If you’re planning to tie the knot this summer, it may be difficult to know how to plan your event during the ever-changing mandates and guidelines surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. To mask or not to mask? Are larger gatherings allowed in your region or should you keep your invitation list low? The same is true if you’re planning a bridal or baby shower; where do you begin?
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Infectious disease specialist Kristin Englund, MD, weighs in about the biggest things to consider as you plan for or plan to attend a wedding or other party this summer.
Do vaccinated guests have to mask up?
The pandemic has changed many things about the world we once knew. But we can celebrate things we couldn’t really freely celebrate last season now that many of the U.S. population is now fully vaccinated. To date, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports 42.1% of those ages 12 and older of the total population of the U.S. is fully vaccinated.
Dr. Englund says if you haven’t been vaccinated yet, it’s something to strongly consider doing.
“One of the most important ways to keep yourself protected when you’re going to or hosting an event like a wedding or other celebration is to get yourself vaccinated,” she says. “Make sure you’ve afforded yourself the best protection so you can have the most fun when you’re helping your family and loved ones celebrate.”
Chances are good, however, that a fair number of the people who will attend your wedding and reception still haven’t received their vaccination against COVID-19 for any number of reasons. So how can you provide a safe environment for all of your guests — vaccinated and unvaccinated — while celebrating your love?
Dr. Englund said it’s important to consider having your event at an outdoor venue.
“We know that if you’re having a party outdoors, especially for a small number of people, that’s going to be the best way to try to keep those who are unvaccinated safe.”
The CDC recently updated its guidelines regarding masking up in public settings, and Dr. Englund says according to the new guidelines, if you’ve been vaccinated it’s OK to ditch the mask. Be mindful to note local and state mandates, as those rules still apply. “In Ohio, the mask mandate has now been lifted for those who are vaccinated.”
She says if your wedding is indoors, and if you’re not vaccinated, you should wear a mask. “An indoor event means those who are unvaccinated need to wear masks indoors.”
Tips for celebrating safely
If you’re planning to marry your sweetheart this season, Dr. Englund has some helpful tips to make it a fun — and safe — event for everyone:
- Consider electronic-only wedding communications. With the evolving changes regarding COVID-19, it would be a real bummer to have your invitations printed with guidelines regarding masks, only to have things change again. For this reason, it may be wise to consider a website or electronic means of inviting your guests to your event. That way if things change, you can alert your guest list with the click of a button.
- State expectations upfront. If you’re having an indoor party, let people know ahead of time that they need to bring masks if they’re unvaccinated. If you’re providing masks, let your guests know this on your invitations and have them available at the entrance. That way there’s not an uncomfortable conversation as your guests arrive. Dr. Englund recommends having fun with it: “As people are walking in for your special day, make your masks a fun little favor that they can take home to remember the event.”
- Space, please! If you’re having an indoor or outdoor event, assess your space. If things feel cramped where your guests can’t safely maintain social distancing guidelines, expand tables and chairs. Consider renting extra tables to ensure all guests can maintain a safe distance.
- Space out arrival times. To prevent your guests from congregating at the entrance of your event, consider a fluid arrival time for your reception. You might even consider staggering arrival times on your invites so your guests arrive in waves rather than all at once. Dr. Englund says consider seating your most vulnerable members of your family, such as older guests, at their own table, taking care to provide six feet of spacing as recommended by the CDC.
What to consider if you’re on the guest list
You’re vaccinated and you’re invited to witness your favorite two people tie the knot. Or maybe you’re in the wedding party (even more exciting!). If you plan to attend a wedding but are unsure of the details regarding the type of venue the ceremony and reception will be in, Dr. Englund recommends asking the bride and groom ahead of time.
“Questions like, ‘is the ceremony going to be indoors or outdoors?’ and ‘Are people expected to be vaccinated before the event?’ are important questions to ask to make sure you know what kind of environment you’re going to be stepping into,” she says.
Dr. Englund says if you’ve not been able to get vaccinated, and you’re someone who’s at risk for a severe infection from COVID-19, you might want to sit this one out. But if you do choose to attend, it’s best to mask up. “It’s important to keep yourself safe so you can attend future celebrations,” she says.
Dr. Englund says it’s also important to know the status of COVID-19 statistics in your community or the community of the party you’ll be attending. “If there’s a lot of COVID-19 around, this is not a good time for people to be gathering, especially indoors,” she says.
The bottom line?
There are many reasons to get vaccinated, and the upcoming nuptials of your favorite people might be one key reason to consider vaccination. While the numbers of COVID-19 cases continue to recede, we’re not out of the woods just yet.
“If you’re vaccinated, you can get closer to those around you, you’re able to not wear a mask, especially in an outdoor venue in a small gathering. So there’s a whole lot of benefits to being able to celebrate this wedding season by getting vaccinated.”
The key thing, Dr. Englund says, is to get vaccinated and know the vaccination status of the people you’ve invited to your event. And if you’re the bride and groom, make sure you’re setting up your wedding and reception so that it’s safest for everyone. With kids ages 12 to 15 now able to get vaccinated, younger siblings can safely participate in the festivities too.
“I think everyone is excited to be able to celebrate some of the things we weren’t able to celebrate last year, whether they are weddings, bridal or baby showers, anything to celebrate. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t do it safely,” Dr. Englund says.