October 20, 2021

maconfectioner

The accomplished food makers

50+ Pandemic Wedding Trends That Are Here to Stay

17 min read

The Swiss poet Hermann Hess said of hope, “I have always believed that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value.” From the looks of things, it seems wedding planners have heeded his advice. 

“The pandemic taught both planners and couples that change is inevitable and that it should be mastered, not feared. We have all become more resourceful, creative, and flexible when it comes to being open to the possibility of modifying plans,” says Marina Serret, director of catering at W South Beach, Miami. “Gone are the days when a bride would say, ‘This is how I always imagined my wedding day and everything needs to happen exactly this way.’” 

Being more adaptable is just one winning strategy gleaned from the pandemic. There are more. Here, industry experts reflect on 50-plus ways the pandemic has had a positive effect on the wedding landscape. 

Outdoor Spaces Remain a Priority

“The popularity of outdoor ceremonies, cocktail hours, and dinner receptions has grown exponentially as the pandemic has forced us to embrace the open air of the great outdoors. Fresh flowers, soft breezes, green grass, the sound of birds, and flowing water—all of these sensory elements bring excitement, joy, and comfort. I predict that venue spaces with gardens, patios, and lawns for tent installations will continue to be the choice du jour for couples planning to host wedding celebrations long after the pandemic is history.”—Becca Atchison, founding partner and creative director, Rebecca Rose Events, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 

“We’re seeing clients prioritizing venues with outdoor spaces—whether that means balconies, terraces, gardens, rooftops, or just spaces that have roll-gates or big windows that can swing open for the best possible air circulation.”—Erica Taylor Haskins, founding partner, Tinsel Experiential Design, Brooklyn, New York

“We’ll continue to see more elevated backyard weddings. Couples discovered hosting an event at home has many advantages during the pandemic and saw how guests who attended these small, intimate affairs thoroughly enjoyed the relaxed and very personal space.” —Darci Greenwood, owner and creative director, Greenwood Events, Whitefish, Montana

“Couples are gravitating toward their homes and family properties for their big day, allowing for longer weekend celebrations, fewer restrictions and time constraints, and more intimate style events.”—Heather Alana, founder and principal planner, Epoch Co+, Houston

Expect More Pop-Up Weddings 

“Pop up weddings, where couples buy a time slot to get married and essentially share their wedding costs with two to four other couples all getting married at different times throughout the day, is a trend that’s here to stay. We started this model during the pandemic when we realized there was an entire market of people who wanted something super nice and high-end, but also short and sweet. These shareable wedding days have filled that void and serve a neglected niche that existed long before the pandemic.”—Wendy Kay, owner and creative director, Birds of a Feather Events, Dallas

Guest Lists Will Be Curated

“Couples are being more intentional with their guest lists, giving a lot of thought to the people who have shown up for them in the past year and who, in turn, they’ve supported. They will look at the list through a new lens and edit it much more carefully.”—Tara Fay, principal planner, Tara Fay Events, Dublin, Ireland

“Hospitality has, in many ways, never been more present. Hosts want to spend more time entertaining those who mean the most to them. A thoughtful guest list has always been a key ingredient to a successful evening, but it has a whole new meaning now.”—Bronson van Wyck, event designer and founder, Van Wyck & Van Wyck, New York City, New York

“Forcing couples to prioritize who they actually invite to their wedding and choosing people who will continue to be an important part of their lives beyond the wedding day, is one of the biggest changes the pandemic has brought about and is something that will continue after the crisis has passed.”—Nancy Park, founder and principal planner, So Happi Together Event Design and Planning, Los Angeles

Sanitary Measures Remain in Place

“You can’t minimize the importance of food and beverage sanitary precautions and the pandemic has taught everyone to take extra care. Holding events with enhanced safety measures will remain in effect going forward.”—Marina Serret, director of catering at W South Beach, Miami

“We predict food servers and attendants will still be required to wear masks going forward, which will make all events safer.”—Patty Phillippy, wedding events manager, La Mer Beachfront Resort, Cape May, New Jersey

Expect More Intimate Musical Performances

“I have never seen such a focus on intimate music vignettes. It’s really quite exciting to see clients create individual environments within an overall guest experience—a guest might wander into the cocktail tent and find an electrified saxophone in one corner, then take a few steps down to a sunken bar area to find a jazz trio. Ambient music in differing ensembles is a trend that’s here to stay.”—Calder Clark, principal and creative director, Calder Clark, Charleston

“The resurgence of the intimate wedding has changed the way couples approach their entertainment choices for their wedding day, including concert-style performances which have been a huge hit.”—Nicole-Natassha Goulding, lead creative and designer, Chic by Nicole Wedding and Events, Montreal and Quebec 

“Wedding receptions customarily included dance floors that became packed with guests acting like they were at Studio 54. The pandemic seems to have replaced that with more presentation-style live entertainment, such as mini-concerts, opera singers at tables, and musical dedications by family members or friends.”—Erica Sacco, owner and creative director, Erica Marie Events, Los Angeles

Live Streaming Becomes the Norm 

“Guests can now watch your love story unfold in real-time with streaming services that have been fine-tuned and improved upon during the pandemic. Being able to offer a viewing option for family and friends who cannot attend a wedding is a delightful bonus that occurred this past year and will stay in place for the future.”—Troy Williams, principal and event designer, Simply Troy Lifestyle + Events, Los Angeles

“The rise of the Zoom wedding has created a completely unexpected but amazing turn. Now guests can tune in from afar and get a high-quality view of the wedding ceremony—allowing everyone to be a part of the day even if they can’t be there in person, e.g. if they’re elderly and can’t travel. With multiple cameras and amazing audio, it’s an incredible experience for anyone who wants to tune in.”—Elizabeth McKellar, owner, The Nouveau Romantics in Texas, California, Vancouver

Fewer Buffets and Family-Style Servings

“Food design concepts have shifted to restaurant-style petite plates, which has always been a hallmark of Southern weddings. But now the trend seems to be spreading from coast to coast, allowing for flexibility and keeping guests from grazing at elaborate food stations where germs could be an issue. Hooray for tapas!” —Calder Clark, principal and creative director, Calder Clark, Charleston

“Plated, family-style, and French service will come back into play at some point, but guests will be more mindful, and smaller platters for family-style will be the way to go. Passed hors d’oeuvres in their own ‘vessels’ is probably a sanitary measure that’s here to stay.”—Stefanie Cove, owner and creative director, Stefanie Cove and Company, Los Angeles and New York 

“I’d say ‘family style’ isn’t coming back anytime soon, or any type of self-service food station for that matter. Collective comfort levels and our new germ awareness won’t allow us to soon forget what we learned this past year. “—Leslie Price, planning guru, In Any Event, New York

“I’ve never found food stations to be elegant. Due to COVID-19, all dinners have had to be plated and appetizers individually plated and then passed. I believe individual servings are more convenient and here to stay—no fumbling on line with your evening clutch and a glass of champagne.”—Rebecca Marín Shepherd, owner, The Wildflowers, Dallas

“Chefs and caterers are covering meals to add an extra level of safety. My favorite culinary accessory is the glass cloche, a dome-shaped covering for a meal that’s removed before serving, that adds a wow factor to the dining experience and creates an extra level of food safety. We love to etch the cloches with the bride and groom’s logo or personalize them with each guest’s first name and serve first courses with cloches filled with smoke for servers to reveal an impressive meal presentation.”—AJ Williams, founder and creative director, AJ Events, Boston

“We’ll continue with individually plated, elegantly served meals rather than communally shared food in the center of dining tables. The fewer hands touching serving spoons, the better!”—David Stark, chief creative officer, David Stark Design and Production, Brooklyn, New York

Expect Less Personalization

“Personalization will never go out of style, but during the pandemic, we said goodbye to anything date specific— on URLs, cocktail napkins, or welcome bag tags. That way, couples have more flexibility if things need to change. Going forth, we’ll see more monogramming and fewer dates.”—Amber Karson, owner and planner, Karson Butler Events, San Luis Obispo, California

Say Goodbye to Some Traditions

“Couples are choosing to opt-out of many classic wedding traditions like speeches, cake cutting, wedding parties, and even formally structured ceremonies. It started out of necessity because of the limitations due to COVID, but we will continue to see couples shed the pressure and demands of traditional weddings, focusing instead on crafting an experience that is truly a reflection of who they are.”—Bryan Keck, owner and event producer, Alison Bryan Destinations, Santa Barbara, California

“Couples will continue to throw out rules and traditions. I’ve had brides walk down the aisle by themselves, use spring colors in fall—they are simply doing what they feel is best and embracing the moment.”—Andrew Roby, creative director, Andrew Roby Events, Washington, D.C.

Think Thoughtful Room Layouts

“Pre-pandemic we would pack guests into small tables with the thinking that these tables made things more social, cozier, and efficient within a tighter space. Now, the roomier table is here to stay. People feel more comfortable with added personal space between them, and there’s another positive—the trend allows us to take advantage of a newer crop of rental chairs that have a bigger footprint and were formerly too large for our typical space constraints.”—David Stark, chief creative officer, David Stark Design and Production, Brooklyn, New York

“Expect to see more elbow room for guests at reception tables so they can feel relaxed and comfortable throughout the night.”—Heather Balliet, owner and lead designer, Amorology, San Diego

“Throughout the pandemic, table spacing was something that was deeply considered and necessary. The days of cramming tables and guests into a tight space are long gone. The waitstaff benefits from more room to work in and guests love having more room to roam.”—Darci Greenwood, owner and creative director, Greenwood Events, Whitefish, Montana

Virtual Meetings are a Win-Win

“We have always been available virtually for our clients who live out of town, but we mostly met in-person with those who were local, primarily because we thought it added value for our clients. Yet throughout the pandemic, we learned that clients actually prefer virtual—not because they don’t want to spend in-person time with us, but because it just works out better for their busy schedules. They don’t have to get ready and drive to a meeting, which frees up precious time.”—Wendy Kay, owner and creative director, Birds of a Feather Events, Dallas

In the past, planners had attended many in-person meetings—with clients and wedding vendors. Thanks to the pandemic, we’ve adapted and have found attending meetings remotely provides the same benefits as in-person meetings. I love that I can spend more time with my clients and vendors while saving time and reducing emissions!”—AJ Williams, founder and creative director, AJ Events, Boston

The Meal Becomes So Much More  

“We’ve seen a shift with food being more of an experience, rather than just a quick feast before hitting the dance floor. Clients want to heighten their guests’ dining experience, making everyone feel like they just sat down for a decadent meal at a fabulous restaurant. The hors d’oeuvres are getting more adventurous, the courses are getting longer, and the level of cuisine’s complexity keeps getting sexier.”—Lynn Easton, founder, Easton Events, Charleston and Charlottesville, Virginia

“We’re seeing more focus placed on the culinary experience directly related to the couple’s love story. For example, a bride and groom who met in Hawaii and were unable to have their destination wedding on the Big Island due to the pandemic’s travel restrictions so they served the traditional Hawaiian Luau menu—in a 5-course plated experience—to their intimate guest list of 40 adults.”—Jillian Smith, one and creative director, OneTouch Events, Atlanta

“The emphasis of a customized, unique, and incredible meal—no matter how fancy or low key—connects with a couple’s desire to celebrate and spend time with their loved ones and ensures each guest feels like they are taken care of.”—Elizabeth McKellar, owner, The Nouveau Romantics in Texas, California, Vancouver

“We’re seeing a huge shift in couples being drawn to culinary experiences rather than a standard catering menu. After limited dinners out due to the pandemic, our couples want to host the most epic dinner party with an exquisite menu, sparing no expense on local and sustainably sourced food.”—Shauna Karver, owner, J29 Events, Portland

Less Worry About the “Small Stuff”

“We’ve discovered the broader picture of life after a year-and-a-half of living through a pandemic. I think clients are less concerned about obsessing over the tiny details and more concerned about the experience of celebrating with their loved ones. This time apart has really changed our overall perspective on what’s most important.” —Stefanie Cove, owner and creative director, Stefanie Cove and Company, Los Angeles and New York 

“Couples have been willing to let the little things go that aren’t going to have a major impact on the memories made, and are more focused on splurging in areas that will create an overall quality guest experience.”—Michelle Leo Cousins, owner and principal designer, Michelle Leo Events, Salt Lake City

“Although brides will always be very specific about their wedding day details, I think the pandemic truly made us realize that creating a wonderful experience with our loved ones is more important than wasting time focusing on which napkins to select.”—Stefanie Cove, owner and creative director, Stefanie Cove and Company, Los Angeles and New York 

Single-Style Servings Are Here to Stay

“The way a host feeds their guests has transformed given the pandemic’s restrictions. Serving boxed hors d’oeuvres and wedding cake has been a great way to present individual COVID-friendly courses, and I believe this personalized catering trend will take remain relevant well after the pandemic has ended.”—Nicole-Natassha Goulding, lead creative and designer, Chic by Nicole Wedding and Events, Montreal and Quebec 

“Due to the pandemic, we’ve discovered creative, fun, and thematic individualized cocktail and food presentations that will continue trending in future.”—Erica Taylor Haskins, founding partner, Tinsel Experiential Design, Brooklyn, New York

Weekday Weddings Become Mainstream

“Hello, Friday and Sunday weddings! It started with venues not being available on Saturday nights due to the backlog of COVID weddings, but now couples are being more flexible and taking interest in Friday or Sunday for their wedding celebration. We love a Thursday night welcome event, a Friday wedding, then a Saturday lunch celebration. We’re also seeing a trend where clients are more open to separating their ceremony and reception—for example, a beautiful afternoon ceremony on a Saturday with a small group of family members and then a lovely Sunday brunch celebration with a larger group of family and friends.”–Bryan Rafanelli, founder and chief creative officer, Rafanelli Events, New York City, Boston, and Palm Beach, Florida

A Focus on the Guest Experience

“Couples now have the bandwidth—and budget thanks to shorter guest lists—to focus on making the wedding day experience truly unique for every single guest in attendance. On this day we’re honoring a union, but also every person who has shaped and helped bring the couple to this point. More than a trend, it is a testament to how we’ve survived this time and will continue to celebrate even when the pandemic has passed.”—Nancy Park, founder and principal planner, So Happi Together Event Design and Planning, Los Angeles

“Couples are more focused on their guests’ experiences. The little details have been mind-blowing, including customizing a wedding where guests are able to reflect on places they’ve been to with the couple and even dinners they’ve shared together. Wedding favors were once left for the back burner but now curated welcome boxes and monogrammed masks have risen to must-have status.”—Andrew Roby, creative director, Andrew Roby Events, Washington, D.C.

Look for More Eco-Friendly Offerings

“During the pandemic, couples have witnessed the positive results the slowdown has had on the planet, specifically the ecosystem, and they want to be part of the solution. They’re choosing creative wedding partners who prioritize a sustainable ethos, as less waste at weddings, a new priority, is here to stay.”—Tara Fay, principal planner, Tara Fay Events, Dublin, Ireland

“While we love paper and all things stationery, conveying information digitally has many benefits. Most of our couples have embraced digital save-the-dates and share information via websites and emails. Formal invitation etiquette is being left behind in favor of more eco-friendly values.”—Virginia Frischkorn, owner, Bluebird Productions, Aspen, Colorado

Seating Charts Remain a Constant

“Pandemic gathering restrictions gave way to the necessity of assigned seating for dinner tables. As planners, we know that while a dinner party without a seating chart may be easier for the hosts, it creates a stressful experience for guests who are left wondering where they should sit. Escort cards and place cards are also important, and we anticipate a more widespread embrace of all these seating tools as the pandemic subsides.”—Becca Atchison, founding partner and creative director, Rebecca Rose Events, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 

Online Shopping Gets the Okay

“Due to the pandemic, we are used to buying everything online and that trend is going to last and is already impacting how couples are planning their weddings. Couples are choosing food and beverage menu items without a formal tasting, and the need for tactile decision-making in regards to flower arrangements, cake designs, and table centerpieces is no longer necessary. It’s a consumer behavior most wedding planners never believed couples would embrace—but now they have and we expect this trend to last.”—Patty Phillippy, wedding events manager, La Mer Beachfront Resort, Cape May, New Jersey 

More Fun with Fashion

“Being that the pandemic required couples to step outside of the box, we found many being more adventurous and bolder in their fashion choices, taking the opportunity to express themselves and step away from the traditional norm. We’ll continue to see an untraditional approach towards fashion going forward.”—Heather Balliet, owner and lead designer, Amorology, San Diego

“The pandemic forced some couples to pivot, allowing them the freedom to throw expectations out the window, especially with fashion. I see brides and grooms focusing more on their own style and less on what would typically be worn, including the use of patterned gowns and colored tuxes. It’s just the beginning of couples continuing to show their true personality through their fashion choices.”—Jacin Fitzgerald, owner, Jacin Fitzgerald Events, Atlanta

“The more intimate feel of weddings during the pandemic has resulted in fewer rules, allowing brides to become more adventurous with fashion. We’re predicting that shorter hemlines, playful accessories, and bold pops of colors are here to stay.”—Lynn Easton, founder, Easton Events, Charleston and Charlottesville, Virginia.

“With a focus on smaller guest counts, and funds being allocated from additional guests to fashion details, couples are making a loud statement with their attire—everything from the groom’s jacket being laminated with photos of the couple to brides making sure they have wow head statement pieces.”—Eliana Baucicault, wedding planner and designer, ellyB Events, Atlanta

The Ceremony Takes Centerstage 

“Couples have had a year of one-on-one time that has allowed for an even deeper connection, resulting in ceremonies and vows that are more personal than ever. The words, the blessings, the gratitude, who will marry them, and all the details associated with the ceremony are now and will continue to be a bigger focal point in planning.”—Mindy Weiss, founder, Mindy Weiss Party Consultants, Los Angeles

“We all remember where we were when the world shut down, it’s something that universally connects us. I think couples, following this traumatic event, have learned to focus on what truly matters. Instead of laboring over which votive to use on the head table, they’re focusing on the beauty of the moment and cherishing the words spoken at the ceremony and in speeches rather than getting caught up in the unnecessary drama that can sometimes come with planning a wedding.”—Jacin Fitzgerald, owner, Jacin Fitzgerald Events, Atlanta

More Intimate Gatherings

“Small weddings have taken off due to pandemic restrictions and the trend is here to stay. With a reduced guest list comes a smaller ceremony set-up, meal, bar, and cake, creating many benefits for couples, including less financial strain and less stress overall. Couples can also elevate their menu and beverage selections to the premium level.”—Patty Phillippy, wedding events manager, La Mer Beachfront Resort, Cape May, New Jersey

“Some of our most moving wedding celebrations happened during the past year as our clients were challenged to create pandemic-safe guest counts. Our brides and grooms came to realize at the end of the day, they wanted to celebrate with the people nearest and dearest to their hearts. And while the big wedding bash will be back as soon as we are able, the smaller, intimate wedding will continue to be a great choice.”—Bryan Rafanelli, founder and chief creative officer, Rafanelli Events, New York City, Boston, and Palm Beach, Florida

“There’s something truly magical about being able to celebrate with just your closest loved ones in attendance. Gone are the days of spending the entirety of your reception shaking hands and saying hello to everyone in the dinner marquee.”—Rebecca Marín Shepherd, owner, The Wildflowers, Dallas

“While we’ll undoubtedly see a return to grand celebrations, intimate guest lists are here to stay. A smaller headcount often paves the way for more purposeful investment in unique design elements, an elevated culinary experience, a more adventurous destination selection, and above all, a focus on meaningful time spent in the company of loved ones.”—Becca Atchison, founding partner and creative director, Rebecca Rose Events, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 

“We are seeing more and more couples embrace smaller guest lists without slashing their wedding budgets, which allows for more customized details such as intricate wow-worthy invitations, guest gifting surprises throughout the wedding weekend, and craft beverage selections.”— Jillian Smith, owner and creative director, OneTouch Events, Atlanta

Pivoting Will Remain Pivotal 

“The wedding industry is known for taking 12+ months to plan a formal wedding. These days, it can take six to eight months to do so and three months for a micro wedding to be executed. This places all of us on a fast-paced schedule which is both thrilling and challenging.”—Andrew Roby, creative director, Andrew Roby Events, Washington, D.C.

“We’re seeing an increase in couples interested in more intimate and less formal celebrations which can often be planned in less time. They’re looking for uncomplicated ways to celebrate with minimal planning, including lunch events and early evening gatherings with shorter receptions and a greater focus on their dinner service.”—Lanette Torres, director of group sales at The Confidante, Miami Beach, Florida  

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