Events like funerals and weddings have been really impacted by COVID-19 and the restrictions on gathering. We did an article in the late spring on weddings and how they were being impacted by COVID-19, and so we thought we would do a follow up by talking to a few wedding officiants to get their side of the ongoing story.
Donelda decided to became a wedding officiant when she started to think about what she might do during retirement. She is a school counselor and would like to do something different than counseling once she retires.
A Backyard Wedding
A wedding that she performed recently was in a backyard. To plan the wedding they met at a Starbucks with masks on. There were 10 people in the backyard for the wedding and Donelda noticed that before and after the ceremony people were standing apart from one another and in their own little bubbles. The couple would have done a much larger wedding if it weren’t’ for COVID. The couple’s parents watched on Facebook because they couldn’t attend. She made the print on the vows very large so that the couple could read them from a distance.
By comparison, Donelda‘s first wedding prior to COVID was at Canada Place with about 800 people. She says it was beautiful but very long. She added that it was a very different preparation for that wedding compared to the most recent one that she did.
Donelda has really enjoyed some of the backyard weddings that she has done. She told us about one couple that had been living together for 15 years and wanted to get married. She asked them what brought them to this now? The fellow said that he really loves his partner and he just wants to honor her. He said that to me, this is the best way that I can do that. Donelda noted that this couple had never been to a wedding and neither had many of the people in their community. Donelda added, when they did the wedding in their backyard it was a really beautiful occasion and very touching.
Donelda finds that most couples are doing video and Facebook so that other people can tune in. Couples have to choose who is going to attend their ceremony due to restrictions and that is a very hard decision to make. With smaller events, couples are considering how to still make it nice and have people who are watching on video see the scope of the event. This is a challenge because some people have friends and family who aren’t techy.
Donelda says with weddings today there are some trade-offs. Like anything, there are some gifts in it and some challenges. A smaller event on video can be a little bit more intimate, but fewer people get to share in the celebration. She mentioned that people are adapting. It can still be meaningful and something that people enjoy. That shouldn’t stop them from getting married. It’s just not going to look the same as it would have pre-COVID.
Donelda says, one of the touching things about doing this job is you get to bless someone‘s intention to honor and love someone. Donelda believes it’s a privilege to do what she does and wants to root for people who decide to get married.
Kristen is the owner of Vancouverofficiant.com which is a team of individuals who love connecting with people and walking along beside them to their wedding day. Typically, if people have found her website they can take a look at the team, their photos bios, and testimonials, and then choose to meet with the officiant and decide if it’s a good fit. Kristen says she handles all of the bookings so she is right in the middle of all the goodness that is going on.
Kristen became a wedding officiant after her husband told her that he thought she’d be good at it. He knows that Kristen has had a diverse background working as a nurse, teaching, living in different countries and that she loves serving and listening to people and hearing their stories.
She says being a wedding officiant isn’t about being a dynamic speaker. It’s about going on the journey with a couple. It’s highly relational so you have to love people. She says don’t get into this field if you’re not people-focused.
Dreams and Farytales
As far as COVID-19 is concerned she observed that starting in March, April, and May couples realized that their weddings weren’t going to look like they wanted them to look before the virus hit. Thoughts and dreams of a fairytale wedding were being lost. She says March, April, and May were the rescheduling months. The vast majority decided at that time to reschedule to a date in the summer or into 2021. Rescheduling and changing wedding dates causes chaos. Couples don’t know if they can get their venue again, so they often have to come up with a whole different plan.
A Wedding Therapist
Kristen mentioned that in June, July, and August people began to realize that we are in this for a long time. These months are typically high volume wedding months. It was a difficult time for couples to decide, should they go ahead with their wedding? Kristen said she felt like a therapist at times. Her coaching and educational background came in handy. How do you think about planning a wedding with everything going on in the world? It’s one of the most important events in your life. For some the decision was really clear because relatives couldn’t come from overseas, so they postponed. But for others, it was a decision to have an intimate ceremony, or take the risk of putting their lives on hold for a year.
A Silver Lining
Kristen has observed that a lot of couples do see a silver lining. It can be magical to only have 50 guests or less. Also, it’s more affordable because large weddings can cost a lot of money.
A Dream Come True
One story that Kristen finds really touching is that of a couple where one participant was from the United States and one was from Canada. They were able to get married in the Peace Arch Park neutral zone. The couple was in their 60s and they fell in love a few years ago and wanted to be together. Once the paperwork was final the groom broke down and wept with joy. Kristen says she’ll never forget it. She felt privileged to share that moment with them. Their dream came true in a very difficult time.
Currently, we’re still permitted to have weddings. Kristen says she’s not there to regulate the COVID-19 guidelines. As a citizen, she wants to do what is mandated. Kristen says one of the minor challenges for her early during the pandemic is that she is a hugger and there is none of that going on.
Kristen is also trying to be positive and to see the silver lining. She says we’re still seeing couples getting married and she loves that. Kristen said she saw a surge of couples deciding to have a ceremony in recent months.
Gordon is a Marriage Commissioner which is a government appointment. Marriage Commissioner’s positions were designed to give couples a lower cost, strictly non-religious ceremony.
Peace Arch Park
Gordon did a wedding at Peace Arch Park at the beginning of the shutdown on March 21, 2020. The bride was from the US and the groom was from Canada. Each couple only had four or five friends and family in attendance. Gord says it was a beautiful day and a little bit odd because there was no traffic at the usually extremely busy border crossing.
Gordon observed that there was a flurry of ceremonies into May until the park was eventually closed due to its popularity not meshing with COVID restrictions.
Quite a few ceremonies were canceled early on in the pandemic and Gord says overall the number of ceremonies he has been performing from April through July was down about 40%. A lot of the couples that canceled shifted into next year which could make next year very interesting for him.
Gordon has noticed that quite a few couples are deciding to go ahead with their ceremony, and then in the future when circumstances allow they’ll do a larger reception.
Through August and September Gord found that he was actually busier than he was in past years. He speculates that it might be that people are becoming a little more relaxed or worried about a second wave and trying to squeeze in their ceremony in case there is another shut down. He says no one knows, and it is impossible to predict what is going to happen.
Gordon is finding that a lot more couples are getting married on short notice. He recently did a wedding where he was contacted on Tuesday and the wedding was performed on Saturday.
As far as technology is concerned Gordon has noticed that there are a lot of cell phone photos and videos being taken. One of the cool uses of technology is that friends and family from all over the world are able to watch.
Gordon has only been asked to wear a mask during the ceremony twice out of about 100 ceremonies that he has done during COVID-19. During one of his ceremonies, everyone even wore masks during the photo session.
For Gordon, October is looking like it might be as busy as it was last year.
Stay tuned for more!
We recorded our interviews with Donelda and Kristen and will be posting them here podcast and videocast style soon.
Main Photo: vancouverofficiants.com