From contactless catering to lockdown-inspired bridal ensembles, here’s everything you need to know about how to host a socially-distanced wedding
While most girls have grown up dreaming about their big day, a lockdown wedding with social distancing restrictions in place likely didn’t feature in any of those fantasies. The future can seem uncertain at the moment—which is the precise reason why couples are choosing to tie the knot so that they can be with their loved ones. Organising a wedding in the current times comes with its fair share of challenges, which is why we asked three real-life brides to share their best advice from their lived experience of planning a socially-distanced wedding. Here’s what we learned.
Be precise with your outfit measurements
With restrictions on social movement in place, the usual round of trial sessions to get the correct fit have unfortunately been curtailed. Many brides are able to try the bridal outfit on the day of the wedding itself, like Pallavi Kohli, a New Delhi-based bride who decided to get married in three days after having to cancel her destination wedding. She says, “Since we had planned a sundowner wedding in Thailand initially, I swapped the traditional red in favour of a champagne-hued lehenga. I booked my bridal outfit in February and it was supposed to get delivered in April. When we decided to get married during the lockdown, I called the bridal boutique and requested them to deliver the outfit in whatever situation it was in. Without any trials to go on, I had no idea what to expect.”
If you’d like to save your grand bridal outfits for a post-pandemic celebration with your friends, you can utilise your trousseau picks for smaller ceremonies at home, advises Pratima Singh, a New Delhi-based consultant. She says, “Having planned my outfits in February, I had thankfully received some trousseau items as well with plans to get them fitted and get delivery of everything in the first week of April. As you can imagine, that didn’t happen. I am very grateful to the team at Sabyasachi for getting my wedding sari to me in late March despite the difficult circumstances, as well as to the team at Anamika Khanna who got some of my trousseau outfits to me, which I ended up wearing at my smaller pre-wedding functions at home, instead of the more elaborate lehengas I had gotten from both these places. I have now received these lehengas and hope to wear them when we eventually have our wedding celebrations hopefully next year.”
There’s more than just nostalgia motivating the need to wear heirloom jewellery on your big day—it also makes for an easier option than having to purchase jewellery during the lockdown. While most jewellers are offering virtual consultations, Kohli believes that last-minute customisations can prove to be a costly affair. She says, “I wore my mother’s jewellery for the wedding, and would advise other brides to do the same. For certain pieces like the mathapatti, nose ring and engagement rings, we contacted vendors virtually. Getting it picked up during the lockdown and the logistics added up to a hefty amount.” Singh mirrors the sentiment. “Since I couldn’t retrieve our jewellery from the bank, I incorporated small pieces from my mother and mother-in-law’s laws collections. My red silk Sabyasachi sari on the wedding day was cinched at the waist with my mother-in-law’s mother’s kamarbandh. It was such a beautiful and meaningful addition to my wedding look,” she says.
It isn’t just the guests who need to maintain a safe distance during a lockdown wedding. The intricate nature of bridal makeup means that due precautions need to be followed by the makeup artist as well. Kaur advises, “Ensure that your makeup artist wears a face mask, gloves and a face shield at all times. The one I worked with even sanitised her makeup before and after use.” Kohli seconds the notion, and says, “My makeup artist was wearing a face mask throughout the process and when she was doing my eye makeup, I was the one wearing the mask.”
Hire an event planner to execute safety protocol
If you thought that planning the archetypal big fat Indian wedding is difficult, Kohli confirms that putting together an intimate affair is an even more uphill task. “It isn’t possible to follow all the safety precautions at home. Between the caterers and decor vendors constantly going in and out, it would be impossible to sanitise everything. Instead, we spoke to Le Meridien and they arranged the ceremonies in a secure manner. An event planner can be of massive help for enforcing the safety protocol, such as checking the temperature of guests at the venue and ensuring that everything is sanitised,” she says.
Communicate the safety protocol to your guests beforehand
Four months into the lockdown, and everyone is familiar with the safety drill at public gatherings, but Kaur reiterates the need to brief your guests beforehand about what to expect at the venue. “When doing our invites over call and sending out the e-vites, we requested everyone to wear a face mask at all times. We kept additional masks at the venue along with sanitisers that were placed prominently at the entrance of the venue. Children and elderly people were asked to stay at home and give us their blessings over a video call on Zoom,” says Kaur. You can also choose to personalise the guest experience with customised face masks, recommends Singh.
“At the entrance itself, everyone was given white and gold masks from Leather Garden, which went with the theme of the wedding. We also provided small kits with sanitisers and wipes, so people could stay safe and feel comfortable at all times,” she says.
Be prepared for unexpected challenges when planning the wedding
Given the extraordinary circumstances, Singh recommends being flexible to a few changes from your original vision for the wedding. In light of the health crisis, your approach to everything from food catering to greeting cards will need to be revised. She reminisces, “We ended up getting married at 7AM in the morning as we weren’t allowed to have the ceremony in a closed, air-conditioned area due to COVID-19 regulations and the temperature was touching 45 degrees during the summer. We opted for contactless catering in individual dimsum boxes and fresh coconut water to negate any worries about contamination through food. We also decided to put place cards with beautiful calligraphy to allot fixed seats for guests that were socially distanced from anyone they did not live with. These cards also doubled up as beautiful wishes as the guests left really sweet messages for us.”
There may be a few mental blocks to overcome as well
When you’ve spent a long time planning the festivities, it can be disappointing to reconcile with the fact that it will no longer take place unless you are prepared to wait for a very long time, acknowledges Singh. She says, “This was mixed with the guilt of even caring about something like a wedding when the whole world was struggling with a health emergency. However, once the dates for our original functions actually passed, we felt much calmer and started to think about the way forward. We decided that what mattered was that we wanted to start our lives together, especially considering how unpredictable and scary the world is at the moment. We knew we would celebrate when things got better and do all the functions we had planned later, so it was easier for us to choose the marriage and not the wedding.”
Stay calm on the big day
While it may not be the grand extravaganza you’ve always dreamed of, both Kohli and Kaur believe that an intimate wedding with your closest loved ones can be every bit as dreamy. Kaur advises, “If you follow all the safety measures, there is nothing to be worried about. While the pandemic is still on the loose, it is advisable to not invite more than thirty people, even if the government has lifted the restrictions. It also helps to divide the guests across all functions, so everyone can attend at least one event. Likewise, it pays to split the duties among family and friends to ensure that you don’t burden yourself with everything. Arrange everything in advance and keep your outfits, jewellery and shoes for each event organised beforehand to reduce last-minute panic. Also, do remember to enjoy your wedding because these moments won’t come back.”