Get Ready to Celebrate! Covid-Safe Wedding Reception Ideas + Tips

So the end is in sight… or, at least we hope.

Though plenty of uncertainty still remains, some confidence has been restored and we are beginning to (and continuing to) look forward. With many wedding venues and suppliers fast becoming fully booked for the summers of 2021 and 2022, we have jam-packed all of our Covid-safe wedding day advice into one blog for those couples wanting to go ahead in the next few weeks and months.

It is of course important not to forget the year we have all just experienced. There is still the potential for risk as we get set for the new normal. In this blog we shall share advice on the considerations that each couple will need to navigate at their venue as we eagerly prepare for a summer of celebration!

To keep up to date with the latest ceremony and reception government guidelines, you can click through below:

We have asked some stunning wedding venues – and some of their just-married couples – to share their Covid-safe tips (based on last year’s events) for coordinating your wedding day.

The Venue

Your wedding venue is the foundation of your day, so whether you have already booked or you are considering your options, outdoor wedding spaces should be high on your agenda. Consider possibilities such as tipis and marquees which can offer flexibility, fresh air and epic views.

Carla at Coastal Tents: Covid-safe weddings have been hitting the headlines and at Coastal Tents we have been considering how we can ensure that our outdoor weddings are safe and compliant with the restrictions that are in place. There are a number of reasons to choose an outdoor wedding, including a beautiful rural location, but for Covid security being outside does mean a continuous supply of fresh air coupled with plenty of space to manoeuvre for a socially distanced seating plan.

Our top tips for choosing your outdoor venue are:

  • Book a generous marquee size to ensure you have space to separate seating effectively, if required
  • Ensure a continuous air flow in the marquee by hiring tipis with glorious open sides or a sailcloth tent with removable sidewalls. Both of these options are a beautiful solution to a tricky problem. We can orientate any marquee to suit the site depending on wind direction and weather, to ensure you and your guests are always comfortable
  • Hire oak barrels. The perfect spot to position some luxury hand sanitiser and sit alongside matching floral displays
  • Have enough space to fit tables of six as the rule of six is one of the most likely restrictions to be in place this year
  • For smaller weddings single tipis are the perfect space for 15 – 30 guests ensuring an atmospheric backdrop to your big day

Alicia at Chafford Park Estate: Couples seeking a festival-style celebration can host their intimate wedding in a gorgeous tipi set up by our partner Tribeca Tipis. Here, couples can enjoy a candlelit dinner under the stars in our wild meadow field or on the front lawn with the manor house creating the perfect backdrop.

As well as considering the type of venue, it’s also important to be ready for any changes to your plans – be flexible, adapt, and work with your venue and suppliers to find a solution.

Jen at Dorfold Hall: Be prepared! With restrictions ever changing, it is paramount to keep on top of the news. We have all seen 24 hour windows whereby a change in what is and isn’t allowed is announced as quickly as you can say “I do”!  Keep on top of this with your venue and be ready to speak to all of your suppliers at a moment’s notice should any changes need to happen to your wedding plans. Keep a detailed suppliers list to hand so that everyone you need to contact is on one sheet, helping to reduce an already very stressful moment (should it happen and fingers crossed it won’t happen to you!).

The Great Outdoors

When the British weather permits it, having a venue with outdoor opportunities is like winning the lottery. While creating timelines for our on-the-day couples, we include contingencies for what we call ‘wet and dry options’. These ensure that the outdoor spaces can be fully enjoyed at the first sign of pleasant weather. We suggest you do the same.

Emma at Treseren: For summer weddings, take as much as you can al fresco where space and fresh air are at their maximum and make everything as Covid-safe as possible. Garden games are a fabulous way to entertain everybody that don’t necessarily have to be in close proximity.

Throw tradition on its head. Dancing en masse may not be allowed, but the wedding couple could still take part in a first dance. First dance on the lawn anyone? One of our couples did this impromptu when the musician duo played their favourite song during their al fresco drinks reception and we have the most beautiful photos from that moment.

Whenever possible we will set up the cake cutting and speeches al fresco on our terrace so that everything can be socially distanced and as safe as possible in the upcoming summer months.

Hattie at Maunsel House: Utilise any outdoor space your wedding venue has – for example, at Maunsel House we are lucky to have our beautiful pergola. With it being undercover, and therefore weatherproof, it is a well-ventilated outdoor space to hold ceremonies and receptions safely, with plenty of space for social distancing. With outdoor heating as well, it means you can maintain your dream garden wedding even in the later months of the year when weather may not be on your side.

Sarah at Upton Barn: Make the most of your outdoor areas and start the fire pits earlier so that guests can relax outside for longer. Create beautiful packages of marshmallows and sticks for toasting and give one to each household.

Sophie at Aswanley: If you’re going to be spending lots of time outdoors, ensure guests have the right clothing! As favours, one couple gave each guest a cosy blanket so they could keep warm around the fire pit after dinner – we loved this idea, and so did their guests!

Drinks Reception

It’s always a good idea to pay particular attention to your drinks reception. This ensures that the flow and energy of your day doesn’t take a nosedive whilst you are off taking photos with your new spouse. Here are some suggestions for small touch-points that your guests can enjoy until dinner is served, maintaining the feeling of geniality throughout.

Sarah at Upton Barn: Canapés are a drinks reception staple so you could ask your caterer to present them plated per household so you still achieve the ‘WOW’ factor. If you were thinking of having a drinks station for your guests to ‘pimp’ their Prosecco, you could make up several individual ‘pimp’ stations with a mini bottle of Prosecco, some mini Kilner jars of different fruits and garnishes and one or two individual liquors and purees. Or you could pop up an individual whiskey & cigar station with beautiful crystal cut glasses, mini individual ice buckets and tongs, a selection of whiskeys and a cigar, displayed on a metal tray.

Melanie at Came House: Guests at a micro wedding that we hosted for 30 had a seated drinks and canapé reception which worked really well. The room was arranged so that guests were seated in their family bubbles and we ensured there was a good amount of space between those household tables. The caterers had cleverly split the room between their two service staff so one staff member looked after half of the tables throughout the whole day and the other waitress looked after the other half ensuring a reduction in contact throughout the reception – all venue and catering staff were fully masked throughout the day too.

Jen at Dorfold Hall: Why not have a picnic style drinks reception – lay out some picnic blankets outside (2m apart) and serve individual snack boxes for canapés. This encourages social distancing in a quirky and memorable way! Perhaps have an acoustic musician playing some relaxed background music to add a chilled vibe to the reception.

Wedding Breakfast

This is your first meal together as a married couple. It’s an important event, and one that should be memorable regardless of the restrictions, even if it means a little creative thinking. For us this provides another opportunity to obsess happily over floor plans, seating plans and styles of services.

Mark at Dodmoor House: Onto the wedding breakfast, and this is where you will need to consider another seating plan. Why not mix it up slightly so that guests can interact with a different household that they may have been seated by during the drinks reception. There are still plenty of ways for all of your guests to mingle, but remain safe whilst doing so!

Amie at Southend Barns: For us, food is at the heart of every celebration and something we believe not only nurtures the body, but the soul too. Our talented in-house team of chefs at Roots Catering have come up with new menus that enable couples to replace the currently prohibited reception party with a lengthy and lavish multi-course feast for their loved ones to savour. Lots of couples are opting for our seven course menu and are having fun pairing each dish to a drink of their choice. We’ve also been working closely with couples to create bespoke menus, inspired by a special holiday or family recipe which has been well received so far.

Sarah at Upton Barn: Reconfigure seating plans to utilise the space you have. This will ensure the room is used to its best advantage while still giving an intimate feeling. For example a U-shaped table set up can work really well.

Emma at TreserenEnhance your menu. If food is your thing consider spending more per head but perhaps less overall than you would have spent on a large gathering. Design a really incredible tasting menu and spend your time enjoying a fabulous private dining experience as the centre point of your reception.

Hattie at Maunsel House: The logistics behind a socially distanced wedding can be daunting, but as long as guests are in households or social bubbles then there is no reason why you can’t still offer sharing platters for your wedding breakfast. Talk to your caterer or venue about what you’d really like and they will likely be more than happy to help! Also, look at this as a great time saver – devising table plans by households can eliminate the common issue of the complicated table plan as there are only so many people who can sit together on the day.

Vicki at Tythe Barn: With regards to food options, last year the majority of our wedding couples had originally chosen our popular sharing self-carve/pie plank options which obviously we couldn’t serve to share due to Covid-19. As they still loved the actual food and not just the sharing aspect we kept the food the same and simply plated it individually.

Mel at Pylewell Park: It can sometimes be hard to cook dishes full of detail for 150 guests so there is much more scope for fine dining and getting creative with your food when guest numbers are smaller. We have found couples are opting for lengthier tasting menus with much more attention to detail where their dishes can really tell a story or include a personal element. Unusual wine or spirit pairings accompanied by a sommelier or chef introduction can add a wonderful touch of theatre to your meal too.

Melanie at Came House: We hosted a wedding in December for 15 guests which was primarily just close family members of the bride and groom. The whole family decided to isolate for 10 days prior to the wedding so that all of the guests could attend in the knowledge that they were safe and well. They ended up dining together around one large table – to ensure social distancing was still in place – it was such a beautiful intimate wedding.

Décor

For many couples décor is an essential element of the overall image and style of their wedding. So, does planning a Covid-safe wedding mean that you have to compromise on your vision? We don’t think so. In fact, this is your chance to ensure that first impressions don’t just count, they WOW!

Here’s what some of our venues have to say about realising your dream style without compromising on safety.

Amie at Southend Barns: A Covid-safe wedding doesn’t mean you need to compromise on style, in fact with a reduced number of guests you can afford to pull out all the stops! We’ve seen some wonderful styling ideas recently with bespoke details and personalisation. We’ve also had a lot of interest in our new styling options which include themes such as Champagne Rose, Boho Blush and Wild & Green.

Lorna at Severn Manor: ‘LESS is MORE…’ is my mantra! Simplicity is better than elaborate embellishment. I believe this aesthetic is more sincere and in turn more striking – perfect for an intimate wedding celebration. While you may have to pare down your guest list to your nearest and dearest, why not pare down some other elements too? The day is about you and your partner, not pomp and ceremony. Just be yourselves and go with your heart when it comes to everything from your outfits to your food and décor. It will result in the most amazing, sincere, soulful and unforgettable day of your lives. Just be YOU.

Jen at Dorfold Hall: We always encourage our couples to provide further safety measures – but who says this has to be boring?! We love “bespoke” at Dorfold, so here are some of our top (stylish) tips for additional safety measures that we pass on to couples that have married with us during Covid-19:

  • Tongue-in-cheek signage “Spread love, not germs!” at sanitising stations or social distancing reminders “Distance makes the heart grow fonder – please stay 2m apart”
  • Personalised face masks, if your guests need to wear masks at any point then why not create something personal to your day. You could include their names on the mask, initials or your wedding date
  • You can now get some very fun and personalised miniature hand sanitisers. So instead of traditional favours why not place a single sanitiser on each person’s ceremony chair or place setting

Rebecca at BMA House: If you’re choosing a micro wedding, ask those who sadly couldn’t come to send a photo of themselves and create a fun photo wall. Their smiling faces will bring you so much joy on your special day!

Having fewer guests means you’ll have a healthier budget to spend on your loved ones so why not make the venue, entertainment and food even more incredible and indulgent. One intimate wedding couple dressed the mantlepieces in the Prince’s Room at BMA House with tumbling flowers which looked beautiful and incredibly eye-catching.

Entertainment

If entertainment is one of your wedding priorities, a bit of careful planning will allow you to find the sweet spot between your ideal entertainment and staying within Covid-safety guidelines. Because of the restrictions that are in place, you may need to get pretty inventive to ensure that you have great entertainment. Rather than being downhearted about this, consider it your chance to get really creative! Whatever you come up with, just don’t forget to consider how this will fit into your timeline!

Angie at That Amazing PlaceIf you are looking for Covid-safe evening reception ideas, then why not organise a couple’s Quiz? This is what Mel and Tom did at their 30 person wedding last October. With their guests seated in their socially distanced bubbles and drinks being served to the tables, their best man hosted a quiz to keep the couple and all of their guests entertained. It was great fun and everyone had a blast!

Hattie at Maunsel House: Be inventive! Even if wedding receptions cannot happen in their traditional format of a party there is no reason why celebrations have to stop after the wedding breakfast. Instead, you can have various entertainment that doesn’t require guests to leave the table. We hosted an event at Maunsel House where there were surprise singing waiters (do check current guidance once published on ‘singing’!). Guests loved this as they could sing and dance on their chairs whilst maintaining social distancing, but they were still able to get into the party spirit.

Sarah at Upton Barn: Live music can really enhance the atmosphere so why not book a duo, a string quartet or small jazz band? It is not just about the dancing, the live music can add ambience in a totally safe way. Either al fresco for summer drinks on a terrace or inside a larger space where the musicians can be easily socially distanced but create a wonderful atmosphere.

Jen at Dorfold Hall: Contactless outside games are great for your post-reception and you can get really creative with this – we love croquet at Dorfold and include this as a standard for all of our weddings!

Traditions + Culture

Tradition and culture are the cornerstones of every wedding. Whether for you that’s the familiar ritual of cutting the cake, or as unique as your pet lizard walking you down the aisle, these will be memories for you to cherish forever. If there is something that has particular meaning for you – a little creative thinking can ensure that it’s part of your day.

Although technically part of the ceremony, we couldn’t help but include some advice around the confetti shot – a gorgeous tradition!

Melanie at Came House: One couple really wanted to have a confetti shot after their ceremony so the guests were asked to assemble at the front of the House, socially distanced in their household bubbles. We then used confetti cannons so that guests could pull the cannon to release the confetti individually rather than sharing baskets. We felt that it dealt with any Covid-related concerns and guests were able to remove their masks as they were outside.

Bride Sian: We scheduled the cake-cutting at the end of the wedding breakfast – this way all the guests could witness the moment without having to gather in a crowd. The cake was placed in the bay window at Homme House and after dessert Joe and I cut the cake to the cheers and applause of loved ones.

After dinner guests made their way into the panelled room, which Charlie and Sarah had furnished for us, whilst also setting up the fire and fairy lights. In the end, we had a small acoustic duo playing in the corner of the panelled room, with everyone else seated and chatting in their groups. The result was a beautiful and relaxed drinks reception.

Sarah at Upton Barn: You could provide your guests with a mini wedding cake each and you can all join in on the ceremonious cutting/eating of the cake together to really get them involved!

Hattie at Maunsel House: Avoid crowding indoors by taking the majority of your wedding day outside. At Maunsel we have the most exquisite hanging cake stand that looks wonderful dressed in florals and hanging in the pergola, meaning that even the cake cutting can be done al fresco.

And when we can hit that dance floor again… why not consider an outdoor dance floor on the lawn? We’ve loved seeing our couples utilise the beautiful south lawn on a summer’s evening with the house as a dramatic backdrop for their first dance.

Mel at Pylewell ParkInstead of a band, why not have your first dance in our beautiful hallway surrounded by your closest friends and family. We love seeing florists add a touch of drama with an installation to the staircase so the bride can enter in style. With a little more budget in the bank our micro wedding in December arranged a beautiful firework display choreographed to their favourite tracks – this was such a treat for them and their chosen 15 guests and it was followed by a beautiful sparkler exit for the couple.

Timings

We’ve all discovered that every little thing can take longer when factoring Covid-19 safety practices into our everyday lives. Consider then the added time-pressure involved in organising the logistics of a wedding. From arrivals at the venue to the ceremony itself, from seating and eating to dancing and celebrating – every element needs to be given extra time. Read on to see how a little forward planning and realistic timing estimates will ensure that your wedding can flow as perfectly as vintage champagne.

Bride Sian: We brought everything forward by 30 minutes because of the 10pm curfew. We opted for a 3pm ceremony, reduced the drinks reception to 45 minutes, then sat down for the wedding breakfast at 5.30pm. By 8pm everyone was in the panelled room, with carriages shortly before 10pm. Upon reflection, we probably could have moved things forward even more, for example a 2pm ceremony. That way guests would have been able to enjoy the drinks and music a little longer.

Mel at Pylewell Park: With your wedding being smaller, you will have more time to explore your venue for your portrait sessions. Here at Pylewell Park you can use the grounds, our private beach, old Victorian greenhouses, idyllic lake or quintessential house gardens and balustrade. Take a stroll with your photographer or stay in the house to capture those glossy high end editorial-style shots.