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Top 10 Ways to Encourage Social Distancing at Your Wedding

It's a wedding planner's job to expect the unexpected, however, I don't believe anyone could've prepared for the current state of weddings. With the social uncertainty surrounding gatherings these days, planners are being forced to pivot so that they can get their couples married in a new, "socially distant" way. Truth be told, we've been planning weddings for over two decades and none of us ever would have never thought the term 'socially distant' would be a regular part of our vocabulary. Even so, industry pros and the couples we serve, are planning weddings mid-pandemic, embracing the era of the socially distanced wedding.

The specific challenges of planning a pandemic wedding are the ever-changing rules, regulations and restrictions that are modified often and vary by location. One thing is clear, however, for the remainder of 2020, and possibly even 2021, weddings and events will continue to 'look' and 'feel' differently from what we are accustomed to. This is the time to pivot whatever original daydreams you may have had with your planner into a version that will work with our current pandemic climate. If you are planning to celebrate now or in the near future, it's time to accept this as a fact and accommodate accordingly with a more intimate and more personable encounter in mind. Flexibility is key with your wedding vision and guest list at this time. Be open to change.

And speaking of change, here are our top 10 ways to encourage social distancing at your wedding.

Provide Face Masks

First and foremost, a socially distant wedding begins with attendees wearing masks. While some guests may choose to bring their own, we suggest making them readily available as well. This way, no one has an excuse for not wearing one. If you are extending the invitation beyond your close and immediate family and want to consider conducting temperature checks, we highly recommend the Contact Tracing services from TN Event Designs.

Institute a "Comfort" Band System

In addition to temperature checks and seating guests by family or quarantine pod, our favorite new party trick is color-coding wristbands that outwardly express comfort levels. This system allows guests to, quite literally, read the room.

  • Red = STOP: "Keep your distance, please. I am smiling at you from behind my mask."

  • Yellow = CAUTION: "I am comfortable in a group, but no hugging!"

  • Green = GO: "I have antibodies—time to celebrate!”

If you prefer not to use wristbands, this can also be done with masks, boutonnières, bracelets, ribbons or even pins. The options are limitless with how to allow guests to graciously signal their comfort preferences to others.

Plan For Unique Seating Arrangements

Even with a smaller guest list, be intentional with your seating arrangements. For your ceremony, offer families soft seating on sofas and banquettes that seat two to three people at a time, keeping your groupings socially distanced from one another. For your reception, place households together with no more than six people per table to provide additional space. This way, families are amongst their loved ones and will feel more comfortable during the festivities.

Communicate Expectations

Communication is key—especially when encouraging guests to take specific precautions such as wearing masks and sanitizing their hands. That said, we encourage you to "over-communicate" with your guests in advance. Explain to them all the safety precautions you are taking in advance of your wedding and establishing clear signage at the event. By setting expectations for guest behavior you are taking another step towards keeping your loved ones and your vendors safe.

Create Safe Spaces For Guests

Just as it's important to advise guests of any suggested safety measures, it's important to give them room to heed your advice. Get creative and clearly define safe spaces for all your guests. You can even create individual care kits to encourage safe practices. For a recent wedding, we provided small bags that said ‘Please say I will as we say I do'. Each bag contained a note asking people to sanitize their hands, wear masks, and respect social distancing rules. We included customized masks and a cute small measuring tape to remind people that a safe six foot distance should be maintained from those you are not currently with on a regular basis. By making the guests laugh it diffused the awkwardness of the pandemic. Then we got a good laugh when some of the guests actually took the tapes out at the reception and used them!

Consider a Plated Menu

The manner in which your dinner is served can contribute to the overall atmosphere and pacing at the reception. We find that it can also be adjusted to influence the behavior of your guests. Simply put, plated meals are the simplest and most effective way to avoid issues when it comes to your wedding dinner. However, if you truly prefer family style platters or a buffet be sure to utilize your catering staff as self-service is no longer an option. For example, in lieu of the more traditional passed hors d'oeuvres, we suggest having them each plated first them passed by masked and gloved servers to minimize food handling. If passed is not your preference, then have them plated and handed to each guest at appetizer stations by masked and gloved servers. Trust us, your guests will feel special as each small plate is beautifully arranged and customized based on what they would like to taste.

Limit Trips to the Bar

Just as planners and their couples are reimagining dinner, we are also revisiting how drinks are served. The bar is one of the most populated locations at a wedding, so we are advising couples to reduce contact by being creative with the beverage service. Consider table-side beverages served by an attendant who is assigned to each individual table, therefore reducing contact. If you don't have the extra budget for beverage staff, another option would be sealed carafes for your non-alcoholic drinks in various shapes, which add a little personality to the tables. We also encourage table service which is when the staff serves drinks directly to the table, like in a restaurant, rather than having your guests approaching a bar and standing in line. And to reduce congestion during cocktail hour at that initial rush to the bar, we highly recommend that your drink staff have pre-poured wine, beer, and signature cocktails on hand to pass amongst your guests as they arrive to your reception also alleviating crowded bar groupings.

Throw Your Own Concert

Many social distancing regulations involve the congregation of guests and since that's exactly what dance floors are made for it can pose a problem. An alternative to the tradition, we would like to suggest an innovative (and fun!) solution. Have the newlyweds to their song and then let the band throw a concert! With everyone safely seated in groups of two to four strategically throughout the space, they can enjoy the show while dancing in their seats or in their designated area as you would at any concert!

Mail Favors To Virtual Guests

Social distancing technically involves guests gathering IRL, however, there's no reason not to acknowledge those unable to attend. We suggest sending your virtual guests tuning in over Zoom, Facebook live or FaceTime a little treat so that they can still feel included in the event. We suggest a wedding program, mini champagne bottle and small dessert. There are so many ways to engage your guests. We would be delighted to assist you in selecting small gifts for those special guests so that they still feel like part of the moment.

While traditions exist for a reason, it's important to keep an open mind when deciding what is, and isn't, safe in the current climate. Cut traditions that encourage close personal contact such as the receiving line. When in doubt, feel free to ask your Weddings & Events by Raina planners. We are here to help, after all!

And finally, while some social distancing practices may be unfamiliar, this does not that you cannot welcome new traditions, especially when gathering your nearest and dearest. This is the best time to be creative. Don’t miss your special moments.

We hope you found some silver linings in our suggestions!

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