For the many brides and grooms who chose to tie the knot during a global pandemic, their wedding was truly an adventure happening in uncharted waters. After all, there was simply no precedent to follow when trying to plan a “COVID wedding.”
To share the stories of couples that took on the next step of their journeys together during such an unprecedented time, The Desi Bride decided to look back on a year in microweddings.
This is part one of a two-part series.
How do you host an unforgettable wedding while abiding by government guidelines during a global pandemic? The Desi Bride has you covered. We talked to two recently married women, Deepika and Rathna, to share their stories and to teach you how to COVID-proof your desi wedding.
We’ve divided this one-of-a-kind guide into three easy-to-follow steps: the guest list, the venue, and the event itself.
Downsizing your guest list can be difficult, and even seem unfair to your guests. When you’re working with a capacity of 50 or 60 people and have a much longer original guest list, you need to be able to make tough decisions to cut the in-person guest list.
Rathna told us that she and her husband made the choice of splitting up couples so they could have as many of their friends at their wedding as possible. By inviting only their closest friends and not their significant others, they were able to downsize and include a variety of friends and family without anyone feeling left out. “That idea came along from another couple who was actually getting married,” Rathna explained. “My best friend’s husband got invited to the wedding, but she wasn't able to be invited. And she was like,'That's fine. You guys know my husband way longer than you have known me. So I completely understand and take no offense.’”
Both the ladies stressed keeping the guest list local: flying in friends and family during a time like this would only make you and your guests uncomfortable. Besides, using geographical criteria to downsize your guest lists ensures that no hurt feelings between you and your friends and family.
At the end of the day, COVID-19 guest lists can be even more uncertain than under normal circumstances. With people falling sick around us, you need to prepare yourself for having difficult conversations and asking unwell relatives and friends to stay home. “At the last minute, some of the guests thought that they may be having symptoms, and so they respectfully chose to stay home on their own, or they were asked to stay at home,” Deepika said.
While an outdoor wedding seems like the perfect solution to COVID-safe venue spaces, the reality is that there’s no guarantee your wedding will happen on a sunny day. You will want to look for a venue with an amazing outdoor space, but also spacious indoor options. It's important to always have an indoor backup option, even if you end up moving forward with a backyard wedding.
When Rathna was choosing her venue, she looked at the space first and asked the question, “If my ceremony is moved indoors, will we still be able to social-distance?”
“If we had a small wedding with 50 people, roughly speaking,” Rathna said, “Then the venue size was going to have to be 200-300.” By booking a larger venue, Rathna was able to space out her guests and follow guidelines on social distancing while still have room for her closest friends and family. She talked to the venue ahead of time and had her tables spread out so that, even while seated, her guests remained six feet apart.
According to Deepika, it’s important to find a venue that takes your concerns seriously and is willing to modify its catering and seating to suit your COVID-safe wedding. In her case, she discussed how the “food was distanced from the people” in a variety of ways to ensure the venue didn’t lead to cross-contamination. For one, the desserts were individually packaged into shooters, ensuring that guests were not eating and taking from the same portion. The food area also had plastic sneeze guards to keep the delicious wedding sweets clean and ensure the guests were safe.
For the other food, Deepika opted to remove self-service entirely and relied on her venue to serve and distribute the food so that not everyone’s hands came into contact with the serving spoons. The servers themselves were wearing gloves and masks throughout the ceremony.
“The biggest thing I would give as advice to anybody doing a wedding during COVID is this: You have to talk to your venue people,” Rathna said. “You really do.”
Still looking to book your perfect wedding venue? Check out The Desi Bride’s guide to intimate wedding locations in Texas for your fantasy microwedding or our Wedding Venue Concierge for help finding your dream wedding venue.
One of the main issues couples and their families face during COVID is the constant negotiation between being too risky and too safe. When everyone’s comfort levels are so different, it can seem impossible to ensure their satisfaction.
The Desi Bride’s three pillars of accommodation for guests at a COVID-safe wedding are communication, accessibility, and comfort.
The first step is clearly communicating your expectations to your guests. With a smaller guestlist finalized, you may find it useful to keep in touch with everyone who will be in attendance.
Deepika and Akash chose a wedding website to ensure their guests were constantly in the loop with new updates. “Now, you know, with technology, with WhatsApp groups, and all of these things, too, it becomes that much easier to circulate messages,” Deepika said.
On the day of their wedding, Rathna and her husband hung out a sign that said, “Spread Love not Germs” with little reminders to ensure their guests knew exactly how they were approaching the situation.
When you have laid out your expectations firmly, it’s important to give your guests the ability to socialize or keep to themselves to the extent they feel comfortable. One way to do this is by making sure each seat is supplied with the required PPE to have a safe day in the company of others.
“We had masks available at our venue just in case someone broke a mask or didn't bring a mask for whatever reason,” Rathna said. “We had hand sanitizers at every seat. We put a mask and hand sanitizer in every chair so everybody had accessibility.”
Deepika chose to get creative with her own “sanitation” station that featured hand sanitizer and masks with differentiated icons -- the groom’s side featured a Sehra while the bride’s side had an icon of a Palki.
Essentially, do your best to ensure that abiding by COVID regulations do not become a barrier to any of your guests. As a host who has laid out expectations for safety, you must ensure that all guests are able to adhere to the standards you set in an accessible way.
And finally, comfort. You want your guests to be able to engage with your wedding to the extent that they are comfortable, and the best way to do this is by ensuring the option of socializing without making it a requirement.
Deepika and her husband were able to incorporate her guests’ varying levels of comfort by making use of color-coded wristbands. Guests at her wedding were allowed to choose from red, yellow, and green wristbands to indicate their level of comfort with intimacy around other guests. Green indicated that hugs and close contact were okay, while red indicated that all things should be kept at a distance and yellow was somewhere in between the two. “That way, it wouldn't be awkward for you to say, “Oh, no, don't touch me!” because you have that wristband. So people know your level of comfort,” Deepika explained. Although guests may want to participate in dances and gatherings, it’s best to limit close contact interactions. Though Deepika held an open dance floor, she only let her guests mingle for a few songs and ensured the entire event was masked.
Finally, it’s important to take responsibility for the outcomes of your wedding. During a global pandemic, being a good host can extend beyond ensuring everyone has a good time.
For Deepika and Akash, it was important to check in on their guests to make sure no one had gotten infected from events at their wedding. “After the wedding for up to 14 days, we were in constant communication with everybody,” Deepika said. “We confirmed that nobody got infected from the wedding.”
Not only does this show a level of respect and love for your close friends and family, but it can also put your mind at ease.
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