Shifting Plans and Embracing Change in 2020

Wedding plans were forced to change last year for the majority of couples, including the 43% who continued with their ceremony and reception in 2020. For this particular group, many changes came at the last minute, as 35% of couples had all plans finalized, while another 53% had almost everything planned when they had to make modifications to their 2020 wedding due to COVID-19. 

Given the uncertainty and evolving regulations throughout the year while trying to plan their 2020 ceremony and reception, it’s no surprise that roughly 80% of couples discussed a "plan B" with their fiancé(e) and over 60% did the same with their vendors. 

In the end, couples worked tirelessly with their vendor teams to create a safe and memorable wedding day—from keeping guests socially distanced at the ceremony (62%) and hosting them outside (68%) to embracing technology, such as streaming, to allow for guests to witness the day from afar (43%). The data below highlights some notable adjustments couples who wed in 2020 made to their wedding day.

The Rise of Outdoor Weddings

For many of those that tied the knot in 2020, the location of their wedding had to change due to local and statewide restrictions. In fact, roughly 45% had to change their wedding venue location and one in five had to go as far as changing the city, state or even country in which they got married (21%).

  • While nearly 60% of couples got married where they currently live (on par with 2019 data), just over 40% said their “I dos” in one of their hometowns, which is up over 15% since 2019. 

COVID-19 also caused couples to lean heavily into the use of outdoor locations for their celebrations—from their backyards to barn/farms (the top reception venue of 2020). Given the increased health and safety benefits of having an outdoor celebration, we saw an 11% increase in outdoor ceremonies and a 16% increase in outdoor receptions compared to last year. In fact, in 2020 nearly 60% of receptions were either fully or partially outside, compared to 43% in 2019. 

While over 70% of couples booked a ceremony/reception venue, nearly a quarter of those who got married in 2020 had their ceremony and/or reception at their home or a family/friend’s home—an increase of over 20% since last year—and predominantly utilized the backyard (87%). 

In It Together With Vendors

More than ever, couples relied heavily on their wedding vendors to help make the necessary changes to execute their wedding in a safe manner. In fact, couples hired 12 vendors on average (though three fewer than in 2019), with couples most likely to hire a photographer to capture the day (94%).

  • Given the circumstances, nearly half of couples getting married had to make changes to their vendor team due to COVID-19, with the majority adjusting the vendors’ scope of work (77%). For example, caterers were asked to change how food was served and rentals created new seating zones to ensure proper social distancing and even secured heaters to keep guests warm outside. 

  • Additionally, of those that had to make changes, 40% of couples also added in new products/features not initially planned like unique floral backdrops to help create a focal point for a backyard wedding ceremony. Nearly one in five couples hired more vendors than initially anticipated due to COVID-19 modifications, most notably those vendors in the food and decor industry.

While both couples and vendors were forced to make many adjustments to the wedding day itself due to these unprecedented times, it also resulted in even greater reliance on technology throughout the planning process. One-third of couples used online chats to communicate with their vendors, while 32% scheduled video meetings (up 15% since 2019). Even one in ten couples met 100% virtually with their vendors—not ever meeting them in person prior to their wedding day. Despite the challenges, 78% of couples say their vendors were understanding of their unique situation and accommodating to new requests/updates, which speaks highly to the pros in the industry.

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Creating Personal Touches Through Food and Beverage

Year after year, we see couples putting emphasis on the guest experience. And while this past year showcased more intimate weddings with smaller guest count, it didn’t stop couples from adding unique touches to make the guest experience special. 

We found this to be particularly true when it came to food and beverage, as many couples had to make adjustments in this area due to COVID-19 (54%). Couples used this opportunity to elevate the experience, from serving guests individual hors d’oeuvres like mini charcuterie boards (42%) to adding butler and/or bottle service (18%). One-third of couples also increased the catering staff for added health and safety measures. 

  • Additional health precautions included changing seating to allow for more space and/or less guests per table (77%), serving food outside (44%) and even using a plexiglass/display box to keep food shielded (13%). 

Despite the modifications, couples stuck to some tried and true traditions when it came to food and beverage, such as performing the classic cake-cutting ceremony (86%) and including an open bar (70%). Other popular trends included providing guests with dessert other than cake (53%), creating a signature cocktail (21%) and even incorporating locally- sourced products (22%). 

Keeping Guests Informed Along the Way

If one thing is true about COVID-19, it forced many couples to be flexible, and as a result, get in touch with their guests multiple times over the course of the year—from uninviting some guests due to size restrictions to answering COVID-19 related questions and informing others of postponed nuptials.  

  • For those that had to reschedule either all or part of their wedding, 60% communicated the change with their guests via wedding website, while text messaging (58%) and sending new invitations and/or save-the-dates by mail (51%) were other popular methods.

  • Nearly 50% of couples also provided guests with COVID-19 specific FAQs to share important details such as number of attendees, health and safety measures and location updates.

For those that provided a virtual/live streaming option (43%), the majority focused on streaming the ceremony only (77%) and notified their guests of the details in a myriad of ways, most notably through email (45%) and on their wedding website (45%). Incorporating this technology into their wedding also gave couples a unique opportunity to invite more than just those guests who were physically invited to the wedding to watch their nuptials (41%).

Change in Attire Due to COVID-19

With the number of changes being made to wedding ceremonies and receptions, it’s easy to wonder how attire was impacted. In a survey of female-identifying consumers, over 8 in 10 told us that COVID-19 impacted at least one aspect of their attire search or selection. 

  • The top change females had to make was to their try on experience (53%), as many said fewer loved ones were able to join them for shopping due to COVID capacity restrictions. Additionally, 45% of women said the pandemic impacted how they researched attire, with many opting to conduct more research online and visit less stores in person than initially planned. While there was greater reliance on digital resources, nearly all females (92%) said they visited at least one store in person prior to making their decision.  

  • The pandemic was less likely to have an impact on the attire couples wore to the ceremony—10% of females said their attire changed and 14% reported their partner’s attire changed.  Roughly two-thirds of females purchased their attire more than 9 months before their wedding, which limits the ability to make changes as the date approaches. 

The top styles of female attire were consistent with prior years and average dress cost remained steady. There continues to be a preference for attire that is primarily a shade of white (85%), though this has been shrinking (down from 96% five years ago). When it comes to men’s attire, there continues to be a shift to less formal wear, as 70% will wear a suit or something more casual than a tuxedo (up from 54% five years ago).

Honeymoons, Minimoons and More

More than 70% of couples who married in 2020 did or still plan to go on some type of post-wedding vacation, whether that’s in the form of a honeymoon, minimoon or staycation. Due to the impact COVID-19 has had on the ability to safely travel, it’s no surprise that the majority of couples were forced to make adjustments to their initial honeymoon plans (84%). 

In 2020, just over 50% of couples took a honeymoon (down nearly 20% since 2019) and the majority flew to their destination (71%). While the majority of these couples gravitated towards the beach (58%), nearly one-third opted to get out in nature. Other popular types of honeymoons included all-inclusive (28%), sight-seeing (22%) and luxury trips (22%).

Conversely, around 25% of couples took a minimoon in 2020 (think: cabin retreat or spa weekend), where they drove to their destination (78%). While beach trips and outdoor adventures were popular for those that minimooned (39%), one in four headed on a road trip to explore areas closer to home.