Weddings – including receptions – are back, but not as we know them. The latest guidelines include everything from socially distanced seating to hand sanitising before the exchanging of rings. So, what exactly will weddings look like before 2020 is out, and how should the industry be adapting to this ‘new normal’? Bonnie and Toby Williams, owners of country house wedding venue Alrewas Hayes in Staffordshire share their advice:
The magic number
It goes without saying that weddings, now and in the near future, will be smaller than before, with current guidelines stating a maximum of 30 people can be present, including staff, officiants, witnesses and the couple themselves. That said, now is the time to focus on what’s really important, and enjoying traditions with close friends and family is something we’re treasuring more than ever. For some, that means going ahead with a low-key 2020 wedding, for others, it’s postponing until 2021 or – most likely – beyond, for their dream day. We may also see a rise in weekday weddings from next year, as couples aim to secure their dream venue and as many of their trusted suppliers as possible, as well as live streaming the ceremony and speeches for those guests who can’t attend.
Best laid plans
If you’re in the throes of planning (and hopefully this period hasn’t stopped you from doing so), spend time researching venues that can offer a flexible approach to booking while we’re still in the firing line of potential lockdowns. We are certainly seeing more enquiries for smaller weddings, and will therefore be putting some packages together to reflect this. Many other suppliers have already began adapting to this new way of wedding planning by connecting with couples via online appointments and virtual tours.
In particular, look at venues which only host a limited number of weddings each year, so your date could change should it need to, and those doing its upmost to reassure you with practical measures in place. This is naturally a scary time to part with your cash – what you need right now is to feel confident in each and every one of your suppliers.
If your venue is booked, and has agreed it can accommodate you safely, find out what measures have been implemented. Will there be daily temperature checks and health measures in place for staff behind the scenes? Will the floors be marked to help your wedding guests maintain social distancing? Will there be antibacterial soap and disposable hand towels in the bathrooms? It’s not glamorous, but you can make it work for you. How about upcycling an old vintage dresser into a discreet but photogenic hand-sanitising station? Or place a gift bag – complete with sanitiser and face mask – on each guest’s seat.
The same sentiment goes for your other suppliers, and everyone from your florist to your photographer should have contingency plans and safety measures in place to give you peace of mind. Stay in regular contact in the lead up to the big day because communication now is more important than ever.
Please be seated
With the risk of infection greater in confined spaces, could we see a rise in outdoor weddings? Scaling down your guest list, and having the option of additional space, might even allow you to play around with the ceremony structure, arranging the chairs circular or asymmetrically instead of the traditional way.
For those still dreaming of a grand-scale affair, look to hire a private house venue that offers exclusivity and the space to host a socially distanced wedding party of 30. The Great Barn at Alrewas Hayes, for example, is a beautiful blank canvas space that can be adapted to feel as intimate or as grand as you like. Reminiscent of a cool airport hangar from the outside, it’s a contemporary space with plenty of state-of-the- art production facilities to use as you wish. Great news, in light of the announcement that small indoor music performances with a socially distanced audience can also go ahead, which means you may be able to have a live music act for your ceremony or reception. We are also looking at our courtyard space and how that could be used for dining.
Food for thought
Seated dinners are so far the only option for a post-ceremony celebration, but actually, it’s quite nice to see a return to formality to really make your guests feel catered to. You can still ask your caterers to create an innovative dining experience that’s unique to you, just be sure that the focus is on sustainable, seasonal and local ingredients.
To find out more about Alrewas Hayes, visit www.alrewashayes.com