With so much uncertainty around weddings at present, particularly following the release of the Victorian State Government’s Coronavirus Roadmap to Reopening last Sunday, we sat down with popular Melbourne Celebrant Sally Hughes to discuss how COVID-19 has impacted her business, the options couples have available to them during the pandemic and the rising popularity of Micro Weddings.
What has it been like being a Celebrant during this time?
To put it plainly, rather upsetting! Like many wedding industry professionals, I’ve found that the impact has been both financial and emotional. Since March, I’ve rescheduled over 50 ceremonies (some for the second and third time) and have had countless conversations with distressed and anxious couples about what their ceremonies might look like under various restrictions.
I’ve found that the motivations for proceeding (or not) with marriage ceremonies during the global pandemic have been varied. While most couples have decided to reschedule to 2021 and beyond, in the hope that restrictions will have been lifted or significantly eased by then, others have chosen to proceed with re imagined ceremonies on their original wedding dates.
Some couples don’t want to delay starting a family, while others are motivated to marry because they have sick or elderly parents and are worried about holding out another twelve months. They’ve chosen to marry now and renew their vows before family and friends at a later date.
And then there are those couples who never intended on hosting a large wedding to begin with. They’ve always envisaged an intimate setting, a smaller guest list and arguably, a more affordable celebration, so the current climate hasn’t impacted their plans significantly. In some cases, restrictions have motivated engaged couples to marry sooner, rather than later!
What options are available to couples during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Since the 6th of August 2020, marriage ceremonies have only been permitted in Greater Melbourne on compassionate grounds. Unfortunately, as per the State Government’s Coronavirus Roadmap to Reopening, published last Sunday, it’s likely to remain that way until the 25th of October 2020, provided certain targets have been met. If that’s the case, we’re facing an 11 week-long wedding drought!
When the Melbourne wedding industry re opens, I predict that there’ll be a significant increase in the popularity of elopements and micro ceremonies.
Elopement ceremonies typically suit couples who wish to marry without fuss or fanfare (or input from others!). Though they’re brief, elopement ceremonies can be wonderfully intimate and unhurried and personalities can truly shine. Couples have the freedom to dress up or down and to marry almost anywhere, with only their Celebrant, two official witnesses and a photographer and videographer present. Often the photographer and videographer assume the role of official witness (particularly when five person restrictions are in place).
Micro weddings are scaled-down versions of large weddings. The ceremony structure, content and atmosphere are pretty much on par with its full-scale counterpart, the dress code and styling remains important, a reception with food, wine, music and speeches still occurs, and the celebration is captured by a photographer and videographer. The difference is guest numbers – usually 20 or fewer.
It’s important to note that micro weddings give couples the opportunity to feel every part the bride/groom/partner in marriage. Couples merely marry and celebrate before a smaller number of guests.
What details do you think are important to focus on if eloping or having a micro wedding?
Focus on the why. Why are you marrying? Is it really about the dress you’re wearing or the flowers you’re holding? Yes, they’re special components, but it’s the words you say to each other, the emotion you feel and the commitment you make that’s most important.
You’re no less married if you stand before 2 or 200 people.
What have been some challenges you’ve found planning ceremonies during COVID-19?
Ceremony planning has been difficult. Not knowing what restrictions will be in place on the day of the ceremony has been very challenging. Couples have had to make tough decisions about whether to a) bite the bullet and reschedule their large marriage ceremony, b) hold out in the hope that conditions improve so they can host their marriage ceremony exactly as planned, c) marry on the original date and accept that there may be some limitations imposed, or d) host both a very small marriage ceremony when permitted and a vow renewal ceremony down the track. With each decision, comes a lot of discussion and calendar juggling!
Attending to pre ceremony legal requirements has been problematic under Stage 4 restrictions too. Fortunately, there are solutions that may be available to couples under certain circumstances, so I suggest that if couples are looking to marry this year, they engage a celebrant immediately and discuss their options.
And not being able to meet (and hug!) couples has taken some getting used to! That said, Zoom has been an excellent resource during this time and something I believe celebrants and couples will be happy to continue to utilise when we come out the other side.
Do you have any tips for couples planning a wedding ceremony during this time?
Five months in, I think we have a very different mindset. I feel that couples recognise that weddings in Melbourne will look different for some time. I suggest that before couples plan a “typical” 100+ guest wedding, they should decide which aspects of their wedding are and aren’t negotiable.
Plan B’s are no longer about finding solutions for rain, they’re now about reduced guest numbers, dance floors, mask wearing and border closures. Of course, I dearly hope weddings will soon look a lot like they did pre-rona, but it’s wise to discuss expectations and Plan B’s just in case.
And keep in regular contact with your key suppliers. Your wedding is on our minds (almost) as much as yours, which is why I encourage my couples to call me at any time to discuss options or to vent!
What are you looking forward to most when weddings can be held again?
Retiring my grey marle tracksuits! Seriously though, I’m looking forward to being swept up in the emotion of weddings again. No matter the scale or the style of the celebration, observing couples committing to each other and watching them smile, laugh and cry, is what I’m most looking forward to.
Do you think things will look differently for weddings in the future?
Weddings in Melbourne will look different for a little while yet. We’ll continue to see restrictions placed on guest numbers, face masks and social distancing will be required for a while yet and hand sanitiser stations will probably become commonplace. Grazing platters and dessert stations may take a while to return (if at all) and I imagine that dance floor restrictions will be in place to varying degrees. The role of the Master of Ceremonies (MC) will definitely evolve. Without 2-3 dance floor breaks during a reception, couples will need to choose an MC wisely. An MC’s ability to entertain guests with trivia, bingo, comedy and so on will be an important consideration.
When weighing up what will work best for you, don’t lose sight of what’s most important. Marrying the person, you love.
Disclaimer – Information relating to Victoria’s Stage 4 restrictions herein was current as at 8th September 2020.
We’re excited to announce that Sally Hughes has teamed up with Metropolis Events to help deliver your re-imagined wedding.
View our Wedstival, Minimony or Elopement packages here.