We all know that wedding couples will need re-envision their plans to make their big day safer in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, but just how much will change? How can we keep you and your guests as safe as possible? Three South Dakota certified wedding planners from Hitch Studio give you their take on these questions, posed by this Huffington Post article.

The predictions that Huffington Post posted were answered by wedding planners from across the country. Here is the South Dakota wedding planner version of those answers and our reactions to each question:

1. “Say goodbye to passed apps and display food stations at cocktail hour.”

Taylor: If you really want to treat your guests to appetizers before dinner, check with your catering company if they do butlered service. That could be a good alternative to providing your guests with food, but limiting the contact.

Tessa: It is easy to understand why passed apps are not the best way to prevent everyone from touching (or breathing on) everyone else’s food. I think that the article gives a great solution by suggesting creating small plates with apps on them. This way a guest can pop over to the table and snag their own plate. Whomever prepared each plate can be sure to have washed, gloved hands, and a face mask on. They also mention cutting the cocktail hour completely. In my opinion, I would still want my guests to have something to do while I am taking pictures with my bridal party. Just make sure to place the cocktail tables 6 feet apart.

Renee: At the last micro-wedding I worked in June of this year, there were 42 people in attendance and the appetizers were displayed openly for grabbing and the buffet had shared spoons for dishing out your own food on your plate. The catering company felt comfortable with this layout and the guests didn’t seem to mind at all. I had a couple of guests ask me for hand-sanitizer, but nobody was overly concerned. To be honest, I was concerned. It’s so important to respect everyone’s viewpoint and comfort level during this pandemic (and the pandemic fatigue) we’re facing. I personally took a Lysol wipe through the buffet line of touching scoopers, but that’s just me. I think plates of individual portions of pre-plated appetizers would have been safer, but I don’t, however, see cocktail hour being cut altogether. There are gloves, hand-sanitizer, masks, social distancing and other safety measures that can save that fun social time.

2. “Dinner will be plated rather than buffet or family style.”

Taylor: I think the pandemic is going to bring a new set of rules for catering. It might even bring new changes to caterers menu’s. If you choose to do a plated meal, don’t forget to have your guests choose their meals on your RSVP card!

Tessa: This goes hand in hand with the pre-portioned apps discussed above. I think that many receptions will also be utilizing disposable silverware (that comes prepackaged in individual wrappers). If a couple does opt to have a buffet, they should have servers serving the guests as they go down the buffet line. This way, only one person is handling the serving spoon to avoid spreading contamination of germs.

Renee: Buffet style meals are so common in the Midwest, and especially South Dakota. Everyone can take whatever portion they want! It’s accommodating. One way to save the buffet option is to have the catering staff with gloves serve each person through the buffet to prevent shared utensils and the spread of germs. To prevent contamination, I see more disposable cups being used or having the silverware rolled in the napkins to limit exposure. The napkins should be placed at each place setting instead of grabbing a napkin of rolled silverware from the pile at the buffet. If you REALLY want to play it safe, you could skip the food and drink altogether at your wedding. If you don’t like that option, then rescheduling your wedding to 2021 might be a good option.

3. “Receptions will be shorter and may not include dancing.”

Taylor: This is one prediction that I hope doesn’t come true. The reception flies by so fast the way it is and it’s such a great opportunity to celebrate with friends and families. If you don’t want to do away with your dance, consider a larger dance floor and as sad as it is, ask your DJ not to play specific songs that generally get a large crowd on the floor (i.e. Cupid Shuffle, Sweet Caroline).

Tessa: Many receptions tend to end up in a mosh pit style dance party. Obviously with the CDC guidelines, it is difficult to enjoy dancing six feet apart. The article also states that when singing, individuals emit more respiratory droplets. For the time being, I can see the dancing portion of the evening being cut down to the couple’s first dance, and the father/daughter, mother/son dance. I would advise guests to have their dance outside if they are insistent on having a dance party. This will help reduce the likelihood of spreading germs.

Renee: “How can we drink and sing along with a mask on?!” I know that’s what most people are thinking who will be on your dance floor! In my opinion, the dancers gonna dance. They just are. And people who want to limit their exposure to the unmasked dance floor will avoid it altogether. I don’t see the reception being shorter, but I do see the dance floor being less crowded. One solution may be having a very large dance floor or renting multiple dance floors to keep people spread out. Or you could skip the dancing and have yard games outdoors with music playing. Make sure a vendor is sanitizing each game between uses.

4. “Outdoor weddings will be more popular.”

Taylor: An open-air even is a great option for your wedding! It’s a great way to maximize social distancing and keep things as low-risk as possible.

Tessa: With many churches not being open for large services, couples will not be able to get married in the church with a large congregation of guests. The result of this is moving the ceremony outdoors. Several couples already envisioned their big day outside. Hopefully this trend will allow an open and airy ceremony.

Renee: Tent receptions may gain popularity, however, we have South Dakota weather to deal with. Honestly, if a couple had their heart set on an indoor venue, they are going to book it anyway.  

5. “Indoor weddings will be held in larger venues.”

Taylor: I think this is a great alternative for brides not wanting to “chance” bad weather on their big day. In a larger venue you’ll be able to keep your guests spread out and safe.

Tessa: I think that this allows for people to spread out and social distance much easier. It may be more expensive, but it will keep your guests safer.

Renee: Larger spaces allow for people to be more spread out – seated at the tables, during social hour, everything. However, if a couple has already booked a venue, I don’t see them switching venues just for this reason. If there is a large price difference between more space and less space, I still predict our South Dakota couples making a budget-friendly decision.

6. “There will be fewer guests per table.”

Taylor: To keep guests safe, I think we’ll seen fewer guests per table. I also think seating arrangements and overall venue layouts will be more “thought out”.

Tessa: At weddings there are typically 8-10 guests per table. Maybe you trim this number down to five and seat individuals by their immediate family. They are probably living together and see one another daily anyway. This way you are not allowing people from different cities to sit to closely together for a meal. They can still be conversational from a social distance.

Renee: I personally think it should be a requirement by the venue or wedding planner to only seat people together who share a household. Your new seating plan might look a little something like this. (Two people at some tables, six at some tables, four people at other tables). At the micro-wedding Hitch Studio worked in June, we purposely only sat four people to a table that would normally hold eight. Although there were only 42 people total in attendance, the space didn’t look empty. It was a great and safe solution. Some venues have a 50% capacity regulation/rule, so your wedding planner can help you decide the best way to move forward.

Image from The Bridal Society. Taylor, Tessa and Renee are all Certified Wedding Planners through this company.

7. “Face masks will be a common sight.”

Taylor: Embrace the pandemic and incorporate it into your event. Create custom signage encouraging people to wear face masks and consider custom miniature bottles of hand sanitizer as favors. Or even provide your guests with custom face masks!

Tessa: Even though it has taken some time to get used to, it is becoming much harder to notice. For example, when I go to the grocery store, I notice when people aren’t wearing their mask vs the ones who do. It is the “new normal”. Many people have accepted and adapted to the face masks and made them with beautiful fabric. It could even be a party favor that the bride and groom provide for their guests. They should have fun with it!

Renee: I’m afraid to say that in South Dakota, this might not be the case. From my personal experience, guests will bring a mask and have the best intentions of wearing it, but in order to eat, drink, and smile for photos, they will take it off. Then once it’s time to put it back on…it just doesn’t happen. I get it. It’s hot. It’s uncomfortable. It smears your makeup. I know. I don’t foresee EVERYONE at a wedding wearing a mask. Most will bring one, few will wear one the entire day. If you, as the couple getting married, want people to wear masks, either provide them, make signage encouraging them, or spread the word on your wedding website or other place that face masks will be strongly encouraged. Maybe you as the couple make a fun video that you share on social media to explain that you’ll be encouraging masks and explain why you won’t be hugging or shaking hands on your wedding day. Make the video fun and your guests will take note!

8. “Cleaning procedures will be more stringent.”

Taylor: If you’re getting married in busy place of worship ask about their cleaning procedures and if that’s something they’ll be taking care of.

Tessa: I do not think that cleaning should be changing much for venues and caterers. They should be doing the absolute best they can every single time pandemic or not. I would not want to see an upcharge from a venue for cleaning services like the article says. It doesn’t take much to have a staff member go around and wipe down commonly touched surfaces. Chargers, silverware, tables, etc should also be cleaned thoroughly between each event, nevertheless.

Renee: It’s not out of line at all for the couple (or wedding planner) to ask the venue about their cleaning policies, touchless hand dryers, hand sanitizer stations, disinfecting procedures, gloves, etc. I’m confident our wedding venues in and around Brookings and Sioux Falls are doing their absolute best job!

9. “Hand sanitizer will be readily available.”

Taylor: Don’t be afraid to check with your vendors to see what they are doing to keep their staff and your guests safe.

Tessa: Again, this could be a great opportunity for a party favor. The couple could have personalized labels made from individual sanitizers. Let’s accept the fact that we are in a worldwide pandemic and do what we can to remain positive.

Renee: Yes, and that’s an easy solution from a venue to make guests feel safe. I can also see little bottles of hand sanitizer being cute favors from couples, or at each table. Other safety precautions you could take at your reception could be to have a host and hostess serve as a door attendants who will:

  • Hand out masks if a guest doesn’t have one.
  • Hand out fun wrist bands so can gauge the comfort level of each guest.
  • Perform touchless temperature checks on guests.
  • They can have gloves on and use tongs to pass any of these items out.
  • Make sure there is hand sanitizer at the bar, near each bathroom, and is accessible throughout the reception.
  • A wedding planner can help you organize all of this!

10. “Fewer vendors and staff will work the event.”

Tessa: We tend to see staff setting up for events long before guests arrive. I think that the sooner the vendors gets in, the sooner they can leave. This way, we do not have to have a full staff and guests at the venue at the same time. We can also have staff come back to clean up after all of the guests are gone. It may take longer, but it will be safer.

Renee: I disagree with this one. If the number of people was limited to 10, perhaps. But overall, as a vendor, Hitch Studio wants to do its absolute best job. So does the caterer, DJ, photographer + second shooter. We’re going to bring the staff needed to do the best job possible, which is what they paid us to do. Vendors should be added to the number of people allowed under the max capacity of the venue. (Example: You are inviting 100 guests, but you have 7 vendors who will also be there — your capacity should allow for 107 people.)

11. “More guests will attend virtually.”

Taylor: Embrace technology! For those who can’t make it to the event try designating someone to live stream your event (either family or paid vendor). Some people have even decided to have their wedding completely virtual, with a virtual officiant!

Tessa: I would love to see weddings on a live stream more frequently aside from during the pandemic. There are always going to be friends and family who are unable to travel or might just be home sick for the day. We live in a world of adapting technology. Let’s utilize it so no one will miss our important day.

Renee: Yes, those people who are in the high-risk demographic, those who don’t feel comfortable flying, those who couldn’t get off work, those who prefer to stay away from large crowds will all join virtually.

So, there you have it! Three opinions from Midwest wedding planners placing their bets on what future weddings will look like. If you don’t like the sounds of skipping food, drink, dancing, and/or limiting the amount of guests you have, it might be time to consider a micro-wedding, a mini-wedding or postponing your wedding into a later date in 2021. Maybe your 1-year anniversary! Remember, we’re from Sioux Falls and Brookings, South Dakota, so your state’s socio-economic climate might be different than ours. Your risk and number of cases might be lesser/greater than ours. Unfortunately, there is no expiration date to this Covid crisis. Let’s all hope that weddings return back to “normal” as soon as possible. Hitch Studio can’t wait to serve you again.

Just make sure there is a door attendant with tongs and gloves who can distribute these wristbands. This door attendant can also pass out hand sanitizer and masks.

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