As we anxiously await vaccine eligibility, couples, venues, and planners continue to think through wedding rules and guest safety during COVID. It's encouraging that there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel! But for now, we are still dealing with COVID weddings. We just got new guidance yesterday, as a matter of fact - hooray for 50% capacity! (I'll update the rest of the website and our PDF guide soon.) But for now, we'll talk all about wedding rules and guest safety during COVID, what guests expect, and some of the best practices to keep your people safe.
First, I would love to share some good news with you. Recent research shows that guests now expect couples to reach out about safety measures prior to the wedding. In fact, 71% of guests want to know about safety measures before they will even RSVP! So don’t be shy about laying out your safety plans to your guests from the outset. Your transparency will delight the vast majority of your guests. And they will be eager to hear more about what your plans are.
Guests might have questions about several aspects of your wedding to assess whether they should attend. For example, will the wedding be held indoors, or outside? Will food be served, and if so, how? Will you require masks and enforce social distancing? Your guests will want to know all of these things. They should feel confident in making the right decision about whether to attend, and feel safe if they do choose to do so. Here are some of the most common safety measures we have seen so far this year.
I think at this point, we're probably all familiar with (and tired of) the list of questions! Under the new guidance, you are required to inform all guests that they must self-screen for signs and symptoms of COVID before arriving at your venue. If anyone has been recently diagnosed, is feeling sick, has a fever of 100.4° or higher, or has lost their sense of taste or smell recently, they should stay home. You can set out your criteria in advance, and then send your guests a friendly reminder in the days leading up to your event. (Your planner can help you with this.) Some venues, planners, and couples are also asking guests to do temperature checks upon arrival. Again, anyone with a fever of 100.4° or higher should NOT be at your wedding!
This one is pretty obvious, but people should wear masks at any wedding as long as COVID is circulating. (This includes us vendors, by the way!) Guests can bring their own masks, but you should also make sure to have enough for everyone onsite, just in case. To make it less doomsday, you can choose masks that align with your creative vision for your wedding. You might print your wedding date on the masks as a keepsake, or give your guests masks that vibe with your décor (for example, an assortment of tropical prints for your jungle-inspired wedding). Have fun with this! If we have to wear masks, they might as well be beautiful. You can also custom-order some beautiful matching masks for your wedding party!
Many planners and venues now have experience sourcing additional handwashing and hand sanitizer stations. They are required, under the new guidance, at the entry and "throughout" the venue. Use them, and encourage your guests to use them! Now that receptions are allowed, you should definitely be washing your hands before and after you eat or use the restroom, as well as anytime you touch your face or blow your nose. If people are walking past a station every time they get up, they will be more likely to frequently use handwashing as a method of prevention.
PHYSICAL DISTANCING & MODIFIED DANCING
We like to say “physical distancing” instead of “social distancing,” because after all – marriage is a social occasion! Physical distancing means that there is no handshake line, and few hugs. People can congratulate the couple from 6’ away, or with a quick elbow bump. Physical distancing also often places guests 6’ apart (or more), and also attempts to reduce contact between households. As an example, you might seat your guests by household at your ceremony, in little groups of chairs that are 6’ apart. You might also give every household their own round table for the reception, again 6’ apart. Or you might only seat a table at half capacity, leaving every other seat open to minimize contact. Whatever this looks like for seating, your planner and venue will know best on how to minimize contact between people from different households.
In addition, dancing at a wedding has become a difficult proposition. Photo booths, bands, and open bars have also fallen by the wayside. Instead of having a dance floor, lots of couples are choosing to simply have an elaborate dinner party with no entertainment or band. Other couples are splitting up their dance floor into several separate sections, so that people can dance together, apart. Again, the goal here is to reduce contact between people from different households. So even if it is allowed, try to work with your planner and venue on ways to keep your people safe. (Some good news, though: first dances and parent dances are allowed again in Phase 3!)
Catering & Beverages
If you are able to have catering and a bar, you may be unable to provide a buffet, passed appetizers, or cake slices. Most caterers now are doing plated meals and apps, so that the catering staff (in gloves and masks) are the only ones to touch the food and utensils. Everything would then be brought to your guests at their tables, rather than folks moseying around the venue. The same may be true for bar service; you may need to have drinks served at tables rather than the classic scene of people waiting in line at the bar. You can also ask your guests to keep wearing their masks between sips, and before and after eating.
Enforcing things like mask-wearing and hand-washing can feel really weird. We’ve all seen the random guy in the grocery store without a mask, and been too afraid to say anything. So adding some customized signage telling people what to do takes the pressure off you and your loved ones. With signage, it sets an expectation that the guidelines will be enforced, and that guests are expected to behave. You can get super creative with signs that align with your décor! And if you have family or friends you know might have trouble with this? Respectfully, consider leaving them off your guest list.
There are so many other “normal” things that might cause trouble. For example, your wedding party members might prefer to walk down the aisle alone, rather than holding arms. You may need to have a gloved attendant pass out programs to folks, or place them on seats prior to arrival. And you may want to ask guests to contact you or your planner if they fall ill with COVID-19, so that everyone on your guest and vendor list can be notified.
We know this is a lot, and can be scary – but this whole pandemic is scary! These precautions will help keep you and your loved ones safe, while also being able to enjoy celebrating together. Getting married during a global pandemic does not need to be unsafe, life-threatening, or sketchy. But if this section has made you rethink your plans, that’s totally valid, too. All of us in the wedding industry will be so excited to help you whenever you’re ready. And we know it’s a tough call – so whatever you are deciding, know that you’re not alone, and so many couples are working through these issues.
If you found this blog post helpful, we'd love for you to send it to friends and family! You can also read our full guide to COVID weddings, or snag your PDF copy below. (Please note that it will not be updated for Phase 3 guidance, which was released yesterday, until 3/29 at the earliest - we have an event this weekend!) But it's still full of all sorts of amazing info! Next week, we'll cover all the changes in Phase 3 and what that means for weddings and events.
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