We Got Married During Lockdown: How To Plan an Anniversary Reception or Vow Renewal

bride and groom wearing sunglasses

A recent study by The Knot found that 47 percent of couples who planned for a 2020 wedding will celebrate in 2021 or later. The same study found that 32 percent of couples still legally tied the knot last year! What does this mean? It means that there’s a phrase buzzing around, and it’s raising some questions: anniversary receptions. 

{top photo by Alisha Tova | dress by Alexandra Grecco from Alice in Ivory}

Traditional vow renewals have a whole new meaning now that 32 percent of Covid couples are still trying to figure out how to celebrate with their original guest list! With most of them legally married already, they have this wise idea to throw an anniversary reception right around the 1-year mark from their lockdown wedding. In the same fashion, couples are utilizing their original vendor list, deposits, and designs for a 1 or 2-year vow renewal.

Just as wedding plans have changed, weddings, as we knew them, have changed, too. And this applies to what celebrations look like after 2020. Besides a monumental jump in the world of micro weddings, we also saw couples dabble in intimate weddings, elopements, and civil ceremonies. And a year later, we are still navigating our ‘new normal!’ All this to say, feel free to let go of traditional etiquette when planning your anniversary reception. Just get focused on this rad party that you can finally throw safely.

photog: Andre Gouin

What is an Anniversary Reception?

It is the case for most modern couples that an anniversary reception, or Covid vow renewal, is essentially a celebration of love. Couples who legally got married during lockdown either want to still throw a traditional wedding to celebrate or they have deposits down with a postponed date. Whichever the case, an anniversary reception is a party for your nuptials 1-2 years from your legal wedding. Although vow renewals used to be for bigger milestones like 10, 15, or 25 years, we’re seeing them pop up now that it’s wedding postponement season. And, hey, your relationship endured a global pandemic! You deserve one hell of a celebration.

As seen already in 2021, these Covid vow renewals consist of a quick, informal ceremony followed by drinks, dinner, and dancing. Despite already being legally married, Covid wedding couples want to offer a ceremony feeling to their guests before the reception begins, so they might re-read their original vows or keep things the same from their original script.

Who Do I Invite to my Covid Vow Renewal + Party?

Because most couples postponed their wedding due to wildly limited guest capacities, chances are they didn’t get married with more than 5 people to witness. With that said, you could potentially invite your original guest list (given the capacities + mandates in your County have settled back down). Anyone who was able to attend your Covid wedding can join in the vow renewal and festivities; as well as that original group you had in mind. Of course, a year or so will have gone by, and you may want to make some guest list additions or subtractions, too!

If you sent out postponement cards or ‘save our new date’ notices, surely your guests have marked their calendars. If not, the biggest rule to follow in planning your anniversary reception is: communicate! Wedding guests always benefit from good communication. So, get a wedding website that includes details (and even some photos) from your legal marriage. Guests will want to see! From there, explain the new plan, and describe the upcoming schedule of events.

Although you’re legally married, your anniversary reception or vow renewal will really feel and look like a normal wedding! The only potential variable is the ceremony itself. Some couples will opt to skip the vow renewal ceremony altogether. In this scenario, guests arrive and jump right into cocktail hour! Maybe even greeted by the couple upon arrival. Champagne anyone?

Alternatively, other couples may choose to have a vow renewal ceremony that looks just like a typical wedding processional. If you’re feeling like you fall somewhere right in the middle, try a short but sweet standing ceremony. Either way, the legality of your marriage is signed, sealed + delivered, so you don’t even need an ordained officiant to do the work!

grace loves lace ready to wear wedding dress
photog: Lucie Studio | dress: Grace Loves Lace RTW capsule collection

What Do I Wear to my Anniversary Reception?

What do I wear? It’s always the question at hand. Although you may think that you should wear the opposite of what you wore to your legal marriage ceremony, that’s not necessarily true. If you rocked a civil ceremony jumpsuit or short dress to your wedding during lockdown, then this vow renewal is the perfect time to strut in your original wedding dress. The big show.

Comparatively, you may feel hesitant wearing your wedding dress for the ‘second’ time if you wore it to your wedding last year. Our thought is, why not wear it again? Your bridal style could be the exact same as your lockdown wedding, or you could switch a few things up, creating an entirely new look. Which reminds us, a mini dress paired with a long wedding veil is an absolute lewk! We encourage this style for your anniversary reception.

photog: Alisha Tova | dress: Rue de Seine

Wedding Gifts and Other Formalities

Your wedding guests have been patiently waiting to celebrate you. Certainly, they’ve been waiting to spoil you, too! Don’t forget to keep your wedding registry updated and easy to use. If you received a gift from someone on your original or legal wedding date, they don’t necessarily need to give you another one 1-2 years later. For your anniversary reception, plan on receiving gifts just as you would for your wedding. Encourage guests to ship them to your address directly, so no one has to fuss with gift hauling.

These vow renewal and receptions will include the same formalities (if desired) as normal. Significant speeches and toasts, specialty dances, and (of course) cake cutting are all fun inclusions! Feel free to decorate your anniversary reception with photos from your legal wedding. Guests will like to feel – even a little – a part of that monumental day. But this party is all about celebrating *finally*. And making memories! Don’t forget to bump up your bar package, because everyone will want to RSVP yes.