We Told Our Wedding Guests They Had to Be Vaccinated. Here’s What Happened Next

We called everyone we'd invited and asked about their vaccination status. It led to some painful conversations — and some progress.

Due to the rise of the Delta variant, we’ve added a vaccination requirement for our guests. Not all of them were cool with it. Photos via Getty Images

I was told that in the weeks leading up to my wedding, shit would get real. But I never imagined such a bombshell. 

Until very recently, everything was going as planned: Our vendors were paid in advance, the wedding shower was a blast, our day-of coordinators/assistants hadn’t missed a beat, and my fiancé and I couldn’t be more in love. We were truly feeling that this could be one of those rare wedding experiences where nothing goes awry because we planned ahead and have a great support system of family and friends. Even during the early stages of the pandemic, we’d been able to weather abrupt changes without stress. 

But as the Delta variant continues to disrupt any sense of normalcy we thought we’d regained, pressure from our venue and advisers prompted us to make an unanticipated rule change for our guests: They’d need to be fully vaccinated in order to attend our fall wedding.

We didn’t think this would be a big deal. We have more than 100 guests attending, with both indoor and outdoor festivities taking place over a number of hours. With a rampaging variant on the rise, not mandating a full vaccination requirement felt irresponsible. To maximize safety protocols, we’re not even allowing small children to attend (they’re not yet cleared to be vaxxed), so the majority of our guests are over 21. Once we made our decision, my fiancé and I immediately began to contact our guests and tell them they had two weeks at most to get their first shots in order to be fully vaccinated in time for our mid-October wedding. 

At first, these calls were chill and understanding. Our close friends, many of whom are millennials and media or social justice professionals, had no issues confirming their vaccination status. They had already heard stories of people contracting COVID-19 at summer weddings, so they actually appreciated the measures we were taking.

“Of course,” many of them told us. “It’s the responsible thing to do.”

But as we began to contact family members and friends from our childhoods, things changed. Some people told us they weren’t getting the vaccine because they “don’t know what’s in it.” Others simply told us, “Sorry, but I guess I won’t be coming.” Some conversations, riddled with conspiracy theories and bogus science, got super-uncomfortable. We were shocked by some of the things we heard. How did we have so many anti-vaxxers among us?

“I can’t believe this vaccine is creating so much division right now,” one person told me over the phone. “I’m not putting that stuff in my body, and if it means I can’t come, please don’t take it personally.”

Many seemed to treat the vaccine issue as a “difference of opinion” rather than a matter of life or death. It was infuriating to hear some people who I’ve known most of my life try to shame me over this. I was always told that weddings reveal things about the people in your life that you’d never find out any other way — but I wasn’t expecting something so rooted in common sense to be the trigger. 

The blowback from the vaccination requirement cost us a dozen guests — many from my fiancé’s side. (Several members of his immediate family and friends from high school are no longer attending.) As a practical matter, this has thrown our reception seating chart and the front rows of our wedding ceremony into disarray, and we’ve had to rearrange the flow of our speeches and processionals. But it goes deeper. I would be lying if I said this hasn’t forever changed how I feel about some of these people, and future holiday dinners and family gatherings are going to be awkward for some time. 

The bright side is that while some have refused to get vaccinated, for others, this was a catalyst. 

“I’m not missing this for the world,” one of my family members texted me. “I wasn’t thinking about getting one at first, but if that’s what I gotta do to celebrate with y’all, here goes!”

Others sent us pics of their vaccination cards, their first doses marked the very same day, with captions like “done” and “say less.” It felt good to see them step up to protect themselves during these tough times; it was even more flattering that it was our wedding that inspired them. It wasn’t difficult to fill the guest list back up with others who were on our waiting list and were already vaxxed up and ready to celebrate. Moments like these uplifted my spirit and confirmed that we’d made the right decision — that everything happens for a reason. 

The feeling of relief that comes with knowing our entire wedding will be vaccinated outweighs the pain that comes with leaving some family members out of the festivities. Blood may be thicker than water, but clearly, a vaccine is more potent.