As states across the county slowly begin a phased approach to opening, weddings will start to return. However, at least for the time being, they're going to look a little different and require some creative wedding designs to promote physical distancing. Physical distancing is a great term to describe creative thinking that allows for wedding guests to socialize, while maintaining a six-foot separation to protect both wedding guests and your team members. We encourage you to think outside of the box and get creative with design elements that enhance the guest experience.
Creating Outdoor Wedding Ceremonies
Designing beautiful and functional outdoor wedding ceremonies may be the easiest task of all possible designs. Spreading out, and taking advantage of as much space as possible is easiest outdoors. We have the opportunity to move guest seating to allow for traffic flow, the proper distancing, and to allow couples or families to sit together. We're usually able to create the same amazing ceremony structures we would've in the past. However, with current precautions, be sure to look at structures and décor that can easily be repurposed for the reception to create decorative physical carriers to separate guests.
The Challenges of Pews
Indoor wedding ceremonies in houses of worship offer a few more challenges in terms of physically distant design. Pews especially add challenges to creating distance during processionals and traffic flow. One of the easiest design fixes for creating physical distancing is to attach ribbons between pew decorations to block off every other row. This typically allows fairly close to the six-foot suggested separation. However, finding creative ways to stagger seating can help to create more distance. Reserved signs play a more important role in seating than ever. Not only does it ensure that immediate family have their appropriate seating, but they can also be used to make sure that distancing is maintained.
Cocktails, Seating, & Space
Cocktail Hours are usually the time to mix, mingle, hug, and get close. So creatively designing this space is the key to making guests safe and comfortable for the rest of the event. High-top cocktail tables and not enough seating allow guest the opportunity to crowd in and avoid distancing. Adding in more than the usual low tables with three to four seats at a table is a good start. Lounge furniture now not only affords us beautiful visuals but enables us to create seating areas that break up larger open spaces and controls how many guests gather in any given area. In order to keep guests from crowding in at bars it might become necessary to add in additional service areas. Designing these spaces to keep guests physically distant from service staff can include beautifully designed elements and may also incorporate trees, barrels, and hedge rows to keep guests in a single line.
Give Me a Sign
Signage is a great way to direct your guests, especially when staff may be wearing masks and taking on a thousand other tasks. Signs with everything from signature drinks and bar selections can be placed well before the actual bar to allows clear viewing and selection before you get to the bartender. Additionally, branded signage, ranging from social distancing markers on the floor to directional signage can be a great upsell for wedding professionals.
Take a Seat
Escort card tables, while a beautiful focal point, can create a huge bottleneck of wedding guests jockeying to find their seating assignments. As space allows, you might consider doing a series of smaller tables with beautiful arrangements, photos, and candles. These enable you do direct guests to cards A-F, G-L, and so on at each table. Creating multiple seating charts and spreading them around the cocktail reception allows guests to find seating at their own leisure without crowding.
Opening a ballroom or reception space may be one of the biggest concerns, and challenges, in designing a reception. Guests all seem to charge for the first door they come to, so directing them to multiple doors takes some creative thinking. Much like going to the theatre signage that directs them to tables 1-5 and 6-10 and specific entrance doors helps. Additionally, the use of stanchions and décor can move guests in the desired direction. Repurposed ceremony décor can direct traffic and add to the beauty of the space. Placement of plant walls and entry table décor, about ten foot inside the ballroom can force guests to separate going left or right as they enter. Additionally, with some height to the design, the back side of the design can an elegant backdrop for a sweetheart table or as a photo backdrop.
Table For Two
Even though sweetheart tables have grown in popularity over the last decade we’re all seeing lots of big head tables. For the safety of your couples, and of their wedding party, a sweetheart table might just be the way to go. However, intimate seating might also be the way to solve other seating challenges with post-COVID design. A huge ballroom with 50% occupancy can look cavernous with relatively few banquet tables. Seating couples and family groups at smaller bistro style tables not only separates them from other guests but fills the negative space in the room. We’re also seeing that 60” round tables with only six guests per table doesn’t exactly fit the six-foot distancing and can add another six to eight large centerpieces to the bill. Smaller tables enable designers to keep within their couples’ previous budget while also getting creative with containers, props, and candles adding to their profit margin.
Creating distance while wedding guests are seated gets harder when they need to get up and move about the space. So, consider decorative ways to manage the traffic flow in the room and create separation while repurposing and using unusual elements. Trees, and elements previously considered as ceremony décor, can be strategically placed to move guests in a desired direction or to space out seating.
We've heard hundreds of couples who chose to postpone or cancel because they didn’t want a reception that was "just dinner" and wanted to be able to dance. If you're fortunate enough to have an outdoor space for your reception for dancing, taking advantage of a huge patio can easily do the trick. However, for others, it might require a lot of out of the box thinking. Smaller, more intimate, mini dance floors scattered throughout the space keeps crowds to a minimum, allows people to somewhat dance together, and arranging them with clear sightlines allows people to feel connected.
Cut the Cake
Wedding cakes are still the second most photographed thing at a wedding, right behind the couple. But, displaying a magnificent cake for people to photograph also opens it up to people getting too close, and possibly touching the cake. A smaller, almost symbolic wedding cake for the couple to cut doesn’t mean skimping out. A personalized cake should be put on display and enhanced to really showcase it. Meanwhile, cake for their wedding guests can be sliced and served or boxed in advance for guest to take with them.
Physical distancing gives us wedding pros the ability to flex our creativity, add in more personalization, and redesign some of the originally discussed elements to make them more impactful.