12 Things You Likely Won't See at the Next Wedding You Attend

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A New Spin on Happily Ever After

The coronavirus pandemic has upended life as we know it, and sadly, nothing is sacred — not even cherished traditions like weddings. Couples who had planned their nuptials for this year have been scrambling to either postpone their celebrations or alter them to make them safer and more manageable in the COVID-19 era. We checked in with wedding experts to see how weddings are changing, and what kinds of things might be dropped from the agenda the next time you're invited to a couple's big day.

make a toast
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Big Crowds

It's always an honor to be a wedding guest, but that might be especially true right now. Though state guidelines vary, the CDC is warning against "large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart" — in other words, most weddings. Many couples who still want to get married this year have opted for very small gatherings, says Kim Forrest, senior editor with WeddingWire. "We're seeing couples host a minimony, or the smaller ceremony held to honor their original wedding date after postponing their actual wedding celebration," she says. "This can include having the cake baker bake a mini wedding cake, ordering a small floral arrangement from the florist, or even hiring the photographer to come and capture the special occasion from a safe social distance."

Related: 20 Reasons Not To Have A Wedding

long receiving lines
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Long Receiving Lines

Will COVID-19 kill a tradition many modern brides and grooms already consider outdated? Receiving lines usually put the bride and groom front and center for hugging, kissing, and handshakes from every single guest, but all that is certainly incompatible with any form of social distancing. Instead, expect to see more table-to-table visits from the happy couple, with a wave and a smile replacing close contact.

indoor wedding venue

Indoor Venues

While some couples will still get hitched indoors, expect many to opt for the great outdoors this year instead. "Outdoor venues allow flexibility and more room for social distancing," Forrest says. There is also evidence that COVID-19 is less likely to spread outside. Indoor weddings won't completely go away, but they will look different, says Anna Price Olson, senior editor at Brides. "Indoor receptions will be more spread out, with guests extending into different rooms of a space rather than just congregating in one room for dinner or cocktails."

Related: Unique Wedding Venues in Every State

man with suitcase

Out-of-State Guests

Even scaled-down shindigs are less likely to have an abundance of guests from afar this year. Only 36% of respondents in a survey by the U.S. Travel Association said they'd be likely to take a domestic leisure trip within the next six months, and only 32% said they'd be likely to take a domestic flight. Brides and grooms might have more luck with guests within driving distance: 68% said they'd be comfortable traveling by car.

Related: 13 Reasons Why a Destination Wedding Is a Bad Idea

weddin catering


Fish or chicken? Pasta or potatoes? Buffets are a tried-and-true way for a couple to feed guests for less, but the pandemic has made them more of a risk. Most states have been following FDA guidance recommending against "salad bars, self-service buffets or beverage service stations that require customers to use common utensils or dispensers." Olson says while the buffet probably won't disappear completely, it will have to be reimagined. "For instance, instead of guests serving themselves, servers may need to plate the food from behind a station," she says.

hor devours

Passed Hors D'Oeuvres

Cocktail hour may not come to a screeching halt, experts say, but expect some changes in how you get your munchies. Instead of plates of appetizers making the rounds through a crowded hallway, expect a more hands-off approach. "Hors d'oeuvres may be skipped in favor of beautifully created, miniature boxes of appetizers that are given to each guest," Forrest says.

dessert table

Dessert Tables

In some regions, cookie tables are a time-honored wedding tradition. Other couples opt for overflowing displays of candy, and of course, there's always plenty of cake. Again, expect some differences when you're satisfying your sweet tooth. "When it comes to dessert, the cake will be sliced and served directly to each guest, rather than presented on a communal table," Forrest says. "And dessert buffets will be replaced by individually wrapped treats or pre-plated desserts served to guests."

wedding invitation

An Invitation to Everything

Weddings are often a multi-event affair, with a rehearsal dinner, welcome party, ceremony, reception, and brunch spread over the course of a few days. This year, couples who still opt for a bigger bash may segment guests so that they can see more people in a safe way, experts say. "Shift weddings are a new concept being explored by planners," explains Esther Lee, senior editor with The Knot. "It's where guests are invited, on rotation, to attend various parts of a couple's wedding day, so maybe the closest family members will attend the ceremony and a few hours of the reception, then another set of loved ones will attend the next few hours of the reception. Another option is the multiwedding, which allows a couple to invite different groups of guests to existing wedding events, including the rehearsal dinner, ceremony, reception, and morning-after brunch, over the course of several days."

wedding dance floor
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Busy Dance Floors

A crowded dance floor — typically a coveted sign of a successful wedding reception — will probably be a no-go this year. Even states that are now allowing larger gatherings, like Ohio, may be keeping a lid on dancing for now, knowing that social distancing is hard to enforce during a spirited rendition of the "Electric Slide." Forrest says satellite dance floors that provide more space to get your groove on may be an option for couples who still want to get people moving. Others may opt out, instead "moving toward a fancy dinner party atmosphere focusing on toasts and speeches," she says.

bachelor party

Blowout Bachelor Parties or Bridal Showers

While brides and grooms eagerly look forward to pre-wedding events like bridal showers or bachelor and bachelorette parties, they may be left on the backburner this year. "Due to the uncertainty of travel over the next year … couples will prioritize travel for the wedding itself and, perhaps, try to minimize travel for other parties," Olson says. "This could mean choosing a destination that's driveable for attendees, or even combining multiple events into the same weekend or skipping other in-person parties altogether. In short: I think couples are prioritizing the main event."

wedding gifts

Flashy Wedding Gifts

Economic fallout from the pandemic means plenty of people are hurting, so wedding guests are more likely to scale back on big-ticket gifts, or the size of the check they tuck into a bride and groom's card. "I think couples will be very understanding right now," Olson says. "Also, I think COVID-19 has made everyone focus on the heart of a wedding — celebrating with loved ones — so, maybe, it will be more of 'your presence is a present itself' attitude this year."

wedding cocktail

A Less Cookie-Cutter Experience

Experts say downsized ceremonies and receptions could ultimately mean that this year's wedding guests may notice a few more special flourishes. "As a result of COVID-19, we've actually seen personalization play even a larger role in couples' celebrations, whether at their minimony or in plans for their upcoming wedding, as they're coming up with unique and innovative ways to celebrate their love," Lee says. Olson agrees, noting that smaller guest counts may leave couples more to spend per guest. She says couples may invest in special favors or experiences, "whether that's an immersive cocktail bar … or a surprise late at night, like late-night snacks, confetti cannons on the dance floor, you name it."