How Couples Are Shifting Priorities, Mindsets, And Relationships As They Reimagine Their Weddings

Zola survey dives into how 2,223 couples are replanning around COVID-19.

By The Zola Team

Zola replanning report
Photo by Zola

The First Look ✨

2020 is the year couples juggled RSVP cards, virtual weddings and registry gifts with social distancing, political activism, and WFH. It has been a wild year for all, and most definitely for engaged couples navigating wedding planning around COVID-19.

In order to really understand how couples are adjusting their plans, and to best support our entire community, we surveyed 2,223 couples with weddings between March 2020 - December 2022, most of whom were originally planning to get married this year. And, we weren’t upset with the findings.

Despite all of the heartbreak caused by this global pandemic, and the fact that 2,200 couples surveyed did have to alter their plans in some way, the general feeling is, of course, sadness, but mixed with a heavy dose of optimism, relief and support. Couples still do want to have the perfect day they’ve dreamed about -- but 81% believe that dream is achievable even if their look, location and/or date has to change. Through it all, couples are even more in love, they’re feeling confident in the decisions they’ve made together, they cannot wait to get married, and they’re embracing, not rejecting, new plans.

Read on for the full report, and check out the other COVID-19 resources we’re offering here.

Most Couples Affected by COVID-19 Are Celebrating In 2021, Prioritizing a Time and Place When Most (but not all) Loved Ones Can Attend

How couples are moving forward:

  • 62% are postponing, most choosing to celebrate one year from their original date
  • 38% are delaying their entire wedding
  • 24% are tying the knot in 2020, but are delaying their larger reception
  • 28% reduced their guest list to keep their ceremony and reception on their original date
  • 7% are diving right into newlywed life, opting for an elopement
  • 3% pressed pause on wedding planning, or cancelled their nuptials altogether

When couples are getting married:

  • 92% who’re postponing have already booked a new date
  • 65% of celebrations are scheduled for 2021, most scheduled for April - September
  • 24% of postponements are still on for late in 2020
  • 54% chose a date that they believe will avoid Covid-19, 38% think there may even be a vaccine

What couples are prioritizing:

  • Couples #1 priority is to have most (but not all) friends & family in attendance, the #2 priority is to legally marry as soon as possible, and the #3 priority is to keep the same wedding vendors

8 Key Takeaways About How Couples Are Feeling Right Now

  1. Stressed. Our 2018 survey found that 40% of couples used the terms “very” and “extremely” to describe wedding planning stress, but now that that percentage has increased to 72%.

  2. Relieved, and excited to redefine their “dream” wedding. A significant 25% are feeling relieved and finding consolation in the extra planning time. 10% are also excited to re-prioritize.

  3. Confident in their new timeline, and ready to get creative. 3 out of 4 couples postponed their wedding one time, while 1 out of 4 postponed two or three times. However, 70% feel at ease about their new timeline and 50% are even accepting that some loved ones will RSVP “no” because of health or travel limitations.

  4. Emotional about the political climate beyond Covid-19. Zola’s 2018 survey identified the greatest outside stressors to be budget, the quest for perfection and the pressure of social media. In 2020 the #2 stressor is navigating the current political landscape, including the Black Lives Matter movement and the upcoming election. 97% of couples are stressed about this, many channeling that stress into action with 88% having more political discussions at home, 26% making a charitable donation and 13% participating in a march together.

  5. Reprioritizing newlywed milestones due to the pandemic’s financial and mental impact. For 35% of couples, at least one partner was laid off and/or received a salary cut. And, for 34% of couples, at least one partner is dealing with mental health struggles. As a result, 24% are delaying a home purchase, 21% are delaying finding a new job, and 19% are putting plans to have or adopt a child on hold. Another hard pill to swallow - 12% of experienced the loss of a loved one due to the virus.

  6. Optimistic and supported. 92% remain hopeful during this time, with 82% of couples finding strength and support from their partner. 59% have also relied on their wonderful team of wedding vendors as they rethink their big event(s). Other ways that couples are staying positive include retail therapy (52%), taking up a new hobby (32%), and going to therapy (15%).

  7. Ultimately, they’re more in love than ever. 55% of couples have a stronger relationship now than just six months ago, and only 10% feel their relationship is strained. So, while the global pandemic has turned so many parts of life upside down, relationships aren’t one of them.

  8. Thrilled to be married. Couples who got married between March - September 2020 described their big day as stressful, but they also described it to be “absolutely the best,” “perfect and intimate,” “happy and loving,” “calm,” and “very meaningful.” Here are how real Zola couples described their recent wedding:

“We had our wedding as planned on June 20th. We had 12 people by our side, and 130+ people online. It was a fantastic day, and most people stayed online with us for 3 hours! We were extremely happy with how it all turned out.”

“We had a small ceremony with 20 guests (parents, siblings, and wedding party). It was truly a beautiful day. After all the stress and uncertainty, this whole process was a lesson in letting go, and we were fortunate to have something even more wonderful in its place.”

“We postponed our big reception with all of our friends and family to next year and eloped with 9 of our closest family members. It was the absolute best day ever. We got to choose the food we wanted without worrying about scaling to 120+ people like we were originally planning, the atmosphere was beyond relaxed, and it felt like a joyful dream to get to marry my best friend. I have no regrets about prioritizing the health and safety of my friends and family and pushing our big celebration to next year.”

“We got married in July at our original venue, which was entirely outdoors. I was a mess for a month before. But, once we got to the venue, I was able to let that go. It was no longer about stressing over what I wanted my wedding to be, but enjoying what it was--a day to make a promise to the love of my life and hear him make that promise back, with some food and dance thrown in for good measure. My bridesmaids were incredible at stealing away my stress, and our guests were genuinely so excited to be at a wedding that it made me happy just seeing them laughing. We spaced the tables and benches further apart than we would have normally, but people had fun anyways and it didn't feel like there was this crazy weight over us. It was truly the best wedding I could have had.”

Significant Trends In Wedding Replanning

Save the new virtual wedding date. 56% of couples are shrinking their guest list, but 49% are considering streaming their wedding for a longer-list of attendees. To support this surge in couples going virtual, the company unveiled a free feature called Virtual Events so couples can host any wedding event directly on their beautiful Zola wedding website. Over 4,000 Virtual Events have already been scheduled to take place on Zola just in 2020, and the company also has tips for how to be a great virtual wedding guest.

To have and to hold, safely and socially distanced. For almost all couples (96%) guest safety is a very important factor, and safety protocols are the new norm. Almost 100% did change wedding details to accommodate for COVID-19, and 3 out of 4 couples have already made a preliminary plan:

  • 73% will have hand sanitizer stations and adjusted seating arrangements to accommodate for social distancing
  • 62% will incorporate masks, either as suggested or as required
  • 55% have changed their food service plan to be plated (for context, 64% of wedding meals were served buffet or family-style according to a 2017 Zola survey)
  • 32% have moved their celebrations to an outdoor venue

Smaller weddings do not equal smaller budgets. 88% of couples are tackling extra expenses and 29% are choosing to spend more on dream must-haves. For 27%, replanning has cost $1,000 - $5,000, which is significant considering 89% of Zola couples cover many or all of their own wedding expenses. Couples are spending on new invitations, duplicate services like photography for a two-part wedding, and even spending on hand sanitizer and masks. But there’s an upside - couples are focusing their budget on dream must-haves like a more gourmet meal, a videographer, and almost ½ of couples are shopping for an extra wedding day outfit online.

Planning a wedding online is officially the norm. 3 out of 4 couples are shifting more of their wedding planning to be online, relying on Zola’s helpful tools to plan comfortably at home. 67% who were not considering shopping for wedding paper online now are, 55% of couples are scheduling virtual wedding vendor appointments, 46% are shopping for wedding apparel online, 18% are tasting their food and/or cake at home, and 12% of recently engaged couples are selecting their wedding venue via virtual tour. Over the past six months, Zola has rolled out many features to address these needs including reception-only wedding invitations, a micro-wedding essentials collection of in-stock wedding dresses, decor, masks and more, and a vendor search product that connects couples to pre-screened wedding vendors across the country.

There are best practices to uninvite and update guests. More than ½ of couples (57%) are choosing to text and call loved ones personally, which is no small feat considering most Zola weddings have on average 150 guests. But, the #1 way (67%) that couples are easily sharing their updated event details is via a banner on their wedding website, and 33% are also sending change the date cards. To help couples who’ve had to change course, Zola has pre-written announcements that can easily be added to the top of any Zola wedding website, and is also offering change the dates for free with all save the date and wedding invitation purchases.

Couples are arguing more, but not about wedding planning. 35% of couples reported an uptick in arguments, but when Zola asked for more details about common disagreements, the responses were priceless. Couples have argued about who drank all of the wine, what is the best brand of dog food, which bowl will fit the most amount of popcorn, what furniture can be used as at-home gym equipment, and if a dish drying rack is an appropriate wedding registry gift (it is). What was rarely mentioned was wedding planning, and in fact deciding how to move forward with the big day ranked as the least stressful part of replanning.

With more time at home, wedding registries are the new shopping destination. With the majority of couples living together before marriage, the majority of engaged couples have sheltered in place together, too. 57% of couples said that they’ve been inspired to add more gifts to their registry, and 41% of couples have purchased gifts for themselves. Specifically, as couples cook, work, spend time outdoors, and cozy up their homes together, Zola has seen a lift in sales of cookware, bakeware, office furniture, outdoor gear, and home decor. The number of couples buying bread makers have tripled, while the number of couples buying grills, ice cream makers, kayaks, desks and beach towels have doubled. Couples are also still going to receive their dream wishlist at some point, even if they reduce their guest list or go virtual: 90% of guests are planning to give a wedding gift no matter what.

Zola Replanning Report  Infographic