Due to the many wedding celebrations of 2020 being postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, people’s calendars may be as well additional Piled this summer until next year.
As the number of Americans being vaccinated rises and the number of COVID-19 cases declines in many parts of the country, invitations are starting to arrive in the mailboxes again. Things are going right, but we’re definitely not out of the woods yet. Deciding which weddings you will attend in the coming months – and how to do it safely – remains a concern.
“Even though things open up and there is a light at the end of the tunnel, this is not the time to drop your guard,” etiquette expert Dianne Gotsman, author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Life and founder of The Protocol School of Texas, told HuffPost. “We all still need to be careful.”
Here’s what you need to consider to make an informed decision about which invitations to accept and which invitations to decline.
Attending a wedding is still a risk. But how severe it is depends on a number of factors.
Here are some things to consider before answering “Yes,” according to Dr. Neha Nanda, Medical Director for Infection Prevention and Antimicrobial Supervision at Keck Medicine at the University of Southern California, according to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Is it an outdoor event or an indoor event? The risk of infection outside is about 20 times lower than it is inside. If it is an indoor space, you want to know if it is a more spacious place that allows for ample social space and whether the space is well ventilated (for example, are there windows and doors open to increase airflow?).
How many guests will attend, and how many will be vaccinated? Smaller guest numbers pose fewer risks than larger risks. The more fully vaccinated the guests, the better. Note that the CDC continues to advise against large gatherings, but it does not provide figures for what constitutes a “big” or “small” event. However, your state or city may have more specific guidelines.
How long is the wedding? Whether indoors or out, the length of the event also needs to be taken into consideration, especially if it is a more crowded venue where it can be difficult to maintain a distance of 6 feet between you and other guests. Infectious disease specialist Dr. Jarrod Fox previously told HuffPost, “When you are in long-term proximity to other individuals, the risks increase – even outdoors -“.
Does spouses ask guests to wear masks? “Are they considering hiding a requirement except in areas where the group will be outdoors and will be far away?” I asked Nanda. Bear in mind that even if a couple is encouraging guests to wear masks before the event, it’s hard to know if people will actually keep them through the festivities.
How many cases of COVID-19 are in the area? The CDC website reads: “High or increasing levels of COVID-19 cases at the event site or the locations from which attendees come from increase the risk of infection and spread among attendees.”
How many people travel from outside or outside the country? This is important, Nanda noted, given the sudden increases occurring in different parts of the world.
What is the seating arrangement? Ideally, you want it to be at a table large enough so that everyone can spread out a little, and not where you sit alongside the other guests. Nanda also said, see if you can sit with your family members or other close people you know have had the vaccination and have been playing it safe in the days leading up to the event.
How can you get this information from spouses?
Couples may have answers to these (and other) security questions listed on their wedding website, printed with the date saved or the invitation or summarized in their guests’ email updates. So check out those places first. But if they don’t – or if you need additional information – don’t hesitate to ask.
Gutsman said: If you are close to a married couple, it is okay to ask them your questions. People who marry during this time should take into account the concerns of their guests.
“Your friends won’t be offended, and maybe they’ll understand it completely,” she said, “but you want to make sure you have an optimistic tone of voice and a conversation discussion rather than appearing to be putting off inviting them.”
Say something like, “Thank you so much for thinking about us. Are you planning an indoor or outdoor reception? I know it would be nice either way, but we’re still playing it safe right now and masks and social distancing are still really important to us. ”
“Even though things are opening up and there is a light at the end of the tunnel, this is not the time to bring down your guard.”
– Diane Gotsman, an expert in etiquette
However, if you don’t know the couple very well (say your friend’s son is getting married, for example), you may not feel comfortable communicating with them directly. In this case, ask another guest who is closer to the couple – such as the groom’s parents or someone at the wedding.
Be aware that public health guidelines are constantly changing, so some safety details may change as your wedding approaches.
“Keep in mind that there are no 100% guarantees, as the bride and groom may change their minds as the months go by,” Gotsman noted. “If you’re still anxious as the date approaches, you can check in with your friend again.”
Remember, it is okay to decline the invitation for any reason.
You may decide that you cannot attend the event, either due to health concerns or just because you have too many weddings in a very short time. If so, remember that it is a perfectly good idea to respond to the call with “no”. Just do it as quickly as possible.
“If you know that you will not go, or that you are on the fence and simply cannot make up your mind, then it is better to take the side of caution,” Gotsman said. “Let your friends know that you will not be able to attend but you look forward to meeting with them in the future. Thank them for their understanding.”
There’s no need to apologize profusely or make a big deal out of it either. But send the couple a congratulatory card and gift from their registry.
“It will be appreciated and let them know that you support them with their spirit,” Gotsman said.
Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available as of publication, but the guidance could change as scientists discover more about the virus. Please check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the latest recommendations.