Last Updated: May 21, 2020
Hello there! Greetings from our little bubble here in our office space! Hopefully you’re not being hit too hard by this coronavirus pandemic and you’re hanging in there, practicing good habits and not losing your sanity. We know this situation stinks, and it stinks even more so if you’re undergoing the already-stressful endeavor that is wedding planning. We’ll be updating this page as we receive new state guidelines, so keep your eyes on this page!
WV Wedding Restrictions During Coronavirus/COVID-19
It’s no secret that this pandemic has wreaked havoc on the wedding and event industry. Couples have had their plans upended and vendors have seen their sources of income disappear. As we begin to move towards relaxing restrictions, that may open the door for couples to have their weddings. But what are weddings going to look like in the the time of COVID-19?
If you’re planning on moving forward with your wedding during the pandemic it’s important to first consider what the state rules are going to be for gatherings. This is constantly changing, and a good way to stay in the know is to follow the latest updates on the WV DHHR Coronavirus page and the Office of the Governor’s website. You can also contact the office of the governor or the secretary of state directly to receive clarifications on events.
As of Monday, May 4th, all WV citizens and businesses will be following the Governor’s “Safer at Home” plan.
Right now it’s certain that for the foreseeable future there will be restrictions in place on the number of individuals allowed to be present at gatherings.
Update 5/21: According to WV officials, if your wedding or reception is being held at a church, party hall, outdoors or another large gathering venue, the 25 person limit DOES NOT apply. If the wedding or reception is at a restaurant or bar, 50% occupancy guidelines must be followed.
Any gathering number restrictions or occupancy limits are likely to include both your vendors and your guests. Anyone in attendance at your event will need to abide by social distancing guidelines as well. People are also being encouraged to wear facemasks to help protect each other.
Each venue is likely to set its own rules once the ban on events is lifted, but all WV wedding venues will still need to abide by the overarching rules laid out by the state government. Outdoor wedding venues are a safer option for events right now, as open-air environments have been determined to be less at risk for spread of coronavirus. Indoor gatherings may potentially face a stricter guest limitation, and will also probably request that all guests to wear face masks.
Coronavirus Wedding Alternatives in West Virginia
If you’ve already got your wedding planned for 2020, or you’re proceeding with planning a wedding sometime this year, here are some options for getting married in WV during the coronavirus.
1. Split up the celebrations: ‘I do’ now; party later
So you’ve already got your wedding on the calendar– you’ve got a venue, you’ve got vendors… and now the plague has spread across the country and tossed all of your plans into the trash bin. What do you do next? Well, you could opt to split up your wedding day.
Splitting up your wedding day means that you’ll proceed with a small ceremony in a safe location with just a few people in attendance. This allows you to go ahead and get hitched without having to worry about having the big reception on that day. You can get the legal stuff out of the way and share the love with your nearest and dearest, and then have your big party at a later date when there are no longer restrictions on gathering size. We’ve done split weddings like this before, as you can see at this New River Gorge wedding we shot last year.
A lot of couples who are choosing to go this route are still planning on having some form of ceremony on their “party” date. Whether it’s a small civil ceremony on your original date and a religious ceremony on the date of the big party, or a vow renewal – there’s a lot of ways to celebrate small sooner and big later!
It’s worth noting that in choosing to split your event like this you might run into additional fees from your vendors depending on what dates you end up going with for your two events.
2. Full Steam Ahead: Holding your wedding under the current conditions
You refuse to let a pandemic get in the way of your love- okay, we respect that! If your wedding in coming up soon or you just can’t wait to say “I do” to your person, and you don’t want to deal with rescheduling, then you can simply proceed with the current conditions.
Obviously, choosing to hold your wedding in the time of COVID-19 means that you’ll probably need to concede a lot of things in the name of safety. Based on what we know right now, it’s a certainty that your guest list is going to need to be small. As guidelines begin to roll out for easing of restrictions, it’s possible that your event may be restricted to 25 or less people, at least in the near term. That number could go up, so it’s important to keep tabs on the latest information from the governor’s office and the DHHR.
We’d recommend making a few different guest lists in advance so you aren’t scrambling later – a 50 person list, 25-person list, and 10 person list. Keep in mind that vendors will likely need to be included in these counts.
Unless state guidelines say otherwise, it’s possible that your wedding will need to be held in an outdoor open-air environment. You’re also going to want to make sure anyone who attends your event has a face mask. How’s that for the unlikeliest wedding favor of the year? If you’re looking for a place to get married right now, we have a West Virginia wedding venue guide with lots of information.
Under current guidelines senior citizens and the immunocompromised are still advised to stay at home to protect themselves. While it certainly isn’t anyone’s first choice to have loved ones missing your wedding, there are ways to make sure grandparents or other at-risk individuals can still participate in your event. Thanks to services like Facetime, Skype and Zoom, you can give any guests stuck at home a (virtual) front row seat for your ceremony! You can even have these folks do a reading during your ceremony provided you have the right audio setup.
3. Downsize: Eloping in WV During Coronavirus/COVID-19
By now you’re probably thinking “oh wow, that’s a lot of variables to account for,” and you are correct. This is all changing so rapidly, and we’re likely to be living with this virus for awhile, but that doesn’t mean you should just give up! Elopements are small, intimate events that can still go on unhindered even during coronavirus!
Eloping will remove the need to pare down a guest list, and you don’t need a big, fancy wedding venue to do it either! You can even do an elopement now and then still have a big formal wedding later on once things return to normal.
With all of its gorgeous outdoor locales, West Virginia is already an excellent destination for elopements. If you need some assistance finding a great spot to elope, then check out our elopement information page!
4. Push the whole event back: Postponing your wedding
Okay, so you’ve read through this whole post and you’re at your wits’ end. That’s okay too! You don’t have to tie the knot right now! Some of our own couples have made this decision when thinking about how important the “walking down the aisle” moment is to them. Do you already want to be married for that moment? Some couples don’t care about that at all, but it’s something to consider.
We encourage anyone who is planning a wedding and has already paid for a venue and other vendors to reschedule their date rather than cancel. Canceling your date will likely result in losing a lot of money that you’ve paid in non-refundable retainers.
If you do decide to postpone to a later date, make sure you’re in contact with your venue and your most important vendors to ensure you can retain everyone’s services for your new date. Vendors are caught up in all this chaos too, and we’re all trying to make the best of a bad situation.
Also, keep in mind that weekdays and/or winter months may be worth considering! Sometimes it’s 65 degrees in January. And it can be chilly and rainy any day of the year. It’s getting increasingly harder to pick an “ideal” time of year for the best weather, so don’t be afraid of a Friday in February! We’ve photographed big weddings on literally every day of the week. If you’re open to a weekday or winter wedding, you’ll be more likely to find a date that works for all of your priority vendors.
And if you do decide to delay your wedding, but you already have those fancy clothes, you could consider getting dressed up and doing a portrait session! This could also be a great opportunity to have some engagement photos done. We’re offering a huge sale on portrait sessions right now if you’re feeling the need to share your love through photos in the social distance age.
And of course – Don’t Forget to Breathe
Regardless of whatever path you choose to go with your wedding, just know that we’re all in this together and these tough times will eventually end. If you’re getting married during this chaos, take solace in the fact that you’ve found your person. If you’re just riding out the storm, know that you’re going to be partying your ass off, shoulder-to-shoulder on a sweaty dance floor with all your folks at some point in the future. Laughs and happy tears with family and friends aren’t going away. Hugs are going to come back.
We’re always here to lend an ear, so if you have any questions about going forward with wedding or elopement planning in West Virginia during coronavirus/COVID-19 drop us an email!