– Words by Jane Zatlyny Wedding Photography by Lia Crowe
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected so many facets of our lives, but couples trying to tie the knot have faced particularly difficult challenges. In the first year of the pandemic, in particular, weddings were postponed, often multiple times, and uncertainty ruled the day.
Jane Carson and her husband Tyler Leblanc were engaged in 2019 and set to marry in September 2020.
“When the pandemic started in March, we thought we would be in the clear for September, but obviously we were not,” says Jane. “We kept trying to make the best out of a bad situation, but with the ever-changing restrictions, we found it very stressful to try to plan a wedding.”
Jane and Tyler had several small celebratory events along the way to the altar, including a party to celebrate the anniversary of their original wedding date with immediate family. Finally, on their third attempt, in August 2022, the Victoria couple married on the beach in Tofino.
“It turned out to be everything we wanted,” says Jane.
Cristina Fazio and Sam Powell, also from Victoria, became engaged in the summer of 2021. They’d seen friends forced to cancel and rebook their weddings, but they were hopeful that, with the first year of the pandemic over, they could keep their summer 2022 wedding date.
“We’d always intended to have a good-sized wedding, so we gambled that COVID would let us go through with our plans,” says Sam.
The couple tried to remain flexible and not to get too invested in what they were planning.
“If we couldn’t have had a larger wedding, we would have still kept the date,” adds Cristina.
Fortunately, they were able to proceed as planned with their August wedding.
“Couples now have so much appreciation that they can actually get married,” says Diane Hall, former president and publisher of Weddingbells and senior editor of WeddingWire Canada: “When they plan their weddings, they aren’t taking anything for granted.”
Here’s a look at wedding trends that will likely persist even after the pandemic is well and truly—we hope—in our rear-view mirrors.
Highly personalized weddings
Prior to 2020, wedding styles were heavily influenced by celebrities and influencers, says Diane.
Not as much today: “Couples are personalizing their weddings to a much greater extent and are far more intentional with their wedding spending, whether that takes the form of hiring a diverse wedding vendor team, supporting local suppliers and charities, or reducing their carbon footprint.”
We’re also seeing more “relaxed formal” weddings, she says: “Couples remain interested in stylish weddings, and using Instagram-worthy photography to document their wedding style remains a very important part of the day.”
Smaller guest lists
While a mandated requirement during the most serious days of the pandemic, smaller guest lists have remained popular with many couples, says Jessica Minnie, owner and creative director of Vancouver’s Petite Pearl Events.
“As people witnessed beautiful, intimate celebrations, they became more comfortable making that decision for themselves.”
Smaller guest lists also allow couples to create a more luxurious wedding experience for themselves and their guests.
Hiring professional help
Hiring a wedding planner is always a wise investment, even more so during uncertain times.
“With this decision, you will have experience in your pocket every step of the way and be able to enjoy the planning journey, as well as the weeks leading up to your wedding day and of course the wedding day itself,” says Jessica.
Wedding planners also help couples demystify vendor contracts and make sure cancellation policies are in place.
Wedding vendors have learned to build more contingency plans into their recommendations, knowing that things could change. For instance, that beautiful custom floral arch can now be used indoors or outdoors and moved around, says Diane.
“It may have been an altar first, but also can be positioned behind a wedding table or used as a backdrop for a photo booth.”
The return of elopements
Sara Laking, photographer/owner with Sara Spectrum in Tofino, has seen continued growth of elopements, or “mini-monies,” where it’s typically just the couple, the photographer, perhaps a wedding planner, and an officiant in attendance for the ceremony, and a party is held at a later time.
“There’s no distraction and they’re really able to relax,” she says. “It creates a very authentic experience.”
Jessica has seen more couples getting legally married before or after the actual ceremony.
“We encourage couples to make it legal during their rehearsal or privately immediately following the ceremony for a very special moment together, toasting a drink and getting some beautiful captures of this huge moment in their lives,” she says.
More outdoor weddings
At WeddingWire Canada, Diane has noticed that the outdoor setting remains very important to Canadian couples—and not just to prevent possible COVID-19 transmission.
“Outdoor weddings allow for a lot more creativity around decor, tent rentals and other details,” she explains. “Couples can have food trucks and mobile bars in old vintage trailers to create a festival vibe.”
Outdoor weddings also open up the possibility for aerial photography.
“It’s about really using Mother Nature to create that beautiful environment,” adds Diane.
Travel bans originally led to this trend, but hybrid weddings appear to be here to stay, especially in cases where travel costs would be prohibitive for the guests.
“They also give the couple permission to have more of a luxury experience for their in-person event,” says Diane, adding that the virtual coverage can be quite elaborate and inclusive. “Couples can also create a signature cocktail and send their virtual guests a recipe for it or a gift package with a mini bottle of bubbly, wedding cake and party favour so they can feel part of the celebration.”
It’s party time
After the isolation of the first two years of the pandemic, couples and their guests are ready to let their hair down.
“This generation still really wants to get married,” says Diane. “While the onus is now more on the couple as to the safety measures they take, everyone wants to really celebrate.”
Cheers to that!