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Small Weddings v Large Weddings Review

With the events of 2020 forcing many couples all over the world to re-plan their weddings, many will have to face the decision to down size the guest list.  Here I take a look at the small weddings and large weddings covered and give some photographers insight to how they went down!

Covid-19 and the ever changing rules means that some ideas here will probably be out of date by 5pm on any given UK government briefing.  Couples are heart broken that their excitement and anticipation of getting married have been crushed by coronavirus.  Many are now making tough decisions and recent headline reporting has revealed some wedding suppliers (a minority I might add, there are many great suppliers out there who are going above and beyond to help couples).  The larger weddings seem to be the most affected by social distancing so I’m here to review Small Weddings v Large Weddings I’ve covered and how social distancing rules may restrict ideas you have for your big day.

This blog will be particularly useful to those who has large weddings planned, as these are going to be the most impacted.. those with small weddings will also be impacted and may find a few ideas here to help decide what to do and who to invite!

Outdoor ceremony

Small Weddings v Large Weddings

My Smallest Wedding

Back in June 2018 and taking place at The Billiard Room of the Athenaeum in Bury St Edmunds,  Polly and Mark only had one thing to do that day… get married!  Witnessed by their best friends and their partners, this was a grand total of 4 guests!  For them it was about the moment and joining together in matrimony.

After the brief introduction before the ceremony I had met all guests and got to know them really well.  I felt like another friend and was truly privileged to be part of the ceremony and had a real connection with everyone, rather than simply an observer.  The ceremony was sweet and everyone had a part to play.  Without a crowd, the couple were relaxed and it really showed.  After we took a short walk in the town for some couple portraits ending up in the beautiful Abbey Gardens for some last group shots.

They went for a sit down meal in one of their favourite venues close by and my duties were done for the day.  Their main objective complete and nothing but love an intimacy for their day.  They dressed to their style and preference rather than a conform to traditions and had their day just as they wanted.

Now… government updates pending… this may be the first type of weddings that take place once restrictions are lifted.  Sure, with social distancing measures in place, the room could accommodate more guests and once outside for photos social distancing can easily be accomplished.  So fingers crossed we can get the wedding industry back and get couples MARRIED!

Marriage Wedding Bury St Edmunds
wedding group shot abbey gardens

Some Bigger Weddings!

This one is tough… I can tell you as a guest, I’ve been to a 500+ wedding in a Suburb of Chicago in Illinois.  Sure I took undercover photos behind the scenes as I knew my immediate family wouldn’t make the cut in the final images (we did! hats off to the image team!) but there was moments away from the newlyweds that I got… for example my grandmother doing a shot of Jägermeister… before lunch! lol  anyway I digress…

Growing up with Irish family, 250+ weddings are quite the norm so at the moment I’m struggling to think how big a large wedding is… but, taking into account my own advice for couples… if your wedding has more than 80-100 guests then you really should consider a package with a second photographer.  With that in mind, let’s say Big weddings are 100 guests and above.  But if you are at the capacity for your venue, then these ideas will still apply no matter the guest count.

Now first of all, my large group shots are outdoors most of the time.  Even so, during social distancing restrictions its unlikely you’re going to get the big shot… but not to worry.  I’ve already been designing smaller shots with the couple framed by a smaller group or ‘bubble’ of guests.

St Thomas A Becket C Of E Church Wedding
Jesus College Cambridge Wedding
Shuttleworth House Wedding

How to Have a Big Wedding with Social Distancing!

As I type this I have two thoughts in my mind.  Firstly, No one knows the rules yet.  Still up for discussion and who knows maybe government will have this answered for us.  As such, this will be kept short and once guidance is firmly in place I can write up a whole blog dedicated to exactly this.  Secondly these ideas stem from industries educated guesses… so do more research with your venue if these are possible and allowed.

  • Can you take the party outdoors?  being outside has a lower risk of virus transmission, and already we have up to six households able to meet.  Its been put across for safety of registrars that outdoor ceremonies may become lawful, at least as a short term measure.  Either way, think tipi’s marquees, orangeries, green houses… lots of outdoor options already exist.
  • Venues with multiple rooms! Many Manor house venues have different rooms to accommodate different parts of the day.  The House at Shuttleworth for example can spread a celebration into various parts of the house with huge rooms full of character. Or how about Holmewood Hall? This stunning manor house was used as a training facility so has smaller rooms to spread the party out at.  How can this help? Well if you have guests who are high risk, they can be made comfortable in one part of the venue and those who have to take risks (unprotected workers, etc) could respect the boundary of that.
  • But I love a Barn wedding Steve!  Well me too!  And lets talk options here… barns can have huge tractor doors which can help airflow and it what’s used for cattle to stop sheep getting the flu (Look it up! open doors are better for sheep and horses!) also – being bigger, can spread the guests out so social distancing adhered too.  You’ll also have everyone in the same setting for ambiance and when its time to be an audience they can see and hear everything together.  The Manor Barn is perfect for that!

Just a few ideas to choose from as a venue… and do speak to your venue as they will have a plan in place to reopen.

Lastly – the what if’s, the how about, and other barriers to having the ceremony and party you want.  Well, some things we can’t choose.  Legal weddings must be done in a legal way… but to celebrate and exchange vows there is something very special which takes away many legal restrictions and helps to get you and your guests a personal and bespoke ceremony.  The use of a celebrant! Literally everything they say can’t be done… like you can’t have that music, you can’t have that poem, you can’t have the ceremony at that location… well can be done! My good friend and celebrant Kelly Hawes wrote a wonderful piece you can show to your venues to help them change the “no you can’t’s” to the “yes you cans!” – have a read here

The House at Shuttleworth
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