, so it is very important to make sure that the ones you choose are reliable so that you do not face delays, shortages or limitations on the services expected,” says Woolverton Inn.

Make Sure Your Vendors Are Flexible

The pandemic is a fast-moving situation. Things can change rapidly and you must be prepared to change your plans. “If some guests are coming in from other states, finding them suitable lodging needs to be considered as hotels now have capacity restrictions,” says Woolverton Inn.

Some states are also imposing quarantine on inbound travelers from certain “hotspot” states “Make sure that your agreement with the venue and suppliers accommodates the need for flexibility in guest count and that you are very clear on any minimum, as well as final dates for the number of guests and meals,” they say.

Prepare for the Weather

If you’re hosting your wedding outdoors, it goes without saying that you will need to be prepared for the weather. “Bring in a tent for shade or rain”, says EBE Talent. “If it rains the morning of or the night before your celebration, the ground will likely be too soft and muddy for an event, so make sure you have a backup plan,” they warn.

Establish Good Communication With Your Venue

If you are planning your wedding at a local venue, you must stay in close contact with them as the COVID-19 situation evolves closer to your wedding date. “Couples should take a detailed tour of the venue and imagine the group activities at each point in your day or weekend, who will be where, and then address any concerns,” says Woolverton Inn.

Inspiration and Ideas for a Home Wedding

Getting married at home or in your local town doesn’t have to be dull and disappointing. The most important thing is that the two of you have the opportunity to celebrate your love and share this special moment. Here are some ideas to make your wedding at home a truly memorable occasion.

Create a Meaningful Space

Get creative with your decor and entertainment says EBE Talent. “Social distancing won't stop you from having to-die-for centerpieces or amazing live music in your backyard!”

The team at B Floral agrees. “Because most of our clients are scaling back in size and numbers, we’re finding they are focusing even more on the décor and overall aesthetic. We’ve transformed backyards and porches into a ceremony and reception spaces and have created large hanging installations as photo backdrops.”

Link Your Micro Wedding To Your Postponed Reception

Many couples are choosing to tie the knot and exchange wedding rings now, but hold off on the big reception until it’s safe. EBE Talent shares some sweet ways couples are linking these important occasions together:

  • Put aside a special bottle of wine at the micro wedding to open at the full reception a year later.
  • Plan socially-distant photos and video and display them at the full reception.
  • Freeze the cake and try it a year later in front of the guests at the reception.
  • Preserving the flowers by drying them or having them cast in resin to display at the reception.
  • Asking the DJ or live musicians for a copy of their playlist or setlist and incorporating the music into their cocktail hour at the reception.
  • Wearing their wedding dresses or suits twice! It's so amazing to see couples get more use out of their wedding day ensembles.
  • Ask guests to leave advice notes and read them to see if they came true a year later.

Break With Tradition

It might not be possible to fill certain roles at the wedding in the traditional way but that shouldn’t stop you getting married.

“I love to see couples taking a tradition and giving it a twist to make it their own,” says Apple Brides. “There is no rule book for weddings, so think outside the box. Having the flexibility of a home-based wedding truly makes the sky the limit when it comes to thinking creatively.”

Host a Wedding on Your Stoop

Just because you need to physically distance, it doesn’t mean your home wedding needs to be completely sealed off. Chicago Vintage Weddings say that one of their favorite home event trends to emerge is stoop weddings.

“Why not take advantage of that natural stage? It’s a fun, creative way to involve the community in your event even when space may be limited. It’s also a fabulous way to showcase the train of a gown.”

Create Fun Customized Touches for Your Guests

Image Credit: DearElliot

Fewer guests mean you can spend more time on extra-special details that will make an impression. Chicago Vintage Weddings say their 2020 clients have been having a lot of fun with personalized touches that they wouldn’t have the budget to do at a large wedding.

This includes premium rentals, extra gorgeous centerpieces, personalized notes to guests and meaningful place cards. They are also having custom masks monogrammed for one couples’ guests. “It’s a fun way to acknowledge the strange times we’re living in, keep people safe, and do something cute and clever!”

Make it Unique & Meaningful

Often something can be lost in all the “stuff” that goes along with a wedding. “Focusing more on each other and the special people in attendance, rather than all the extras, makes the wedding even more memorable, especially these days when we are learning not to take anyone or anything for granted,” says Woolverton Inn.

Live Stream Your Wedding

It will no doubt be disappointing that all your friends and family won’t be able to attend the wedding but thanks to technology, you can still include them in your big day. “We've had lots of live streaming at events, which is a great way to incorporate guests that could not attend,” says Pearl Events Austin.

Let Nature Be Your Backdrop

If you are lucky enough to have a beautiful outdoor space at your home, this could be a great place for your wedding, otherwise, selecting a gorgeous local outdoor location means you can skip on a lot of the decor and let nature work its magic.

“A property like Woolverton Inn has so many beautiful spots on the grounds for photos and memories, some man-made such as a fountain or trellis for gardens, others just among the trees or along the sheep pasture,” says the team

Consider a Mid-Week Wedding

With more people working from home and on flexible hours, it gives you an opportunity to hire a local venue during the week which may be more affordable.

Offer Stand-up Dining

To get around the limitations on dining, some couples are choosing to do more extended cocktail hours, says the Woolverton Inn. “This way, people can mingle after the ceremony with a glass of champagne and some hors d'oeuvres, but not be seated in a crowded room.”

There is no doubt that these are strange and challenging times, so now more than ever we need moments of love and connection to sustain us. Your dream destination wedding might be off the cards but an intimate ceremony at home with your nearest and dearest might be just as special, or even better.

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