How to Get Married During Covid in 2021

Getting Married During Covid

Are you planning a wedding for 2021 but are uncertain how Covid will affect your plans? I am here to tell you  can still have an amazing experience and plan your wedding for THIS YEAR without the fear of having to postpone (or fear of having to postpone for a SECOND time). Have you considered eloping due to the pandemic or maybe you’ve realized planning a wedding while the pandemic is still raging is pretty dang stressful.

There is Hope for Getting Married in 2021

2020 was not easy for anyone, including couples who were planning or had planned their dream wedding. Everything changed when a virus spread across the world, travel got shut down and some boarders were closed. The uncertainty, fear, & frustration was enough to cause some major anxiety and turn some hair gray. Weddings were postponed, put on hold as large gatherings were banned in many places. Some couple canceled. The entire wedding and event industry has taken a big hit. I will spare the details because we all know how the last year has played out. Let me tell you my hair is turning hella gray.

More importantly, I am here to tell you, you can get married this year and it can be everything you dreamed of OR maybe better than your wildest dreams.

The weddings I had the honor of photographing in 2020 were scaled down (this is not a bad thing) or elopements. Maybe you were led to believe that to have a memorable wedding it needs to be a huuuuge party and a celebration of over 150 guests. This is just not true. Have you heard the terms “elopement” or “micro wedding” and not quite sure what they mean?

What is an Elopement?

Back in the day eloping literally meant “running away and getting married secretively”.  While you can absolutely still do that (and I’m here for it and would love to take part in your secret schemings by documenting your vows) eloping does not have to be a top-secret thing. The modern definition of elopement is a meaningful and intentional ceremony where the priority of the day is focused on the couple, often with few or no guests. I like to say an elopement has 25 or fewer guests. Above that it seems the focus shifts away from the couple and back to the guests and making sure the guests have some sort of an experience.

I whole heartedly believe a wedding should be about what’s important and not a materialistic or an elaborate production. When two people get married they are committing their lives to each other and that is HUGE.

What is a Micro Wedding?

As Covid-19 spread globally, infiltrating the air we breathed, I noticed the term “Micro Weddings” popping up,  The word “micro” literally means small. So while the term micro wedding seems to be a trending term, small weddings are nothing new. They are larger than elopements, I’d say 20-50 guests or so. I don’t love the term micro wedding because it feels clinical and the phrase seems to diminish what it is. I much prefer the term intimate or small wedding. There is nothing new about having an intimate or small wedding. When Brent and I got married, we had about 70 guests, and while that is still considered small it was much too large for what I originally wanted. Let’s just say some compromises had to be made. If I were to do it again (definitely NOT with a new husband) I would elope or have a small wedding with less than 30 guests.

Elopements are Private, Authentic and Stress-Free

Having experienced a wedding larger than I wanted, I am 100% here to hype you up on sticking to your plans if you already dream of eloping OR get you hyped about how great a small wedding can actually be. Trust me. Having been a wedding photographer since 2009, I have seen some crazy sh*t at large weddings. I will never forget the drunk guest of the groom at a mountain resort wedding who got escorted out at dinner because he was so wasted. As the wedding transitioned from the dinner location to the reception room guess who made an appearance? Drunk guest #1 completely butt naked!!  Folks, I can’t make this stuff up.

Maybe you still dream of having a large bash and you can still do that, but while Covid is still around I would recommend getting married this year (life is short, why postpone?!) as planned by eloping or having an intimate wedding and then plan an amazing big party to celebrate when it is safe to do so. You can even make it a vow renewal or a one year anniversary celebration like this Portland couple had.

Couple looks at each other during speech.


Whether you are planning an elopement or want to scale down your wedding plans to have an intimate wedding, I’m here to show you this experience can be exciting, adventurous and stress-free! Not to mention you can continue to plan your elopement or intimate wedding without fear of having to reschedule due to the pandemic. Side note: If you are traveling to a destination, check with local travel advisories and restrictions.

A Couple Misconceptions about Eloping:

  • Elopements need to be in a courthouse or in a chapel in Vegas. Nah. One of the great things about elopements is they can be anywhere (just keep it legal and get the required permits if necessary) – from your backyard to a small outdoor venue.  A beach in Hawaii or near a raging waterfall in Iceland, elopements can be anywhere you dream of. Perhaps a location that is meaningful to you and your partner.
  • Elopements can’t include guests. FALSE. You CAN include your family or dear friends. Elopements are intimate and private but you can certainly include your loved ones. That being said, eloping is also a great way to avoid family drama. If you want to include more people in a small wedding but can’t due to the coronavirus consider live streaming your ceremony. Technology is wonderful and you can included loved ones who can’t attend.
  • You need to have an officiant. Not everywhere. Depending on the location of your ceremony you may not need an officiant. Colorado is a self-solemnizing state, which means it can be just you and your mate. No officiant required.
  • Elopements are short and sweet. You will only need one or two hours with a photographer.  This is definitely a wide spread myth. If you are hiring a professional photographer to document your vows don’t be fooled into thinking you will only need an hour or two coverage. I am not just saying this because I am a photographer either.

The thing is: Eloping can include everything and more than a big wedding can. Having an elopement is not just an hour photoshoot. It is your elopement DAY! You can still get ‘getting ready’ photos, have a  first-look, a reception or special dinner and or course spend time at sunset when the light is just golden and dreamy to get some memorable photographs made. In addition to this you can have an adventure! You can do what ever you want (paddle-board, wine-tasting, relaxing on the beach) because this day is about you, your partner and the beginning of the rest of your lives together, so make it what you want it to be.

How Do You Plan an Elopement?

Planning an elopement can be simple and stress-free. Below is a sample timeline of what your dream elopement/intimate wedding day can look like with a small guest count. The timeline below is a great example local to Central Oregon. This example below is a great option for those who want to have a small celebration with guests in the time of Covid. Masks can be worn accordingly when moving from location to location or when in close proximity to others who are not part of your household. When planning to get married during Covid-19 consider locations that are outdoors or have good air circulation. Eloping during the pandemic is possible and it can be done safely.

Stay tuned! I will be posting an example for a more adventurous elopement AND destination elopement for those who dream of getting married abroad.  Eloping out of state or abroad is the perfect excuse to start your honeymoon early.

Sample Timeline for a Mountain Intimate Wedding or Elopement

Getting Ready Location: Cabin in the woods Camp Sherman

Ceremony Location: Along the Metolius River

Additional Portrait Location:  Backroads/Scenic (mountain views), Black Butte Ranch, Brewery

Meal/Celebration Location: Open Door in Sisters, Oregon (The Open Door has a great outdoor courtyard for enjoying wine or dining.)

Day of Schedule

8:00 am

  • Wake up, coffee, lite breakfast & being together

9:00 am 

  • Morning hike along the river

11:30 am

12:00 pm- 

  • Back to the cabin to get ready separately

2:00pm – 

  • First look in secluded location by the cabin; portraits 

3:00 pm

  • Hop in the car and drive down the dirt road to the ceremony location


  • Vows, first kiss


  • Portraits with 8-10 guests; dip feet in the river to cool off

4:30 pm –

  • head to Black Butte Ranch for photos with beautiful views, open fields, aspen grove, pop bottle of champagne

5:30 pm –

  • Head to town to dine with guests at the Open Door in the reserved courtyard; toast & feast

7:30 pm –

  • Walk through town to the local brewery grab a pint on the heated patio

8:30 pm –

  • Wildflower send off

9:00 pm – 

  • Return to cabin for stargazing around the fire pit


Gwen Shoemaker Photography recommends following all CDC regulations and guidelines due to Covid-19 while planning your local or out-of-state wedding. Please wear your mask.


Have questions about eloping or having a small wedding in Bend, Central Oregon, or the PNW?
Learn how you can have your own amazing elopement experience this year! Contact me here.
[email protected] | 303.596.6325
Bend, Oregon| Elopement & Intimate Wedding Photographer

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