The Top 5 Impacts From COVID-19 in the World of Weddings

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Heart of NC Weddings magazine publisher shares her perspective on how we celebrate now

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The Durham Hotel launched a microwedding package, perfect for intimate weddings of two to 100 people, this past fall. Victoria Newnam and Mark Foley celebrated their nuptials on The Roof in October. Photo by Kim Tadlock

By Jenna Parks

It’s easy to overlook that celebrations are a huge part of life … until they are absent. Birthdays, holidays, graduations and myriad monumental occasions are made into memories by virtue of people coming together to intentionally honor that moment. As the pandemic steamrolled our society last year, so began months of near-total isolation. Our life milestones gradually became irrelevant, and, dare I say it, melancholy. Just like that, the joyous world of weddings came to a screeching halt. Well, we’re better off calling it a pause. Couples and vendors worked together to reschedule their plans (and then reschedule again, and again). Some couples deconstructed and reassembled smaller versions of the originally planned event. In the end, how we celebrate now reflects what we learned from this entire experience. What follows is my list of the top five impacts from COVID-19 in the world of weddings, all of which I believe will stick around for the near future.

wedding guide
Kami Arulraja celebrated with many friends and family last winter at The Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club. These days, you can still love big but celebrate small at inn or its sister property, the JB Duke Hotel. Contact Diane Tighe at dtighe@wdigc.com or 919-313-215 for more details on their new micro-wedding package. Photo by Katherine Miles Jones Photography

No. 1 Ceremony-Centric Weddings

We went back to wedding basics this year: the ceremony took center stage. Couples with wedding dates that fell during the first several months of the pandemic were faced with the question: What’s more important – getting married or having a party? Many determined couples embraced the smaller-than-planned wedding at whatever number of guests were allowed under pandemic guidelines. That meant a trip to the courthouse for some, and a backyard ceremony and family dinner for others. And something amazing happened. Those couples who hosted micro weddings absolutely loved them. The devotion that led these couples to the altar resulted in a newfound appreciation for what their wedding was really about. As an added bonus, they spent ample time with each of the select few family and friends who shared their moment. That’s not to say there isn’t a huge value to throwing down with hundreds of guests, dancing the night away in jubilee over the momentous occasion of two souls becoming one. Many couples decided to have the best of both worlds. The biggest trend we saw soar in popularity during the pandemic is the two-event game plan: a micro wedding or elopement on the original wedding date, followed by a larger party, which would include extended friends and families, scheduled for the hopeful post-COVID era. Some couples bill this second event as the wedding itself and plan to re-enact their ceremony, while others plan to use this party as the reception or even a first anniversary party. We foresee this being a trend for many years to come.

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A wedding tabletop featuring Ninth Street Flowers and American Party Rentals at The Cookery. Photo by Katherine Miles Jones Photography

No. 2 All About the Core Crew

In a time of forced micro weddings, betrothed folks learned how to refine their wedding guest counts. Some important lessons came from this exercise. Couples finally had the excuse to tell their parents that some of their posse didn’t make the cut. Plus-ones were no longer assumed. Unwanted coworkers got the chopping block, and no one took offense. Don’t get us wrong. We believe one of the most beautiful things about weddings is that all of the couple’s loved ones are able to witness and celebrate together. But the shedding of those peripheral folks – the ones who aren’t likely to be a part of your lives together in marriage – is a freedom that’s going to be remembered.

wedding guide
You already love grabbing lunch at The Mad Hatter’s Café + Bakeshop, but did you know they also create luxury wedding cakes and desserts? Photo by Blissmore Photography

No. 3 Entertainment Priorities

With smaller guest counts and often with smaller budgets, couples had no choice but to reconsider the allocation of funds. This helped couples learn how to identify their entertainment priorities. I don’t mean to imply that “cheapening” the wedding day is a trend. In fact, it’s the opposite. With smaller guest counts, couples can lavish their nearest and dearest with higher per-person costs and still save money. Imagine this: over-the-top florals, five-course meals with wine pairings or personalized favors. A videographer or custom lounge no longer seems like an out-of-range splurge. Couples can spoil themselves, too – perhaps spring for exquisite wedding jewelry, a custom suit or that couture gown that they want memorialized in their wedding portraits.

wedding guide
Elizabeth Hylton and Maria Alejandra in bridesmaid dresses from Bella Bridesmaids and jewelry from Jewelsmith. Photo by Richard Barlow Photography

No. 4 A New Level of Respect

For the betterment of all, we’ve come out of this era with a new level of respect for one another. We were challenged to wear masks during ceremonies and meal service, to group together in pods, to use hand sanitizer, to give one another space in the bathrooms, to refrain from intermingling and even from dancing. Yes, it was hard. But the reason was simple: to protect one another. The idea of looking out for one another’s best interests is going to carry into the future of weddings. Safety protocols will linger for years. And in the world of weddings, this applies both to our guests, who are taking a risk to attend your celebration, as well as with our vendors, who are taking a risk to serve you.

No. 5 Zoom Just Isn’t the Same

At the beginning of the pandemic, I feared that we’d all rapidly get accustomed to doing everything virtually, from work, to school, to dating … and even to weddings. Virtual elements are certainly transforming how we celebrate. It’s no strange thing for Grandma and Grandpa to watch a livestream of the ceremony from home. That’s a beautiful thing. But in the end, there’s nothing like locking eyes with the parade of people from your life as you walk down the aisle after you’re declared married. And there’s no digital replacement for embracing your favorite aunt, posing in a photo booth with your college roommates, toasting with your new in-laws and dancing the night away under flashing lights in a crowd of people, all there to celebrate your new life together!

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