Asking wedding guests to leave their kids at home used to be one of the trickier requests a couple could make.
Now Covid precautions are adding more sensitive calls to wedding invitations.
Tucked in embossed envelopes containing dinner choices and directions to the front desk are also politely worded notes telling guests to get vaccinated, have a Covid test or do both, according to wedding planners.
Couples aren’t shy about asking guests about their vaccination status, said Jamie Bohlin, a wedding planner and owner of Cape Cod Celebrations in Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts.
“I don’t get an email saying, ‘Should I ask our guests if they’ve been vaccinated?'” she said. “They just say, ‘We ask our guests.'”
In a survey of 1,400 couples last month, 22 percent said guests should be vaccinated, according to The Knot, a wedding planning website. That was a leap since the spring, when just 3 percent of couples surveyed said they would mandate vaccinations, said Lauren Kay, editor in chief at The Knot.
Many couples set up mobile test sites the day before their wedding, inform guests to wear masks throughout the reception, and provide color-coded bracelets that indicate which guests are okay with cuddling and who want to keep their distance, according to wedding planners.
The rules of wedding etiquette are fairly well established. Guests are not allowed to wear white dresses. Hosts should provide an open bar. But how does a pandemic affect typical marriage protocol?
“I don’t know if we’ve reached perfect etiquette when it comes to what to do,” Ms. Kay said. “It’s such a tricky subject and it can be politically charged.”
She said there is one philosophy for now that couples and guests should follow: “Be empathetic on both sides.”
When good intentions go wrong.
Chris Barry and Bridget Gallagher said they have canceled their wedding twice due to the pandemic. They wanted to get married, but were afraid for the health of their guests.
Last October, they decided to hold a small ceremony in Cleveland and invited about 15 people who live in Ohio.
They told friends and relatives from out of state to expect invitations to a bigger wedding in 2021, as they hoped the pandemic would be more under control.
Everyone understood, the couple said, except for one family member who sent an angry text message to Ms Gallagher telling her he was deeply offended that he had been barred from the smaller ceremony.
They invited him to their second wedding, on Sept. 11, but he declined, saying he already had plans, said Mr Barry, 38.
“He’s written us off,” he added.
It was a disturbing response that the couple said they had to process as they weighed up other decisions, such as whether to ask guests to wear masks.
Ms Gallagher, 37, is a doctor with many friends in the medical field, so she expected most of her guests to be vaccinated. Mr Barry said he had given his sister the task of carefully asking their cousins about their vaccination status.
However, despite their best efforts to ensure a fairly safe environment, they have had a number of late cancellations, including one member of the bridal party who was too nervous to fly from California to Cleveland for the celebration.
“It was really devastating,” Mrs Gallagher said. But she said she knew better than to get offended.
“It’s heartbreaking,” she continued. “But I completely understand.”
Who should pay for a Covid test?
The need to make guests feel safe has led couples to get creative, said Ms. Kay, the editor at The Knot.
Many have set up “satellite bars” so that guests don’t have to stand close together in long lines for drinks. To avoid crowded dance floors, they provide table-side entertainment, such as tarot card readers, magicians and even aerialists, Ms. Kay said.
The push to create a safer environment at weddings has also led to increased demand for services from private Covid testing companies, which often charge high fees.
Understanding Vaccine and Mask Mandates in the US
- Vaccine Rules. On August 23, the Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for people 16 and older, paving the way for an increase in mandates in both the public and private sectors. Private companies are increasingly mandating vaccines for employees. Such mandates are permitted by law and have been confirmed in court proceedings.
- Mask Rules. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended in July that all Americans, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in indoor public places in areas with outbreaks, a reversal of the guidance it offered in May. Find out where CDC guidelines apply and where states have their own masking policies. The battle over masks has become controversial in some states, with some local leaders defying state bans.
- College and universities. More than 400 colleges and universities are demanding that students be vaccinated against Covid-19. Almost all of them are in states that voted for President Biden.
- schools. Both California and New York City have introduced vaccine mandates for educators. A survey published in August found that many U.S. parents of school-aged children are opposed to mandatory vaccines for students, but were more in favor of mask mandates for students, teachers and staff who have not received their injections.
- Hospitals and Medical Centers. Many hospitals and major health systems require workers to receive a Covid-19 vaccine, citing the increasing caseload fueled by the Delta variant and persistently low vaccination coverage in their communities, even within their workforce.
- New York City. Evidence of vaccination is required from employees and customers for indoor meals, gyms, performances and other indoor situations, although enforcement will not begin until September 13. Teachers and other education workers in the city’s vast school system must have at least one vaccine dose by Sept. 27, without the option of weekly testing. City hospital employees should also receive a vaccine or be tested weekly. Similar rules apply to employees in New York State.
- At the federal level. The Pentagon announced it would aim to make coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for the country’s 1.3 million active-duty troops “by mid-September.” President Biden announced that all civilian federal employees would be required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or undergo regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and restrictions on most travel.
Tests can cost $170 per person, said Ms. Bohlin of Cape Cod Celebrations, adding that couples who can afford these services for their guests choose them.
As to whether guests should pay for their own tests, Ms Bohlin said she was torn.
“If I was a guest at a wedding, I would do it and pay for it,” Ms Bohlin said. “I want to be with the bride and groom to celebrate and they throw me a party at no cost to me. It is the time we live in.”
One of her clients, Deb Robinson, who runs a human resources consulting firm, said she had paid for tests for 16 guests who had traveled from Canada to her wedding in Orleans, Massachusetts, last month.
However, the tests were not intended for entry into the wedding. The guests needed them to get back to Canada, requiring proof of a negative Covid test for anyone entering the country.
“To expect our guests to come all the way from Canada and jump through these hoops, and then have to go to CVS to get a test?” Ms. Robinson, 57, said. “We didn’t think that was fair.”
Celebration is a beautiful word. Vaccination, not so much.’
Ms Robinson said she had told her guests to be vaccinated. Almost all of them said yes, except for a childhood friend from Florida.
“I said, ‘I need you there; I’ve known you since I was 6 years old,” recalled Mrs. Robinson. The girlfriend did not want to be vaccinated, but she agreed to take a Covid test, and during the ceremony she wore a mask and kept her distance from other guests.
Ms Robinson said she was grateful for her friend’s general acceptance of the marriage protocol she had drawn up, even though she has still not been able to persuade her to get vaccinated. “We love and care about her,” said Ms. Robinson.
Such conversations can lead to painful breakups, said marriage experts, who argue that couples should be transparent about what they expect from their guests, and the sooner the better.
Valarie Kirkbride Falvey, a Cleveland wedding planner, said couples should make it clear in the invitation whether they expect guests to wear masks or be vaccinated. But those requests should be on a separate card in the invitation, such as the information about hotel arrangements or the airport shuttle, she said.
“The invitation is a memento and it is very important to adhere to the exact etiquette on the invitation,” said Ms. Falvey. The invitation is “a kind of work of art in its own right, so we try to make it as beautiful, sophisticated and timeless as possible.”
References to the pandemic are not romantic, she added.
“Celebration is a nice word,” said Mrs. Falvey. “Vaccination, not so much.”