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, with the latest vaccine news—including Biden's announcement that every adult in the U.S. is eligible to receive the vaccine as of April 19; and the latest CDC guidance that even fully vaccinated people should wear a mask in areas of substantial or high transmission—couples are now wondering: Will a "normal" wedding be possible in 2021?
Below, we break down the latest vaccine news, discuss how it relates to weddings, and speak with health officials and industry experts about the vaccine's impact on weddings in 2021.
A Timeline of the Latest Vaccine News and Recommended Guidance
Right now, news of vaccine distribution feels like the "light at the end of the tunnel" for many. Here, a look at where we stand.
July 27, 2021: Vaccinated Individuals Should Wear a Mask Indoors in Areas of Substantial or High Transmission
Due to the circulation of the Delta variant, the CDC once again updated their mask guidelines on July 27. The CDC is now recommending that even fully vaccinated individuals wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission.
The agency also updated its guidance regarding testing for fully vaccinated people, and is now recommending that anyone who has possibly been exposed to COVID-19 get tested regardless of symptoms. Previously, the CDC had said that vaccinated individuals only need to get tested if they are symptomatic.
May 13, 2021: Fully Vaccinated Individuals Can Go Without Masks in Most Places
On May 13, the CDC announced that fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear masks or social distance in most indoor and outdoor settings.
While the CDC’s statement did not mention weddings specifically, it did specify that “indoor and outdoor activities pose minimal risk to fully vaccinated people.” We can assume that weddings fall under the umbrella of most indoor and outdoor settings and that fully vaccinated guests can refrain from wearing masks and social distancing. Exceptions to the new guidelines include locations where masks are “required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”
“The science is clear: If you are fully vaccinated, you are protected, and you can start doing the things that you stopped doing because of the pandemic,” the CDC said in a statement. An individual is considered fully vaccinated once two weeks have passed since their second dose.
April 27, 2021: Fully Vaccinated People Can Go Without Masks Outdoors
On April 27, the CDC released a number of new guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals. People who have received both doses of the vaccine can now forgo wearing a mask when participating in most outdoor activities.
Additionally, the CDC says fully vaccinated people can visit each other indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing, and resume domestic travel without needing to self-quarantine after. The CDC considers a person fully vaccinated once two weeks have passed since their second vaccine dose.
As for what the updated guidelines mean for 2021 weddings, the CDC is still recommending that even fully vaccinated people wear a mask at large outdoor gatherings and avoid large indoor gatherings altogether.
April 19, 2021: Every Adult in the U.S. Is Eligible for the Vaccine
On April 19, Biden announced that every person over the age of 16 in the U.S. can now register for the vaccine. “Today, every adult is eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine,” he tweeted. “Better days are ahead.”
According to the New York Times, half of all American adults had received at least one shot as of April 18. This means the country is on pace to hit Biden’s goal of administering 200 million doses by his 100th day in office.
April 13, 2021: CDC Recommends a Pause in the Distribution of Johnson & Johnson Vaccine
The CDC announced it was recommending a pause in the rollout of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine, citing a small number of reports of a rare type of blood clot.
“We do not know enough yet to say if the vaccine is related to or caused this health issue,” the statement said. As of April 20, distribution of the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine is still on pause.
March 8, 2021: CDC Announces That "Fully Vaccinated" People Will Be Allowed to Gather Indoors
On March 8, 2021, the CDC issued new guidance for vaccinated people. The highly anticipated news outlines behavior for fully vaccinated individuals, but it also gives some clarity about the future—specifically, spring and summer 2021 weddings, according to many in the wedding industry. The CDC even said this new guidance is a "first step" to returning to everyday activities.
The announcement: "Fully vaccinated people will be allowed to gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing masks or social distancing," according to the CDC. This means that wedding guests, if vaccinated, will be able to gather, unmasked, with others who are vaccinated. They will also be allowed to gather in "small groups" with those who are not yet vaccinated if they are at a "low risk" of serious illness for the virus.
For reference, what it means to be "fully vaccinated" is dependent on when an individual received the vaccine and also what vaccine they were given. For example, individuals are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines and two weeks after receiving the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
March 2, 2021: "Every Adult in America Will Be Vaccinated by the End of May," Biden Announces
With the approval of a third vaccine and a stepped-up process of production, Biden announced that the vaccine timeline has been pushed up from the original estimated date of July until May. "We’re now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May," he said.
February 27, 2021: The FDA Authorizes the Johnson and Johnson Vaccine
On February 21, 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine—the first single-dose vaccine and third FDA-authorized vaccine on the market. In a press release, Johnson & Johnson announced that it had begun shipping the vaccine and shared an estimate of distribution over the next few months. "The Company expects to deliver enough single-shot vaccines by the end of March to enable the full vaccination of more than 20 million people in the U.S.," the release said. "The Company plans to deliver 100 million single-shot vaccines to the U.S. during the first half of 2021."
President Biden made a statement on the vaccine news in a press conference a few days later. "As you know, a few days ago, after a rigorous opening—open and objective scientific review process, the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine," Biden said in a statement a few days later. "We should all be encouraged by this news of a third safe and highly effective COVID-19 vaccine. The more people who get vaccinated, the faster we’re going to overcome this virus and get back to our loved ones, get our economy back on track, and start to move back to normal."
December 18, 2020: A Second Vaccine, by Moderna, Is Authorized by the FDA
On December 18, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the second vaccine from Moderna. Like Pfizer, this is a double-dose vaccine.
December 11, 2020: Pfizer Vaccine Approved for Use in the United States by the FDA
On December 11, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued the first emergency use authorization (EUA) for a vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19. This allowed for the distribution of the Pfizer vaccine in the U.S.
What New Vaccine Guidance Means For Weddings
But what exactly does this mean for weddings? When breaking down the latest guidelines, it's important to remember what is specifically outlined and what is to-be-determined.
What We Know
At this time, based on the CDC guidance outlined, the following will be allowed.
- Vaccinated wedding guests should wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission. Unvaccinated guests should wear a mask regardless of the transmission level.
- Fully vaccinated guests do not need to wear a mask in most outdoor settings. However, the CDC recommends wearing a mask in crowded outdoor settings if they or someone in their household is immunocompromised.
- Vaccinated guests should get tested if they’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, but also after exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 (even if they are asymptomatic).
How Vaccine Distribution Will Affect 2021 Weddings
Hope may be in sight, but for couples planning on a 2021 wedding, the question is will it come soon enough? According to health officials and wedding industry experts, that depends on when in 2021 you’re trying to get married and what your expectations are.
Summer Weddings—and Beyond
What does that mean for couples scheduled for summer 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 Know About Getting Vaccinated Before Your Wedding
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.”