The guests invited to Aliza Krichevsky’s wedding this September will have to theoretically get a Covid-19 vaccine weeks before attending or they may not be allowed to enter her venue.
Full immunity doesn’t appear until seven to 14 days after the second dose (one month after the first), so her guests will need to plan ahead.
“We will kindly request that all our guests get vaccinated,” said Ms. Krichevsky, a journalist in Washington, adding that there will be a number of high-risk attendees (including herself) at her wedding, Sept. 5 at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, where she expects more than 280 people. Ms. Krichevsky has asthma, her grandfather has Type 2 Diabetes, her father-in-law had a triple bypass and liver transplant — and she’d prefer that they not have any more health issues at her expense.
She realizes this means her guests will have to start the process in the middle of the summer to have the required immunity in time for the big day.
Amber Cole, a 27-year-old teacher living in Oswego, Ill., is also planning on asking her 40 guests to have been vaccinated against Covid-19 before attending her July 3 wedding in France. She said she was prepared to postpone the wedding if the majority of her guests don’t have access to the vaccine in time.
Couples planning big weddings for this summer and beyond are struggling with how much they can require of their guests. Up until now, masks, social distancing and even a rapid Covid test were accepted risk mitigation practices during the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is all brand-new,” said Jacqueline Whitmore, an etiquette expert in Palm Beach, Fla., who hesitated for a few seconds when asked her opinion. “I can see them asking people to produce a negative Covid test, but as far as a vaccine goes, I think that’s a personal decision,” Ms. Whitmore said.
Birdy Grey, a bridal brand based in Los Angeles, set up an Instagram Story poll in December asking if brides plan on requiring guests to get vaccinated before their upcoming weddings. Out of the 4,200 who responded, 35 percent said yes, the remainder said no.
“For those who are, it’s primarily for the safety of older loved ones who are at higher risk,” said Grace Lee, the founder and chief executive of Birdy Grey. “Others have told us that they are kindly encouraging guests to get the vaccine, but keeping it optional.”
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Among those opposed to requesting guests be vaccinated is Keith Willard, a wedding planner in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “I know in this day and age, it seems that everyone feels they have the right to ask almost anything from their guests,” he said. “Suggesting vaccination is a totally different story.” Guests should be allowed to make decisions that make them comfortable, Mr. Willard said.
Lewena Bayer, an expert on civility in the workplace and who is based in Calgary, Alberta, said that if there are high-risk guests, their health is worth risking perceived bad etiquette. She said it is acceptable to ask people to vaccinate, recognizing that some guests may choose not to attend.
Not everyone — including some doctors — agree that a vaccine is necessary for wedding attendance, nor will the vaccine dramatically shift the way we live our lives at the moment.
A December survey of 700 epidemiologists by The New York Times found that the doctors are still worried about the longevity of immunity, the mutation of the virus and vaccine distribution. Three percent of the epidemiologists said they have attended or would have attended a wedding or a funeral within the month before the survey. And half of those surveyed said they would not return to the pre-pandemic normal until at least 70 percent of the population were vaccinated.
Mercedes Carnethon, the vice chairwoman of research in the department of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, however, says that she would be comfortable attending a wedding if she were vaccinated, even if others hadn’t had the vaccine yet. It’s a different story for her children, though.
“Children under 16 are not eligible to be vaccinated,” Dr. Carnethon said. “If you allow unvaccinated people in, you are putting other people at risk.”
Still, as the vaccine becomes more widely available, it may become more common to see requests or requirements for people to be vaccinated before participating in events, said Dr. Lisa Maragakis, the senior director of infection prevention at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. It’s also important to remember that vaccination isn’t a substitution for infection prevention measures such as masking and physical distancing, Dr. Maragakis said.
“Vaccination primarily protects the individual who is vaccinated, but we do not yet know the extent to which vaccination will reduce a person’s ability to carry and transmit the virus to others,” she said.
Right now, it’s hard to predict when the pandemic will end — or when we’ll be able to return to group celebrations sans worries about vaccines or masks, Dr. Maragakis said.
Until then, wedding should remain small.
Jessica Kolb, a photographer in Downers Grove, Ill., said that she wouldn’t go to any wedding requiring vaccines. “I have zero plans to get this vaccine until there’s more data,” Ms. Kolb said, adding that her niece is getting married this fall, and if she requires guests get vaccinated, she simply won’t go.
Mindy Trotta, a digital content manager for Road2College based in Jersey City, N.J., said she’ll be getting the vaccine and would hope that everyone attending weddings will be vaccinated if possible.
“My son’s friend got married a month or so ago — only 10 people attended the wedding, and a week later, all 10 had the virus,” Ms. Trotta said, adding that neither she, nor her son attended.
Nathan Ochoa, a wedding videographer in Seattle, said some of his clients have already been requiring current Covid-negative tests from guests and vendors, and he would happily embrace couples who stipulate getting the vaccine when available.
“With how dangerous weddings can be with close proximity to one another, the open buffet line to the open dance floor at the end of the evening,” Mr. Ochoa said. “It’s terrifying not knowing if grandma is going to be alive in two weeks or not.”
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