Understanding Weddings During the Pandemic

We all know weddings looked different in 2020, but how exactly did they unfold? While the vast majority of weddings had to be modified in some capacity due to COVID-19 (96%), the good news is that for nearly 93% of engaged couples, the pandemic didn’t cancel their wedding celebrations altogether. 

As we look at the behaviors of couples who had a set wedding date in 2020, data showed us that just over 40% of couples moved forward with hosting both a ceremony and reception in 2020. Nearly half of couples (47%) postponed their reception to a later date, with 32% still legally tying the knot in 2020 while 15% decided to postpone the entire wedding altogether—the majority setting their sites on a date in 2021.

In this report we’ll take a deeper look into those couples who carried out their ceremony and reception in 2020 during the pandemic (43%), while also exploring some of the various paths couples took—from hosting a minimony to postponing. 

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Snapshot of 2020 Weddings

Weddings undoubtedly looked a bit different in 2020 than in year’s past, so it's no surprise that we’re seeing some notable differences when it comes down to the big day. While hometown weddings and smaller guest counts were popular adjustments, couples still forged ahead with semi-formal affairs (67%) that embraced romantic (41%), fun (33%) and elegant (25%) notes, consistent with what we’ve seen in previous years. Cost per guest slightly increased in 2020 ($244) although the average cost of a wedding ceremony/reception decreased to $19,000 as a result of minimonies and downsized COVID-19 celebrations. Couples report their approximate budget for their upcoming 2021 reception to be $22,500, which is in line with past reception-only spend ($23,000 in 2019).

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Health and Safety Measures Were Top Priority

Over 75% of couples say the health and safety of guests were the most important aspects of planning their wedding during the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by finding a way to marry their partner no matter what obstacles may come their way (65%). As a result, 90% of couples made modifications to their wedding plans due to COVID-19, putting added emphasis on health and safety such as making adjustments to dancing, pivoting from a receiving line to a “gesture line” and even supplying masks that doubled as favors. In fact, couples report spending an extra $280 on average on health and safety measures for their guests.

  • Additionally, 80% of couples reduced/limited the number of guests invited to their wedding to comply with proper local social distancing restrictions.

  • Furthermore, roughly six in ten couples held their ceremony and reception outdoors, with one-third of couples making a switch from indoors to outdoors to have a safer experience for guests. 

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2020 Receptions Were Smaller and More Intimate

Since individual state and county governments provided their own regulations on the legal size of weddings and social gatherings allowed during COVID-19 (ex. over the summer in Ohio, a 300-person wedding reception was legal, while in Delaware indoor gatherings could not exceed more than 10 people), nearly 50% of all couples were forced to reduce and/or limit their guest count, while 44% decided to reduce the guest size on their own accord for safety purposes. And if reducing guest size isn’t hard enough, roughly 40% had to uninvite some guests who had already received invitations.

While more than one-third of couples found it challenging to reduce the guest size, the majority of couples also had guests who decided to no longer attend their wedding in-person due to COVID-19 concerns (57%). 

As a result, approximately half of wedding receptions during COVID-19 had 50 people or less attending, with nearly a quarter having less than 25 guests. Overall guest count was down roughly 50% on average from 2019 (66 vs. 131). 

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One-Third Planning to Have a Sequel Celebration

In 2020, COVID-19 forced couples to rethink their wedding, even those who hosted a ceremony and reception.

While two-thirds of couples who got married in 2020 considered their reception to be their primary wedding celebration (i.e., their one and only), more than one-third plan to hold a sequel celebration in the future with loved ones (ex. a larger vow renewal or anniversary reception).

While things may have looked different, couples continued to embrace many pre-wedding traditions such as creating a wedding website (82%) and setting up a registry (83%), while also carrying out many conventional wedding traditions during the reception. For example, 90% of couples had a first dance—which remains the most popular tradition year after year.

  • For the fourth year in a row, "Perfect" by Ed Sheeran earns the honors of the most popular first dance song among couples married in 2020, though country songs continue to be the top genre chosen.

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Couples Prefer to Postpone, Not Cancel

While weddings in 2020 embraced various forms, nearly half of couples with weddings originally scheduled for 2020 opted to postpone part of their wedding. In fact, nearly 32% hosted a ceremony in 2020 but postponed their reception, in hopes of having the wedding celebration they always imagined.

  • Of the one-third of couples who moved forward with their wedding ceremony in 2020, 42% hosted a minimony—a small, intimate ceremony with up to ten loved ones in attendance prior to a larger postponed reception. The remaining 58% had modestly larger ceremonies, averaging around 16 guests.

  • Just over 50% of couples who postponed their reception plan on having it in the first half of 2021, majority waiting until spring. While nearly one in two couples have their sights set on inviting upwards of 125 guests to their 2021 wedding, 47% acknowledge final guest size will depend on COVID-19 and statewide mandates as the postponed event gets closer.

Though it’s no surprise that couples indicated they felt stressed (54%) while planning their wedding during COVID-19, many said they felt supported by others (46%), and optimistic their wedding will take place on the new date it's planned for. 

Couples report their approximate budget for their upcoming reception to be $22,500, which is in line with past reception-only spend ($23,000 in 2019)—highlighting  how couples are planning for a return to normalcy, in hopes that they can have the reception they always planned, surrounded by family and friends. It’s important to note, however, that the cost of wedding celebrations varies significantly based on many factors, including the size of the wedding, geographic location and more. 

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Let’s Talk Post-Ceremony Prequel Celebrations

Of those couples who got legally married in 2020 but postponed their reception to a later date (roughly one in three couples), 77% had a small post-ceremony celebration to acknowledge their nuptials—mostly involving immediate family and/or the wedding party (66%).

  • More than half of these post-ceremony celebrations took place where the couple currently lives and nearly one-third occurred at the couple’s or one of their family’s homes.

  • Such celebrations often included less than 25 guests (90%), though 40% include less than ten people.

  • These smaller celebrations are still very big moments for couples, which is why more than 70% of couples did or plan to hire a photographer to capture the occasion.

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