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While vaccines have welcomed a wave of normalcy, it is unfortunately not the finish line of the COVID-19 pandemic, notes Robert Hess III, M.P.H., public health expert and founder and Chief Executive Officer of Hess III Consulting, LLC. “Couples will still need to uphold other COVID-19 prevention measures, even at their wedding receptions,” he says. “This doesn’t factor in the new variants which are rapidly evolving and should be heavily considered as part of planning."
If you want to host a wedding that cuts down risk of guests catching COVID, you may ask people to test before your event. If you plan to implement this precaution, there are a few steps you need to take to make sure all guests are on board.
What to Do Before the Wedding
Planning a wedding that requires COVID-19 testing requires some additional logistics. See a few to remember ahead.
Reassess Your Budget
If you plan to require COVID-19 testing before your wedding, you'll want to consider whether your budget will allow you to accommodate the process for all guests, or, alternatively, if you'll be putting the cost and responsibility of testing on each individual attendee. According to Hardtman, the most economical way of getting tested is through state-approved sites that are open and available to the public.
If you are able to provide private testing, the price will vary greatly based on the service and number of tests needed. Generally speaking, Chris Debiec, the Chief Operating Officer at the Human Health Organization in Los Angeles, notes that larger groups have more flexibility in pricing because they are "buying more tests." Smaller testing, for one to five people, for example, is considered a concierge service and is always more expensive. You need a nurse or healthcare professional to administer these tests.
You also can consider purchasing rapid tests and mailing them to your guests. This method will have to factor in cost of each test and postage.
Rapid Antigen vs. PCR Testing
There are two types of tests to confirm COVID-19 status: PCR testing and rapid antigen. True to its name, the rapid test will provide results ASAP, while the PCR testing typically takes a few days or longer based on the volume of where the test is given.
PCR testing is considered the “gold standard” when it comes to detecting COVID-19 infections. Although they take one to three days for results, unlike the more convenient rapid tests, which take a matter of minutes, they tend to be more effective at detecting COVID-19 in people who are sick but don’t exhibit symptoms, according to Marisa Cruz, M.D., and EVP of Regulatory and Clinical Affairs at Everlywell, an at-home testing company. During those 72 hours, guests would need to quarantine until they receive their results on the day of the wedding.
Guests can find rapid antigen test kits at local pharmacies. These often cost around $20 or less, and can often be covered by their insurance carrier if obtained through their pharmacist. Although they aren't as accurate as a PCR, they can provide a good assessment if someone is positive.
It's important to note that testing is not foolproof. "A COVID-19 test is simply a snapshot in time," Cruz explains. "Even with the more accurate PCR test, a negative result does not mean an individual is not infected. A negative result means only that, at that particular moment, the sample did not show viral levels high enough to be reliably measured. The individual could test positive even just hours later."
What to Ask of Your Guests
While this is your wedding, every person in attendance will have to abide by the rules you and your state set in place."If you have decided to require testing or if your area requires testing to attend events, no guest or vendor should be able to attend without providing clear negative results," Smith says.
Set Clear Expectations
For this reason, it is important to be direct with your guests. "Make sure you are very straightforward in what is required in order to attend the wedding," Smith says. "It's a big ask but it's important to protect all your loved ones and the vendor team. Be sure you are giving plenty of time, do your local research on options for testing, make the time window clear, and require each guest to forward on their negative results."
Distribute Cohesive Messaging
To help organize and mobilize guests getting tested prior to the event, the more information you can give, the better, according to Smith. She recommends sending out an informational email as well as putting thorough testing instructions and detailed safety measures on the wedding website. “Answer as many questions as you can so you're not inundated with a flurry of questions from your entire guest list,” she says. “The more information you give, the fewer questions you'll have to answer and the less overwhelmed you will be.”
If Necessary, Encourage Safe Travel
If guests need to travel from out of town, there are extra precautions that can help limit the likelihood of contracting COVID-19 on the way to the wedding. Ask guests to wear masks, preferably a well-fitted N95, if taking a plane, train, or other public transportation to your event.