11 Ways the Pandemic Has Changed Wedding Traditions Forever


Photo by Adriana Rivera 

Celebrity couples who wanted fresh takes on style for their ceremony and reception used to be the driving force for modern couples to break wedding traditions. But in the past year, the reality of COVID-19 has stepped in to influence weddings by postponing them, modifying protocols, and changing the way wedding celebrations take place.

Nevertheless, there are positive effects that have come out of the experience of COVID. Couples say that they have a deeper appreciation of what is essential, especially with respect to how they celebrate with family and friends. For many, a new and fearless spirit has energized them to break with wedding traditions and transform the way they want to marry. So, we tapped event planners Andrea Correale and Kate Murtaugh to find the exact ways the pandemic has redefined wedding traditions.

Meet the Expert

  •  Andrea Correale is the founder and president of Elegant Affairs, a full-service off-premise catering and event planning company. Based in New York City and the Hamptons, Elegant Affairs has worked with celebrities like Billie Eilish, Mariah Carey, and Leonardo DiCaprio.
  • Kate Murtaugh is the principal and creative director at Kate Murtaugh Events & Design, an award-winning luxury wedding and event planning and design studio based in Boston and Watch Hill, Rhode Island.

"Wedding traditions have always been a world of constantly changing trends, etiquette, and style. COVID-19 has tremendously changed the wedding industry and with that comes a natural shift in tradition,” says Murtaugh.

Ahead, 11 ways COVID-19 has influenced weddings—and why we think they'll be here to stay.

01 of 11

More At-Home Weddings

zoom wedding ceremony

Photo by Kir Tuben

"Couples are having outdoor weddings at home and saying goodbye to destination weddings abroad," says Correale. "Many couples, frustrated by the COVID restrictions at indoor venues are having outdoor weddings at home. A tented reception with immediate family and close friends will be the new normal.”

02 of 11

Lots of Tented Affairs


Photo by Lauren Fair Photography

Strict event guidelines and social distancing requirements for indoor spaces have created a surge in tented wedding celebrations at private residences and estates. Murtaugh says, "Not only does a tented affair offer more flexibility and safety, but it also allows couples to bring unlimited style possibilities to their celebrations, offering a blank canvas for event design and layout. Tents are perfect for a bijou fete for 10 or a celebration for 150. With endless design and planning options, you can have stunning outdoor backdrops with jaw-dropping details like dreamy lighting installations, custom flooring, cascading drapery, and swoon-worthy florals."

03 of 11

A Rise in Elopements

first kiss

Photo by Elizabeth Wells Photography

Couples are throwing out the old stigma of what an elopement was and instead embracing intimate nuptials that are adventurous, inspiring, and personal. Murtaugh shares, “We do not see the elopement and micro-wedding trend coming to an end anytime soon but not just because of event restrictions; clients find it is most important to do what feels right for them.”

04 of 11

Plenty of Outdoor Weddings


Photo by Valerie Darling

There are significant changes in religious weddings, according to Correale. "Church and temple weddings are being replaced by outdoor ceremonies. Couples want outdoor everything allowing everyone to feel safe. An intimate gathering of close family follows small outdoor ceremonies at home or in front of a Justice of Peace. Many will also plan an outdoor celebration for friends and extended family at a later date."

05 of 11

Meals Have Been Modified

champagne and popcorn

Photo by Amy Anaiz

With new safety protocols, the cocktail hour and dinner have been modified. Correale explains, "Everything for the cocktail hour is individual. No grazing tables or communal eating. This means that each hors d’oeuvre is in its own vessel for just one person.” 

She adds, "Shorter cocktail hours followed by a socially distanced seated dinner is the new rule. Say goodbye to cocktail-style receptions or family-style meal services. For years people have been trending towards cocktail-style receptions with lots of passed hors d'oeuvres and stations. But due to COVID, this trend has dissipated and has been replaced with the seated dinner."  

06 of 11

No More Receiving Lines


Photo by Adriana Rivera 

For those who don’t want to stand in a receiving line after the ceremony, we've got great news: "The new trend is none at all," reveals Correale. "A complete skip over. Receiving lines were once a way for the couple and their families to greet the guests. The trend was declining before COVID, but now it's simply kicked out the door and not an option." Besides, if you have fewer guests due to safety concerns, you’ll have plenty of time during your reception to mingle with them.   

07 of 11

Emphasis on the Guest Experience

wedding sign

Photo by Alex Lasota

Murtaugh tells us, “This trend is simple and straightforward: quality over quantity—from food and beverage to design and the guest count. Couples are hosting their celebrations where no detail is spared, and budget can be spent on higher-impact elements. With intimate gatherings, hosts are given more flexibility to plan for more unique and bespoke environments for guests, including custom food experiences, curated cocktail menus, table décor, immersive elements, floral installations, and entertainment.” 

08 of 11

Couples Are Wearing Unique Attire


Photo by Lauren Orlowski

After a year with so much darkness, brides and grooms are ready to celebrate like never before, and what better way to do that than with statement-making fashion moments to match the sentiment. "Couples are walking away from tradition and choosing fun colors, bold prints, fashionable cuts, and trendy embellishments for their wedding day fashion," says Murtaugh.

09 of 11

More Vibrant Color Schemes

custom face masks

Photo by Amy Anaiz

Gone are the days of white and blush monochromatic wedding designs. From flowers to wedding attire to décor, couples are celebrating with color. Murtaugh explains, “Couples want to prioritize color, texture, and tone with their wedding designs and aesthetic. Think unique color palettes, contrasting patterns and textures, and a spotlight on unusual florals.” 

10 of 11

Hosting Multiple Celebrations


Photo by Chi-Chi Ari Love

Many couples have not seen their friends or family for over a year. So, they choose to make their wedding a whole weekend event (or perhaps a few weekdays). Murtaugh says, “With more time, they can spoil their guests with a two-day party or a more extended celebration. Some couples are even breaking guest lists up into groups on multiple days to celebrate with even more people given some restrictions with headcounts." 

11 of 11

Utilizing Vendor Teams


Photo by Kate Headley

She adds, “Given the extent of COVID-19 restrictions and changes to the wedding industry, couples are leaning on their vendor team’s expertise and candor like never before. More couples are opting to hire wedding planners and designers to help guide them through the planning process responsibly, creatively, and efficiently from contracts and negotiations, safe floor plans to creating spectacular design plans and focusing on top-notch client service.”

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