Updated: Aug 21
With restrictions on the number of guests allowed at weddings and social distancing measures in place what is it like to get married at the moment? In our experience- amazing!
Covid 19/ Coronavirus has played havoc on life across the world especially the life of a bride or groom planning their big day. Our last wedding before Covid lockdown was on 14th March, just after the schools closed on 12th March. We were due to play at another on 16th but two days before the bride was forced to cancel as the impact of Covid hit and she received so many cancellations from guests.
So many people were forced to cancel weddings during lockdown, while others made the tough choice to postpone until safer times, or to avoid strict measures. However many couples are choosing to go ahead with their weddings and adapt it to suit the current climate and perhaps it's time to be positive that weddings can go ahead again.
Last weekend, August 2020, we had the pleasure of performing at one such wedding with numbers restricted to 50 indoors. Sarah and Ivan got married in Church of the Assumption, Kentstown, Co. Meath and had their reception in Darver Castle. Originally the couple had planned to get married on 1st June with 250 guests, which was reduced to 90 and then restricted further for their August date.
To be honest we expected the church to appear empty and for the mass to feel very short. When we began discussing music choices with the couple we were not sure if communion or the sign of peace would be included and so the length of the mass would be considerably shorter. However everything was just perfect for Sarah and Ivan's day.
We arrived at the beautifully decorated church 90minutes before the start time. The amazing flowers immediately reminded us of so many beautiful weddings we've performed at which were styled by 'Frog Prince weddings'. Hand sanitiser and
a few 'official' signs on the noticeboards were the only difference to the 'norm'. It was only when we set up in the gallery and looked down that we noticed the stylish, subtle difference of a 'Covid wedding'. The first few rows were left as normal for the wedding party and family. After this every second or third pew was closed off using a string of pearls. Not only was it elegant but it served the purpose, to socially distance guests.
When deciding where to set up I was a little concerned the gallery would seem very far away from the congregation if there was a very small number (often when numbers are smaller we set up on/to the side of the altar), however as we also had a singer for this wedding we thought it would be best to use the gallery. Our quartet began playing background music as guests arrived and surprisingly the church seemed to be filling up quite well. It was only as the mass proceeded I realised how well the closed pews had worked for the atmosphere. The guests, although small in number, were using the entire floor space of the church due to social distancing, and so it still felt like the church was full.
The ceremony itself was almost no different to any other wedding we've
performed at. We had our new D-Strings masks ready for entering and exiting if needed, and we noticed the photographers did this also. For the sign of peace the priest requested that people nod, smile etc at the people around them instead of shaking hands. We played music here as normal. For communion both priests moved around the church and asked everyone to remain in their places. Apart from this the ceremony was exactly as I imagine it would have been pre- Covid.
Upon arrival at Darver Castle we were greeted with a very organised 'tunnel'. Here everyone is requested to sanitise hands, give details for contact tracing, and a camera checks temperatures. We were then greeted by the lovely Mary complete with visor. I can't comment on how comfortable it was for her wearing the visor but we definitely felt comfortable entering the venue after her usual warm greeting. Even though we had prepared for returning to weddings by completing Covid courses, using separate music bags, providing hand sanitisers and new D-Strings face masks for each musician, we still couldn't help feeling a little anxious about returning to venues. After 5 minutes inside and we were laughing and joking with the staff as normal as they helped rearrange furniture for us to set up. Perhaps it was the visors and facemasks etc that put us at ease. Perhaps it was just the realisation that life goes on, but with a few more precautions.
Once we set up and angled our stands appropriately to encourage guests to stay a small distance away we felt comfortable to play. Working in the wedding industry for over 15 years I'm quite used to seeing tea/coffee stations and nibbles (or in Darver Castle's case fresh baked goodies), available for guests and I was eager to see how venues would adapt. I spotted one lady sitting with the prettiest little tiered afternoon style desserts in front of her. As we played waiters and waitresses were going around with individual items such as mini burgers for the guests. As it was sunny some guests sat outside while others remained inside. We set up by the door to the outdoor courtyard so the sound traveled both ways. The crowd sat around the indoor/ outdoor tables in natural pods.
Music wise I had many thoughts when putting the playlist together. With smaller numbers reception music is almost essential. Fewer voices in the room can lead to a less lively atmosphere. No one wants a lull in conversation or to be heard clearly at the next table. It was important for us to keep a lively tone for the reception with some classics/ favourites thrown in and it definitely worked. Many people stopped to thank us and ask about the group. Everyone seemed to be having a great time chatting, having drinks etc. On one occasion I asked one man just to move back slightly as he chatted but we both laughed about it as he said 'Oh crap sorry' and in one way it was a positive reminder that everyone was relaxed and enjoying themselves while adapting to these new 'covid weddings'. Looking back I feel our quartet should have been spaced slightly further apart than we were too, but these are the things we learn. It's new to everyone and it's important we have patience and remember that, while still taking no chances and abiding by guidelines. We all want weddings to continue and Covid cases to keep reducing.
Although we just played until meal call we left through the main function room and saw the
set up for dinner. As someone who has been in an endless list of wedding venues across the country and Europe I was very eager to see how a big room like the function room in Darver castle would be set up for a smaller crowd while maintaining the character and charm that leads many couples to book it. I also wondered how the atmosphere would be.
The layout was genius. The top table was a long rectangular table situated in the centre of the room with seating on each side. This was then surrounded by smaller circular tables around the rest of the room. These were spread out in such a way that the room felt full despite the smaller numbers. I've been in this room many many times, as a guest at weddings and on gigs and in that moment, it was so well planned and laid out, I honestly wondered how it ever catered for the larger crowds.
I was eager to see how the rest of the day went, and as ever Mark and Fiona from 'The Fennells photography' were great at keeping us in the loop through their stories on social media. The crowd returned to the bar with a pianist which the bride later told me was a great success. Live entertainment always works really well with guests at a wedding. The interaction and visual of a live performer is as important as the sound itself for entertainment and creating an atmosphere.
We couldn't stop talking about this wedding afterwards. Perhaps the little break lead to increased enthusiasm and excitement, but I think it was the pleasant surprise we all got that really impressed us all. Did we learn anything? Yes. We may sit a little further away from each other at the next gig, but realistically no-one will notice bar ourselves. The biggest take was that great weddings can resume under these measures, and once we all abide by them, the measures themselves will ensure they can continue.
Dream team on the day included:
Musicians (church and drinks reception):
Photographers: The Fennells
Floral Arrangements, table decor: Frog Prince
Venue: Darver Castle
To find our more about D-Strings ceremony, drinks reception or meal entertainment options contact us here