What to do about COVID
Hello! It’s been a long while since I’ve written any updates on guidelines for hosting a wedding during the pandemic. A lot has changed, we’ve come a very long way, but at the same time 3,082 COVID-19 deaths were reported in the US on January 27! We are not done needing to worry about COVID at weddings and the safety of our loved ones.
There are a lot of things to think about as you are likely working with your planner on finalizing your invite wording and the details of your day. If you haven’t already, now is the time to create your personal COVID wedding policy and figure out how you will convey the details to your guests.
Should you set a strict, even-handed, or relaxed COVID-19 policy for your wedding and how do you convey this information to your guests?
It helps to consider your personal values, your venue, your guest list, and your total projected head count while making the decision on your COVID policy. While there are no specific restrictions on weddings, beyond a mask mandate for all indoor venues in Oregon, you still have the ability to set your own boundaries beyond that, as do venues.
A Strict COVID Policy– For these purposes I will define this as a policy requiring all vendors and guests to show proof of vaccination and a negative COVID test to enter (at home vs. PCR will be discussed further down). Masking policy strictly enforced indoors while not at a table eating or drinking.
Who should choose this option?
- Anyone who is very concerned about the health of their guests and vendors
- Anyone hosting a large or small wedding with anyone on your guest list who is at high risk for serious illness or death from COVID-19
- Anyone hosting a large indoor wedding
If this option is right for you, you will need to decide how to enforce and inform your guests and vendors about these policies. Will you create a Google or other form for your RSVPs and on it include your venue’s policy, your personal policy, and details on how and when proof of vaccination and a negative test will be accepted?
Will you have any exceptions for those who cannot be vaccinated for legitimate reasons?
Will you require rapid at home testing you provide, as all guests arrive or accept self reporting or photos of tests they take on their own? If risk and spread are relatively low on your wedding date will you only require testing for the unvaccinated folks?
Will you require a negative PCR test within 72 hours (more accurate) knowing they may have traveled since then or results may be slow and they may have no way of proving a negative test for possibly up to 5 days after they took it?
Who will be responsible for checking? Will you hire a bouncer from a local security company as they do at clubs? Will you designate a family member? Your venue will not offer this service unless it is a venue requirement and they charge you for a bouncer/security. Your planner is also not responsible for policing your guests. You may also just accept a copy digitally prior to your wedding date.
Regarding masking, your vendors will be very good at following the rules, some of your guests may not, especially after a few drinks. If you have guests on your list who are anti mask or any restrictions, will they listen to anyone other than a bouncer? If this is a serious worry for you, you either need to not invite them, hire a bouncer, or change your policy. See below.
An Even-handed Policy– I’m not intending to sound biased by the name of this policy, but it is the easiest to enforce, most considerate of all of your potential guests and vendors, and probably the most obvious choice for most couples hosting a wedding in Oregon in 2022. This policy is about gaining and using accurate self-reported information to treat everyone with respect while requesting they respect your wishes and values at your wedding. You will be asking unvaccinated folks to self-report a negative at home test before coming, letting your vendors know you require a pro-health and pro-worker COVID policy that includes vaccination or weekly testing requirements and paid time off for sick employees, masking by everyone while indoors (unless eating or drinking), masking while serving or unable to remain distanced from guests.
Who should choose this option?
- Anyone who is concerned about the health of their vendors and guests
- Anyone hosting a large or small wedding outside or inside
- Anyone who knows they will have guests who firmly do not want to be vaccinated or cannot be vaccinated, but all of your guests will willingly comply with masking mandates as well as your venue’s, and your policies
This option will be right for most couples. It requires you to hire vendors you know and trust to have solid COVID policies. You will need to communicate your COVID policy to your guests openly. Place this information prominently on your wedding website. Gather everyone’s contact info (email and/or cell numbers) to send digital information quickly. You should have an emergency plan in place for updates to your policy, and the ability to quickly communicate to guests and vendors in the case of rising numbers, or a positive case for the couple right before (or after) the wedding, etc. You will also use this information to send out detailed digital RSVPs where people can easily see your stated policy, the venue policy, current state mandates, followed immediately by your requests for their vaccination status, meal choice, etc.
I have used Google forms for my couples from 2020-2021 very successfully. My couples receive this semi-custom RSVP form service included with their planning, the response sheet is used to collaborate on arranging seating, and table chart creation, as well as gathering exact meal counts for catering if you are having plated service.
If your venue is outdoor with guests only needing to be masked to go inside to use the restroom, masking should not be problematic for your wedding, for this reason outdoors is your best option for your wedding.
If you are hosting an indoor wedding, vaccines and testing are important! PCR testing continues to be problematic throughout the US with limited testing sites and appointments, delays up to five days getting results back (rendering them useless). Home test kits, while less accurate if you are asymptomatic, and sometimes hard to come by, are sadly the more ideal choice. Something is better than nothing and they are convenient for most of your guests. Convenience increases participation and compliance. For indoor weddings I highly recommend buying tests in bulk and giving them as part of your welcome gifts for out of town guests.
If you booked your vendors long ago and maybe they didn’t have COVID policies then, ask now. Let them know what you are or are not comfortable with. Decide if you need to lose deposits or if you can work with a vendor by coming to an agreement on what they will do for your wedding (i.e. masking and testing) and get it in writing. Email or texts count.
When gathering info, it is nice to ask for feedback as an open response about somebody’s comfort level with attending weddings right now, and your policy. Do not seat unvaccinated guests with people who are not comfortable being in a mixed large gathering. Most people are used to navigating this by now. Seating people with others they know and are comfortable with is always nice, and more so now. You do not have to put a scarlet letter on the unvaccinated or come up with a plan to inform people who’s who. Just generally make sure your planning details are considerate of any of your guests. It’s best to talk to the very at risk to make sure they are seated in a place of honor yet away from the dance floor or the bar, or areas where guests are more likely to congregate.
If you are having an intimate, low risk health wise, and mostly or fully vaccinated guest list, you can be less worried about how you are seating your guests.
Food service style is another way to manage risks. Plated is best, if you are doing buffet style please opt for caterer served buffet vs. self serve. Also have your DJ or planner direct the guests to wear masks through the buffet line as a courtesy to others.
A Relaxed COVID policy– I do not recommend this policy for most weddings. That said there’s a right way to choose this option. You still need to follow state mandates. Host your wedding outdoors, or at home on private property – do not host at an indoor venue that actively promotes ignoring indoor masking mandates. You need to hire only vendors who are comfortable and willing to work with you – many will not be and write an easy escape clause in to their contract. Vendors don’t need to have ANY reason to resign from your wedding at any point if they wrote this in to their contract. If we become uncomfortable or feel unsafe working with you we will resign your account. Avoid this by being upfront and following the masking mandate.
Who should choose this option?
- Anyone who is not concerned about COVID-19
- Anyone hosting an intimate wedding or elopement with people you trust and see often and who is hosting their wedding entirely outside or at their private residence
- You are hosting your wedding at an outdoor venue and advising your guests of your venue and state policies and that’s good enough for you to feel comfortable
You do not have to break the rules or take unnecessary risks to plan a wedding where you are not considering COVID much, if at all, in your planning. But if this defines your attitude you need to be upfront. Be upfront with your guests and your vendors. Many vendors are comfortable as long as you are following the state masking mandate indoors. You can host any sized wedding you want at home with no mandates. It is not advised by the CDC or me, but you can do this. What you cannot do is plan this type of wedding and not let everyone know up front. You also cannot legally host this type of unmasked wedding indoors at any Oregon venue. If your venue tells you that you can, they are wrong. Do not do it!! I’m no lawyer, but any lawyer will tell you host at your private property or outdoors, vs. disregarding mandates at an indoor venue. They’ll also give you legal advice about writing a waiver, having the right insurance, and probably do a better job than I will convincing you there are better options.
If you are eloping or hosting an intimate wedding with your key people you’ve been with throughout the pandemic, people you trust, and people who are likely either vaccinated or not trying to give you COVID and will test and stay home if they feel sick, most vendors and outdoor venues will be happy to work with you. You should be happy to wear a mask when indoors, unless eating or drinking, or reciting your vows (public speaking).
If you are hosting a large or small outdoor wedding at a venue, you have stated the state masking mandate clearly (i.e. masks to go inside and use the restroom and do not attend if you have any COVID -19 symptoms), honestly most vendors and venues will be happy to work with you. Some will not and that’s ok work with aligned vendors!
If you have questions, or need specific advice – as always ask below or direct by email firstname.lastname@example.org