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Although 50% of Americans over the age of 18 reported that they were married in a survey conducted in 2017, it’s clear that the pandemic disrupted the plans of many betrothed couples in 2020.
In many states, large gatherings were forbidden in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. And while many brides and grooms opted to either delay their nuptials or switch their plans to involve an elopement or a courthouse wedding, there are others who have had their hearts set on an elaborate setup surrounded by friends and family.
The tradition of presenting a fiancee with an engagement ring can be traced back to 1477, many other wedding traditions have proven to be just as important for many engaged couples. This has resulted in some people forging ahead with their original plans; rather than settle for a Zoom wedding, there are those who are determined to see their vision through and hope for the best.
But the question is: if you’re invited to a traditional wedding during COVID, should you even attend? Or should you send your regrets when you receive your RSVP card in the mail?
For one thing, it does depend on where you are and where you’d need to go to celebrate. If you’re in an area that’s experiencing a significant uptick in COVID cases or you’d have to travel out of state to attend the wedding, you might want to think about the possible ramifications.
If you live in or are going to a state that forces people to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival in order to slow the spread, consider that you could be putting a lot of other people at risk if you aren’t able to follow those regulations. Weddings with the lowest risks would typically involve guests only from an area with fewer cases, but that’s hard to guarantee.
You should also give careful thought to whether there will be proper precautions taken at the wedding. Large groups may be limited — but these limitations can vary widely. Even if the guest limit is technically legal for the state in which the event takes place, it’s probably not wise to attend a wedding with dozens of guests right now. Although the average party size for caterers is between 100 and 250 people, you should probably decline an invite that’s turning out to be the social event of the season. In fact, most experts recommend that any wedding that has more than 10 guests or has a guest list that represents more than a quarter of the venue’s capacity should probably be avoided.
As we head into fall, which tends to be immensely popular for weddings (but not always as popular for good weather), both the ceremony and reception should be held outside for safety’s sake. Guests should be instructed to wear masks and to socially distance, while the buffet line should be replaced with individual meals. Many venues have removed their dance floors in order to minimize crowds.
Don’t forget that it isn’t merely up to the couple and the venue to enforce these health and safety guidelines. It’s also up to each individual attending the wedding. While you may be more than willing to wear a mask at all times and stay at least six feet apart from others, it’s possible that other guests might not be as diligent as you are. If you have a feeling that the bride and groom don’t really care about mask-wearing or you’re worried that an open bar could lower the inhibitions of those in attendance, you might want to decline. That’s especially true if you or someone in your circle is in a high-risk group.
If you do decide to attend, you’ll want to avoid using the bathroom, stay away from crowded areas, and mingle only with others in your immediate household. You may want to consider attending only the ceremony or keeping your time at the reception on the shorter side, as well.
If you’ve determined that attending a wedding isn’t a risk you want to take, you certainly won’t be alone. However, declining an invitation in this situation can be awkward and may not always be well-received. One of the best things you can do is to tell the bride or groom how much you love them and how much you wish you could be there for their special day. You can always send a gift or a thoughtful card to express your warm wishes.
Should you decide to decline, be sure to do so with plenty of time before the event. If there’s a way to watch the event online, take advantage of that opportunity! But if not, don’t feel guilty about your decision. As long as you lead with empathy and compassion while remaining firm in your choice to stay home, there’s not much else you can do. And while it doesn’t feel good to miss out on such a special moment, the reality is that someone else’s wedding day probably won’t define your life (especially not in the way that contracting COVID might). You don’t need to go overboard with apologies, either. Keep it short and sweet and wish them all the best.
There are no clear-cut decisions when it comes to the novel coronavirus. But just because an event is technically allowed to take place, that doesn’t actually mean that it’s safe to attend. You’ll need to weigh a number of factors when determining whether you want to go to a wedding right now. No matter what you decide, you should put the health of yourself and loved ones first — as that’s really the greatest gift of all.