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Back in September, Dr. Anthony Fauci recommended that couples consider pushing back their weddings to 2022 due to the pandemic. As head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, he’s not just a trusted source, he’s the trusted source on all COVID-19 inquiries. But since that time Pfizer’s vaccine has come achingly close to FDA approval and engaged couples itching to get married could see it as a sign to tie the knot in the new year. Given that the first doses could ship as early as Friday (Dec. 11), we decided to talk to health officials and wedding industry experts to find out everything you need to know about the vaccine’s impact on your 2021 nuptials.
Is Your Wedding Currently Scheduled for 2021?
Hope may be in sight, but for couples planning on a 2021 wedding, the question is will it come soon enough? That depends on when in 2021 you’re trying to get married and what your expectations are.
“I would advise pushing back anything before April. I just think it's too close to call,” Alison Laesser-Keck of Alison Bryan Destinations tells Brides. Vaccines will likely be available for healthcare workers by the end of 2020, but the rollout to low-risk populations will likely take us well into 2021.
Susan Norcross of The Styled Bride has taken a similar approach with couples whose weddings are scheduled for early 2021. She says, “For those that are having spring events, we're sort of, unfortunately, holding tight.” Of course, there are couples who pushed their weddings back when the pandemic hit who may be reticent to reschedule for a second time. We’ve seen that a pandemic-wedding is doable over the last year, but a spring 2021 wedding will likely look more like a pandemic wedding than a pre-COVID wedding.
“It's going to be late spring into summer before we're hitting the general population beyond the priority groups. So it just takes time to get through those first groups,” explains Professor Brian Labus, an expert in outbreak investigation and professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Dr. Ramon Tallaj, a member of the New York State Vaccination Distribution and Implementation Task Force, agrees with a caveat: we can reach that timeline “if the vaccine is available and we have hundreds of millions of vaccines to distribute.” If vaccine production and distribution can scale the way we need it to, he says that by the middle of the year, we’ll have turned a corner. “The virus will be behind [us]. People can start living their lives in a different direction. Enjoying life, seeing their grandkids, visiting friends, but right now we are not in that position.”
What does that mean for couples scheduled for May or June dates? That depends. Laesser-Keck explains that couples will need to weigh “where [the wedding is], how many guests there are, and what the weather situation is like.” She adds that if you shouldn’t fret too much about postponing if that’s what you choose to do. “I think back when this first started, people feared ‘postponement fatigue,’ but now it’s just sort of par for the course, and I wouldn’t hesitate to move [your wedding] to Fall 2021 to protect your event.”
While the fall season may not be in line with Dr. Fauci’s pre-vaccine estimates, the experts we spoke to felt good about the odds for a fall 2021 wedding. Professor Labus says, “If we're looking toward next fall for weddings I would say we're going to be probably past most of the outbreak at that point and have a lot of people vaccinated.”
What to Expect If Your Wedding Date Arrives Before the Vaccine?
Until we have widespread vaccination, couples should plan to implement the safety measures the same way they have throughout the pandemic. Dr. Tallaj says, “What has changed since the beginning of this pandemic? Do we have a treatment? No. Do we have a vaccine? Almost there. Therefore, they should behave the same way that they’ve behaved for the last seven-to-eight months.”
Professor Labus echoed these sentiments for pre-vaccine fetes. “We want people to have smaller [weddings], fewer attendees, and unfortunately have them outside when possible and try to limit the duration of them as well so people aren't in close contact for as long. Dr. David Edwards, an aerosol transmission expert urges mask-wearing for all guests with this additional advice. “COVID testing and temperature checks for everyone involved in the wedding, including planners, guests, and vendors.”
Norcross has seen some couples embrace the safety requirements in really creative ways. “A lot of our couples are doing the Zoom ceremonies and live feeds,” she explains to us. Some have gone so far as to include a greeting to the guests on the feed at the end of the ceremony. In one indoor ceremony this year, the couple set up furniture vignettes. “Everyone, including the couple, sat at their own furniture grouping for the ceremony and cocktails.”
Should You Plan to Get Vaccinated Before Your Wedding?
Because the vaccine is so new, there are some who have reacted to its arrival with speculation. If you have concerns over the novel vaccine’s safety, Professor Labus offers this advice: “The vaccines are not going to be approved if they're not safe. That's the role of the FDA. They look at all of that data and make sure we have confidence in the safety of those vaccines. And then as soon as those vaccines are released, we continue to evaluate the safety of them. So if there's a very rare side effect, we can identify it. So I would say if these vaccines are approved for use it's because they are safe and it's because they are effective. So I would recommend that everyone gets acclimated with a safe and effective vaccine.”