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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Covid-19 and the ever changing rules means that some ideas here will probably be out of date by 5pm on any given UK government briefing.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 at the Old Hall in Ely

Small Weddings v Large Weddings

My Smallest Wedding

Back in June 2018 I photographed my smallest wedding.  Held 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 only their best friends (witnesses) 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.  I felt a real connection with everyone, rather than simply as 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.  A short while later, we ended up in the beautiful Abbey Gardens for some last group shots.

Once photos were done, they went for a sit down meal in one of their favourite venues close by.  This was the of my duties for the day and I was straight to the editing.  Their main objective complete and nothing but love and 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… even with mixed government guidance… this is the first type of micro-weddings that have been taking place since restrictions have lifted.  Sure, with social distancing measures in place, some rooms could accommodate the maximum allowed guest numbers.  But once outside for photos, social distancing can easily be accomplished.  So if getting MARRIED is your main goal, do think over the micro-wedding and let me know you’re ideas!

Marriage Wedding Bury St Edmunds
wedding group shot abbey gardens ely

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 current 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 - Ramsey
Jesus College Cambridge Wedding - group shot
Shuttleworth House Wedding - group shot

How to Have a Big Wedding with Social Distancing!

As I type this I have two thoughts in my mind.  Firstly, rules and guidance are geographically different and venue specific.  And just when you think you got it, you have to be prepared for it to change slightly (maybe for better or worse!).  As such, this will be kept short to avoid adding more confusion to the mix.  Secondly these ideas stem from some guidance put in place which work in some cases… 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.  As such the rise in requests for outdoor parties have seen many wedding vendors cater specifically for this.  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 often have huge tractor doors which can help airflow.  Seriously, farmers would keep them open for ventilation for cattle to them 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.

Manor Barn Wedding
First Dance at Holmewood Hall
The House at Shuttleworth

And not forgetting..!

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 to consider.  Something which takes away many legal restrictions.  Something which helps to get you and your guests a personal and bespoke ceremony.  Have you thought about having a celebrant officiate your ceremony?

Literally everything they say can’t be done… For example, 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 which turns the “no you can’t’s” to the “yes you cans!” – have a read here

Show the idea to your venue and if you have one, your planner to really bring your ideas to reality.

Manor Barn Wedding
First Dance at Holmewood Hall
The House at Shuttleworth
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