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Safely Planning Your Pandemic Wedding with Covid Large Gathering Restrictions

After yet another update on March 22nd, we should be good to go for the first round of weddings this season! Things are continuously changing! We just updated this post for the 5th time! We tried to share the most important highlights from the 17 page report from NYS. Most of this report pertains to the venues, and hell, there is a lot to read through. ❗️ Also – keep in mind that this report is not entirely updated after the governor increased the capacity limits. This information outlined below originates from that report, but with other verbally confirmed information from the Erie County health department.

Our advice in a nutshell? Stay your course! If everyone in your group can abide by these guidelines we will all be able to get back to normal sooner than later. Keep your loved ones safe, and save yourselves the trouble of more changes and back and forth with your vendors and guests. This is do-able, guys! Read on for some tips on how to do just that! Also – check out this website for information on FREE COVID TESTING locations for you and your guests!

UPDATED 03/22/21

The following was copied and pasted directly from the Erie County Health Department’s applications for events during the pandemic.

The information below is provided as a reminder of some of the requirements. Please refer to the NYS Forward Phase 3 “Interim Guidance For Food Services During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency “ for full explanation of requirements.


Testing or proof of your vaccine is ONLY required for weddings OVER 100 (INDOORS) and OVER 200 (OUTDOORS). Weddings with between 1-100 guests (INDOORS) and 1-200 guests (OUTDOORS) DO NOT require testing, vaccinations or contact tracing. The max capacity for INDOOR events is 150 (which would require testing.)

    • To attend the event, guests must have:
      • negative PCR or NAATS COVID test 72 hours prior to event, OR
      • negative FDA authorized antigen test within 6 hours of the event, OR
      • proof of completion of vaccine series at least 14 days prior to the event
    • COVID positive guests MUST NOT be allowed to attend the event


    • Employees and event staff include anyone who may interact with attendees and other employees or event staff. Examples are venue staff, catering staff, bartenders, entertainers, photographers/videographers, security personnel, parking attendants, floral arrangers, etc
    • Employees and event staff must be tested, and test negative:
      • through a diagnostic prior to working their first event, AND
      • be tested biweekly while continuing to work events, OR
      • provide proof of completion of vaccine series at least 14 days prior to the event
    • COVID positive employees and event staff MUST NOT be allowed to work the event


  • Immediately before entering the event, employees, event staff and event attendees must be screened for the following:
    • COVID-19 symptoms, such as temperature above 100.4°F, cough, loss of taste and smell, shortness of breath, etc
    • Recent positive COVID-19 test results
    • Recent contact with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 positive individuals
    • Compliance with NYS travel advisory
  • This screening may be done remotely (by phone, online form, etc) or in person
  • COVID symptom positive employees and event staff MUST NOT be allowed to work or attend the event


    • Limited to maximum 10 persons per table
    • Where possible, attendees should be seated at a table or area with members of their same immediate party, household or family
    • Tables must be spaced a minimum of 6 feet (from chair back to chair back)
    • Guests may only remove face coverings when seated at a table


    • Sit Down Service– no restrictions
    • Buffet – facility must have designated food workers at each station in order to serve food items to the guests, queue line signage and floor markings must encourage social distancing
    • Bar Service – table service or guests must take beverages back to their table for consumption
    • Table Size—no table may exceed 10 attendees


    • Live music performers and other entertainers must be separated from attendees by either 12 feet of physical space or an appropriate physical barrier
    • Dancing is allowed with the following conditions:
      • Ceremonial dances by selected attendees with members of their immediate party/household or family
      • Non-ceremonial dancing is allowed, but attendees must wear face coverings and may only dance with members of their same immediate party/household/family
      • Dancing zones or areas must be clearly marked, and dancers must remain in their designated zone/area
Please refer to the NYS Forward Phase 3 “Interim Guidance For Food Services During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency “ for full explanation of requirements.
  • In the event of a COVID positive employee, event staff, vendor or attendee, responsible parties must cooperate with Erie County contact tracing staff to trace all affected contacts
  • Employees and event staff must wear appropriate face coverings at all times
  • Venue staff, event staff and/or responsible parties must ensure that attendees are not congregating , except when seated at their assigned table
  • Venue staff, event staff and/or responsible parties must ensure that attendees properly wear face coverings when standing, and are only standing when necessary
  • Facilities must conduct regular cleaning and disinfecting, and more frequent cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces-see NYSDOH “Interim Guidance For Cleaning and Disinfection of Public and Private Facilities for COVID-19” for detailed instructions

Capacity for Gatherings

  • Gatherings like weddings, parties, festivals, etc can operate at 75% capacity or up to 150 people INDOORS – whichever is the lesser. This amount excludes workers, so  you can plan on that 150
  • If your event is being held in an area that is in a specific zone due to higher risks of Covid transmission, you have to abide by the gathering restrictions for that zone:
    • “In accordance with the State’s cluster zones, fewer individuals are permitted to gather in nonresidential settings within those areas based on the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Such restrictions shall apply to catered events held in those areas. Specifically, 25 or fewer people are permitted to gather in non-residential settings in yellow zones, 10 or fewer people in orange zones, and no gatherings in red zones.”
  • The State’s limit on social gatherings right now remains at 100, however, starting as of March 15th weddings and other events will be permitted with the following requirements submitted by the “Responsible Parties” i.e. the venue:
    • “For each event above the social gathering limit, Responsible Parties must submit event details to the local health authority, at least 5 days in advance of the event date, and such details shall include but not be limited to:”
      • (1) Responsible Parties’ contact information
      • (2) event name or function
      • (3) event address
      • (4) event date and time
      • (5) event duration (including loading and unloading times)
      • (6) expected number of event attendees
      • (7) expected number of event staff
      • (8) location on premises (e.g., indoor, outdoor) indicated by description and/or on event floor plan

Contact Tracing

  • Responsible Parties must require each attendee (or, if attendee is a minor, an adult from their party/household/family) in attendance to sign-in before or immediately upon arrival to the event, providing:”
    • Full name
    • Date of birth
    • Address
    • Email
    • Phone number for use in potential contact tracing efforts, if necessary
  • You can gather this information digitally or in person, but you need to hold onto the results for 28 days after the event

Screening Testing

We highlighted the points here, but there is a lot of specifics on this topic in the Governors guidelines, so see below for the full excerpt on screening testing at the bottom of the blog post.

  • Everyone that comes to your wedding HAS to be either tested with a negative result within 72 hours of the event, or provide proof of receiving the complete Covid vaccine at least 14 days prior to the event
  • Proof of both will be required at the event by the staff of the venue prior to, or immediately upon arriving at the event
  • Proof of a negative diagnosis or the vaccine can be provided digitally via mobile device or with a physical paper copy
  • Additional testing can actually be done ON the event premises as another safe guard for the venue, but it has to be an FDA approved antigen testing resource
  • Same goes for employees, guys. Employees in this line of work are expected to be tested bi-weekly unless they are vaccinated

Misc. Event Details

  • Social distancing is still in FULL EFFFECT. Families should be sat together. Signage and barriers still need to be in position. Designated pathways should be set for single lane traffic and services like valet or coat check should be avoided. Large gatherings away from designated groups in the same family unit need to be avoided, and masks must be worn when anywhere other than your table. Masks can only be removed if needed for something like speaking to the group, and the speaker must be at least 12 feet away from all others.
    • Live bands and entertainment are OK so long as they wear masks, or, are at least 12 feet away from the guests for singing or wind instruments.
    • Ceremonial dances are OK as long as they’re 6 feet away from the rest of the group and they should be in the same family unit.
    • DANCING IS OK! Permitting the dancefloors is at least 36′ squared and, limits the number of people pursuant to the total area of the dance floor. Family units can dance together maintaining distance from others in the wedding who are outside of their family unit.
  • Events have a hard stop at 12PM midnight
  • Sufficient staffing to maintain the guidelines is a must for the venues
  • To venues with multiple areas for celebrating:
    • “Responsible Parties may have more than one event (i.e., gathering) on the same premises at the same time so long as each event is separate and distinguishable. Each event must be held in different areas on the premises (e.g., indoor vs. outdoor spaces, separate rooms). Attendees from separate events shall not share any spaces or rooms, use the same entrances/exits at the same time, or otherwise engage in in-person interaction or come into contact with each other. Restroom capacity must be limited to avoid congregation of attendees, who must wear face coverings and maintain social distance within, and while waiting for, restrooms.”

Jaimie Ellis Photography

Solutions for Planning your New York State Pandemic Wedding

Consider live streaming your wedding! Even with the increased amount of guests allowed – there will be some who are uncomfortable being in large groups. It would be really nice to offer them the chance to still partake in the ceremony and festivities!

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 so planning your New York State pandemic wedding can still be 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. To read all of the information regarding the new guidelines, access the PDF right here.

xoxo- Ali

“Screening Testing: For any event conducted pursuant to this guidance, Responsible Parties must require and ensure all attendees have received a negative diagnostic test result for COVID-19 using a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or other nucleic acid amplification test (NAATs) of comparable analytical sensitivity performance that was performed on a specimen (e.g., swab) collected within 72 hours of the event start time. Responsible Parties may also accept negative test results for COVID-19 from a FDA authorized antigen test performed on a specimen collected within 6 hours of the event start time. All attendees must present proof of the negative diagnostic test result (e.g., mobile application, paper form) to designated employees or event staff prior to, or immediately upon, arrival to the event.

Responsible Parties may offer to perform FDA-authorized antigen testing for attendees to obtain test results of specimens collected within 6 hours of the event on premises; provided, however, such antigen testing must meet all requirements and standards set forth by DOH, including timely and complete reporting of results to the Department’s Electronic Clinical Laboratory Reporting System (ECLRS).
▪ To minimize potential exposure while waiting for PCR, NAAT, or antigen test results, individuals should monitor for symptoms of COVID-19, wear a face covering when in public, maintain social distancing, and should avoid extended periods in public, contact with strangers, and large congregate settings.

Alternatively, attendees may provide proof of having completed the COVID-19 vaccination series at least 14 days prior to the date of the event. However, as DOH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continue to evaluate the effect of immunization on potential COVID-19 transmission, diagnostic testing is still recommended, and venues may choose to require testing. DOH, in consultation with CDC, will continue to monitor vaccination developments and revise guidance accordingly.

Employees and event staff must also be tested for COVID-19 through a diagnostic test prior to events, and must be tested biweekly thereafter for as long as they are actively engaged in hosting events and interacting in close contact with attendees. Alternatively, employees and event staff may provide proof of having completed the COVID-19 vaccination series at least 14 days prior to the date of event(s). Any attendee who fails to present a negative diagnostic test result or proof of immunization, as described above, must be denied entry to the event.”

• Health Screening: Responsible Parties must implement mandatory health screening for employees,
event staff, and attendees prior to the event. As detailed below, health screening shall consist of questions regarding current or recent COVID19 symptoms (e.g., temperature in excess of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit), close or proximate contact with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 case(s), recent positive COVID-19 test result(s), and compliance with State’s travel advisory.

Michal Kathryn Photography

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