Saying yes to the dress, where to seat guests and who the flower girls will be are not the toughest questions facing brides and grooms right now. The question is whether to hold a wedding at all this year.
In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic is forcing many couples to reevaluate what their wedding will look like or even if their event will happen as scheduled. Some couples are choosing to postpone their weddings until they know that all their family and friends will be able to attend. For others, the wedding will go on with a smaller guest list and a more intimate ceremony, perhaps with a “sequel wedding” or large reception/party in the future with the usual trimmings and a more robust guest list.
There are now terms for these reimagined matrimonial events: micro-weddings and “minimonies.” The idea behind these weddings is to have all of the important ingredients but without the large guest list. The wedding website The Knot says the micro-wedding will typically include a guest list of up to 50 guests—often immediate family and super-close friends only. A minimony is a ceremony typically consisting of less than 10 people.
Photographer Christina Hamilton has worked several of these more intimate affairs around the region. “I did a minimony at an historic Easton church and we used a park for their photos. I also did a minimony at the Port of Annapolis, with photos shot at the USNA in Annapolis,” says Hamilton. “I also shot a micro-wedding at a church in Clarksville.”
The minimony trend may be here to stay. “We have been booking intimate minimonies as well as larger scale weddings and reception for the remainder of 2020 into 2022,” says Brielle Wood, director of sales and marketing at Herrington on the Bay. “We are thrilled to be able to offer assistance to all couples who have been affected by COVID-19 and continue to come up with creative ways to host their events. It might not look like their original vision they had for their wedding day but we are committed to making it just as memorable and special.”
Bride-to-be Rebecca Hollerbach says her October 17 wedding will happen no matter what. “My fiancé Andy has been deployed since November and I’m not willing to put it off a moment longer! I am planning to still have the wedding at St. Mary’s Church in downtown Annapolis because it’s where I grew up going and my parents were also married there. Right now, I believe the maximum capacity of the church is 43. I don’t care if this number goes up or down—I still want to have my wedding there.”
Hollerbach says that some of her guests will come for only the reception, to be held at Bembe Beach. Keeping everyone safe is certainly on her mind.
“Although I’ve tried not to dwell on the what ifs, there certainly is a concern about the wedding not being able to happen in the church. If we were to return to a full shelter-in-place situation I guess I would have to talk about our options. I’m obviously hopeful that won’t happen but I’m pretty dead set on it happening even if no one can be there besides Andy, myself and our priest. The pandemic is just a bump in the road. In many ways it almost takes the pressure off. At the end of the day the only thing that matters is that we will be married.”
Between venues and vendors being closed or requiring masks at all times, getting hitched in 2020 is more complicated than ever before. And businesses that depend on a busy wedding season to stay afloat have suffered.
“It has affected our business greatly,” says Susan Watson White, owner of Robin Hill Farm and Vineyard in Brandywine. “Being in Prince George’s County [where COVID-19 cases have been among the highest in the state] especially, it means we haven’t hosted any weddings since the pandemic began.”
Watson White explained that while her venue can still host weddings, all of the brides and grooms who were on the schedule from April through September have opted to postpone. “They are being faced with a tough decision: do they want to cut their guest list and face a big family conflict, or do they want to reschedule? No one wants to put their grandparents in danger and they don’t want people traveling from out of state at this time.”
Those who choose to carry on in the face of the pandemic are met with the task of shrinking their guest lists, asking guests to wear face masks and ditching a buffet-style dinner for table service or other unique offerings.
Evie Turner, vice president of catering at Main & Market in Annapolis says it is now offering individual options for weddings. “We are doing our best to cater to our clients’ needs and following through with best COVID-19 practices by offering plated dinners or creative box solutions. We have adorable charcuterie boxes, bento boxes or elegant box lunches for events.”
Turner says she is seeing a “tremendous” number of micro-weddings and intimate at-home events for 10 to 50 people. “Obviously business has decreased in volume but we are still offering our quality menu and making life delicious to our clients.”
At Mamma Lucia, a pair of Italian restaurants in Chesapeake Beach and Dunkirk, the wedding receptions and parties look different than they used to. Owner Maria Lubrano says she and her staff are doing what they can to both abide by the safety rules and keep customers happy.
“For parties here at the restaurant, we have to abide by the 50 percent capacity rules,” says Lubrano. “So that means we must keep guests spread out, so there’s no buffet, no family-style serving. But some people are not happy that they still have to wear masks to come in our building (for an event). A lot of people have simply chosen to reschedule.”
Mamma Lucia’s catering service is providing no-contact deliveries for rehearsal dinners and receptions.
Another Calvert locale still open for wedding business is The Westlawn Inn, which hosts weddings and rehearsal dinners, plus The Guest Quarters at the Inn is available for out-of-town guests. Owners Jan and Lee Travers say their cozier size is an advantage in the time of smaller weddings and receptions.
“Right now, people are re-imagining their plans, so both the Guest Quarters and the Westlawn rehearsal dinner space is more appropriate, and more affordable than many others,” says Jan.
For those who can’t bear to cut their guest lists, most venues and vendors are staying flexible. “We have been working around the clock to help couples find a new date and create custom packages to help alleviate some of the stress and sadness they have been feeling during these last couple of months. Every one of these couples mean the world to us and if there is anything we can do to help them out, we are happy to,” says Wood.
That’s the advice Watson White is handing out to couples, too. “You may feel defeated or overwhelmed but this is your special day, so don’t let this pandemic get you down. Yes, it might look different, you might have to lower the guest list, or it may be during an off-season, but the result will be the same: You will marry the love of your life! It will still be meaningful and unique and later in life you can tell your children and grandchildren stories of how you persevered through the 2020 pandemic.”
The pandemic provides perspective for many couples. And for those who are waiting to make their magical day happen.
“When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade—you don’t throw out the lemonade stand, too,” says Lubrano.