To be, or not to be: Events and COVID-19
Updated: Mar 12, 2020
With the current rise in anxiety surrounding the COVID-19 global outbreak, many couples are starting to panic about how it will impact their wedding plans, whether the wedding is next month or during the summer. As things seem to be progressing over time, but with no clear guidelines on when things may improve or when there will be a vaccine, it is highly advised to have a contingency plan regardless of when your wedding is taking place. Public health authorities are concerned about mass gatherings (such as festivals, concerts, religious ceremonies) that involve a large gathering of people to be in close contact for an extended period of time; ultimately increasing the chances of transmission of the virus. Of course, social gatherings such as weddings are not necessarily the same as a mass gathering of public nature. Family events tend to be limited to family, friends and co-workers who are generally closer to the couple, and therefore can be assessed on a personal level for risk, rather than cancelling.
That being said, I am not suggesting you send your invitations out to guests with a reply card including a lengthy questionnaire. However, there is some common sense that can be applied and implemented for the full benefit of both yourselves and your guests. If you are aware of any guests that have recently travelled or plan to be travelling to a high risk area before your wedding date, it is highly advised by the World Health Organization (WHO) to reduce risk to your other guests by asking those guests to avoid your event, as well as any other guests that are presenting any symptoms that could be considered COVID-19 (whether they are confirmed or not). This same consideration should also be applied to guests that are at higher risk of complications from COVID-19, such as the elderly or those with compromised immune systems. I would highly recommend reaching out to your videographer or venue to see if they have the means to livestream your ceremony or event activities, to allow those who can’t attend to be a part of your special day and not miss out. One company to try: https://www.weestreem.com/
Generally speaking you may also want to try and reduce the guest list to only close family and friends, and less kids (as I believe they have a greater transmission risk). Understandably this is a hard decision to make, and could be huge hit to the finances, as most event venues have a minimum guest list policy. However any reduction in guest list will prevent overcrowding and lower the risk of physical contact and spread.
Here are some other things to consider if going ahead with your event…
One of the most important measures to implement and reinforce is handwashing. This can be encouraged by adding handwashing stations (if applicable for your venue) and hand sanitizer wherever possible. You could include little hand sanitizer favors at each place setting. Pinterest has some very cute ideas to make these fit with your wedding theme (https://pin.it/20xWO94).
If your plan was to have a buffet or food stations, the WHO highly advises against this form of food service, but rather plated meals. Again eliminating the crowding of people at one area, and of course the cross contamination of pathogens across food. Do not be shy to ask your venue or caterer what can be arranged to accommodate this request, hopefully in light of everything there will be no added cost. This of course also applies to dessert tables, late night tables and drink stations. Any that can be completely eliminated would be advised with all things considered.
Aside from the above, I would highly suggest revisiting anything that involves physical contact between guests, such as a receiving line. Alternatively have someone announce after the ceremony that the bride and groom will be making their rounds during the dinner hour to welcome and thanks guests for coming, rather than having guests line up to give their congratulations (which generally tends to include hugs and kisses). If you have a photo booth or kissing game, or any other activity that may involve very close contact between guests, use your best judgement on whether to continue with that plan or eliminate.
Lastly, check to see if the venue can broaden the dance floor area to create a larger space, which will result in less crowding on the dance floor.
Overall, unless there is a change in protocol or advisements by the WHO, or your event venue or vendors fall under different policy/procedure, I feel you should still plan to go ahead with your event and try not to let anxieties around the virus take away from your event plans. At the end of the day you will still be surrounded by your family and friends, and officially celebrating your special day. However, I feel having a contingency plan alone may help to alleviate any stress leading up to the event date, and ultimately put your guests at ease as well.