If you’re getting married this year or next, chances are, you can get much closer to having the wedding of your dreams as the coronavirus pandemic is no longer at its height. With mass vaccinations underway across the United States, and an estimated 49 percent of the population having received complete doses of their vaccines by the end of July, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s certainly safe to say things are looking up all around.
While this is exciting news, especially for anyone planning a wedding right now who’s hoping for an event that is as close to “normal” as possible, we’re not out of the woods just yet, according to wedding experts. This is mainly due to the fact that vaccination numbers vary significantly by state and locality. “Although the CDC stated on June 11, 2021 that anyone who is fully vaccinated may participate in indoor or outdoor activities without a mask or physical distancing, it does bring up the tricky subject of asking about the vaccination status of our guests,” Lisa Lyons, etiquette advisor, event planner and owner of Lisa Lyons Events in Orlando, Florida points out. And, as of July 27, the CDC now recommends that fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors in places with substantial or high Covid positivity rates due to the rise of the Delta variant. So, where you are hosting your wedding could raise even more questions.
The current outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. As the situation remains fluid, we’ll be sharing tips and stories from industry experts to give you of-the-moment advice and help you navigate wedding planning today. For the most up-to-date guidelines and latest on travel restrictions and requirements, check the CDC and U.S. Department of State websites.
What is Vaccine Etiquette?
This dilemma has created a fairly new type of etiquette known as “vaccine etiquette,” which means dealing with unvaccinated guests in the most respectful and appropriate way possible. “With vaccine etiquette, you are trying to be considerate and mindful of your guests’ health, safety, and level of comfort, especially elderly family members such as grandparents,” notes Lyons. “As with any discussion, we should approach this dialogue with respect and kindness. However, we should also not feel timid asking such an important question.”
When it comes to vaccine etiquette, it’s also important to be mindful that not everyone shares your vaccine status, or is ready to dive right back into pre-pandemic life, notes Robert Hess III, a public health expert and the CEO of Hess III Consulting, a company that helps optimize hospital networks. “Brides and grooms need to remember that there are a million variables that drive individual choice and decisions. So, continuing to offer flexibility and planning ahead is critical to ensure your big day is as special and meaningful as you’ve always dreamed it to be,” he says.
Why is Vaccine Etiquette So Important?
Even though it feels like the pandemic is in our rearview windows, it’s important to remember that it is still an ever-present part of our reality—especially given new concerning strains such as the Delta variant. Therefore, it is important for brides and grooms especially to be aware of vaccine protocols. “We all witnessed over the past year that awareness of the disease and its potentially deadly effects were not necessarily well believed and sometimes came down to what side of the aisle you are on politically,” says Oniki Hardtman, wedding planner and owner of Oh Niki Occasions in South Florida and New York City. “As it comes to weddings and events, you still want to show compassion for at-risk guests to ensure everyone attending that you are mindfully aware of what is going on in the world and not wanting to intentionally put anyone at risk.”
Vaccine Etiquette: What You Can Ask of Your Wedding Guests
If you’re hosting a wedding, here is what experts say you can and should ask of all your wedding guests.
Ask if Wedding Guests Are, or Will Be, Fully Vaccinated by the Date of the Wedding
For a guest to be “fully vaccinated,” they must have received one full dose of a single-dose vaccine or two full doses of a two-dose vaccine at least two weeks prior to the event. If you want to have a wedding without masks and without concern over it becoming a super-spreader event, Lyons says that you can absolutely feel comfortable asking only fully vaccinated guests to attend. However, she points out that, ultimately, a level of trust is required. “I certainly would not suggest a scenario wherein you have a checkpoint for testing or vaccination cards at the entrance” she says. “Your wishes have been expressed, and you can expect your guests will honor them.”
For Non-Vaccinated Guests to Get Tested for COVID
Especially if you want a mask-less wedding, Maryanne Parker, etiquette expert and founder of Manor of Manners, says couples should feel comfortable requesting that any non-vaccinated guests receive a COVID test within a 48-hour window of attending their wedding and bring their test results to the event so that the wedding planner can confirm. “Some people might find it offensive, but if we have elderly family members or relatives with fragile health, we certainly can ask for COVID tests,” she adds. If you go this route, however, Parker notes that you should inform guests as early as possible—ideally including the details in the invitation.
For a Temperature Test Before Entering the Venue
Temperature tests have become rather commonplace in our post-COVID society. Plenty of establishments, from hair salons to medical facilities, are taking the temperatures of anyone who walks through the doors as a safety protocol. Couples can request to have this at their wedding as well, notes Parker. She recommends, however, that if this is the case, all guests should have their temperature taken—not only those who are unvaccinated.
For Everyone to Remain Mindful That People's Own Health Choices
“Your wedding day is not the time nor the place for guests to debate the origins of COVID-19 or the efficacy of swallowing bleach to cure it,” says Hess. He recommends sending the message—ideally on your wedding website—that you would prefer that the topic of COVID be ‘off the menu’ for dinner time conversation. “This might help avoid awkward conversations and help people focus on the bride and groom," he adds.
Vaccination Etiquette: What You Shouldn't Ask of Your Wedding Guests
If you’re hosting a wedding, here is what experts say you shouldn’t ask of all your wedding guests.
Why a Guest Isn’t Getting Their Vaccine
If a guest is unvaccinated, it goes against etiquette to ask why. “You are either vaccinated or you are not, and there are a myriad of reasons why a person might be unvaccinated, which can include allergies, health conditions, or religious beliefs,” says Lyons. “It is poor etiquette to pry into someone’s personal choices and beliefs.”
If a Guest Has a Pre-Existing Health Condition
On the same topic, Lyons warns against broaching the topic of pre-existing health conditions. “If a guest chooses to share their private health history with you, by all means discuss this with them and take precautions to put them at ease,” she says. “But, keep this information private and only share it on a need-to-know basis, such as with your wedding planner if accommodations need to be made.”
Where Guests Stand Politically on the Vaccine
This is a conversation that you should actually request guests not to discuss—but this also includes you and your soon-to-be spouse. “It is important to recognize that it is highly probable that your guests have differing opinions on vaccinations, masks, and other protective measures,” says Lyons. “We need to be diligent and take care not to appear as if we are castigating them for their choices or beliefs.”
For Guests to Sit by Individuals They Don’t Know
Table settings prior to COVID often involved a mix of guests—some who were familiar with one another and some who were perfect strangers. Post-COVID, however, Hess warns that some folks might not be ready to sit with people not in their household. For this reason, he recommends considering an open-seating option and smaller tables to allow individuals to self-select their tablemates.