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  • Meb McMahon

Two Ways to Get Married in a Pandemic

Do you remember that scene in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy says, "Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore?" I can’t tell you how many times that scene has played in my head over the last few weeks. We are in unprecedented times, and our normal routines and patterns of life have been radically altered. We've been told to keep gatherings to fewer than ten people. We’ve been told to keep six feet between ourselves. In Ohio, traditional weddings have been strongly discouraged, forcing wedding couples to make difficult decisions to protect themselves and their loved ones. But postponing a wedding is easier said than done. Many couples have already picked a venue, hired vendors, selected menus, sent out invitations, organized all the details. Some of them have been planning their Big Event for months if not over a year. My heart goes out to all of those who are having to change their plans on such short notice.

If you're not sure if your plans need to be changed, contact your “point person.” This may be your wedding planner or the venue coordinator. These individuals are keenly aware of the rapidly changing wedding landscape and are already helping couples like you everyday . Your planner or coordinator can help you determine whether your wedding date is a hold or a fold. If they determine that a postponement is the safest option, they can then help you secure another wedding date.

As soon as you land on a new date, call all of your other vendors to see if they’re available. Good vendors will understand the extenuating circumstances. With the spring wedding season essentially erased, most vendors have no choice but to honor your decision to postpone.

However, you’ll have to be prepared to be flexible. Venues and vendors will have to manage not only spring postponements, but also their normal schedule of late summer and fall weddings. If your dream venue is booked for the Saturday you want, consider a Friday or Sunday wedding. If your favorite DJ is booked on your new date, ask her for recommendations. The whole industry is in this together. Think of your vendors as your companions on this confusing Yellow Brick Road to a new reality.

Of course, it's essential to let your guests know that plans have changed. One of my own wedding couples added a “Frequently Asked Questions” page to their wedding website to address changes. Other couples have sent out emails or made phone calls to each guest. If you’re committed to snail-mail, writing postponement notices by hand is the perfect labor-intensive and tedious busywork to see you through a long quarantine.

That being said, there is another alternative to postponement. When it comes to weddings, there are pragmatists and idealists. Idealists have a strong vision for their wedding, and will be understandably unhappy about these next few options. However, if you’re more of a wedding pragmatist, it is possible to tie the knot right now, during the pandemic. Here are my recommendations for those couples who don’t want to wait:

  1. Plan a private ceremony with your officiant. If you take the basic precautions against infection, there’s no reason such a small gathering wouldn’t be reasonable. After your private ceremony, take some time to plan a vow renewal and blow-out party for the near future. If you feel compelled to invite your intimate friends and family, remember: keep it to 10 guests or fewer, and make sure family groups sit at least six feet apart.

  2. Consider a drive-in ceremony in a scenic parking lot. Ask your guests to stay in their cars and to honk their horns instead of clapping. If you don’t have access to sufficient audio amplification, it may be challenging for guests to hear the ceremony, so keep that in mind. However, the most important thing is that your friends and family are present, celebrating with you.

  3. Plan a virtual wedding ceremony. Get together with your officiant and a friend (perhaps the Best Man or Maid of Honor) and ask them to record the ceremony with their phone or camera and live-stream it to a private Youtube channel. This option allows guests to see and hear your ceremony in real time and feel like they’re present with you until you can all get together for the big party.

Remember, these recommendations are not meant to necessarily replace a big ceremony or a reception; they’re only meant to bridge the gap until large gatherings are possible again.

Every generation in history has faced challenges that have forced them to adapt their routines and values to a new reality. Now it's our turn. The most important thing is to be flexible and realistic, and to remember what’s really important—what your wedding is really all about. Changing your wedding plans can make you feel like your life has been pulled up by a twister. In these days of uncertainty, there's a reason people feel sad and anxious. It’s normal. Share your feelings with your partner. Use this opportunity to grow closer, to learn how to weather the tough times together. If you have any questions about weddings and the Covid-19 pandemic, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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