wedding party lined up wearing face masks
Kenyatta Davis Photography

Just when we all started breathing a well-earned sigh of relief after more than a year of living in fear, anxiety and, for the most part, isolation, it almost seems like we’re regressing in our recovery from this COVID-19 pandemic. It’s been more than six months now since mass vaccinations have been underway, yet only 50 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, per the U.S. Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker.

And now there’s an even more contagious strain of COVID, known as the Delta variant, that’s now accounting for a whopping 83 percent of U.S. cases of the virus, the the director of the CDC stated on Tuesday, July 20th. “The typical person who contracts the original COVID-19 strain will infect 2.5 other people; however, if you contract the Delta variant, you are likely to transmit COVID-19 to up to four other people—nearly twice as contagious,” says Robert Hess III, owner of Hess III Consulting, a healthcare industry consulting firm. “So far Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson’s vaccines all protect against the Delta variant, so the scary danger is mostly affecting those who have not yet been vaccinated.”

For large-scale events like weddings, this poses some problems. Restrictions had just finally eased up in most areas of the U.S. and people were finally starting to get comfortable with the idea of being in close proximity to others without masks. With the added fear of the Delta variant, couples, it is definitely important to keep an eye on new COVID-19 infections in your local area as you are planning your big day. Here, experts share their best advice for how couples can best prepare for their big day in light of the recent Delta variant.

Consider asking guests about vaccination status.

You and your partner will need to make an important decision before your wedding: Will you require your guests to be fully vaccinated in order to attend your event? If you’re requiring vaccinations and know some of your guests are hesitant to obtain a vaccine, Rusha Modi, M.D., a gastroenterologist and assistant professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California recommends that you reach out to them directly and have an honest, but compassionate, conversation about the topic. “It will be hard for some guests to have a good time if they know other guests have not been vaccinated, so I think a level of vaccine diplomacy on part of the couples to be is going to be essential to ensure everyone feels comfortable and safe,” says Dr. Modi. If you're not requiring vaccination among your guests, requesting everyone get a COVID test before attending your wedding is another option. 

Talk to your vendors and local health department. 

As the virus mutates at a rapid pace, public health departments will have no choice but to alter the rules to lower the levels of infection. This, explains Dr. Modi, can determine occupancy, social distancing, need for masks and more. “Make sure your wedding party is up-to-date with these compliance concerns and talk to your vendors regarding their safety protocols—especially for those involved with the food and beverage,” he says. “Don't get off guard because you weren't aware of the latest regulations.”

Inquire about COVID insurance.

Some venues and vendors are offering a new form of insurance that gives added flexibility to circumstances involving the pandemic. While your venues or vendors may not offer such a deal, it’s worth seeing if you can negotiate some sort of insurance clause in your contracts to protect your funds if there is an unexpected spike in cases that threatens the viability of your wedding, notes Dr. Modi. “This may involve return of a deposit, rescheduling of your wedding at no cost and/or credit towards future events,” he adds.

Prioritize hygiene.

We’re unfortunately not out of the woods yet, even if everyone at your wedding is vaccinated. Dr. Modi suggests incorporating physical signs at your venue that remind people to use precautions, especially if you're in an area with high spread. In addition to providing everyone with masks—even fun ones that are decorative—have ample hand sanitizers spread throughout your venue. “Have your DJ or emcee make announcements regarding these matters at some point during your wedding and reception,” he says. “Evaluate the events and ritual of your wedding day and see if you can modify parts of it to incorporate more social distancing (easier said and done).”

Make it easy to livestream the event for people who may not be able to attend.

Whether or not a guest is vaccinated, it’s important to remember that everyone’s comfort level is different when it comes to public gatherings during a pandemic. Even if you’re not sure how many guests are officially coming or not coming to your wedding, it’s still a good idea to arrange for a virtual viewing so that elderly guests or those not comfortable attending can still be a part of your day without feeling like they are risking their safety in any way.