Precautions to Consider for Your Indoor Wedding this Winter

With weather cooling and delta and regular COVID cases declining, what best practices should you include in your wedding planning?

Emma Frankart Henterly
Columbus Monthly
As the weather cools, additional COVID precautions may be needed.

In September and October, I attended my first two weddings since January 2020. The first, an indoor ceremony and reception in northern Ohio, took place a few days after what turned out to be the state's autumn peak in COVID cases, according to the Ohio Department of Health's COVID-19 Dashboard. While the Dashboard doesn't track delta cases specifically, the variant is a likely culprit for many of that month's infections.

My husband and I have been fully vaccinated since spring, but to say I was nervous about attending an indoor wedding would be a vast understatement. Breakthrough cases happen—I've seen them firsthand, though I've been lucky and cautious enough to avoid being one—and I wasn't certain that everyone in attendance would be vaccinated themselves.

To mitigate concerns about catching or spreading COVID, my husband and I took a number of precautions. We took rapid tests the day before the wedding; they came back negative, which gave us the reassurance we needed to be indoors at a mask-optional event. After, we isolated as much as possible, only leaving the house for groceries and other necessary tasks, for one week. When we did need to interact with the general public, we were vigilant about masking and social distancing. At the end of the week, we tested again, only returning to safe social interactions after we had negative results in hand.

Our October wedding included an outdoor ceremony, assurances from the couple that all but two of their guests were fully vaccinated, and a reception that was indoors but would feature open windows for air circulation. Combined with the fact that caseloads were dropping, we felt safe enough to forgo the extreme measures we'd taken the month prior.

With the cold months settling in, I can't help but wonder what might be in store for couples who won't have the luxury of outdoor events or open windows this winter. Currently, about 55 percent of Ohioans have had at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, according to ODH's COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard. Will that be enough to prevent a peak like the one we saw a year ago? Only time will tell. 

With that in mind, I contacted ODH to ask about best practices for couples who will host indoor weddings in the coming months.

"While vaccination is still the best tool we have to prevent transmission, hospitalization and death from COVID-19, there are still a number of tools we can use to reduce the risk of both exposure and spread of the virus for those that can't get vaccinated," ODH spokesperson Alicia Shoults said via email. And there's a bonus, she added: "These tools also help us to reduce the spread of other illnesses, such as seasonal flu or colds."

Shoults' list includes the following recommendations:

  • Get tested one to three days before attending a large event like a wedding.
  • When possible, hold events outside; if that's not possible, social distancing measures should be put in place for medium or larger gatherings.
  • Masks are recommended when indoors if 6-foot social distancing is not possible.
  • COVID-19 testing is readily available and should be used prior to attending large events.
  • Wash hands or use hand sanitizer frequently, and use cough etiquette.
  • After attending a large event, self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19.
  • And of course, if you have symptoms, stay home and get tested.

"These tools become even more effective at reducing spread and risk of exposure if you layer them together," Shoults said.

Shoults also recommended that couples familiarize themselves with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention related to outdoor and indoor activities, event planning and small and large gatherings.

To that end, we encourage couples planning indoor weddings this winter to take as many of these precautions as possible:

  • First and foremost, get vaccinated yourselves if you are able! As the newlyweds, your attention will be in high demand. If you have chosen not to be vaccinated, an intimate event or elopement may be more appropriate. If you're unable to be vaccinated, be sure to wear a mask any time you're within 6 feet of a person other than your spouse.
  • Require guests to be fully vaccinated, if they're able. Offer a livestream option for guests who choose not to be vaccinated.
  • Ask your venue(s) to ensure that all staff members at your event will be vaccinated; you may want to ask staff to wear masks and/or stand behind plexiglass partitions when possible.
  • Provide ample masks and hand sanitizer stations for those who cannot be vaccinated due to age, health or religious restrictions and those who are vaccinated but at additional risk of breakthrough infection.
  • Skip the post-ceremony receiving line. Instead, welcome guests to your reception and thank them for being there to celebrate with a heartfelt toast. You could also choose to visit individual tables during the reception, but be sure to wear a mask or avoid hugs to cut down transmission risk.
  • Encourage guests to self-test within 48 hours of the event. If you or your partner are high-risk, you may opt to hire a staff member to confirm guests' negative test results at the door.
  • Ensure seats and tables are well spaced out for both the ceremony and reception; consider "restaurant-style" seating at the reception, wherein smaller tables include only guests of individual households, instead of long communal tables or traditional eight-seat rounds.
  • Consider other entertainment options in addition to or in lieu of dancing.
  • Remind guests to self-monitor for symptoms after the event, and ask them to let you know if they test positive so you can be alert to potential contact-tracing requests from the local health department.
  • Remember to self-monitor as well. As the couple of honor, you likely had more exposure to people outside your household than anyone else at your wedding; it may be prudent to isolate for a week and test again, even if you aren't showing symptoms.

Are you taking other precautions not on this list? We want to hear about it! Send us your wedding safety plan by messaging us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.