Over the past week, the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has rocked the U.S. and the globe, and regrettably many lives have been taken. It has shaken communities, the healthcare industry, and even the events industry. Everyday, it seems like the restrictions on events become more stringent with continued reductions of attendees, recommended postponements, and even cancellations. At a sobering time like this, it’s important to follow the advice provided by experts and elected officials, try to stay calm, and practice preventative actions.
First and foremost, from our family to yours, we hope that everyone is staying healthy both physically and mentally during these challenging times. I truly never thought Amarvelous Event would be writing a post about planning an event during an epidemic, but this is where we are in the world. Of course, couples plan for what they think is a worst-case scenario, such as rain, but literally no one plans their wedding with an epidemic contingency plan in mind.
Let’s first appreciate a few things… No one could have planned for this. You are not alone. It’s no one’s fault. It’s just unfortunate. The main goal of the day is for you and your significant other to get married, and you can still do that.
Disclaimer: Some content below is courtesy of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
On March 15th, 2020, the CDC provided the below information for getting your mass gathering or large community events ready during the coronavirus disease.
Large events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States via travelers who attend these events and introduce the virus to new communities. Examples of large events and mass gatherings include weddings, conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, and other types of assemblies. These events can be planned not only by organizations and communities but also by individuals.
Therefore, the CDC, in accordance with its guidance for large events and mass gatherings, recommends that for the next 8 weeks beginning 3/15/2020, organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States.
Events of any size should only be continued if they can be carried out with adherence to guidelines for protecting vulnerable populations, hand hygiene, and social distancing. When feasible, organizers could modify events to be virtual.
On March 16th, 2020, the U.S. President mentioned during a press conference that events should be kept to under 10 people.
Clearly, there can be discrepancies in attendance recommendations between federal, state, and city officials. Definitely keep an eye on your local municipality as well as the CDC’s website for up-to-date information in regards to mass gathering guidelines.
As painful as it is to discuss, there are times when considerations for postponement or cancellation may be the best choice:
- The overall number of attendees: Larger gatherings (for example, more than 250 people) offer more opportunities for person-to-person contact and therefore pose greater risk of COVID-19 transmission.
- The number of people attending who are at greater risk of more serious illness after contracting COVID-19: Older adults and persons with severe pre-existing health conditions are at increased risk.
- The density of attendees within a confined area: Based on what is currently known about the virus, spread from person-to-person happens most frequently among close contact within 6 feet.
- The potential economic impact: Consider impact to participants, attendees, staff, and the larger community.
- The level of transmission in your local community and the level of transmission in the areas from which your attendees will travel: To better understand this risk, consult with your local and/or state public health department.
If you are still on the fence on whether you should postpone or cancel, then you could take these actions with your wedding planner to decide:
- Stay calm, and pay close attention to what official resources are saying.
- Review the existing emergency operations plans for your venues.
- Review your wedding insurance to see if it covers a health crisis.
- Review all vendor contracts.
- Have venue staff clean frequently-touched surfaces and objects daily.
- Change food options such as table set appetizers, buffet, or family-style, and switch to butler-passed hors d’oeuvres and plated meals.
- Display signs (physical and/or electronic) throughout the event to provide frequent reminders to guests to engage in everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- Prepare yourself for worst-case and best-case scenarios.
If you feel that you can potentially continue with your event, then below are some everyday preventive actions that you and your guests could take to stay safe.
Prior to event day:
- Commit to staying home when you are sick, except to get medical care. You could message all guests a brief note, via email or a private facebook wedding group, to thank them for still coming under the circumstances and to verify they are still comfortable with attending. Kindly and respectfully tell folks as much as you want them to be there, and appreciate that they too want to be with you, that if they are sick, they should stay home and you will understand.
- Acknowledge that older adults and persons with severe underlying health conditions are most susceptible to the virus and may no longer be able to attend your event. Consider offering to post a live feed of the ceremony to social media for guests that cannot attend. This will allow them to feel special and included, and it will allow you to not be so sad they couldn’t make it (while giving you peace of mind that they are less likely to be exposed at your wedding).
On event day, prior to ceremony beginning, you could have the officiant begin their intro noting these best practices to be mindful of that evening:
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue away. It would be a nice touch if each guest was provided a small personal pack of tissues on their ceremony seat. You could also have a nice tissue box on top of each bar. I am literally envisioning a bedazzled rhinestone tissue box. You guys, that would be beautiful and yet functional.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. Also avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. It would be nice to offer really lovely scented soap available in each restroom. Consider making several 60%+ alcohol hand sanitizers available at the ceremony, cocktail hour, bar, and tables. Your guests will always appreciate a hand sanitizer station or cute ushers offering hand sanitizer.
- Utilize social distancing, the elbow bump, or a wave over handshakes, “high-fives”, and kisses, which are often ways that COVID-19 can be transmitted from person to person. Ditch the receiving line and go straight into the party! If there was a way to reduce the number of people per table, to avoid the maximum and literally dining elbow-to-elbow, then that would be great. Have your DJ also make notes throughout the night to leave some breathing room on the dance floor. Maybe have a larger dance floor or a larger room with more space between tables, if available and your venue is flexible.
I hope that you and your families can find strength in this challenging time to make the most difficult decision on whether you will postpone, cancel, or proceed full steam ahead with your wedding planning process. It is definitely not a choice to make lightly. Remember to lean on your experts. Your wedding planner is there to support you and guide you through the process. You are not alone. If you or someone you know is in this troubling scenario and looking for a planner to guide them through the process, then Amarvelous Event would be happy to provide a free consultation to the couple. Please feel free to contact us at AmarvelousEvent.com/contact.
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