Nothing about a pandemic is very wedding-friendly. Think about your fairytale, traditional wedding. You have lots of guests – perhaps over 100. Your wedding day is one of the biggest days of your life, you will (hopefully) just have the one, and so you want everyone who has ever meant anything to you to be there. That means everyone spanning from your childhood through your college years up to the present. That’s a lot of people, and you’re not supposed to have a lot of people in one place during a pandemic. Now add the fact that many of your loved ones are spread out all over the country and even the globe, so being present for your wedding requires another thing that’s not being embraced during the pandemic: traveling. And what do you do at a wedding? You sit shoulder to shoulder at tables, clink the glasses you’ve put your mouths on during toasts, dance, and hug. Having a wedding that is both standard and safe these days is just not possible. You can have one or the other, but not both.
The COVID-19 pandemic prompted rapid and sometimes total changes to many industries and traditions, including the wedding industry. For those hoping to follow the guidelines to be safe, a complete redesign of their big day was required. Any vendor who relies on the wedding industry to survive had to become innovative, as did any betrothed couples who were still set on having their big day, pandemic be damned. As a result, some new wedding trends emerged. We gathered statistics from WeddingWire, The Knot, and other sources on wedding trends that came about during COVID.
Parents, grandparents, siblings, and cousins who pressured you in the past to hold your big day in your hometown may have finally gotten their wish, even if it wasn’t your preference. Hometown weddings were up from 25 percent to 41 percent from 2019 to 2020. Meanwhile, nearly 60 percent of couples got married where they currently live. While in non-pandemic times, couples may have had a, “It’s our big day. The dozens of you can travel to wherever the two of us want to be” mentality, that’s flipped. There’s less risk involved in just the two betrothed individuals traveling to (or staying) where the majority of their loved ones already live and having small nuptials, rather than asking a number of guests to hop on planes for a destination wedding.
The pandemic spurred the invention of the “Minimony” – a small ceremony that might involve just the couple, the minister, a couple of witnesses, and a photographer. That was the case for my Las Vegas pandemic elopement. Many couples who have a minimony plan to have a larger reception once the pandemic is over, but they do understand that’s contingent on regulations at that time. All in all, marriages were not canceled due to the pandemic. The ceremonies were a-go and just the receptions were canceled or postponed. All that said, the average cost of the reception hasn’t changed much when comparing 2019 costs to what couples say they’ll spend in 2021 on their postponed gatherings.
Six out of 10 couples held their weddings outdoors during the pandemic, and one out of three of them did the switch from indoors to outdoors in order to get married. A home was the most popular place for a pandemic wedding, but when couples chose to use a venue, barns were the most popular pandemic wedding spaces. A couple of other changes were made, with over half of couples reporting that they needed to change seating arrangements and/or change the way their food was served to keep everyone safe. In many cases, treats like cookies were individually wrapped instead of being served on communal trays.
Wedding pla.lllllllllllll;’nning is often thought of as an incredibly time-consuming process. Between going in-person to bakeries for cake tastings, floral shops for arrangement viewings, and some local family’s garage to audition a band, there can be a lot of running around to meet and vet wedding vendors. That wasn’t a good idea during the pandemic, which is why there was a big rise in couples meeting with vendors virtually. In fact, one in 10 couples only met with vendors virtually leading up to their wedding, finally meeting in person on their big day. That can require a leap of faith on many couples’ parts.
Saying Yes to the dress alone
Many brides dream of wedding dress shopping with their entire party present. In fact, the statistics showed that wedding party size didn’t change despite the pandemic, with the average size at 10 people in 2019, and 10 people in 2020. Having all the bridesmaids present for champagne tasting and dress viewing is kind of part of the deal. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, many dress shops limit how many individuals can be in the store at once. And fawning bridesmaids don’t count as essential personnel, which left many brides trying on their wedding dresses all alone. The cut back in formalities did not mean a cut back in cost, though, with the average wedding dress going at about $1,600 both in 2019 and 2020.
Smaller guest lists
The average guest list size was down by 50 percent in 2020 compared to 2019. If you thought couples argued enough about their guest list when space and funds were the only limitations, imagine how tense things get when a pandemic causes you to slash even that list in half. For the record, if you do choose to have your wedding on Zoom, you will be surprised to find the guest list discussion still comes up, as the bride and/or groom can feel just as sensitive about who tunes in over a laptop versus who would be invited to show up in person. I know from personal experience.
Spoiling guests more
With fewer guests in attendance, it looks like many couples decided to splurge a bit more on the ones who were invited. The average money spent per guest was up from 2019 to 2020 from $214 to $244. In fact, some guests were very spoiled as the studies found some couples gave out individual hors d’oeuvres such as miniature charcuterie boards, and some even arranged for butler/bottle service so guests wouldn’t have to mingle at open bars. That being said, 70 percent of couples did still have an open bar. And even if crowding around the cake wasn’t safe, 86 percent of couples stuck to the traditional cake-cutting ceremony.
More certain after uncertainty
You hear couples joking about driving one another insane during quarantine. My husband says the sound of my chewing will give him an aneurysm. So, are they all splitting up? Well, for couples who were just dating (not engaged) going into the pandemic, it has actually caused a spike in splits. But as for couples who were engaged going into it and had to change or postpone their wedding plans because of it, most haven’t found that their commitment took a hit. In fact, four out of five betrothed couples feel more certain about marrying their partner after the pandemic than they did before it. The struggle seems to have solidified their bond.
Luxury, but later
It’s no secret that many consumers are spending less in categories across the board because of the pandemic, leaving some itching to splurge once this is over. While nearly half of couples have conceded to the idea that they’ll need to downsize their wedding due to the pandemic, 26 percent have actually reported that, once the pandemic is over, they plan on spending even more on their reception than previously discussed. Many still plan on having a destination wedding, too. So while the pandemic might have been a money saver for many brides and grooms, others have decided to drive up the spending once this is over.
Virtual associated celebrations
While you’re likely familiar with the Zoom wedding at this point, do you know about Zoom bachelorette parties, bridal showers, and the like? Considering that 19 percent of couples hosted a virtual event like these leading up to their wedding, there is even a good chance you’ve attended one. And if you have been to a virtual bachelorette party, then you know how awkward it is to sip out of a penis straw, alone in your living room, staring into a laptop, as your family runs around you. Or perhaps you’ve experienced watching a stripper spotlit in Zoom whose connection kept cutting out.
Adding a virtual streaming
Adding a streaming option to a wedding has become rather normal now, too. Even couples who have receptions and ceremonies offer guests who can’t or don’t want to travel during the pandemic the option to watch from home. In most cases, guests only stream the ceremony and not the reception. It would probably be difficult to feel like you experience a reception through the lens of a stationary laptop. Perhaps the streaming element will be here to stay, long past a pandemic, for guests who live in other states and countries and cannot attend regular weddings or those who can’t afford the plane ticket.
One more thing to check for
As if there isn’t enough to think about when planning a wedding like weather conditions, plane schedules, hungover groomsmen, and rowdy horses leading the couple’s carriage, now couples must think about pandemic regulations. The statistics show that 83 percent of couples who had weddings during the pandemic first checked the local regulations regarding things like how many people were allowed to gather or if/when masks were required. That still leaves an astounding 17 percent who didn’t look into that. They must have had an “every man for himself” mentality on who escaped their reception COVID-free.