Philly Event Planners on Navigating Proof of COVID Vaccination at Your Wedding
One major takeaway: Communication is key.
With COVID continuing to impact life as we used to know it, couples are, once again, faced with making tough decisions when it comes to their weddings — and their guest lists. Philly businesses (including venues) must require proof of vaccination or everyone who enters (staff and patrons) must wear masks. And many institutions have taken it upon themselves to limit customers to those who show proof of vaccination.
Couples have been working to keep guests healthy, too: Philly Mag editor-at-large Ernest Owens and his fiancé Barry Johnson, who are getting hitched in mid-October, are insisting all of their guests get vaccinated. Masking guidelines and negative COVID test results are also among the ways folks are trying to still hold their wedding — without creating a super-spreader event. But how to — kindly — ask your guests to follow the rules without adding to the wedding stress? Here, some of Philly’s top planners offer their wedding COVID vaccination etiquette.
Communicate your wedding COVID protocols from the start.
You want to weigh not only your comfort level, but also that of your guests, says Jaclyn Fisher of Two Little Birds Planning, who is working with Ernest and Barry on their Big Day. Being upfront about that information will allow everyone to make an informed decision. A great place to share your approach? Your wedding website — as well as save-the-dates and official invitations.
Get those invitations out early.
Kate Boyle of Sara Rea Design has been recommending her couples get them out eight to 10 weeks in advance (the standard is typically six to eight) so folks can comply with a two-shot regimen if they haven’t yet gotten jabbed. She also suggests referring guests to the wedding website for updates, changes and how-to’s, particularly when it comes to how each venue or couple is requesting vaccine proof. (For example, some venues are requiring proof ahead of time, while others want it to enter on the day-of.)
Provide a link on your website to the latest guidelines and transmission rates in your area.
Shannon Wellington of her eponymous wedding planning business and Sara Murray of Confetti & Co. both advise this approach. This will keep out-of-town guests up to speed on the current status of infections in the area and give them an opportunity to decide whether it is safe to travel. “It also raises awareness of where the mandate is coming from,” says Murray. Here’s one way to phrase it:
“Current guidelines imposed by the city of Philadelphia are that if 100 percent of people in a building are not vaccinated, all must wear a mask, including guests, vendors and staff. In our case, we’ve requested that our guests be vaccinated, but we cannot guarantee that vendors and building staff will be vaccinated. Thus, while this mandate is in effect, our guests will be required to wear masks while not eating or drinking during our wedding. We will provide masks or feel free to bring your own!” —Example provided by Shannon Wellington Weddings
Have your guests send photos of their vaccination cards via your wedding email.
Unfortunately, says Wellington, you don’t want to rely on the honor system when health and safety is involved. “Most will be happy to do so, and it will make everyone feel more comfortable knowing that you’re cognizant of the risks,” says Wellington. Murray also advises asking guests to bring their photo ID and vaccination card as an added measure.
Rely on your planner.
They can help you navigate the many components of personal and government mandates. For example, Tiffany Chalk of Tiffany Chalk Events has been working with couples to get the word out to guests about everything from vaccine requirements to masking, helping with temperature checks at the door, and ensuring the venue is following proper COVID protocols for food and beverage.
Be respectful and honest.
Regardless of your personal feelings about vaccinations (and we get it, we want everyone vaccinated, too), it is a personal choice — one that each individual weighs differently. For example, a vaccine for children under 12 is still not approved (though it could be by Halloween, according to a report by CNN.) “Remind guests with kids under 12 that you understand their predicament and they should make the best choice for their families,” says Wellington. Here’s one suggested phrasing:
“With the ever-changing pandemic and availability of vaccines, we have decided to move forward with putting in a requirement for our guests to be vaccinated to attend. We want our guest to be safe, especially those who are immunocompromised. Please know that this is an uncomfortable email for us to send knowing that the information may be personal for you and your family situation. We are trying to make the best decision for everyone included. We are still excited, albeit saddened and frustrated with all of the decisions that we did not intend on having to engage with.” — Example provided by Tiffany Chalk Events
Have a plan B.
Yep, in the age of COVID, that’s obvious — but necessary. Chalk says she is working with couples in the event strict social-distancing goes into effect. Or, consider simply holding an outdoor event, adds Boyle: “It has the most air flow and flexibility for adaptions. An outdoor event also provides the least amount of potential for COVID issues or safety protocols to force an adjustment of your plans.”
Remember, accountability is key.
“We are advising our couples to do whatever makes them feel comfortable,” says Kristin Phalines Kyle Michelle Weddings, whose team worked on a wedding back in August at the Ballroom at Ellis Preserve in Newtown Square, in which the couple’s invite read, “Black tie optional, vaccine preferred.” (Delaware County has different COVID guidance than Philly.) “For some that means writing ‘vaccines preferred’ on their invitations or websites. For others, they would like a negative COVID test prior to arriving. … However, while masks are making a comeback, couples are leaving that decision up to their guests based on their comfort level. I think what couples want the most is for them to be allowed to host weddings and that venues are allowed to remain open! As a wedding guest, you are responsible for making the safest decision for yourself. Get vaccinated. Wear a mask. Stay home if you are sick and lastly only come if you are comfortable in a large group.”
Most importantly, adds Wellington: “Don’t let emotions get the best of you if a wedding-party member or guest refuses to get vaccinated. At the end of the day, you’ll want to be surrounded by those who respect your wishes to keep everyone safe.”
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