Published: Monday, Sep. 13th, 2021
After a summer wedding season that felt almost normal, the delta variant has put many large weddings back on pause, and is forcing professional wedding officiants to rethink how they’ll do business this fall and winter.
If you’re a working officiant, you might be wondering: How can I help happy couples create a memorable ceremony, but still prioritize my own safety? What do safe business practices even look like at this stage of the pandemic?
Like most of us, you’ve probably heard a lot of mixed-messages about what you should and shouldn’t be doing, and these messages get even more confusing if you’re performing weddings in multiple states!
To help you decide what will work best for you heading into the coming seasons, we reached out to AMM Minister Daniela VillaRamos.
Daniela runs Once Upon a Vow in Brooklyn with her sister Karla. The two call themselves ‘love storytellers,’ specializing in modern, inclusive, bi-linqual, vibrant ceremonies. These creative sisters live by the beloved NY rapper Biggie Smalls lyrics: Spread love, it’s the Brooklyn way.
In order to spread love during an unpredictable year (without spreading COVID), the sisters have prioritized the wellbeing of their couples -- and themselves -- by following the tips below.
Add a ‘COVID clause’ to your contract for couples to read and initial. This clause should clearly outline any health and safety precautions you and the couple agree to follow while working together. You can also include information on your deposit, refund, or rescheduling policies for events that are cancelled due to illness or venue closure.
Remind couples of this clause anytime it becomes necessary.
Daniela’s COVID clause reads:
“In signing and agreeing to this contract, we affirm that we will abide by CDC's health and safety guidelines for our mutual health and community well being. We are vaccinated and will be maskless on a case-by-case basis depending on mutual comfort levels and vaccination statuses.”
Wearing masks and holding their ceremony outdoors
can be part of your couple's COVID safety plan.
Talk to your couple about the precautions they’re planning on taking on their wedding day. This could include masking, physical distancing, pre-wedding COVID testing, choosing a well-ventilated space, or shortening the ceremony length and guest list. Then, ask what you can do to help! Decide how to work together the day of the wedding to maximize safety and fun.
It’s not awkward or inappropriate to ask about precautions, vaccination, or safety plans! As the officiant, you will be in charge for part of the wedding, which means directing guests to act in accordance with the couple’s wishes. These conversations can feel uncomfortable at first, but most people will appreciate your care and attention to detail.
“Whether through email or video chat, these conversations have become part of our day-to-day officiant life. It’s just as common as us asking for their pronouns and how they’d like to be pronounced before their big married kiss!”
Ask your couple if they and their guests are vaccinated, and be upfront about whether or not you are, too. Open communication around vaccination status is important for everyone’s safety and comfort, and will give each of you a general idea of what to expect, how to adjust, and whether to take additional precautions.
Decide what’s right for you: Officiants who are vaccinated might choose to work with vaccinated couples, and vice versa, while other officiants will approach each wedding on a case by case basis and adjust as needed. No matter what your opinion on vaccination is, be honest and open minded, and you’ll find couples whose values line up with yours.
“Since vaccinations have become widely available, we have only worked with fully vaccinated couples for both indoor and outdoor weddings. When we’re made aware that some guests are unvaccinated, we mask up in crowded areas...
Luckily, we’ve been very fortunate to work with couples whose values align with our own. We believe it helps that we’re upfront about what we believe, the communities we support, and our vaccination status. All of which has led us to celebrate couples who appreciate our role and who treat us with the loving care of a good friend. We’re so grateful to every couple for their kindness and solidarity!”
Simple precautions can keep loved ones, officiants, and couples safer.
Remember, simple precautions are important, even if you’re vaccinated. Simple precautions include masking indoors or in crowded outdoor spaces. It might mean taking a routine COVID-19 rapid antigen test. Or, it might mean avoiding certain public events in the days leading up to the ceremony if you live in a high-spread area. Check the CDC website for more ways that you can ensure that you are helping lower the risk factor.
This becomes even more important whenever you’re working around unvaccinated children and their families, or any individuals with (visible or invisible) disabilities and health risks.
“We’re aware that we may encounter couples where one or both partners have medical exceptions [to vaccination]. In that case, it’s even more important for us to maintain a high level of COVID-safety precautions especially for those struggling with multiple chronic illnesses and autoimmune disorders.”
Apps like VOW Digital Health can make it easier for vendors working large events to keep track of the vaccination and testing status of guests and other vendors they might come into close contact with.
With these types of apps, wedding guests submit proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test result along with their name, making it easier for them to enter a ceremony, reception, or dinner venue the day of a wedding. A simple spreadsheet will do the trick, too.
Daniela and Karla haven’t started using an app yet, but it’s a possibility:
“Last year’s winter spike in COVID cases and the rise of Delta is a growing concern all around, especially with mass gatherings. In order to avoid super spreader events, we’ll need to rely on more than trust going forward. We have the data and the tools to overcome this so, for us, it’s all about transparency.
Apps can help with that transparency so, at the very minimum, we’ll recommend such programs to couples and ask for those details via the platform.”
Couples choose the venue (unless you run your own micro chapel), but holding a ceremony outdoors is one of the best precautions they can take. Discuss this option with your couple whenever possible, and if you’re very concerned with limiting risk, only accept outdoor wedding bookings.
“Trust is at the center of our connection with our couples, especially during this health crisis. Because we rely on trust, we are most comfortable officiating intimate outdoor ceremonies. However, we have officiated ceremonies indoors with the understanding of our COVID safety guidelines.”
In the end, open communication and getting on the same page with the couple are the ingredients that keep wedding officiants the safest while they work.
We’re all figuring things out as we go, and a little understanding goes a long way! Let couples know what’s going on behind the scenes, and how you can work together as a team to celebrate love.
“Most of us in the wedding industry are small business owners and as small businesses, we have the autonomy to decide how we’ll each respond to this ongoing health crisis. It’s important for couples to know that being a small business during this time is incredibly challenging all around, especially since our work is predominantly centered in joyful gatherings and celebrations. All of which have been deemed high-risk for COVID exposure.
With that in mind, it’s so important that couples understand that we’re human too, with our own anxieties and fears, and that we’re doing our best given the changing landscape of this pandemic.
Couples can support the vendors that they’ve hired with reviews, recommendations, and a generous spirit. It’s always appreciated when couples prioritize our safety and comfort just as we do; that feeling of being valued is immeasurable.
All in all, be kind and stay safe.”
Daniela VillaRamos was recently featured in an article in the New York Times on the ways the delta variant is affecting wedding season.
Love Storytellers Karla & Daniela
Screenshot courtesy of Once Upon a Vow
Learn more about Daniela, Karla, and Once Upon a Vow by visiting their website.