Michigan Weddings in a time of COVID

To say that COVID has changed the landscape of 2020 would be an extreme understatement. We all feel the stress and worry- and for some, the loss- that it's brought. Yet, love still goes on, quietly and steadily plowing a path through pain and fear. Even in a world with COVID, weddings are a joyous thing!


But how can we make sure that the joy isn't overshadowed? (After all, a wedding wouldn't be something to look back on with happiness if holding that wedding meant that someone we love got sick or worse!) If you're planning (or re-planning... or re-re-planning) your 2020 wedding, this is for you.

First of all: What are the current rules for a wedding in Michigan during COVID?

Many couples are finding it hard to keep track of how their wedding date might be affected by current rulings. So, first things first- let's get clarity on exactly what the rules are! (I've gathered this information directly from speaking with the Governer's office. There was also, just a few days ago, a wedding-specific update on the official Michigan website, right here. This info is all up-to-date as of 08/12/20)


Currently, most of Michigan is in Phase 4 (excluding the UP and northern Lower Peninsula). In Phase 4:


1) Indoor events of all kinds are limited to 10 people, regardless of the type of venue. "Indoor" includes restaurants, barns, and tents with walls.


Some venues are telling their couples they can do 50% of their capacity, as a restaurant would be able to, because they have a restaurant on property. However, this is not true- the governor's office specifically clarified that when a venue holds an event of any kind, they cannot use the "capacity-based" rule used for restaurants. (to be clear, some venues are honestly unaware that they have this wrong)


Why the difference between a wedding reception and eating out? The 50% restaurant capacity-based rule is based on the idea that each seated group is going to be totally distanced from other groups and not mingling with them- and that's not how a wedding or reception works, since people are naturally going to be walking around and mingling outside their own family group!


2) Outdoor or open-tent gatherings are limited to 100 people. The tent has to have ALL of the walls open, to allow for air circulation.


3) Fines would be imposed on vendors and couples when proceeding with events that go against these rules. Vendors may also lose their licensing (effectively, they would lose their businesses). While local enforcement is spotty, is does look like state police venue checks are ramping up, and it's very possible that fines will catch up with the couple/vendors months after the wedding is over.


At the moment, with an uptick in cases, it does look like we will be remaining in Phase 4 for some time. Even when we do eventually go to Phase 5, indoor events will be limited to 50 persons and outdoor events will be limited to 250.


Because cases are currently rising, there's also been talk of "dialing back" to Phase 3. which would be more restrictive.

What are the risks?

I'm not a disease expert or medical professional, so I can only turn to reliable sources and do my best to keep up with the latest information. Of course, since COVID is new, the experts are learning more and more every day, and are revising their suggestions to keep up with the newest information!


I won't go into a huge amount of info here, but there are a few basic things that apply to events that seem to be fairly well established:


1. COVID is spread person-to-person, mostly through air droplets that naturally happen when we talk, sneeze, or cough.


2. In the time between contracting it and showing symptoms, you can spread COVID to others. (phrased another way: you can spread COVID even if you don't feel any symptoms)


3. Because respiratory droplets travel through the air, enclosed and crowded spaces are especially dangerous. Outdoor activity, especially when distanced or masked, appears to be less dangerous.


4. Because respiratory droplets come from one's mouth and nose, wearing a mask or distancing helps to limit the risk by limiting droplets from your nose/mouth getting into another person's mouth/nose and infecting them.


What are the options for a joyful, meaningful wedding during COVID?

What are other Michigan couples doing? Grab some ideas below!

Option #1: Split the day! Have a micro-wedding now + a larger event later

Can't imagine not being able to celebrate with everyone you love? A great option is to split your day! Hold an intimate ceremony now, perhaps at a location that's meaningful to you, and have the "big event" in 2021.


With many of my couples doing this "split" method, my summer has been filled with amazing, chill, beautiful ceremonies- and let me tell you, micro weddings are not only beautiful but also so relaxed!


We'll set aside time for unrushed bride and groom portraits, coverage of the ceremony, a few photographs with family, and some candid images as you enjoy chatting with (or toasting with!) your loved ones.


With no day-long schedule to hold to, these images are unrushed and can take place anywhere. (um, destination adventure elopement photos anyone??) Your parent's backyard? MSU campus? A dreamy hidden forest spot? A waterfall? Let loose and do what you've actually always wanted to do!


Then, when the "big event" date arrives, you- and your guests- be able to enjoy the day so much more, with the risk of COVID past us. Win-win!

Are you having a 2020 micro wedding in Michigan? I would love to be your photographer!


Click the button to get in touch so that I can providing pricing and details. I'd love to hear more about your plans!

Option #2: Adjust! Slim your list and move outdoors


Want to keep it simple? Instead of planning two dates, you can simply move forward with your wedding by meeting the limits of the directive; An outdoor-only wedding/reception with a guest list under 100 is currently allowed in Michigan.


However, be aware that many guests are not going to feel the need to wear a mask or distance- which can put them and you at risk (especially once you add alcohol to the mix!).


So, many couples who are doing smaller, outdoor events are temperature-checking those who choose to come, and providing masks for guests to wear (cute, custom ones are even available online!). Others are asking all those who come to be tested for COVID before the wedding.


Keep in mind that if you want a safe event, you may have to ruffle a few feathers by insisting on some rules. Be strong!


Tented receptions are a fabulous idea, as they provide coverage from the elements while allowing airflow. (Be aware that use of any tent walls would violate the order, as the space would then be considered "indoors", so a larger tent than is technically needed for the guest count is a great way to allow you to keep most tent walls open, even if there is some rain)


Some couples are also choosing not to have a dancefloor, since close proximity with others is unavoidable while dancing.


COVID sucks. But your wedding doesn't have to!


Have a wedding that preserves the joy by making wise choices about the safety of the people you love. It will absolutely be worth it!

Are you looking for a photographer that will create gorgeous photos AND tell you what to do with your hands?
Click below to get in touch!


I'm currently booking 2020 Micro-weddings and booking "full" weddings for 2021. Dates are going fast, so snag yours quickly!

PS- "How have you been handling COVID?" is a GREAT question to ask vendors. For me, it came down to two big things:


1. I've been staying at home as much as possible to limit my risk (and limit the risk of spreading to others, if I have COVID). When I do need to go out, I stay masked, and I do my part to keep a 6-foot distance from others. Of course, regular hand-washing and other good hygiene is always a given. :)


2. I empathize with my 2020 couples and I understand it's been a really tough year for everyone! I always take the time to listen and also to provide helpful suggestions as my couples navigate this year. And when they decide to move their date due to safety concerns of COVID, I simply move their wedding package to the new date: no fuss, no extra charge.


And what happens if I'm already booked on the new date? I've been paying out of pocket to hire an AMAZING "associate shooter" who shoots in my style, so that I can be in two places at once. ;) I still edit, deliver, help plan- basically, nothing changes for my couple except a different smiling face on their wedding day. My brand has always been about taking the stress away- and that doesn't change in a time of COVID.

Heather Kanillopoolos Photography is located in Grand Ledge, and photographs weddings and portraits in the Greater Lansing area, Grand Rapids, Holland, Detroit, Ann Arbor, and more!