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Look for small weddings to come to the fore, The Knot says.

COVID Crisis Shaping New Wedding Formats, The Knot Says

A big survey from The Knot predicts a range of new formats for weddings in the wake of the COVID crisis.

Big online wedding registry The Knot says that most engaged couples whose weddings have been impacted by COVID-19 are not canceling their weddings (92 percent globally, 93 percent in the U.S.), and are rescheduling for either later this year, in 2021, or not making any changes at this time.

With a strong desire to celebrate their weddings as they had originally planned, 94 percent of couples in the U.S. and 87 percent globally do not plan to reduce their overall guest count, and 95 percent in the U.S. and 90 percent globally do not anticipate lowering their budget, The Knot says.

“To-be weds and wedding professionals are experiencing an unprecedented time as this pandemic has halted one of the most celebrated moments in a couple’s life, but love is not canceled,” said Kristen Maxwell Cooper, editor in chief of The Knot. “It’s not a matter of if, but when events are permitted again, couples and guests will be more eager than ever to celebrate love and one of life’s biggest moments together after long periods of isolation.”

New wedding formats are coming

As countries and states continually adapt local regulations in response to the potential of changing circumstances, The Knot expects weddings being celebrated a number of different ways. One factor that will remain constant is the desire for human connection and the celebration of love with loved ones—no matter what that celebration looks like.

Health and safety measures will play a big role

While sanitizing products have not always served as staple wedding décor, health and safety measures will be incorporated into wedding day protocol in creative ways, The Knot says. Planners or venues will help couples come up with unique ways to distribute highly coveted hand-sanitizing solutions to guests, which can include personalized bottles in welcome bags or as prewedding favors, and having waitstaff pass out mini bottles styled on silver trays.

Additionally, couples may offer gloves and masks to guests (potentially even in colors or patterns that coordinate with their overall wedding day decor and style), and even adopt formal gloves as a fashion accessory for their wedding day look. Vendors will likely be required to wear personal protective equipment, especially those who are serving guests, such as catering staff and bartenders.

New event formats to come

Most couples will likely opt for plated meals instead of a buffet in the near future, but if a serve-yourself-style meal is preferred, smaller stations will be incorporated rather than a long assembly line for a full buffet, according to The Knot.

Couples in early planning stages, who have not yet chosen their vendor team, might consider incorporating open-air or outdoor elements to their celebrations to eliminate guests feeling confined. For those who have chosen their venue already, couples will be more intentional with who they’re inviting and guests they’re grouping together at both the ceremony and reception dining tables.

Shorter ceremonies with more room for standing will be the norm, allowing guests to be as close to others, or not, as they feel comfortable. For those who prefer to have a seat, expect to see ceremony venues accommodate social distancing with spaced-seating arrangements. Wedding officiants may also request that couples stand a bit further away from them during the ceremony, and that wedding parties place more space in between individuals.

While greeting each guest is suggested etiquette for couples and their family members, couples may put a unique spin on contactless greetings, whether this involves an element of their culture like a bow, or something more casual and playful like a contemporary “gesture line” filled with winks and waves, in lieu of a traditional receiving line. Whatever the couple decides, don’t be surprised to see gentle reminders to social distance displayed throughout the ceremony and reception spaces at many weddings.

Shall we dance?

When it comes to late-night celebrating, dancing will still be a part of weddings, and now couples can explore the concept of satellite dance floors and satellite bars to provide more than one space to bust a move or refresh their beverage, The Knot says. Not only will this serve as a health and safety precaution, but it will also allow guests to explore different entertainment experiences throughout the festivities.

"Venues can anticipate an increased desire from couples to incorporate outdoor elements into their wedding celebrations, such as small, carefully placed lounge furniture vignettes among blooming gardens and ambient lighting displays," said Melanie McAfee, owner of Barr Mansion, Ballroom and Farmstand. "Additionally, wedding venues that have more than one space dedicated to weddings—perhaps a tented outdoor site along with an indoor ballroom with an adjacent open-air terrace—may opt to leverage all the spaces on their grounds for one celebration, allowing couples and their guests to spread out more than normal."

While in quarantine, many couples have gotten creative with ways to honor their original wedding dates, with some planning to get married before their rescheduled celebration (27 percent) and partaking in mini-ceremonies, or what The Knot has coined a “minimony.”
Planners are helping couples coordinate with their other wedding vendors, such as their cake baker who may be able to provide a smaller “mini” version of their wedding cake, or their florist who can create a mini bouquet. Couples can also hire their wedding photographer to capture this smaller minimony, and then post photos to their
wedding website as a sneak peek for guests of what’s to come.

The influence of social distancing and limiting large group interactions will likely continue to shape weddings even after distancing restrictions are loosened or lifted. Couples will likely make changes to their wedding day formats, whether that be shifting to a weekday wedding to ensure their full vendor team is available, revisiting their guest list for a more intimate and intentional gathering, or planning multiple wedding celebrations to accommodate various guest groupings. New wedding day formats may include:

  • Weekday weddings Many couples are being flexible when rescheduling their wedding date, with some U.S. couples opting to switch their wedding celebrations to a different day of the week (12 percent)—most commonly Thursday (8 percent of those who switched days), Friday (40 percent of those who switched days), or Sunday (33 percent of those who switched days). Couples are making this decision to ensure their full vendor team is available on their new, rescheduled date. Plus, these days are often still convenient as an extension of the weekend for both traveling and in-town guests.
  • Sequel weddings The Knot initially coined the term “sequel wedding” in 2019 when referring to couples who had multiple ceremonies for cultural, religious or other reasons. In the time of COVID-19, sequel weddings are taking on a new meaning for couples who still want to celebrate with all those nearest and dearest to them safely. A sequel wedding is a larger-scale second celebration (i.e., a wedding that’s been postponed), following an event that is more intimate in nature, like a such as a minimony or micro wedding. Having a minimony allows couples to solidify their union or to honor their first proposed date, while throwing a sequel wedding allows them to bring their wedding vision to life and celebrate with all their guests.
  • “Shift weddings” The concept of a shift wedding might also appeal to couples who want to maintain a full guest list, allowing them to celebrate with all their loved ones in a similar way to what they initially planned, but in shifts. With shift weddings, couples are able to host their wedding day festivities at their original venue and with their full team of wedding vendors in shifts of people, allowing them to adhere to social-distancing guidelines and event capacity restrictions. Venues will properly clean and sanitize between groups arriving on site. This concept may help couples create a fulfilling celebration after a long period of self-isolating, without having to make the difficult decision to cut their guest list.
  • “Multiweddings” Guests can use the events they already had planned for their wedding weekend (the rehearsal dinner, ceremony, reception and next-day brunch) to host multiple celebrations, inviting different groupings of their guests to each event. This concept, similar to a shift wedding, allows couples with a guest list on the larger side to celebrate with each and every one of their guests throughout multiple separate festivities. Unlike the shift wedding, “multiweddings” happen over a span of an entire weekend instead of just one day, allowing for lengthier events.
  • Micro weddings Due to unpredictable lifting of social-distancing restrictions, some couples might look to move forward with planning a micro wedding, or an intimate wedding celebration with a reduced guest list. With couples’ reduction in guest count, they can create a one-of-a-kind macro experience, splurging on elements like a top-shelf open bar, a decadent sit-down brunch at a five-star restaurant, or outside-the-box guest entertainment. Some couples who host micro weddings might also choose to host a larger party in the near future with the rest of their guest list.

Guest communication to change

To help guests feel safe and in the know, couples will likely shift their methods for communicating with guests in advance of wedding celebrations, inclusive of incorporating more details on paper stationery, like health and safety information, and an increased reliance on technology such as wedding websites, digital wedding registries like The Knot Registry, virtual gifting, and streaming platforms.

Wedding websites are the best way for couples to remain in constant contact with guests on updates related to their upcoming wedding. A list of frequently asked questions is a great place to start, with details on any new accommodations like hotel blocks or day-of transportation, and any new health and safety precautions that will be incorporated into wedding festivities.

Couples are planning with precautions in mind for limiting close quarters and may include hyper-personalized alternative entertainment for their guests to enjoy at a safe distance, The Knot says. These experiences can be a fun play on the couple’s relationship, their passions or their cultural backgrounds with unique, live musical performances, or the couple’s band or DJ creating a few different themed music areas throughout the reception to limit crowds. Music vendors may also lean into technology, like the silent disco concept, so guests can celebrate more spread out at a safe distance.

The power of personalization

Hyper-personalization doesn’t stop at entertainment. Couples will incorporate more of their unique love stories into every element of their celebration, from favors and welcome bags (which may now be mailed to each guest in advance) to creative send-offs at the end of the night. With planners working closely with couples on curating a completely personalized celebration, The Knot anticipates many creative new trends emerging in the next year due to couples infusing more personal, unique touches into their special days.

"Pros will help couples curate intricate food and beverage moments, allowing these staple wedding reception elements to become part of the entertainment for guests,” said Emily Elizabeth Gordon, owner of Em and E Events. “You may see a string quartet perform during the soup and salad course, followed by a carefully interactive magic show during the main course, with an interactive dessert display to end the evening. The options for couples are endless if they get creative with their pros, and can also include caricature paintings for guests with different scenes from the wedding incorporated, or a local school marching band show for high school sweethearts."

Livestreaming for faraway loved ones

The rise of wedding streaming for loved ones tuning in from afar will also likely increase in the next year due to guests who may be uncomfortable traveling or being in large crowds immediately following the pandemic. In addition, guests will likely take a digital-first approach when it comes to gifting for weddings and wedding-related events like showers and bachelor(ette) parties.

Wedding planning continues in a social-distancing world

For couples planning weddings for 2021 and beyond, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, wedding planning is still very much able to happen right now and can easily be done in the comfort of your own home. Many vendors are conducting virtual appointments and getting to know couples and their style just as easily as they would in person. Couples can take virtual venue tours, try on dresses at home, enjoy home-delivered tastings from caterers, browse photos from photographers and videos from videographers, and read reviews of all vendors they’re looking to book for their day. In fact, one in four vendors surveyed in The Knot’s research have used video chats to connect with clients, and among venues, one-third have hosted a virtual tour. Second, couples should be flexible and open to days like Monday and Thursday. As 93 percent of couples who have had to postpone their weddings have rescheduled for later this year or 2021, couples are open to alternative wedding days to lock in their desired season or preferred team of wedding professionals.2

“Wedding pros are seeing many of these changes come to fruition in real time and are quickly building creative solutions to address necessary adjustments for engaged couples' celebrations,” said Bill Zaruka, President of Wedgewood Weddings. “Pros are certainly tapping into the rise of weekday weddings and couples' willingness to be flexible when rescheduling, as well as leveraging streaming technology to ensure high-risk loved ones can join the festivities from afar. We're also thinking through new formats for events—like the 'shift wedding'—and how these new formats can work for each couple's unique wishes for their wedding day. Each and every dedicated wedding professional is constantly thinking about what the new reality of wedding celebrations holds for their couples and how they can make this moment in time incredibly treasured—even if it looks a bit different than their initial plans. What we do know is that couples, venues and wedding pros are all working together to assure that weddings can go on safely, while still maintaining the fun and beautiful environment couples have always dreamed of.”

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