Over the past year, the existence of COVID-19 has disrupted our daily lives on numerous levels. Perhaps one of the most noticeable impacts was our ability to have social gatherings and events. Many engaged couples in 2020 were either forced to reschedule their wedding plans, opting to move to one or two years away, or scale down their event to a fraction of its original size.
Wedding professionals worked around the clock to accommodate all the changes so their couples could still get the day of their dreams, even if that dream was a little deferred. What I personally observed from this industry and its clients was the resolve of the human spirit and its ingenuity. No one would be defeated and instead got creative. Mini-monies and micro-weddings happened from parks to backyards while venues constructed tented areas to stay outside as much as possible. We learned what was really important and that celebration, even small ones, was sometimes the best therapy to make us all a little stronger.
With the new year brings hope for even better days but also some new challenges as well. Here are some thoughts and tips to consider when planning your wedding ceremony this year.
1. Don’t wait to book your officiant
One of the biggest challenges of 2021 for wedding planning will be the volume. When 2020 weddings postponed, they took many of the prime dates for this year. That means if you are recently engaged, when you begin planning, you may find many of your desired dates are already taken.
As officiants, many of us have our share of “sequel” weddings this year. We married our couple legally on their original date last year, but their full-scale wedding and reception is this year, so we will perform another ceremony for that event. Even if you’re not getting married till 2022, I highly recommend you book your officiant and all other professionals as early as possible.
2. Your friend as the officiant is not your only option
While booking your wedding professionals might be challenging, don’t get discouraged. I always say there is someone out there for every couple, to suit every personality and every budget and that includes your officiant.
Your ceremony should be, in my opinion, one of the most meaningful and personal parts of your day. While there has been a rise on couples using a friend or family member as an officiant, I caution against this. You might be concerned that hiring a stranger to officiate means that your ceremony won’t feel personal. But professional wedding officiants, who excel at their business, do so because they focus on exactly that. They learn about you in great detail and consider you when writing your ceremony. And while a friend may be a good writer or speaker, a professional officiant manages the entire flow of your ceremony, coordinates with the rest of your vendor team and is well versed in all the requirements to make your marriage legal. This is a lot of responsibility to put on your friend — while expecting them to do it all for free!
If you’re stumped on how to find the right person to officiate your ceremony, my best advice is to ask your other vendors.
After considering all this, if you still want a friend or family member to officiate, make sure they know the law, make sure you approve the script they’ve written and definitely do a rehearsal so there’s no surprises on your big day.
3. Making it Legal
Your officiant can guide you through all the steps necessary to obtain your marriage license so that it is legal. In Connecticut, the biggest thing to remember is that you need to obtain your license in the town in which you’re getting married, not your town of residence. Because of all the rescheduling, the state has temporarily changed the requirements, extending the window of validity from 65 days to 125 days. That said, you should still contact the appropriate town clerk’s office as soon as possible to get your appointment on their calendar. If you have any difficulty reaching someone in that office, you can always call the Department of Vital Records in Hartford for advice at 860-509-7700.
4. Have a Safe (but fun!) Ceremony
Whether your ceremony is inside or outside, guests still need to feel as safe as possible. Talk to your venue coordinator or wedding planner about how to set up the ceremony space to accomplish this. Consider spacing the chairs out in groups of two or four so that couples or members of the same family can sit together. At the entrance to your ceremony, provide masks and hand sanitizer for those that need it.
For you and the bridal party, I actually recommend no masks while in the ceremony itself only. As your officiant, I personally feel it’s my legal responsibility to witness your vows by both hearing them and seeing you say them. Additionally, no masks on your bridal party make for much better ceremony pictures from your photographer. That said, everyone needs to do what makes them feel most comfortable for their own health and safety. Make sure to talk to your crew and set expectations before the big day!
5. Favorite guests can’t attend? Zoom them in!
If changing plans or scaling back means certain guests can’t attend, consider setting up a Zoom meeting, Face Time or Skype so they can still join in and see your ceremony.
Talk to your DJ or videographer. These folks may be able to help you out with this. Or if you do it yourself, always place devices like laptops or phones on a table or tripod so they are out of the way and no one has to hold them during the ceremony.
6. Make it Memorable!
No matter the size, place or date, make sure your wedding day makes you and your partner happy. Covid restrictions don’t mean you have to settle for something that will be a sore memory years later. And your wedding professionals have got your back, so allow them to create the memory you always wanted.
Weddings open up a new chapter in our lives. Bringing people together to celebrate these moments not only marks these milestones but reminds us all that we are not alone, and we can get through anything together.
All my best, with no stress!
Wedding Minister and Justice of the Peace