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  • Writer's pictureZach Michaud

Pacific Northwest Weddings During the Pandemic

A long wedding banquet table is decorated with autumnal bouquets and napkins.
Wedding Reception Table

Where I live, here in Oregon, we have been asked to stay home for almost two months and are being told that things may start to open up slowly in the next couple of months. Slowly. With many restrictions. This is not stopping folks from wanting to get married. I performed two weddings in April for couples who could no longer have the weddings they had planned for, but wanted to get married regardless. So, what is the lay of the land as far as weddings are concerned in Oregon and Washington? What should couples expect and what should they know?

Getting your marriage license is still possible in both Oregon and Washington, but things have moved to mail service. Some counties, like Clark County in Washington, may still require you to go in person to pick up a finished packet before your wedding day, so check with your county’s website ahead of time. Both couples that I married in April had an easy time with the online and mail process and received their official license very shortly after their wedding date. Keep in mind, Oregon allows you to pay extra to waive your three day waiting period, but Washington does not, so you are required to plan ahead. Check in here for Multnomah County’s latest updates regarding their operations during the stay at home orders. Check here for Clark County’s latest updates regarding marriage license services.

Knowing that you are still able to retrieve a license, the question you are probably asking yourself is whether you should postpone your date or keep it and rethink your ceremony. I thought for sure that my couples scheduled for April weddings were going to reschedule, but they wanted to stick with the dates they had chosen, so they modified their plans. Both had essentially small elopements with families connected via streaming video. I have heard through my Celebrant colleagues that some of their couples feel more free to have the ceremony they really want, rather than the one they were planning for. Take this time to think about what you really want. If you have not picked an officiant yet, I recommend reaching out to a Life-Cycle Celebrant who will be able to help you navigate your way to that special-to-you ceremony.

Whether you choose to postpone or reimagine your ceremony, the pandemic is going to be a part of your wedding story. Life-Cycle Celebrants are expert storytellers and can integrate that experience into your ceremony in a meaningful way. Will you be hosting a virtual ceremony? A Celebrant can create a ritual that involves everyone no matter where in the world they are during the ceremony. If you choose to postpone, don’t forget about your original date. You may have chosen that date because it had meaning for you. A Celebrant understands that. Maybe you want to share vows on that date, or perform another ritual. That can be something that is brought into the ceremony you hold later on, so that it all ties into your bigger story. A wedding and a marriage are about more than one particular day, but acknowledging it all in ceremony is important. Make sure you find someone who can help you bring it all together.

I mentioned above about hosting a virtual ceremony and want to be clear that in Oregon and Washington, that does not mean your officiant and witnesses can be virtually present. Your guests can certainly log into a virtual meeting space. However, in Oregon and Washington, specifically, your officiant and documented witnesses have to be physically present, at a minimum six foot spacing from each other, of course. As the summer goes on, this information could change, so check in with your officiant and with the State rules, but for now it is not legal unless you are present and accounted for!

We are seeing that things could, indeed, be changing as the summer goes on and States announce their phased reopening plans. For the Portland Metro Area, it appears that changes will be rolled out later rather than sooner, depending on how well we can meet the Governor’s metrics. Venues will still be limited even after entering the initial phases of reopening, and numbers of people allowed at gatherings will only modestly increase. Phase One in Oregon means you can have 25 people instead of 10 people gathered.

None of this means you cannot plan for a very special wedding, it just gives you the knowledge about what changes must be made. Whether you intend to go forward with plans for a summer wedding this year, or postpone until 2021, whether you host a virtual party or plan for a party when you can hug your friends and family again, there are no wrong choices. Take in the options available, but also take the time to listen to that inner voice that reminds you of what is truly important to you for your unique wedding. Reach out for help in order to realize those priorities - Life-Cycle Celebrants are schooled in putting the couple and their wishes front and center in a ceremony, no matter what might be “expected” from a wedding. Vendors are still available and have been adjusting their practices to make sure they are keeping you, your families, and themselves safe going forward.

Let folks know, by commenting here, how your plans have changed if you are engaged. If you are a wedding vendor, what have your recent experiences been?

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