I think we can all admit that we are sick of hearing the term “new normal” by now, but what will weddings look like in the future? Many states are re-opening soon, and couples who have postponed are looking to have their weddings again, but the standard format that we have been used to does not fit in with current social distance guidelines.
The typical wedding in the U.S. starts with a ceremony either at a house of worship or, more commonly, these days a wedding venue. Entire families and groups of friends gather to celebrate with the couple for the better part of a day. After the ceremony, we move to cocktail hour, dinner, and then finally dancing. All 130-175 people together for 8+ hours on average.
So how do we host a wedding reception now?
One answer may be a 2 part wedding. In this format, there will be a ceremony and dinner, then a cocktail hour and dancing. This format breaks the traditional timeline but only slightly, and still maintains the four significant elements of any wedding reception.
In part one, we have only the closest of friends and family. Part 2 sees the exit of most family and older guests while inviting younger friends and family to join for the dancing. Hosting in this way will require buy-in from guests, and you will need to either pick who attends which sections or ask guests wich portion they would like to attend.
A socially distant exchanging of vows works quite well here. You will have fewer total guests, so there will be more room to spread them out. This setting may even provide a more intimate wedding ceremony. Now, just because your part 2 guests are not present, your ceremony can be professionally live-streamed. Live streaming your ceremony allows these guests to still take part; it also will enable friends or family who may not be able to attend due to health reasons the opportunity to be part of your day.
After the ceremony, we move right into dinner. You will be able to visit with those present as always; it may even allow you to experience more time with those present than you would have in a room full of 150 other guests. Dinner will have to be served to guests, buffet and family-style dinners invite more risk in a pre-vaccine COVID-19 world.
An important consideration should be whether you will have your first dance and parent dances here or in the second half of the evening. These moments are often a highlight to the older guests and family. Having your first dance and parent dances at the end of dinner would offer a high emotion end to part one of your wedding reception. Remember that there should be space to hold these dances in the dinner area, but a full dance floor is not necessary. This setting also provides an excellent opportunity to use decor and florals to make a fantastic backdrop for your dances to be captured by your wedding photographer or videographer.
As we say goodbye to the guests from the early portion of the evening, it is time to welcome your second set of guests! It is crucial to place a cocktail hour here to allow your guests to arrive, mingle, have a cocktail, and get ready to dance! Passed hor d’ oeuvres are possible, but stations may not be best in the same way we would refrain from buffets during dinner. Guests arriving for part two should be aware that they should dine on their own before arrival.
The cocktail hour should be hosted in a separate space from dinner to facilitate the exchange of guests better. In venues with limited space options, the area that hosted dinner would transition to prepare for dancing during this time.
Outdoor weddings are going to be very much in vogue, and outdoor dancing helps to reduce risk! Dancing outside likely gives more room and certainly more airflow.
Smaller dancefloors were often considered better than wide open dancefloors because the illusion of a crowded dancefloor would encourage shy dancers to loosen their inhibitions. We obviously need to allow our guests the amount of space they feel comfortable with having. The dancing space should have all the dinner tables removed. In the place of dinner tables, scattered high top or cocktail tables can provide a place to take a break and place a drink. Lounge seating, such as sofas or chairs, can provide a place to sit but be spaced appropriately. A couple of clusters of lounge seating also ups the cool and chic facto for any wedding reception!
Our social gatherings will undoubtedly look different in the future, but with a little innovation, we can create new experiences that still serve our goals… celebrating life’s best moments.