There’s a reason you’ve been hearing the phrase the novel virus every week since March of last year: COVID is new for everyone. We’re all fumbling around in the dark (six feet apart, of course!). It’s hard to be safe for ourselves, our families, and others while respecting privacy and different opinions. That was true when it came to safety protocols, like mask wearing and social distancing. And it’s true today when it comes to COVID vaccinations, too.
As of early May 2020, almost 50% of the U.S. population ages 16+ has received their first dose of the vaccine. And while those numbers aren’t high enough for herd immunity yet, they are welcome good news. But this good news comes with confusion over how COVID vaccinations will affect our in-person events. Admittedly, we don’t have all the answers—no one does. But we can offer suggestions and help you find that middle ground to be safe and respect others. That’s what this post sets out to do.
In this post, we will discuss the validity of requiring COVID vaccinations to attend events—a common theme especially among weddings. We’ll also offer some safety suggestions for before and during the event, to keep everyone as safe as possible. As with anything COVID-related, it’s important to communicate clearly with your guests and post any rules on your event website and at the venue itself.
Requiring COVID Vaccinations Before an Event
Right now, there is a lot of debate around requiring COVID vaccinations in order to attend in-person events. It’s especially relevant in the wedding industry. Couples are eager to celebrate with friends and family, but don’t want to put guests at risk—especially older family members.
Of course, the decision is ultimately up to the host—whether it’s a company hosting a corporate event, or a BFF hosting a bachelorette party. But we recommend considering your guest list before requiring COVID vaccinations at your event.
For starters, there are many reasons why someone wouldn’t get vaccinated. In some cases, they aren’t able for medical or personal reasons. Or perhaps it’s difficult to get the vaccine in their city, or they chose not to get vaccinated at all. What’s more, if someone isn’t able to get vaccinated for medical or personal reasons or because of local access, requiring a vaccination isn’t going to change that. On the contrary, it might make them feel worse about the situation.
In addition, if someone has already chosen not to get vaccinated because they simply don’t want to, requiring vaccination won’t change their mind. Instead, it’s more likely to cause a rift in the relationship—especially if it’s a close friend or family member. Overall, requiring vaccination is a little tricky.
Requesting Vaccination Documentation
A more understanding alternative is to request vaccination proof before guests enter the venue or event. (Note that we didn’t use the word require.) When guests check in, ask for their vaccination card, and then give them a sticker or special name tag to wear, telling other guests that they are low risk.
This is a completely optional way for guests to offer up that information to the group, so it’s clear what the risks are at the event. In combination with other safety practices, this will help keep your guests protected and comfortable at your event. Just don’t forget to let guests know ahead of time and remind them at the event! Put the information in the invites, on the event website, and at the entrance.
Providing PPE and Enforcing Social Distancing
Even if everyone has COVID vaccinations, we still recommend wearing face masks, providing hand sanitizer, and practicing social distancing. Vaccines are a great way to slow the spread of COVID, but they’re not a 100% guarantee—no vaccine is. And if there are guests who aren’t vaccinated, it’s better to keep everyone as safe as possible.
Of course, your venue may require face masks and social distancing on its own. But if it doesn’t, consider setting your own expectations for guests. And then follow your own rules! Your guests will follow your lead, no matter what the rules are. If there are tables and chairs at your event, you can cluster a few together for families and couples. But space those clusters 6+ feet apart and away from any food stations or bars.
Other Safety Considerations
You may also wish to check the temperature of guests as they enter the facility using a forehead thermometer. No, fever isn’t the only early symptom of COVID infection—nor is it always an early symptom. But it may give guests peace of mind, and it’s common practice at hospitals, doctor’s offices, and workplaces.
If you’re able, consider hosting your event outdoors. Again, there’s no foolproof way to avoid infection in a group setting. But being outdoors will certainly help reduce the risk of transmission! Plus, you may have more room to spread out those tables and chair to encourage distancing. And don’t forget to ask what your venue is doing to practice safety—they may be offering some or all of these services already!
Ultimately, it’s your choice to require COVID vaccinations for guests—but it may do more harm than good for your relationships or customer base. If there are high-risk guests on your guest list, we recommend keeping the overall headcount low or live streaming the event for some folks. Even though half of adults have their first vaccine dose, we still aren’t in the clear for normal events. It might be best to host a virtual wedding or keep your guest list small. But if you do plan a live, in-person event, be sure to enforce social distancing, clean often, and set up one-way traffic in the venue.
What do you think about requiring COVID vaccinations? Would that affect your attendance at an event?