It’s going to be a big year for weddings.
The COVID-19 pandemic snarled wedding plans for couples across the country last year, but as more and more people get vaccinated against the coronavirus, some couples feel the clouds are lifting.
Those who put off their nuptials in 2020 are finally making their way to the alter and couples that had smaller ceremonies are planning their long overdue receptions.
Planners, however, are having a hard time keeping up.
“It has been a shock to the system honestly. It’s been very, very busy,” Krystal Wigfield, who owns KMW Weddings and Events in Texas told KXAN. “I am moving into my busiest season starting now, May, but completely booked for the rest of the year.”
On top of the busier-than-normal season, the “minimonies,” backyard weddings and virtual ceremonies that became the norm in 2020 are being replaced with larger wedding gatherings that more closely resemble pre-pandemic celebrations.
Kristen Campbell, director of sales and marketing at Massachusetts-based Forklift Catering, said her company is scheduled to work its first wedding in a year that will have more than 100 guests.
“June is our first event that has 100-plus, and in September we are looking at 200-plus ... it’s a big difference from last year,” she told The Boston Globe. “The word is getting out that there is going to be a busy season coming, and if you want to have your choice, you should book sooner rather than later.”
But the pandemic isn’t exactly over and many couples are trying to figure out how they can have the weddings of their dreams while keeping their guests safe — especially as cities and states continue to drop mask mandates and other restrictions.
Their fix? Asking guests to get vaccinated.
Navigating COVID safety
Kaitlin Amanatullah, founder of Kaitlin Shea Weddings in Colorado, said some couples are putting inserts into their wedding invitations to ask guests to get inoculated before their big day, WBNS reported.
“The majority of people are at least saying, ‘Hey, it would be lovely if you were vaccinated for the wedding,’” Amanatullah told the outlet.
The 7-day average for daily new cases in the U.S. was more than 46,000 as of Wednesday, according to data from the Times. That’s way down from the peak of more than 250,000 in January but higher than this time last year when the 7-day average for new cases was just over 27,000.
A significant portion of the U.S. is fully vaccinated — roughly 32%, data from the CDC shows — but that’s a long way from the majority that health officials are aiming for.
Amber Cole, a teacher in Illinois, has requested her 40 guests be vaccinated before her July ceremony — and said she’ll postpone the whole thing if the majority don’t get it done in time, The New York Times reported.
A poll of 10,000 people by wedding planning site The Knot found that 1 in 5 couples planned to require guests be vaccinated to attend their wedding.
Some couples, however, say they just aren’t sure if it’s appropriate to make that kind of demand of their loved ones.
“This is all brand-new,” Jacqueline Whitmore, an etiquette expert in Florida, told the Times. “I can see them asking people to produce a negative COVID test, but as far as a vaccine goes, I think that’s a personal decision.”
Lewena Bayer, a civility in the workplace expert in Canada, advised couples that prioritizing guests’ health is more important than good etiquette — especially if they’re expecting older guests and others in high-risk categories, according to the Times.
She said it is fine to ask people to vaccinate — or get tested or quarantine — so long as couples understand some people may not attend.
Guests can also employ a host of other safety measures including temperature checks, social distancing and masks.
Lauren Kay, executive editor at The Knot, told the Chicago Tribune that some couples are hiring people to monitor guests to make sure they’re wearing masks or social distancing in accordance with local or venue guidelines — or based on the couple’s preference.
Brynn Swanson, founder of First Look Events Planning in Colorado, suggested offering guests color-coded wristbands that help them communicate how open they are to interacting with others, WBNS reported. Red, for instance, can mean a guest is comfortable with only waving while green could mean a guest is open to hugs.
Communicating safety plans
The Knot recommends that couples include an additional card with their wedding invitation that has a health questionnaire. Couples can also post questionnaires on their wedding website or add one to their online RSVP forms.
Questions can include:
Will you be or do you plan to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 two weeks before the wedding?
Rate how comfortable you are attending a wedding with X number of guests.
The Knot recommends taking your guests answers into consideration when making your seating arrangements.
But that doesn’t mean sitting people who haven’t been vaccinated together.
Dr. Payal Kohli told WBNS that couples should sit vaccinated and unvaccinated people together, as it will likely keep the latter safer.
“If you separate all of the unvaccinated people into one table, one sick person at that table who is asymptomatic but infected could make all of them sick at the same time,” she told the outlet.
The Knot also recommends including information on your state or city’s testing requirements, where guests can get tested and whether they’ll be required to wear masks at the reception.