Socially-Distanced Backyard Wedding in Canada

Updated January 2023

groom lifts bride in forest intimate wedding covid

Intimate wedding ceremony and reception, outdoors in Bowmanville Ontario

At the end of September, just as the leaves really started to turn to shades of vibrant red, yellow and orange, Michelle and Connor got married in front of their closest friends and family at their socially distanced backyard wedding in Bowmanville Ontario. With the Ontario government capping guests at 25 for outdoor ceremonies a week before the wedding, Michelle and Connor had to remain flexible and open to all creative approaches for sharing this moment with their would-be guests. They had initially planned a wedding ceremony and reception at Newcastle Town Hall unfortunately due to Covid restrictions they had to postpone that part of their day. They decided to go ahead with their socially-distanced intimate wedding at Michelle’s parents’ property in Bowmanville, hosting the ceremony and reception fully outdoors on possibly the most beautiful day of 2020. As you’ll see later they chose to Livestream the ceremony with full audio and video and were surprised by their parents with special video messages from many of the guests that were unable to attend in person.

intimate socially-distanced wedding ceremony with livestream

The key to getting married during a global pandemic is communication

Michelle and Connor are world travellers. They’re adventurous and thoughtful, considerate and intentional, with a strong desire to live sustainably. They were pushed to use all these traits when planning and adjusting (and adjusting, and adjusting) their wedding plans during this global pandemic. In March they communicated with their guests that their original plans may have to change, that they would keep everyone updated - six months ahead of their wedding! As the summer wore on they got creative about how they could maintain the wedding elements that were important to them while fitting inside the government regulations and precautions that would make things safe for all involved. Luckily they worked with a wonderful officiant, Avril Ewing, who helped them navigate the ever-changing regulations and plan a socially distanced backyard wedding that was true to them.

A month before the wedding we met with Connor and Michelle for their engagement shoot (you can see that session here). At that time we were able to chat easily about the wedding plans and work through some timeline ideas. As we approached one week before the wedding we spent some time going over all the precautions and wedding day details. We worked with Michelle and Connor to minimize risk at all stages: no one entering the family home, staying masked at all stages of the day, socially distancing family formal portraits, etc. The extra communication was so worth it as on the day everything unfolded beautifully. All guests understood the rules and abided by them, making everyone feel safe and seen.

bride and groom paddle canoe intimate wedding

Getting ready at home for a socially distanced wedding during Covid-19

bride having makeup completed outside covid

So how do you balance the fun of getting ready with your closest friends, with staying outside, while also getting your hair and makeup done for your wedding? You get ready in the double-car garage of course. In the garage, the wedding party was shaded from the sun and the wind, while also having space to spread out and enjoy some special time together. With both garage doors open we had plenty of light and fresh air circulating. Michelle’s good friend Val was the makeup artist and the bridal party took turns doing each other’s hair. Michelle chose to cancel her hair salon appointment (as restrictions were increasing in this area due to Covid) and instead she and her mom did each other’s hair.

bridal party doing brides makeup outdoors
groom getting dressed before bowmanville wedding
groom and groomsmen getting ready before intimate wedding
groom with groomsmen laughing while getting ready
groomsmen portrait outside during covid
groom tying shoes before covid wedding

Sustainable touches at this intimate backyard wedding

Michelle and her bridal party shared a low-key morning getting ready and brunching by the pool. They couldn’t believe it as 2 PM rolled around and it was time to get into their wedding attire. Michelle wore a Canadian-made Paloma Blanca dress which she purchased from Menzies House in Peterborough. She added her own beading and overskirt to personalize her gown even further. Michelle’s bridal party all borrowed dresses from friends and family members, it just so happened that the muted colours looked perfectly coordinated.

bride getting dress down before covid wedding
mother helping bride into paloma blanca dress
mother attaching handmade skirt to paloma blanca bridal dress

Michelle chose faux flowers for her bouquet, the bridal party bouquets and the arch florals. A good friend created the floral designs and executed them to perfection. By using faux flowers Michelle will be able to re-use them next year at their large reception with family and friends. The additional florals were seasonal mums, scattered throughout the ceremony and reception sites.

faux floral arrangement on wooden wedding arch
bride with faux floral wedding bouquet covid

An emotional first look with bridal party during Covid-19

I’m not much of a hugger, but even I can appreciate that given the social distancing precautions and social isolation of a global pandemic many of us are feeling very much in need of a hug. As Michelle stepped out of the house for her bridal party first look it was instant tears. They couldn’t help but come in for big hugs and then Michelle had us all in tears as she hugged her mom for the first time in months.

bride and mother cry as they hug covid
mother reacts to seeing daughter for first time in her wedding dress

Backyard, Socially-Distanced Ceremony in Bowmanville, Ontario

Michelle waited inside with her father while the guests found their socially-distanced seats. Friends set up the Zoom Livestream and started allowing guests to enter. They tested Connor’s sound and then it was time to begin. The entire ceremony was broadcast to the group of guests who were unable to attend in person due to Covid-19 regulations. Michelle and Connor wrote their own vows and as we listened to the promises they made to each other and the conviction with which they stated them, everyone in attendance was in tears. This - the real vows, the real tears, the feeling that this group of people will walk alongside them in their marriage, to support as needed - this is the good stuff.

grandmother waving at socially distanced covid wedding
emotional socially distanced wedding ceremony bowmanville
first kiss during socially distanced wedding ceremony
bride and groom celebrate after socially distanced covid ceremony

Creative Covid-19 Wedding Ideas: Wedding Video & Socially-Distanced Family Formals

creative covid wedding ideas bride and groom watch film from guests

After the ceremony, Michelle and Connor, and all the guests moved to another location on the property. There was socially-distanced seating ready for their grandparents and themselves. The rest of the guests looked on from behind. As a surprise for Connor and Michelle many of their guests pre-recorded videos, wishing them congratulations and offering a piece of marriage advice, a family friend compiled the videos into a succinct video presentation. The whole group laughed and cried their way through the video. It was such a thoughtful contribution to the day, to remind Michelle and Connor that everyone was thinking of them and sharing in this special event with them.

For Family Formal portraits Michelle had requested that family bubbles be respected, with distance between each bubble. We had a stunning backdrop of the forest with the changing leaves, and plenty of space to include each grouping. With these precautions in place Michelle and Connor were both able to have formal portraits with all of their guests, grandparents included. What a treasure. I’d highly recommend this approach to anyone getting married during this global pandemic, with vulnerable family members.

bride with bridesmaids outdoor covid wedding
groom playing ultimate frisbee on wedding day
wedding party walking along road with shadows creative covid portrait
bride shoes rings to bridesmaid creative portrait

Late-September, Bowmanville Ontario Wedding

You cannot count on the weather. For your wedding day, you can do your best to plan, optimize the timing and hope for the best but there is no guarantee that the weather will show up for you. Somehow at the very end of September, we were graced with the most stunningly beautiful Saturday. The leaves were changing colours and rustling in the trees, the sun shone but not overly brightly, and the temperature was a perfect 20 degrees. For an Autumn lover like me, it was quite possibly the most beautiful day of 2020.

bride and groom kiss in intimate forest wedding
bride and groom embrace in intimate forest first look
bride and groom kiss at sunset in forest wedding
groom helps bride with dress intimate forest wedding

How to share your Covid-19 wedding with your friends and family

  1. Share digital images, prints and your album: Michelle and Connor were able to share their Online Gallery with friends and family. This gives them the opportunity to download images and print directly from the Online Store. They also received an 8x8 heirloom album. They will be able to display their album alongside framed prints next year during their postponed reception at Newcastle Town Hall.
  2. Videography: Michelle and Connor chose to have a videographer also document their day. Videography is such a nice way to capture the sights and sounds of the wedding day. I especially love when videographers capture the vows to supplement the wedding video. Michelle and Connor’s videographer Jacob was very laid back and easy to work alongside.
  3. Zoom Livestream: They chose to invite their wedding guests who could not attend in person to their Zoom Livestream of the ceremony. Friends set up the video and audio recording, with microphones on Connor and Michelle for the ceremony.
  4. Video Messages: The cherry on top of this whole day was the thoughtful video messages the couple received from guests all over the world. From Switzerland to the neighbours down the road, each message was unique and shined a light on the importance of this day for Michelle and Connor.

For additional small-wedding inspiration check out this post on Wandering Weddings, which features some ideas from Michelle and Connor's backyard wedding.

bridesmaids embrace while bride and groom have first dance
first dance at socially distanced intimate ontario wedding

The Socially-Distanced Wedding Vendor Team:

  • Photography | Two Cheeks Studio | @twocheeksstudio
  • Videography | Jacob Khoe | @jacob.khoe
  • Officiant | Avril Ewing | @avril_ewing_officiant
  • Make-up Artist | Make-up by Val
  • Dress | Paloma Blanca via Menzies Peterborough
  • Catering | Mexico Lindo

For more intimate wedding inspiration check out these posts:

Elevate your love story
Unscripted photographs
An Elevated Experience
“I would not be able to get married if they could not be my photographers”
- Michelle, Bride