Getting Married COVID-19 Style

“Which face masks best matches our wedding colors?”
“Should we commission hand-lettered signage for our hand sanitizing stations?”
“Can our florists do contact-less delivery?”These are the wedding planning questions of our pandemic 2020 reality.Girl, I get it, you didn’t think you’d be in this position planning your wedding.
And you’re not alone!Also, hi, it’s me Praise. 
I founded this Ethical Weddings resource out of my experience being a wedding photographer where I saw weddings that were unnecessarily extravagant, wasteful, and consequently missing the point of what was important: celebrating the goodness of a relationship. I built this resource so that weddings could do a 180 from its ways of showiness and unnecessary “have-to”s and become a day where we saw goodness multiplied. And in the last two years the movement has done an incredible ripple effect of social and environmental good by using the wedding day to raise funds for local non-profits, having given engaged couples fresh ideas of how to make sustainable choices from everything from their gift registry to florals, and having established a community for wedding vendors to learn how to make their businesses profit both people and the planet. Little did I know that in 2020, the hardships of the pandemic, and the uncertainties of the year would jumpstart another revolution in how engaged couples and wedding professionals approach weddings. COVID-19 brought to the forefront priorities of health and practicality. It was the rise of the micro-wedding aka the minimony. A colleague of mine became engaged at the beginning of the year and navigated the “it’s-hard-to-plan-more-than-one-week-ahead” characteristics of the year while planning her nuptials. She had to ask herself the same questions you are, like, “How do we cut our guest list in half and in half and in half again?” I knew that her candid account of her wedding planning and ceremony would give you vibes of “hallelujah-hands-emoji” and “I’m-not-alone” levels of empathy and hope for you brave babes also finding yourself in similar situations. The way her and her fiancé made the best choices with what their values are and the information they had will give you all the right feels. Check out her story to get an insider look of being adjustable and to encourage you that 2020 has giving us the gift of constraints that makes having an ethical wedding more do-able.I knew from a young age that I wanted to grow up and get married. I had seen my mother and father in love and in a healthy marriage and was fortunate to experience that dynamic in a positive environment and knew that someday I wanted that for myself. With that being said, I was never the girl who had planned her wedding from childhood.

The older I got though and during the couple years that I was dating my husband before we got married, I did start to realize that I didn’t want a large wedding. Thankfully, neither did he. We are fairly private people so we kicked around the idea of an elopement someday or maybe a super tiny wedding but were so uncertain because it was totally outside of the norm.

I have never had my heart set on a big wedding for a couple big reasons.

The first being that neither myself nor my husband like too much attention on ourselves, especially on such an intimate day. The second being that I wanted there to be minimum stress while planning our wedding. I had found the man who I wanted to share the rest of my life with and I felt that the more simple I could keep things, the more I could be present to enjoy the engagement and the process of planning our wedding day.

Also, I knew that unsolicited advice is one of my greatest pet-peeves and I knew that I didn’t want to feel that there were unwanted, outside opinions and expectations being set on us from others. People seem to have the tendency to get surprisingly entitled when they find out you’re getting married and as an Enneagram Type 9 and a chronic people-pleaser, I figured this was the best way to protect my serenity while wedding planning.

We got engaged at the beginning of 2020, right as news of the Coronavirus started to build more and more. As I previously mentioned, we like to keep things private, so we only told the news to a very few of our closest loved ones and kept the engagement off of social media. At first, we did this just so that we could celebrate the first few days of our engagement without any distractions/questions/etc. but we realized that in keeping the news on the DL, we had more options to be able to have a smaller wedding and that we could have it be however we wanted with no outside opinions.

Right off the bat, we committed to each other that we would keep the end goal in mind throughout the process of planning our wedding: To remember that we will go before our God and each other and marry our best friend and that everything else was, in the grand scheme of things, small potatoes.

We decided to have a micro-wedding in my parent’s backyard back in the Midwest in the summer of 2020 and have a reception following the ceremony in a rented out restaurant nearby. We would have only immediate family + aunts and uncles + grandparents there and my dad would be the officiant. We had decided on summer because that’s when my fiancé’s busy season at work was scheduled to end (2020 threw some curves our way, but spoiler alert: it all worked out). I was fortunate enough to get a dress appointment right away and ended up going with the first dress I tried on and was able to meet with a florist early on in our engagement journey too.

Then the following weeks of early 2020 came rolling in. There was so much uncertainty going on for everyone. Not just in our neighborhood, but seemingly the entire world. There was a lot of big changes, businesses shutting down, shelter-in-place orders, new rules that didn’t seem to stay consistent. I won’t get too into it –you were there, you remember. 

But it did change things. Even for a small wedding like ours.

The no-stress wedding planning strategy (which was probably not very realistic to begin with) now felt pretty stressful.

We wondered if we would need to change our date, if we would even be able to travel back to my hometown, if our reception venue would stay open for business, if we would need to ask guests not to attend, how we would respect everyone’s wishes while moving forward, if our immediate family members would even be able to attend, etc. 

I remember feeling guilty one day during the engagement for being stressed and throwing a pity-party about how 2020 was affecting our wedding and how hard it was to plan a minimony on the other side of the country during COVID. But I looked at the world and saw things that broke my heart on a daily basis and that my problems (although real) were very privileged problems to have. It’s funny what a gratitude list can do for your heart and mind. 

But through it all (thanks to a very level-headed fiancé) we remembered to keep our eyes on our end goal. That at the end of the day, we would start our lives together and none of the other pieces were anything to get bent out of shape about.

We didn’t want to wait to start our lives together, so we decided to move forward with our original plan and change whatever came up, accordingly.

As the days and weeks rolled by, things inevitably came up and we were faced (sometimes on a daily basis) with changes and new decisions we needed to make.

In order to comply with CDC guidelines and governors orders, we unfortunately had to ask Aunts and Uncles not to come. This was hard, but thankfully, we both have really great families and although our guests were sad, they understood. However, I’m grateful that we do live in an amazing time where we are blessed with technology. We did offer for our guests to join us in the comfort and safety of their homes and could still join our micro-wedding via Zoom.

Our reception venue did shut down and open up (and shut down and open up). They actually were open for business at the day of our wedding but were operating at far less capacity and it just didn’t work out for us to have our reception there. It’s been a rough one for businesses, this year. I’m grateful that we were still able to hire them to cook our reception dinner at our micro-wedding! We did end up having the reception in the backyard as well–which I really loved. It made things feel so much more whimsical and chill. My parent’s dance instructor actually lent us her 12’x12’ dance floor for us to use so we could have our dance in the backyard and not on the grass. 

Although a lot of people were really kind (like the dance instructor, that woman is a total saint) we were still hesitant to share our news. It was such a crazy time to get married when it felt like the whole world was in a pressure cooker. We were careful to tell people because we didn’t know what reactions to expect and we understand that people have very different viewpoints that we want to be respectful of. 

However, there’s something to be said about the beauty of a simplistic and intimate micro-wedding.

Even though we had some bumps in the road, it was a perfect wedding day to us. And we would do it all over if we could. We worked with what we had and everything that I had corners about, turned out really lovely. 

The minimony commenced and went off without a hitch. We got great, intimate photos. We had a lovely meal with our closest loved ones. Speeches were made. Tears were shed. Laughs were had. But most importantly, I married the man of my dreams before God and family. 

We got our wedding cake from a local grocery store, added some extra flowers from the florist, and it was elegant and minimal and the perfect style I was hoping for. We had the most gorgeous, beautiful, Pinterest-worthy flowers that I have ever seen. We still got to have my dad be the officiant. And my mother (who is a wedding coordinator for the church) made sure everything ran smoothly–she was so helpful to have as a point of contact throughout all the changes and was very helpful planning all the small details (even down to how we would serve the food COVID-friendly style) and going to all the meetings we couldn’t make since we live far away. 

And while we got married in the backyard on the hottest, most humid day of the year, all the decorations that my mom, sisters and I made and that the dads and brothers helped set up, made things feel so whimsical. (My sister kept telling me how it looked like something out of a Hallmark movie and I agree.) And as a little bonus, we had no tornadic weather and no thunderstorms which had been forecast. The torrential downpour waited till the day after our wedding, thankfully!

We were still able to rent chairs and a tent. My brothers set up the Spotify playlist we created and we played it on a speaker in the backyard. My fiancé’s family helped set up chairs and string lights in the tent to make things feel magical. 

Getting married during the 2020 pandemic allowed us to:

  • safely have a small number of our immediate family to attend
  • use what we already had (our family’s china set, flowers from my parents back yard, frozen meat from our freezer for the rehearsal dinner)
  • let family play more intimate roles
    • my dad was our officiant
    • our brothers were in charge of the audio for that day
    • my sisters and I hand crafted most of our wedding decorations with what we already had
    • we all came together to cook for the dinner

Even with the CDC guidelines and governors orders, we were still able to have immediate family, plus our photographer and be within the limits, to the exact number of people and comply with the orders.

And when we did finally share the news on social media, we got hundreds of responses: every single one of them was positive. 

So there you have it. COVID-19 allowed us to have a guilt-free, tiny, private, intimate wedding with our closest family members. Our dream wedding. Exactly how we wanted it (well almost, haha). After all is said and done, it was one of the greatest days of my life and I wish I could do it all over again.

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