Weddings in 2020 - a strange year for wedding photography
No real need to talk about how 2020 has been a strange and for many, dreadful year. Everyone knows how different and difficult it has been for so many people, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. But at this time of the year, this blog usually has a post looking back at the past year of weddings that I've captured. Often this end-of-year blog post has had a slideshow from 30+ weddings. But I only shot six weddings in 2020. It has been a very strange year...
How my bookings spread out varies slightly each year. At the start of this year, most bookings were concentrated around the summer, with a few triple weekend bookings (weddings on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday). Enquiries were still coming in, before Covid-19 had it's impact, mainly for late summer to the winter. Back in March, at a wedding photographers conference in London, the news of Covid-19 was in the background but I don't think anyone foresaw the true impact to come. The last booking I took, for a wedding in April, just before the National Lockdown struck, was also the first victim of that lockdown. For that couple, I ended up processing a variety of their images for them, from mobile phones and digital cameras, shot at their hurried and tiny wedding ceremony, just before weddings were banned in the UK. Just six people allowed in the church and some fish and chips for after. Not quite the gig that had been planned at St Donat's Castle.
Most bookings moved to later in 2020, at that point September looked likely for life to be restored back to some normality? False hope, Covid hadn't been contained by the Lockdown so the only option for many was to move again to 2021. A couple have now moved again to 2022. Three had to cancel, as they fell in that intial Lockdown period and the wedding ban. I was lined up have the dual role of photographer and witness for one, to get past the rule of six present at a wedding ceremony then. But the restrictions got tighter instead. There was one cancellation after that, plus two where I could not do the new date. Some wedding venues moved dates by insisting on moving to midweek dates, my couples were okay with this. Saturday weddings in 2020 became Wednesday weddings in 2021. Two postponements to 2021 were for couples that live abroad, for one, stuck with a travel ban in Australia. It's now fingers crossed for 2021.
But four of the original bookings for 2020 went ahead, despite Covid-19. A couple more came along too. Three in London, two in Sussex and one in Surrey. Small weddings, when only 30 people were allowed to attend, plus one in December when only 15 people were allowed. That one had to move forwards 24 hours to beat new Tier restrictions coming in. A case of "Can you do tomorrow instead?".
All the couples shared a determination to get married, despite the Covid-19 pandemic and in one case, cancer also. The weddings may have reduced in size but this gave them more intimacy (despite the social distancing, although to be frank, there isn't really much of that at weddings). For me, a new way of working - wearing a face mask, attempting to stay within the rules. Also for me, after a wedding in December 2019, my first wedding in 2020 wasn't until July 24. The original date for this London wedding but a different sized wedding for the couple. Also the first wedding since the lockdown for their church. The first image below is from this post lockdown wedding, of the bride getting ready in a small Premier Inn hotel room in Chiswick.
Weddings were smaller
Big weddings were out for 2020. Weddings that originally planned to have up to 150 wedding guests had to reduce to just 30. That, in turn, became 15, just to add to the pressure on couples and the industry. Music was out. Dancing was out. Readings were out. In some cases, even confetti was out. There were rules but no-one was really sure of the rules? That has been a constant theme this year and not just at weddings. Hand sanitizer was in. Face masks were in. Social distancing was in...sort of. One wedding venue had a thermal video camera set up to film people arriving, checking their temperatures. Sometimes the serving staff at venues wore face masks, other times they didn't. But despite all this, images were there to be caught. Hard to beat a bare-footed bride running to the church because she's a few minutes late...
The determination to get married in 2020
It was noticeable the determination of some couples to get married in 2020 regardless, even if the date had to change a bit and the numbers invited significantly reduced. I had several emails, during the national lockdown, saying their wedding would still go ahead, in some form. They did. This determination to go ahead, with a smaller wedding, may well be the best option for much of 2021 still? Who knows when big weddings will really come back? Hopefully later in 2021? Weddings with noise, music and packed dance floors? (You have to feel for DJs and bands).
Alex & Elliott
"This August we got married at my parents' house. We had 2 celebrations one of 30 with just family and 3 days later another celebration with 30 of our friends.
We had a lot of conversations about the different options and as our wedding was in August, we knew covid wasn’t going anywhere soon. If we delayed a year, who is to say that it wouldn’t need to be postponed again and it would mean a whole another year of thinking/planning our wedding
Having restrictions is difficult when your original guest list is 100, but there are always ways to work around it. It gave us the perfect excuse to just invite our nearest and dearest and it was the best decision we ever made! Anyone you feel obligated to invite and +1’s can come straight off the guest list, and they understand, because it is covid and there are restrictions.
There were no awkward wedding catch-ups with a distant cousin that we hadn’t seen in 5 years, every element of the day was intimate and appreciated.
Did we miss any of the un-invited on the day? No, they didn’t even cross our minds, because we were surrounded by all our loved ones having the best time ever.
I understand that some couples simply can’t reduce numbers due to large family sizes and large groups of friends but if you can, I promise you won’t regret it!⠀
One friend loved the day so much she now doesn’t want to postpone hers and will do a similar thing.
Martin captured the day beautifully and the slideshow he put together with all the best images is so great to be able to send around to all those who couldn’t attend. Watching it really makes you feel like you’re there and has bought tears and laughter to those that couldn’t attend."
Amber & Bobby
“We originally planned our wedding for July 2020 after getting engaged in November 2019. We had planned a wedding ceremony in our local Church followed by a reception in a village hall with 150 guests. When the pandemic struck and it became clear that it was going to affect the wedding it took some time to adjust our expectations, we realised we had to accept the situation and make the most of it. As we were not going to live together until we got married we were clear that we wanted to get married and not put our life together on hold for too long. We, therefore, decided to push back the wedding by only a few months on the hope that the ban on weddings would be lifted but still hopeful the weather would be pleasant.
As we had booked with various suppliers rather than just one provider, we were not overly financially exposed to just one, therefore we were able to move and cancel suppliers fairly easily. We also found ourselves in the fortunate scenario whereby our budget which was going to be used for 150 people was now going to be used for 30 people. We also found that due to most couples moving their weddings back a year, we had the pick of all the beautiful reception venues locally. This resulted in us having a beautiful intimate wedding ceremony and reception at a venue that we would not have previously had been able to afford, that was in walking distance from the church.
This more relaxed intimate feel is captured beautifully by the photos that Martin took. No one was lost in the crowd. All the guests mentioned how privileged they felt to have been invited and this is reflected in the moments Martin was able to capture.”
Erin & Jon
"We were originally supposed to get married in July with about 80 guests. But due to the pandemic and the restrictions at that time we decided to delay for a later date in September. When Boris announced we could have a wedding of up to 30 in early September we decided to go ahead!
Our venue, Cain Manor, had been amazing throughout the previous months keeping us informed and were really helpful in helping us plan a smaller wedding in around a month (we'd made some plans previously for July but most planning was done in a month!). We were warned that masks would have to be worn during the civil ceremony and other restrictions might apply. For example, we had to restrict each table to just two households - which took some thinking! There was definitely some apprehension as to how odd things might feel with masks, socially distanced tables etc.
Thankfully we can say the wedding went even better than we could have hoped even without a pandemic!
Sure, the masks were a little bit strange. But what a story to tell the kids and grandkids! We had the first dance and cake cutting outside, with the sun setting, and that was just perfect. And in hindsight, even if we could have a bigger wedding and had to do it all over again, we'd keep the numbers small. We had our nearest and dearest there and everyone got to know each other. And we got to spend quality time with everyone there. It was just fantastic! The venue and the staff helped in making our wedding better than we could have dreamed. And Martin captured the day perfectly (there were tears of joy when we saw the pictures he had taken!).
All in all, despite the restrictions, we still had the most amazing day and now our next chapter begins!"
Photographing weddings in 2020 during a pandemic
Back in the summer, as the restrictions started to ease and small weddings were allowed, there was some debate between photographers about how to approach them? Some people weren't happy at all. Others saw a little change but that was all. Risks could be assessed and protocols established. Well, you could wear a mask. The main thing is that despite the rules, such as in registry offices or churches, there is little social distancing really. Just doesn't happen. I wore a face mask - only on a couple of occasions did I take it off, when outside and distant from people. Seemed the professional approach? I'm not in their social bubbles. At several, I was the only one wearing a mask, when it wasn't required for the ceremony. But otherwise, nothing much changed - same cameras, same lenses, the same approach pretty much. I'd get close, I'd shoot from further away. Photographing weddings in 2020 wasn't widely different - you are still looking to capture natural reportage. You can still find good images.
What is weird is not being able to shake anyone's hand?
Weddings going ahead
Of the six weddings in 2020, that I shot, two were ceremonies in churches. One ceremony in a registry office, one ceremony in a Victorian bandstand. One reception in a garden, one reception in a park, two in hotels, one at a wedding venue and one small reception in a small pub garden. Two of the weddings came close to not happening. Impending windy weather for one outdoor ceremony on the seafront at Brighton. Another in December that had to come forward 24 hours at the last minute, to be shot the next day, before London entered Tier 3 and no receptions, which had just been announced that evening.
“We decided to go for a Covid wedding because it felt like it was either now or 2022, which just seemed so far off. We knew there was a risk it would have to be cancelled so we tried to stay realistic about that possibility.
I was slightly gutted when Tier 3 came in just 48 hours before the wedding meaning we’d have to cancel if we didn’t move it forward a day. Miraculously we were able to do this and I have The Goring Hotel and Martin to thank for being so flexible and accommodating! Our 15 person wedding went ahead the day before Tier 3 came in and I’m so glad we went for it - having our very closest friends and family there made it feel really special, relaxed and magical.
I wasn’t sure about getting a photographer for such a small event but I’m so glad I did. Martin captured the magic of the evening perfectly. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend him or having a small wedding!”
So, next year?
So what happens with weddings in 2021? As I write this the vaccinations have now started, but that'll be a slow process. At what point will enough have happened for some 'normality' to return? For restrictions on weddings to ease? With weddings, for many couples, 'normality' means a packed dance floor. The party. But how long do couples want to put it off? Will much of 2021 still be a year of the smaller wedding? Maybe some of it? But as you can see here, they are certainly not lesser for it. Neither should the resulting images be.
Hopefully these examples of weddings in 2020 show there is a way to still have a great wedding day, even under the Covid restrictions and still get strong storytelling wedding photography.
Good luck everyone in 2021! Wear a mask.
(A note left for me at Wandsworth Registry office.)
Share this story