Safely Planning Your Pandemic Wedding with Covid Large Gathering Restrictions

If you’re holding onto your original wedding plans for this summer and fall, you’ll have to make some adjustments, no doubt. Safely planning your pandemic wedding is a paramount right now. Regardless of what you think about the pandemic – it’s real. We’re all good people at heart – so we want to protect those that we love, #amiright ?! Postponing is not ideal – but it’s not terrible either.

UPDATE 01/18/2021

Gov. Cuomo announced in November that a New York State country club had its liquor license suspended for violating pandemic-related gathering restrictions that turned into a super-spreader event. The wedding was attended by 113 guests – more than double the number allowed under executive orders. The event led to at least 34 COVID-19 infections. As a result, 159 people were quarantined and several schools were temporarily closed to in-person learning.  

“As we have seen in weddings and similar events across the country during this pandemic, large gatherings can easily be super-spreader events, too often with dire consequences. Hosting one of these events after all New York has been through is obnoxious and irresponsible – not to mention illegal,” Gov. Cuomo said.  “We are eight months into this pandemic and simply will not tolerate businesses that put New Yorkers at risk. Those who continue to ignore the rules will lose their ability to serve alcohol, and I thank Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and his team for their cooperation in holding these bad actors accountable.” 

Our advice? Stay your course. Don’t rock the boat. Keep your loved ones safe, and save yourselves the trouble of more changes and back and forth with your vendors and guests. Read on for some tips on how to do just that!

Jaimie Ellis Photography

Our wedding pros are constantly staying up to date with the news and details on holding gatherings during the pandemic. It’s important that you’re all aware of the restrictions that are put in place that we pros HAVE to abide by. Why do we have to abide by them?

  1. We care about the well being of others.
  2. Vendors are being fined. Yes. Fined. Like. Thousands of dollars.

Right now it’s CRUCIAL to have honest conversations with your vendors because everyone’s expectations will have to be adjusted. These restrictions ultimately change the way we can work. This is incredibly difficult for us as our most important consideration for the day is your happiness and satisfaction. So let’s firstly remember that we’re all in this together. We all want you to have the most perfect best day ever. We’re on your side! So let’s lay it all out on the table and plan your pandemic wedding safely!

CDC defines gatherings as

A planned or spontaneous event, indoors or outdoors with a small number of people participating or a large number of people in attendance such as:

  • community event or gathering
  • concert
  • festival
  • conference
  • parade
  • wedding
  • sporting event

The CDC breaks down the level of risk as pertains to gatherings:

  • Lowest risk: Virtual-only activities, events, and gatherings.
  • More risk: Smaller outdoor and in-person gatherings in which individuals from different households remain spaced at least 6 feet apart, wear cloth face coverings, do not share objects, and come from the same local area (e.g., community, town, city, or county).
  • Higher risk: Medium-sized in-person gatherings that are adapted to allow individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and with attendees coming from outside the local area.
  • Highest risk: Large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and attendees travel from outside the local area.

For more detailed information, you can always check out the CDC’s website where this information was taken from. It’s actually quite easy to read and comprehend and has BOAT LOADS of valuable information. So now that we’ve laid out the basic terms for what weddings are considered… here is how it all shakes out for planning your pandemic wedding in New York State right now.

New York State / Erie County Weddings

In June, we entered Phase IV which allowed for LOW-RISK indoor and outdoor arts and entertainment events, as well as social gatherings of up to 50 people. Of course, we all know that after gatherings during the summer, Erie County shutdown, and a little after parts of Monroe County also shutdown and remain in orange zones. It’s easy to lookup what zone your county is in, which will then help you coordinate your wedding day.

I spoke to the Erie County Department of Health a few months ago who clarified that “weddings are considered social gatherings. Venues should be upholding the 50 person limit set by the local governments and NOT the 50% capacity rule that pertains to restaurants,” further enforcing Cuomo’s executive order. She did not have any additional information regarding weddings and venues specifically, or when things might change. So for now this is what every venue and caterer should be following.

I know it’s so frustrating for couples and vendors alike – but the extra precautions are set in place to keep preventing the spread of the virus. Even though your venue may be able to accommodate 200 guests at 50% capacity,  we’ve seen across the country how weddings can be super spreaders- here are some things you might not be considering:

  • Bars, food stations and bathrooms are nearly impossible to control distancing at. The venue may not have the man power needed to properly disinfect the common areas. When your guests get a few drinks into them, they may not be as cautious as they should.
  • Breaking the regulations set forth will not guarantee your vendor will be able to deliver for you. Think of your family photos, bridal party shots, group moments, and dance floor. If your vendor is not comfortable putting themselves in a position where they will be at high risk, you might be looking for a new vendor last minute.
  • Food options and desserts may have to change to be in accordance with the restrictions.
  • Dancing is not allowed according to the New York State Liquor Authority. Guests must be masked when they are not sitting at their tables.

It’s not all gloom and doom, though, guys. There are so many creative ways to work around these restrictions if you’re open to them! I want to make sure you are all healthy and safe, and that we don’t end up going backwards. TBH, I have a feeling these restrictions will be put in place for a while now. Our frustrations and anger won’t make this virus go away any quicker. Here are some helpful things to remember to keep your wedding day safe.

Solutions for Planning your Pandemic Wedding

Limit your guest list and live-stream your wedding! You can easily set up a free Zoom account, or live stream your wedding in a private Facebook group. Try reaching out to some local pros about setting up a more professional set up if you want to explore it!

Proper signage and communication to your guests is crucial. There are plenty of vendors in our directory who can whip up some signage for your wedding distancing needs! Swap out that basket of flip fops for a basket of face masks!

Make sure your venue and vendors are familiar with the Gatherings and Events Readiness and Planning Tool set forth by the CDC.

Modify the layouts and floor plan of your event to facilitate social distancing.

Utilize outdoor spaces as a priority and make sure multiple entrances and exits are available.

Disposable food serving options, grab and go pre-packaged items options and passed options from caterers are safer alternatives. If you have a dessert table – have one staff member handling the distribution of treats with tongs to guests one at a time. In lieu of buffets – have your dinners pre-plated and boxed. Catered food served by wait staff is still OK, but we know that can increase the cost of the dinner overall. Food trucks are also a great solution!

Once you know the restrictions – you can come up with creative solutions to make your wedding special and memorable. Our vendors want to help you while you’re planning your pandemic wedding! So check out our directory to find the best pros for the job. If you have any questions – just reach out to us below at the contact form! We’re here to help!

We have a full list of vendors with COVID solutions and another Upstate New York Micro Wedding Services

xoxo- Ali

Michal Kathryn Photography


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