COVID-19. It’s a topic many of us have been stewing over all year; vendors and brides alike. (If you’re me, it’s been COVID-19 & wedding photos). Or…maybe stewing isn’t the right word? Substitute stressing.
We’ve reached a point now where I look back at years passed and think how incredibly lucky we were to not have to consider the health & safety of weddings beyond drunk wedding guests holding fireworks at the end of the night.
And the craziest part: we didn’t even know how lucky we were! And now that we’re going into a new year with the same uncertainties, I want to address Covid-19 & wedding photos.
Every part of my mortal being is hoping that the madness ends soon and 2021 weddings aren’t impacted like 2020 weddings were, but what if they are? I’ve experienced every level of care at weddings throughout this year, from packed dance floors to weddings downsized to 4 guests and a simple cake-cutting before everyone went home. I’ve had couples postpone out of an abundance of caution, and couples decide to go ahead with their guest list and plans. I – like everyone else I know – have been paying attention to the recommendations & mandates and how they are going to impact the events I have coming up, but sometimes it’s hard to put the black and white notices “from the desk of” the governor into practical application for things like COVID-19 & your wedding photos.
“What are we going to do differently?” can be challenging. So let me share with you what I personally have been doing as a vendor, and also what I’ve seen work well with my clients throughout the year.
A note before I list my thoughts:
First – and this is important – don’t panic. Your wedding is going to look different, but that doesn’t mean it has to be bad! The most important thing is that you and your sweet love are married at the end of the day, and everything else is just a perk. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the experience does matter (and I mean, so do the photographs…so please don’t give up your photographer). But COVID-19 cannot stop your wedding from being beautiful & full of love, and it most certainly can’t stop your marriage from being beautiful and full of love!
Now, let me start by giving you the ins and outs of what I’ve seen being done differently this year for COVID-19 & your wedding photos, and some tips for keeping it pretty:
Ideas for Covid-19 & your wedding photos:
- Send your guests something special to eat or use while they’re watching your wedding on live stream. A box with royal icing sugar cookies, a special kit to make your signature cocktail, a custom bar glass, and a confetti popper to pop during your first kiss as husband and wife! Or send them sparklers, and have each guest record themselves (outside) holding the sparkler and wishing you well. Then have a designated friend put them all together as a memento of those who attended your wedding day virtually!
- Have an outdoor wedding, even in the cold, with heaters & tents. Outdoor gas heaters keep things surprisingly toasty, and a tent with walls allows some fresh airflow while still keeping in some warmth. In the warmer seasons, leave the walls off! To keep it pretty, either buy your own tent or use a great quality rental company that will provide a tent with a clean, bright vinyl. To make it a little extra unexpected, get a clear tent! And don’t skimp on your floral budget. Good florals can turn anywhere into an oasis — a field, a tent, or even a big backyard!
- Have disposable (or for the planet’s sake, reusable) masks made for guests on your wedding day. Get them in wedding colors, or even put your monogram or wedding date on them!
- Make pretty signage! Most venues have a generic “face masks required” sign that their guests can use, but getting some cute, personalized “Spread love, not germs” signs to match your decor will up the experience for your guests. Other unique ideas for signage here, here and here!
- Hire a videographer, even if you weren’t originally planning to. As cool as live streaming is, the absolute best substitute for your guests who can’t make it will be experiencing the feel of your day through an emotive highlight film from a talented videographer. Videography has always been incredibly special and important, but it’s never been more important than it is now!
- Get creative with live streaming! I read about a couple who hosted a drive-in movie-themed ceremony that I think is GENIUS and so freaking adorable. They set up a big white screen & their well-lit ceremony began at twilight (so the projected video would be visible). Everyone rolled up in their cars and tuned their radios to the right frequency. They finished the night with parking lot of food trucks and a showing of the couple’s favorite movie on the drive-in screen!
- Have guests who can’t attend record a video to play at the reception. Sadly, many grandmas and grandpas (and others!) have had to skip attending weddings for safety concerns. If there’s someone special to you who can’t make it – or multiple people – have them record a video and send it to a designated friend that can put them together. If you don’t do it yourself, it will be even more special on the day of your wedding!
- Set up a TV with the Zoom call, and take a photo with all your streamers! The small computer monitor or phone that you’re planning to use for Zoom-ing your wedding is good, but if you have a techy friend who can hook up a large TV at chest-level to show everyone’s faces on Zoom, that will be even better! Larger TV = larger thumbnails, and it will be a unique photo we can get with your guests who wish they could have been there to hug you in person.
- If you’re cutting down your guest list, use the extra funds in your budget in areas with a lot of impact. I know I already said the thing about florals and videography, but let me drive it home. Putting your extra funds towards things like florals (to enhance the ambiance for yourselves and your friends/family), and videography (to have such a special film to look back on and share with those who couldn’t be there) is always a good decision. Some of my favorite weddings this year have been events with fewer with 50 people, but amazing and beautiful floral installations! And the photos are absolutely gorgeous.
So What’s Normal?
I hope those ideas for COVID-19 & your wedding photos help get your wheels turning on how you can make your wedding day super special despite all the unusual and unhappy things happening in our world right now. Before I go, I know there are a lot of unknowns for anyone who hasn’t been to weddings this year like I have, so I want to briefly touch on what is normal at weddings within my circle in Northwest Arkansas (and probably much of the Midwest/South) right now:
- Plated meals instead of a buffet. Gone are the days of guest after guest touching the serving spoon and grabbing a roll with their bare hands. If you plan ahead and ask each guest what type of plated meal they’d like at the wedding, it keeps things moving so smoothly and allows other events – like the first dances – to occur while dinner is being served! If planning ahead for plated dinners isn’t your thing, hire a serving staff to man your buffet and keep things hygienic.
- Masks on guests during the ceremony, but not on wedding party, bride & groom, or officiant. There have been exceptions to this of course, but each of my weddings have largely been this way. The Arkansas mandates’ verbiage about “persons who are giving a speech or performance” has been taken to apply to anyone standing on stage in front of an audience. Most of my weddings have spaced their seating out to help guests with social distancing, but not all have.
- No masks or social distancing in groupings during wedding party photos or family photos. When the mandates first began, internet forums were rife with vendors and clients wondering how group photos at weddings were going to be done. Would they remove their masks? Would they get fined for doing it, and having photographic proof? At first there were a lot of questions, but as time has gone on a standard has evolved. Wedding party members and the bride and groom have been with each other all day through hair and makeup, eating and drinking, etc. without face coverings. They are already exposed to each other, so I work quickly on these photos and remind them to re-mask before joining the rest of the guests.
- Not so many masks during the first dances. The bride/groom has already been around each other and their parents, and usually they’re spaced at least 6 feet from the guests when on the middle of the dance floor. That has led most couples to feel okay about unmasking for that special moment with their mom or dad.
- Temperature checks at the door. And no sick people allowed in. This one’s pretty self-explanatory!
- Shortened guest lists. I know it’s hard, but this is the norm right now. And it will be worth it in the long run.
- Small ceremony now, big party later. Sometimes it feels like “later” will never arrive, but it will! And boy, there will be a ton of big amazing parties happening then!
I’m just an Arkansas wedding photographer, so I don’t pretend to be the authority on health and safety in Covid times. But I think these things I’ve seen in regards to COVID-19 & your wedding photos at weddings will help you work out your plans, and part of what I love about having so much wedding experience is using it to help up & coming couples just like you!
Corrie Childers is a sought-after Northwest Arkansas wedding photographer, Arkansas engagement photographer, Arkansas bridal photographer and Arkansas proposal photographer. Corrie has a natural passion for classic, timeless wedding photography in an elegant and relaxed style. Corrie is currently booking Arkansas weddings in Bella Vista, Bentonville, Fayetteville, Rogers, Siloam Springs, Eureka Springs and all of Northwest Arkansas, as well as Little Rock, El Dorado, Dallas, St. Louis, Kansas City and beyond!
COVID-19 & Your Wedding Photos