This is a crazy time we’re living through, not least for couples trying to plan a lockdown wedding! I’m here today to bring you some inspiration for your Bay Area COVID wedding. Not getting married in the Bay Area? You’ll still get some awesome ideas here!

I’ll leave all the health advice to the experts, I’m not here to tell you whether you should or shouldn’t get married during these times, nor what precautions you need to take. There are plenty of resources online to help you plan that side of things!

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This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. All opinions are my own. Learn more here.

As far as the photography side of things goes, I’m here to help you plan exactly the wedding you want. In my own experience shooting weddings even during the pandemic, I can certainly tell you that every couple is very different. 

Take some time to work out how you want to proceed, what precautions you need in place – and be sure to communicate openly with both your guests and vendors. 

As a wedding professional, my goal is to assist couples who are moving forward with their weddings. I want to do so in a way that is as safe as possible, while honoring who they are as a couple. The aim is never to judge the choices of others!

One thing’s for sure, if you do decide to get married during the COVID-19 situation, it’s still possible to have a beautiful, simple and meaningful wedding celebration. Even if it isn’t what you had in mind for your wedding, love still prevails. 

So, let’s dive in with some COVID wedding inspo, with FIVE of my awesome couples!

Want a LOT more wedding planning tips? I’ve a complete resource of all of my most helpful wedding planning resources at the link below!

READ MORE  Wedding planning resources from Zoe Larkin Photography

A post-ceremony, couple-only shoot in iconic San Francisco locations

covid wedding with couple at the palace fine arts, san Francisco wedding couple at the palace fine arts, san Francisco by Zoe Larkin Photography wedding couple standing in front of green doors at palace of fine arts, san francisco wedding couple laughing with the columns on palace of fine arts in the background palace of fine arts, san francisco wedding photography coronavirus wedding couple at lover's lane, presidio of san francisco bride and groom exchanging vows at lover's lane san francisco wedding couple with light streaming through behind them in san francisco's presidio relaxed wedding couple sitting on fallen tree in San Francisco's presidio near Wood Line wedding couple walking through long grass backlit by sun in presidio of san francisco for lockdown wedding

M + D (above) had planned a much larger celebration initially. Hopefully that will still go ahead for next year. The couple’s situation was a little difficult, so I had to be super flexible. M was just about to start a new job on the East Coast right after the ceremony, and they wanted to tie the knot ideally while they still lived in the Bay Area. 

They decided to have a virtual, live streamed ceremony. The location they chose for this was the Shakespeare Garden in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. However, they decided against having a photographer present for that part of the day’s events. 

Immediately after they were officially married, they met up with me, their wedding photographer at the Palace of Fine Arts. We planned to do a two-and-a-half-hour photography session, taking in the lovely Palace first.

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Then we’d head to Lover’s Lane at the Presidio (specifically sculptor Andy Goldsworthy’s famous Wood Line). 

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As we had complete flexibility on the timeline, I suggested we time the session to benefit from the gorgeous evening/ sunset light. It did not disappoint! As a nice little touch they exchanged cards with personal messages that they read out to one another.

Hopefully they will be going ahead with their larger nuptials at San Francisco City Hall and the Stable Cafe next year. 

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A family-only meal + ceremony near home in Point Richmond

wedding details at Point Richmond, CA wedding getting ready wedding photos at Lara's Fine Dining, Point Richmond covid wedding couple underneath willow tree Point Richmond, CA bride and groom snuggling during portrait session near point richmond harbor ca dogs at coronavirus wedding - dog with tux and lei covid wedding ceremony ideas, with ceremony taking place under a willow tree couple getting married in bride and groom wedding masks wide angle photo of small wedding taking place under willow tree in point richmond, bay area covid wedding ideas of couple cheersing with family members wearing masks formal wedding portrait with smiling couple and their dogs sweet and intimate wedding portraits of newlywed couple with boats at Richmond marina, CA behind them joyful wedding couple celebrating their covid wedding ideas for a coronavirus wedding with couple's social distancing wedding at their home in point richmond, california

L + J opted for a day with close family. I joined them just as they were finishing off a meal at Lara’s Fine Dining in Point Richmond, just a minute’s walk from their condo. Larissa went back to the apartment to change into her wedding outfit and we did a first look as J saw her for the first time!

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After a quick couples’ photo session, the 20-minute ceremony began, complete with the couples’ dogs walking them down the aisle! A champagne toast and gift exchange then ensued, which was all built into the timeline. 

Straight after that, we ran through an extensive family photo session, which was perfect because we allowed even more time than it actually ended up taking. We worked through the list quickly and made sure to capture the dogs in some of our photos.

I rounded off my 3 or so hours of photography coverage with more couples’ photos around the marina. It was a meaningful location for the couple as they live so close by and frequently walk their dogs in the area. The close proximity of the areas we took photos meant maximizing for time, as travel was minimal. 

L + J were originally planning to get married in Hawaii, as that was where J proposed. However, COVID came and had other ideas, so they canceled plans for a big wedding. What L wanted most from her wedding was ‘joy, happiness and love’. That came through perfectly.


Florals Paper Source

Attire Katie May & Jean Constance dress, from Pre-Owned Wedding Dresses | Barong from Weddings & Dreams Bridal

Shoes Birkenstocks

Officiant Sophie Eckert

Invitations Printed with VistaPrint

In-home and outdoor ceremony in Piedmont Park, Oakland 

wedding preparation before a covid wedding in berkeley candid wedding photos of the getting ready space before wedding bride and best friend getting ready at home pre-wedding fun and fresh getting ready photos pre-wedding first look nerves as couple sees each other for first time before wedding wedding ceremony held at piedmont park, oakland CA during coronavirus pandemic piedmont park, oakland CA wedding ceremony with fun, playful couple emotional outdoor wedding ceremony during covid newlywed photos in piedmont park, oakland CA during coronavirus lockdown piedmont park, oakland CA wedding photos by zoe larkin photography meaningful wedding details for covid weddings in the bay area picnic at bay area covid wedding in beautiful piedmont park, oakland CA

As a couple, E + A describe themselves as ‘easygoing, affectionate and silly’. They also mentioned during planning they they want it to be fun and relaxed as they are a playful couple and not fussed about the details. 

The couple had me start with them late in the morning. They got ready separately, in locations about a mile apart. E was with her good friend (who would also be the officiant!) while A was at the couple’s home. I began coverage with the girls who drank champagne while E finished off her wedding vows. It was a chill morning! 

I then headed to A who was getting ready alone. A few photos later, we headed together to the bus stop that was the location for E + A’s first look. The reason for the unusual choice was it was where they first met! 

After a few couples’ photos and lots of tears, we drove to Piedmont Park, the ceremony location. We found a suitable spot that was free of people and somewhat secluded. The couple wanted to record the ceremony on their phone, so I had brought along my mic, tripod and mount to attach the phone to the tripod. (Those are my affiliate links if you want a cheap set-up that works). 

It was a super emotional ceremony! Afterwards, the officiant/friend/hero headed back to her car to set up the picnic while we utilized a wide variety of locations for couples’ photos. As soon as we were done, the couple tucked into their wedding picnic and I left them to it. 

They always wanted something small for their wedding, and never planned or wanted to go the big wedding route. I’m sure that COVID or no COVID, they would have planned something exactly like this. 

Lake Merritt photo session and Berkeley Hills ceremony with epic views

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N + N live very close to the gorgeous Lake Merritt so it made sense to begin our session there. They are new Oakland residents and love their home and lake life. The couple wanted ‘photos that look like them’, so it’s important to get to know them a little first and really hear the wedding vision. 

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They had originally planned a City Hall wedding, but when they knew that wasn’t going to happen they weighed up their options carefully. After the lake photos, they chose a location that was meaningful as well as beautiful. Enter this spot: right behind the Lawrence Hall of Science and quite the secret. So beautiful! 

Post-ceremony there was Ethiopian honey wine, in honor of the groom’s heritage. We sent the guests back to their cars to stay warm while I photographed the couple in a variety of backdrops within a short walk of the ceremony location. 

I did give them some advice beforehand, as regards timing. The couple was concerned about fog rolling in, but in fact it would be better to capitalize on the beautiful light that starts around 2 hours before the sunset time. Fog is not that bad in photos, but harsh overhead light is more of an issue. 

I also suggested that we arrange to finish the session more than 45 minutes before the official sunset time because in that location and weather conditions, it would get dark much earlier. Plus, if it’s possible to extend our session in the case of late-running without either rushing, running out of light or getting dark, grainy photos. 


Floral design Lee’s Discount Florist
Attire Bronx and Banco via BHLDN | Calvin Klein, Macy’s
Rings Grown Rings

Backyard wedding in San Francisco with Thai takeout

R + E had just about everything thrown at them. Their original plan was to hold a 150-person wedding at the gorgeous Cornerstone Sonoma. Corona of course had other ideas.

So, they decided to go ahead with their original date but with a few necessary adjustments. The date was actually an important part of their story, as it marked two years of them being a couple!

Plan B was to get married at Buena Vista Park with 25 or so family members and the all-important wedding parties. The day arrived but brought with it a record-breaking heatwave of 102° in San Francisco.

On top of the uncomfortable heat, there happened to be dangerous levels of smoke in the air on this September day.

Just an hour before the official start of the wedding, R made the decision to relocate all wedding plans to the couple’s home, to prevent against the heat and smoke.

It turned out to be an absolutely wonderful, meaningful day. Everyone was able to safely distance and enjoy a beautiful backyard ceremony (presided over by Corona Heights’ wild parrots) and followed by delicious vegan Thai takeout.

Having the ceremony and reception all in one place actually meant more of a chill vibe to the day with the least amount of fuss! Everyone was super relaxed, lounging in their more comfortable outfits after the more formal events.

couple getting ready at home before their backyard wedding in san francisco bride getting ready at home photos - light and bright photography style wedding ceremony held in bride and groom's backyard wedding couple getting married in their backyard in San Francisco captured by Zoe Larkin Photography San Francisco bride and groom exchanging wedding vows at wedding ceremony in their backyard post-ceremony toast at intimate backyard wedding in Corona Heights, San Francisco during the COVID lockdown wedding party laughing and walking towards camera arm-in-arm at san francisco backyard wedding COVID wedding ideas for bay area lockdown wedding showing bride and groom couples' photo session near their San Francisco home backyard wedding in san francisco couple's portrait session in nearby park couple that got married during COVID in San Francisco celebrating with photos near their Corona Heights home wedding portraits by Zoe Larkin Photography during a COVID Bay Area wedding celebration candid photos from a safe backyard wedding in san francisco that took place during the COVID pandemic wedding guest candid photos from a San Francisco COVID wedding taking place at the bride and groom's home bride and groom on a Zoom call on their downsized wedding day chatting to friends and family on videowedding details including wedding ring, san francisco view and dog dressed in a tux from a backyard wedding in San Francisco bay area


HMUA Beauty By Lia | Purdy Faces
Floral design Sweet Spire Floral
Attire BHLDN
Veil Rent the Runway
Catering Osha Thai
Sweet Cinnaholic

Endless unique wedding possibilities 

Sure, a pandemic wedding is not for everyone. Many couples are waiting it out. The vast majority of my 2020 couples have pushed to 2021. But for those that are getting married this year and doing the intimate, downsized wedding thing, I hope this was helpful. Real-world examples can be hard to come by. 

I hope you can see how different each couples’ intimate wedding really is. You can allow time for eating and drinking, or you can skip that entirely. Getting ready not your thing, or do you really want to capture more of the pre-ceremony nerves and excitement? 

Some couples opt to have a virtual ceremony, for which no photographer is necessary. Others want a perfunctory ceremony, and yet others would like the whole 20-30 minute caboodle complete with personal stories, vows and readings. There are really more options now than ever!

If you can see the upsides, there really is a lot of scope for crafting a day that’s completely custom, allowing for exactly what it is you prioritize. And you can pick and choose how long you want your photographer to be there, now that all-day weddings are not really a thing. 

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Virtual weddings – one important thing to bear in mind

One thing that is fast becoming the norm for 2021 weddings is livestreaming the big day. This is a fantastic opportunity to involve far away friends and family who can’t be there in person. So, involve them. Make sure they feel that their experience is just as important as your IRL guests.

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You will need to think about how long this is going to take realistically. If it’s worth going to the trouble of setting up a livestream, you’ll want to be sure that the guests at home are catered to.

I have my own recommendation in more detail in this video and blog post linked below. I highly recommend considering a professional livestreaming service for reasons I discuss in my video.

Plus, get 10% off your wedding livestreaming with my discount code ZOE10

The importance of thoughtful planning 

A word of warning though. One thing that almost all my couples have struggled with, however, is a realistic idea of how long an intimate wedding (and specifically the photography) truly takes. There’s a fallacy that if the wedding is going to be small, it somehow needs less planning and careful attention to detail. 

Even for the most relaxed wedding, it can be a false economy to assume that several events can be crammed into just a couple of hours. That’s why I created this detailed planning resource, linked below, in case you are planning your small wedding yourself. 

READ MORE  How to create your intimate wedding timeline

It will show you exactly how to build out your timeline exclusively for your intimate, downsized wedding. 

I know a wedding planner is not most people’s first thought when you think of a small, relaxed wedding. However, if you really do want it to be super relaxed and stress-free as well as cost-effective, I highly recommend at least checking this article out, as there are more benefits to hiring a wedding planner for a small wedding than you realize. I promise. 

READ MORE  11 reasons why even a small wedding needs a wedding planner

In fact, because lockdown weddings are less cookie-cutter, more custom, they may require more forethought and insight. These are truly skills a professional can bring! Luckily I also pride myself on creating timelines for my couples that optimize for, and prioritize, great photos and a relaxed experience. That is priceless and can’t be rushed.

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Has that got you inspired for your lockdown wedding in San Francisco?

If you’re looking for a flexible wedding photographer that can work with you and can accommodate changes of plans without penalizing you, learn more about how I work with COVID weddings at the article linked below.

READ MORE  COVID weddings - How Zoe Larkin Photography deals with unprecedented times

For more information about Zoe Larkin Photography’s elopement photography services, check out the info linked below:

READ MORE  San Francisco Elopement Photographer

My services together with an idea of pricing are on this page:

Can’t wait to shoot more of these special and unique celebrations!

Pin a graphic to your Pinterest board to bookmark this blog post! Follow @zoelarkinphoto on Pinterest!

The decision to go ahead with a downsized, intimate wedding vs. wait it out until the lockdown is over, is a tricky one. Fortunately, I've already photographed many couples who opted to get married during COVID. I've seen what's worked and I have plenty of ideas to share from my real couples. During these times, you can put your own stamp and make your wedding unique. With so many Bay Area locations available, you can have your pick of locations for a wedding that feels like you |
4 Bay Area COVID wedding ideas – real weddings that will warm your heart |
Having an intimate Bay Area wedding? Whether you always wanted a small, family-only ceremony/elopement, or have had to downsize due to the current situation, maybe you need inspiration to get the wheels turning. The good news is you can make your wedding your own creation, with many now-deserted locations all over the San Francisco Bay Area to choose from! Be sure to pick a photographer that can guide you through the process step by step. |
Intimate wedding ideas during COVID – how to party and stay safe like these real wedding couples

Zoe Larkin

I’m Zoe, a wedding photographer based in San Francisco! My style is candid, capturing authentic moments for my couples all over the Bay Area and Northern California. Creating content is my passion! Follow along the blog and Insta!

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Bay Area COVID wedding ideas – 5 real weddings

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  1. Raquel says:

    I just want to say, wow! your website is touching. Your words and your photos capture the love and playfulness the day. The photos with the sun shining through the trees are breathtaking. I appreciate that there are mixed couples and mixed families which reflect our SF community. Just had to share this with you. So impressed.

    • zoelarkinphoto says:

      Oh wow, thanks Raquel! That’s a really sweet thing to say!

      Yes, we live in such a beautiful and diverse part of the country (and the world), so showcasing the diversity of the people make the Bay Area what it is, is one of the great pleasures of my work!

      Thank you so much – so rare to get a genuine blog comment these days so I thoroughly appreciate you taking the time!

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