Guest Blog By Donna Forsythe From Lehigh Valley Celebrants
In 2020 we tried tip-toeing around what was happening to weddings due to COVID-19, but we have had a year of ‘adaptations’ and we need to just say it – the pandemic is here to stay for a while, and we need to work around it. Were you a 2020 couple who had to reschedule? Did you cancel? Did you just change the type of wedding celebration you had?
Are you a 2021 couple and are trying to figure out what to do next? Do you need a Plan B? Regardless of what you decided or will decide, one thing will remain a necessity: You will need someone to marry you.
I am a Humanist Celebrant. You may not be familiar with the term, but the Humanist Society has been around since 1939 and endorses individuals to have the legal rights to officiate weddings and other life transition ceremonies throughout the US. (Humanist Celebrants are also found around the globe!)
What Humanist Celebrants do is work closely with couples to create a unique and meaningful ceremony to honor them and their relationship. Most celebrants have had extensive training in the art of creating ceremony. The celebrants in my group, Lehigh Valley Celebrants, for example, have all trained through Celebrant Academy. This is a rigorous 6+month program of studies focusing on rituals, ceremony writing, public speaking, and best practices when working with clients. Our couples tell us that the ceremony ended up being the best part of their wedding day!
Nearly every one of our 2020 couples needed help with navigating a change in their original plans. Many of them shared that the ceremony had become the most important part of their wedding day – as they have had to truly prioritize what were the ‘must-haves’. At the end of the day, most said that the most important thing was to have a meaningful ceremony with their closest loved ones. Knowing the heartache so many of our couples were dealing with due to changing their wedding plans, our job as celebrants became even more important, as we felt an immense responsibility to give them something wonderful to look forward to.
It should also be noted, that having an event planner for your wedding is needed now more than ever! Planning a wedding is a complicated undertaking, and having a professional there to navigate all of the changes that are ongoing since the pandemic began is the one way you will be able to keep your sanity! They will help you understand your options, work with your wedding vendors, and coordinate all of the details that you never even knew were going to be an issue.
The following are some of the ceremony situations that presented themselves in 2020 and the ways couples dealt with them and are currently dealing with them now at the beginning of 2021.
Canceled The Wedding And Eloped!
Some couples simply couldn’t wait for a later wedding date, or realized that their priorities had changed. Erica and Shane had a private elopement outdoors with just a celebrant and a photographer. They found a gorgeous setting at Oakbourne Mansion and had a heartfelt, custom ceremony written just for them.
Had A License Signing And Rescheduled Their Wedding For 2021 Or 2022
For some couples, their original date is very significant. Or maybe there were important issues where they needed to be legally married on their original date. In these cases, some couples have a ‘secret’ license signing that they don’t necessarily disclose to others and then reschedule their ‘big’ wedding for a later date. There were couples who had planned on a destination wedding. With travel restrictions, this became impossible. So many of them also did a license signing with hopes of traveling in the future.
While there are some parts of the country where Zoom weddings are legal, this is not the case in Pennsylvania and most states. But there are ways to have a Zoom wedding so that you can include all of your friends and family – AND make it legal. Katie and Drew planned on having a big beautiful wedding at the end of April 2020. As the realization of that not happening sunk in, they made the best of a bad situation. They decided to keep the date and Zoom in their guests. In the morning, they came to my home and we did a license signing so they were legally married. Then, they had their wedding ceremony in Katie’s parents’ yard. I was Zoomed in to officiate their ceremony, and their guests were Zoomed in to watch. It was fabulous!
Had A Mini-Mony And Scheduled A Sequel Wedding
Many couples who rescheduled their weddings, decided to have a small ceremony with immediate family – parents and siblings – on their original date. Some were held in backyards and some at an intimate venue. These were kept fairly simple, as they wanted to keep the big focus on their upcoming ‘big wedding’.
Decided On Downsizing Their Wedding
Some couples decided that they could scale down the size of their wedding and have a micro-wedding. For Katie and Timor, they changed their big wedding plans for a smaller version where they could include 20 of their closest family members. Timor’s family’s home was originally Afghanistan, and they participated in a lovely ritual that is from the area where he grew up. In the Ayena Misaf, family members hold a scarf over the heads of the couple while the parents present the couple with a mirror. While gazing into the mirror they are ‘reflecting’ on all that brought them to this day, as well as looking at each other for the first time together, as husband and wife. So, while the guest list was scaled back, they kept their beautiful venue of Terrain at Styers and had a full-scale ceremony with rituals, readings, and elements that involved all of their loved-ones.
Changed The Destination
Nathan and Sheila were supposed to have had their dream wedding in a beautiful castle in Scotland. When they contacted me, they were devastated with having to change their plans. They wanted to keep their original date and decided to get married outside of Philadelphia, near Nathan’s parents’ home. The plan was for me to create a lovely ceremony for them that would include some beautiful Scottish elements in keeping with their previous plan. One day, they surprised me with a message that they found a beautiful Airbnb right where I lived – and decided that this would be their ‘destination’. Having traveled to Scotland a number of times, I had a collection of Oathing Stones that I’ve brought back from the North Sea. I gifted them one of the stones to use as they shared their vows, and while it wasn’t the castle wedding they had hoped for, it was a joyful and (happy) tearful ceremony that they will remember always.
Planned A Small Wedding From The Start
Cashin and Ashley decided that they were going to marry even if it was in the middle of the pandemic. They made careful choices to only include their parents and two friends each for a total of 8 guests. They hired a professional photographer and had their ceremony outdoors at Bartram’s Gardens in Philadelphia. Surrounded by trees and their closest loved ones, they had an intimate ceremony allowing everyone to distance, yet be close enough to feel the love!
If you are planning your 2021 wedding, my best advice is to surround yourself with your ‘Dream Team’ of wedding professionals. They will help you by sharing their expertise in every aspect of your wedding day, so you can plan for those things you never thought of. What we found out in 2020 is that the unexpected WILL happen! But you will have a greater peace of mind when you can get expert advice from those of us who have seen it all. Your wedding will be fabulous!