Intimate, family-only weddings may be allowed later in the summer. It might not be your dream, but it’s a chance to be creative, says
THE landscape of our lives has changed dramatically over the past few months. For those who planned to get married this year, their day of celebration has been put on hold. However, there are whisperings of very small weddings, with close family and friends, being given the green light in phase four of the exiting of the lockdown, from July 20.
While this might not be everyone’s idea of their ‘big day’, wedding planner Tara Fay says it could be an opportunity to mark your original wedding date.
“I think it’s important, even if it’s just to get dressed up and sit in the garden to mark the day,” she says.
If ditching the big wedding for a more intimate affair is exactly what you dreamed of, this is your chance to be more creative.
“With a smaller wedding, you can do things completely different to what you had originally planned,” Ms Fay says. “This is a great time to have that imaginary wedding you always wanted.”
This is a chance to be more imaginative in your venue choice. The usual hotels won’t be available, so improvisation will be needed. While gatherings of family and friends may be permitted, social distancing will still be the rule. So how will this translate to planning for your big day?
Ms Fay suggests keeping things intimate.
“You could always have the small registry office ceremony, with you and your two witnesses, and then I know that we can’t always depend on the weather in Ireland, but a lunch or a pre-prepared picnic in a park, with a small group of friends, would be a perfect way to do it,” she says.
However, when downsizing your wedding, the dreaded guest list can send even the calmest of brides off the edge. This is a Sophie’s choice moment: Being ruthless is crucial.
“When it comes to the guest list, I use to always say to my clients, ‘who do you send Christmas cards to’? Now that people don’t send them, it’s the desert island question: ‘Who would you want to be stuck on a desert island with’? They are the people you want at your wedding,” Ms Fay says.
For some, this will come as an enormous relief. How often have you been to a wedding of a friend where there are 300 guests and the majority are not in the friends demographic of the couple? The reason being that mammy wants her second-cousin twice-removed’s son and wife to be invited, because she was invited to their wedding. With a smaller wedding now a necessity, all guilt is removed.
The beauty of having a small wedding is the intimacy. With fewer people, the bride and groom are given the opportunity to create a more relaxed vibe and to be able to chat to everyone who is there to celebrate their big day.
Opting for a smaller wedding can leave some couples feeling a little underwhelmed. They may feel that they’re missing out on making a big impact and that theirs won’t be a day to remember. But the best things come in small packages and this will probably be the only ‘big’ gathering most people will attend all summer.
Regardless of size, there are still ways that you can make your wedding stand out from the rest. For my own, which had a guest list of fewer than 40 people, we served tapas for dinner, much to the confusion of the venue, even though we were in Spain. When in Rome, I figured, and it would be something different, and lighter than a heavy meal in the sun. People still talk about it, which I’m taking as a good thing. It was different and unique to us.
Ms Fay agrees that doing something out of the ordinary can make a day extraordinary.
“Think outside the box and do something unique,” she says, “People were raving about Kate Moss’s wedding, because she had campfires and tents. It was something different. And Kate Winslet had bangers and mash for her meal. People will remember it because it’s not the norm.”
She also suggests turning the wedding party into a dinner party as an alternative celebration. Keeping it to very small numbers allows you to host it at your favourite restaurant or at home.
“If you’re having a dinner party at home, you can look at it as having a big Christmas lunch. Families would often have 10 or more people for dinner at Christmas time,” Ms Fay says. “If you don’t want to do the cooking or a five-course meal, you could order Indian takeaway or whatever you fancy. There are lots of options.”
An intimate wedding brings the costs down. A wedding at home eliminates venue costs, though you will be footing the drinks bill. Or this mini celebration could be the pre-cursor to the actual big event, which can, hopefully, go ahead next year or the year after.
If having your wedding at a venue is your dream and you’re willing to bring down the numbers, there are a lot of factors to consider. Social distancing is the biggest challenge. While it sounds great that we may be able to have small-venue weddings, even with lower numbers the logistics are tricky.
As of yet, nothing has been confirmed and so industry insiders and venue owners alike are still feeling around in the dark.
“I have spent the past few weeks on Zoom, meeting with wedding planners from around the world, discussing how this is going to work,” Ms Fay says. “There is no easy solution. While we can have guests sitting socially-distanced apart, how do we regulate dancing, especially after people have had a few drinks?”
It’s not only the dancing to consider. When a venue says that it can accommodate a certain number of people in a room safely, that number isn’t just guests. It includes staff, your photographer, and your entertainment. Having a five-piece band could ultimately mean knocking old Auntie Mary and Uncle John off the guest list.
Whatever your choice, remember that your wedding venue, photographer, hair and make-up people, and dressmaker all want your big day to go without a hitch as much as you do. This is uncharted territory for everyone.
“Everyone in the industry is conscious of how difficult and stressful this time is for people,” Ms Fay says. “They are creating a legacy for future brides and your experience is vital to their jobs.”
What does Ms Fay foresee weddings will look like coming out of this extraordinary time?
“This is a pause. It is a time for couples to rethink how they do things and I think we will see new traditions come out of this. The two-day wedding could become three days, with different guests each day. Who knows?” Ms Fay says.