Wedding Planning In A Pandemic
My parents used to love to take long rides in the car. Sometimes, like on many Sundays, it was just to drive around and see the world. There were other times when we were going someplace specific. I don’t remember much of where we went or why, but I do remember that I was in the back seat and generally bored.
So it was not unusual that I asked, “Are we there yet?”
The answer was almost invariably one word. “Soon.”
To my young brain soon was, well, soon. Within a matter of minutes, to be sure, and preferably within seconds.
This was almost never the case. “Soon” took forever, or so it seemed. This was, of course, terribly frustrating.
But once we were there, all of that was forgotten. The joy, or at least, relief, of arriving at our destination put all of the trials and tribulations of the journey out of my mind. All was well.
As you’ve probably guessed, this story might have some bearing on your wedding planning.
The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has upended lots of wedding plans. Spring weddings have suddenly had to be postponed into the fall or later, with no assurance that they won’t have to be postponed again.
When will it be safe to have your wedding? Here are the four things that need to happen for large groups to be in close quarters:
1. Government Restrictions Lifted
A number of states have enacted laws that limit the size of gatherings, call for the closure of non-essential businesses, and/or restrict non-essential travel. Until those laws expire or are no longer in effect, it will be difficult or impossible for weddings to take place in those states. As essential as we all think your wedding to be, the government doesn’t see it that way!
2. Marriage License
Government offices need to be open and functioning so you can obtain a marriage license.
You need a marriage license for your marriage to be legal. Your license needs to be obtained in the jurisdiction in which you will be married, which is to say in the city or county where your wedding venue is located.
The requirements for applying for a marriage license vary by jurisdiction, as does the method of applying. In the City of Baltimore, Maryland, where I live, one or both of you must apply in person. That’s true in many places. So if non-essential travel is limited or the marriage license bureau is closed, or both, you’re out of luck.
3. Antibody Test
An antibody, otherwise know as an immunoglobulin, is the part of your blood that is used by your immune system to neutralize specific bacteria, viruses, and other foreign substances in your blood. Once you’ve been infected with a particular virus, developed its antibody, and recovered, you will be protected from that virus for some period of time. You’re also no longer contagious.
There needs to be a widely available antibody test that the general public can easily access. We’re talking about something like a pregnancy test, with quick if not immediate results.
There are several tests coming to market right now. One of them, for instance, can be used anywhere, can deliver results in 15 minutes, is 95% accurate after one week from infection, and can detect “silent infections” before symptoms appear. We can expect more of these kinds of tests to appear in the near future, with improvements in reliability.
That said, to be useful on its own an antibody test calls for a large portion of the population to be infected. In the case of COVID-19, that would be a disaster beyond imagination.
You and your guests will also need a reliable means to prove your status as tested and antibody-positive. That in and of itself will be no mean feat.
As useful as the antibody tests might be for those people who have become infected, for the purposes of your wedding it will be useless without the next piece.
There will still be lots of people — the vast majority of the population — who have not contracted the virus and do not have the resulting antibodies. They will need a vaccination containing the antibodies in order to be in the company of others without risking infection.
This is a good time to address a thing called “herd immunity.” When enough of a population is immune to a disease, typically more than 50%, those who are not immune are protected in the same way as if they were standing in the middle of a herd of immunized beings of their kind.
Herd immunity can be developed either naturally or with a vaccine. In the case of COVID-19, the natural method would require 70% or more of the United States’ population to contract the disease. As I write this, on April 6, one tenth of one percent of the U.S. population is known to be infected. Given that fewer than two million tests have been administered, the actual percentage of the population that is infected is likely to be much larger but still nowhere near the threshold of 70%. There would be massive hospitalization and tremendous, unconscionable loss of life if that many people were to become infected.
Medical facilities across the country are already overwhelmed, and our ability to treat the disease is extremely limited. Add to that the months or years that it can take herd immunity to develop naturally, and you can see that the natural method of developing herd immunity is untenable.
Which brings us back to a vaccine. The other way to get herd immunity is to get a vaccine into the mix. The vaccine needs to be safe and effective as well as widely available. For this particular virus, upwards of 80% of the population needs to be vaccinated in order for herd immunity to be effective.
Right now there is no vaccine available for COVID-19. The best guesses at the moment put it at least a year away, and that’s just to get it developed and through clinical trials. Bringing it to market and manufacturing the vast quantities needed are another thing altogether. So it’s likely to be well into 2021, at the earliest, before enough people are vaccinated to allow large groups to gather in close proximity for, among other things, your wedding.
So, what to do?
There’s a lot of wedding planning that you can do from home. In fact, that’s nearly always the best place to start.
Many wedding venues, caterers, wedding planners, photographers, DJs, musicians, florists, officiants, and other wedding professionals have an online presence. You can learn a lot about each one without leaving the comfort of your sofa.
With in-person meetings and tours off the table, video conferencing and virtual tours are taking their place. Sure, you can’t feel their space or taste their food across the internet, but you can get a lot done with a video connection.
Speaking of connection, a large part of why you hire a particular wedding professional is the emotional and even spiritual connection you have with them. You also want to be able to trust them and have confidence in their professional abilities. You can still develop that trust, confidence, and connection remotely, through telephone and video calls.
What if you book a venue and a caterer and everything else and then have to postpone? Given the current circumstances, most venues and caterers are being generous about postponing. This is a situation that calls for dialogue, for compassion, for understanding. We need to all work together to take care of each other.
Everyone involved has a common goal. It makes sense for everyone to do whatever needs to be done to make your wedding happen, whenever it happens. We want your fabulous wedding to take place, full of all the joy and happiness and delight that every wedding should have. It may be that your wedding is delayed by a few months, or even a year or more. No matter. In the greater scheme of things it’s a small sacrifice, especially compared to all of the lives that will be saved in the waiting. And at some point in your life you’ll have a great story to tell about how you helped to stop the COVID-19 coronavirus.