How to lead your ceremonies safely during this Covid-19 era

By Natasha Johnson

July 8, 2020

celebrant guidelines for coronavirus, ceremonies and Covid 19, getting married coronavirus restrictions

Little by little the world is slowly starting to open up again, as countries and regions try to usher some normality back into people’s everyday lives, whilst still trying to be responsible and keep everyone safe.

You’ve probably experienced it yourself already – the many changes and guidelines being brought in to promote the new normal that we find ourselves in. And so of course as celebrants, lots of these rules and guidelines will affect/have already started to affect how we go about our day-to-day work lives and how we get to carry on leading with love during these difficult and restrictive times.

This week in the Celebrants Collective private members group, I shared an infographic that I made for my own wedding couples, which briefly outlines mine and my teams guidelines and practices that we’ll be carrying out during our ceremonies. This is particularly important for my team right now as some of 2020 weddings will be going ahead this summer/autumn, after all!

Based on what has been determined by Spanish national and local law, as well as our own personal guidelines, our handy guide will encourage confidence in our couples, as well as managing their expectations of their time with us. It’s a win-win situation really, as our couples will appreciate that we’re being responsible and as team, it will make us feel better that we’re being safe and looking after ourselves, too.

I also made the graphic fully customisable for our members so that they can change the colours and text to fit their own business, guidelines and branding, because everyone is going to have different needs and requirements.

What will you be doing/have been doing to let your couples/families know about the guidelines and your own safety provisions? And how will you be doing it/have done it?

Although all countries and areas will likely have slightly different rules and guidelines, and your celebrant training organisation (if you belong to one) might also have their own guidelines, I’m going to outline some of the general safety practices that you can consider. Practices which can help your ceremonies to run safely and smoothly, and fingers crossed, with few changes to how we used to hold ceremonies back in the pre-Coronavirus good old days!

Wearing a mask

Depending on where you are it might not be compulsory to wear a mask. If that’s the case for you, it means you can decide if you want to be a mask wearer or not, and if you want your couples and guests to do the same. Here in Andalucia, it is compulsory to wear a mask if you can’t be more than 1.5 metres distance from someone, inside or out! So this obviously has some implications for weddings here.

Most couples seem to prefer to follow the spacing rules so that they don’t have to have wedding photos of them in masks, but every couple will be different and again it depends on the rules! My team and I are going to socially distance ourselves during the ceremony, so that we won’t need to wear masks whilst we’re leading our ceremonies, but we will have them on us if we need to at other times. In fact, as soon as I finish writing this I’m going to head to my favourite online store Etsy to find myself a trendy, good-for-a-wedding face mask with changeable air filters. I’m currently sporting a clinical-type mask, which means that when I leave the house I look like I’m ready to perform open heart surgery. Not the best look!

Social distancing

I think that having a socially-distanced ceremony gives the perfect excuse to tear up the ceremony rule-book (yeah, I know, there’s not really a rule book) and get really creative about your ceremony spaces. And with ceremonies going ahead in smaller numbers now’s the perfect time to do it. Standing ceremonies will become more popular, easier to manage too, as will spaced out semi-circles and circles of people around the couple. Chairs laid out in semi-circles and curves will also not only make the layout more intimate but will allow for distance between seats.

Not to mention yours and your couples positioning. Getting inventive with ways that you can all stand and be seen and heard, which look good, are safe and still feel cosy. I’m loving the idea of semi-circles of guests and with me and the couples creating our own semi-circle facing the guests, so from above it looks like a big, spacious, softly structured circle. Here’s to getting creative with safety!

Adapting symbolic rituals

Depending on the rules and guidelines in your country or area, especially those related to physical contact and social distance, you might not be able to carry out some symbolic rituals and other ceremony elements. With me being the biggest Beyoncé fan alive and using every opportunity of a group sing-along to showcase that, I’m so gutted that, for my team and I, we won’t be allowing group singing for the time being. G.U.T.T.E.D because our couples love singing at their ceremonies too, but we’ve got to be responsible.

Re symbolic rituals, I want to give a shout out to Celebrants Collective member Nikki W who shared on our Covid-19 wedding measures thread earlier this week, her experiences of doing an adapted hand-fasting at a mini socially-distanced ceremony. I had written off hand-fastings because it would mean stepping into the 1.5 metre no-go zone. But Nikki explained how a person within the couple’s bubble (immediate family/close friend) laid the tying cords on her couple, whilst Nikki said her accompanying words, so she didn’t need to get involved with the practicalities of the ritual itself. Isn’t that awesome? And a really fabulous way of getting a family member involved in a ritual. So before you write-off rituals, have a think about how you can adapt them so that they can still go ahead but safely.

If you do rehearsals, you could now take your rehearsals online via Zoom and use the occasion to talk through all of the logistics for the ceremony. It’s a good way of limiting your exposure to others, but still getting to talk through the ceremony with all those involved and building up the rapport ahead of the day.

Or if you still want to do physical rehearsals, with the safety guidelines above, you could carry out socially distanced rehearsals too. This obviously goes for any client meetings too, which can be online or at a distance.

Miscellaneous bits and bobs
And lastly, on our guide for our couples, we’ve also spelled out that we won’t be hugging them (sniff sniff) but will be elbow-bumping and chucking in every other socially-distanced greeting around. We’ve also put some guidelines/suggestions for the use of the pen when signing our certificates etc. You might also want to think about the use of microphones if you still need to use them. Will you use them? Will you allow others to use them? Will you provide hand sanitiser and wipes, etc?

So there is a lot to think about in terms of ceremony safety, but it’s all doable. Make a list of every aspect of your ceremonies from start to finish and then work out what you need to do, advise, implement and remove to make your ceremonies and ceremony space, safe, intimate and welcoming.

Feel free to discuss this some more in our awesome Facebook group for celebrants. I’d love to hear what you do or plan on doing.

Photo by Ester Pita

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About the author 

Natasha Johnson

Natasha is the founder and co-director of awesomeness at the Celebrants Collective, with her business wife, Claire Bradford. When she's not overseeing celebrant development and supporting the hell out of their members, she can be found drinking fabulous Spanish wine, dancing to Beyoncé and hanging out on her veg patch, sometimes all at the same time. She lives in Malaga, Spain with her two favourite humans, three dogs, eight chickens and two giant African snails. (Don't ask!)

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