Since the pandemic, wedding planning is all about making sure guests feel comfortable enough to show up in person for the ceremony. Health and safety of guests are the most important aspects of the plans, according to more than 75 percent of over 7,600 couples surveyed in spring 2021 by wedding website The Knot for its 2020 Real Weddings Study.
Celebration size and attendee numbers also play into the decision, with either handfuls on hand or guest lists topping 200. As couples plan to share their joy, wedding guests now have more decisions to make than just the gift.
Ron Segel, 74, and his wife, Meryl Manning Segel, 73, attended their first in-person wedding since the pandemic on Sept. 11, traveling from their home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Long Island, New York, for the marriage of the daughter of longtime friends.
“They made it clear that nobody was invited who wasn’t fully vaccinated,” says Segel, a retired attorney. “In some ways, it was refreshing and liberating that we were back together in a large group with friends. But things were clearly different.”
COVID safety is the new wedding trend
Lizzie Post, the great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post, (a 20th-century author best known for writing about etiquette, manners and social behavior) cohosts a weekly Q and A podcast, on which she says COVID-related wedding questions are routine.
“It shouldn’t be — at this point in the pandemic — an unexpected part of an invitation,” Post says. “It may be your first time receiving one that talks about it. But with this pandemic raging on, it’s expected that there will be some communication about safety measures.”
If you’ve received a wedding invitation and there hasn’t been a discussion about pandemic safety, it’s OK for a guest to ask, Post says.
The Knot survey of those planning 2020 marriages found just over 40 percent went ahead with the wedding and reception, with the majority held outdoors. Among those who married, about one-third of couples also planned a larger gathering later. Of those planning fall and winter weddings this year, 57 percent are moving ahead with more than 100 guests, says Esther Lee, senior editor and wedding expert at The Knot.
Post says she hears from both sides — the vaccinated and unvaccinated — about how to proceed, with some saying, “I’m unvaccinated and want to go but don’t want people yelling at me” or, “We’ve got family we know aren’t vaccinated and want to know the rules in place for safety.”
Meryl Manning Segel says she received at least four or five emails about safety measures before the September wedding she and her husband attended. The newlyweds married last year in a private ceremony and held a bigger event this year.
Manning Segal says she mostly felt safe to enjoy herself.
“It felt great and everybody took precautions,” she says of the event with almost 200 guests. “The cocktail hour was outside, too. Everybody that was a server was masked. The photographer was masked. Everybody who was employed was masked. The band was masked as much as they could be.”
Manning Segel, a Realtor, says she and her husband had masks on and off during the evening, but says she “was a little anxious when everybody was dancing.”
“You’re dancing and you’re sweating and half [are dancing without masks] and half are dancing with masks. I’d say about 40 percent had masks on,” she says. “The young people did not.”
To allow for greater social distancing, Lee says dance floor size is increasing and many dance floors are placed outdoors under twinkling lights.
But, no matter the protocols, she says, “If a guest doesn’t feel comfortable attending a wedding during this time, it’s more than OK to politely decline the invitation. That’s where a gift comes in handy.”