If there's one takeaway from the past year in weddings, it's that health and safety guidelines aren't really romantic in practice. Bottles of hand sanitizer, face masks, and socially distanced dancing aren't part of the celebrations that we remember. However, despite the majority of the general public now in the process of becoming vaccinated, these regulations won't be lifted any time soon.
Larger events may be back on the books for the end of 2021 and beyond, but there are still some precautions that are strongly advised if you'll be expanding your guest list. While your risk may be lowered with Pfizer or Moderna, guest comfort and safety will remain a priority.
Now for the burning question: how can you implement these restrictions into your wedding in a safe (albeit stylish) way? We gathered some top industry experts to help you navigate the remainder of the pandemic, all while putting your best foot forward.
Guidelines to be mindful of (even if restrictions change)
Yes, you may be eager to increase your guest list and get the ball rolling on the wedding you always dreamed of, but there are a few things to keep in mind. For starters, even if your loved ones are fully vaccinated, there is still likely to be an overall discomfort that you shouldn't ignore. A sense of normalcy doesn't necessarily mean that you should throw caution to the wind.
Laura Maddox of Magnolia Celebrates notes: "I believe we will still see chef-attended stations instead of buffets, as it's a level of service that people will begin to expect. Also, more bars to help reduce lines, since people have become accustomed to waiting less time in lines. People will also be more comfortable with less people at each table."
Renée Sabo of Urban Soiree agrees, sharing: "As we continue to see restrictions loosen and areas open up for gatherings, I do believe we'll see a continued respect for health guidelines for the comfort of couples' and their guests -- socially distant seating, layout setups that allow for spacing and open flow, seating in households and close family or friends to keep people within their immediate groups, encouraged mask-wearing, and more."
According to Nora Sheils of Bridal Bliss and Rock Paper Coin, space will be key during the 2021 wedding season and beyond. "Everyone's personal bubble has been expanded for more than a year now, it is a habit born of fear that will be hard to quickly break. In addition to encouraging social distancing, many guests will continue to wear masks, vaccinated or not. I am guessing that guest counts, in general, will have more attrition than in years past, as many are still nervous about larger social events."
Chic, respectable ways to comply with health restrictions
It's important to note that health restrictions will continue to vary by region. Yet, you should stick to the standard guidelines that have been widely set in place thus far – including face masks, social distancing, increased hand-washing, and more. However, that isn't to say that you can't put your own personalized twist on this!
Maddox continues: "Consider a faux cake! This allows you to have your dream wedding cake, but also allows for the real cake to be in the back – pre-sliced and plated, offering a more elegant presentation and also a more sanitary presentation."
Perkins Morgan of Paisley & Jade also suggests, "Custom designed messages, bar menus, & food menus + graphics designed on the popular trend of acrylic are continuing to be incorporated in the event's design. For example, a colorful graphic of a bar menu designed on an acrylic bar shield is so functional for guests to read the drink options while also acting as a protective barrier between the guest and bartender. And because the acrylic is clear, it fits in seamlessly with the look you've worked hard to create!"
And for socially distanced seating, Kylie Carlson of The Wedding Academy advises you to get creative. "One of my favorite forms of 'seating' for wedding guests in the past year has been to lay out blankets or luxurious rugs for picnic-style gatherings. Not only can guests mingle as they please, but they can enjoy a more casual reception vibe as the party flows on into the evening. This is perfect for the summer months!"
Kristin Wilson of Our DJ Rocks adds: "Were you a product of the 90s? Set up a Mario Kart or video game station. Envision a chic couch, a modern table with a vintage TV screen, and all the old-school video games. It's another way to keep your friends and family socially distant with areas they can be entertained and create moments."
Keeping Communication a priority with guests
Whether you're in the beginning stages of wedding planning or if you've been brainstorming since 2020, guest communication is going to be crucial. Although 2021 may be a tad more predictable than last year, there will undoubtedly be details that change in alignment with COVID regulations.
To make sure guests are in the loop, Jaclyn Watson of Jaclyn Watson Events advises: "Couples can do various things to let their guests know that they are doing everything they can to keep them safe. On their invitations, they can do an RSVP card that asks if they will have their vaccine and/or ask that they [receive] a negative COVID test 3 days prior to the wedding. They can also create a wedding website with a dedicated page to COVID updates and what they are doing to stay within compliance. Couples could also send a Paperless Post or email to all their guests, letting them know what is expected of them on the wedding day and what they are doing in order to keep them safe."
JoAnn Gregoli of Elegant Occasions by JoAnn Gregli agrees, "Communication is key to making sure guests are aware of all the safety and COVID-compliant protocols. List the steps you are taking on your wedding website, so guests know what to expect. I would avoid printing something on your invitation since most rules and regulations are changing on a regular basis. Another option is to send out a mass email just weeks before the wedding updating guests on the COVID rules in place and how you are going to be handling the situation."
One of the best things you can do as you approach your upcoming wedding is to stay informed. Prioritize ever-evolving guidelines, and remember that while adding elegant touches to your wedding day is always possible, guest comfort and safety will ensure that the show goes on!
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast. As always, thank you for supporting our sponsors.