Why are weddings considered super spreading events?
Early on way back in March, in Australia, we were just starting to panic about this virus. Events were still allowed to happen in Australia and the government was only just beginning to make a few restrictions. In amongst all of the madness, there was a wedding that took place in Sydney. A few days after the wedding, the bride and groom were on their honeymoon in the Maldives and woke to the news that 31 of the 140 guests tested positive for Covid 19. What a way to have the memories of your dream day quickly overshadowed.
Unfortunately, for the wedding industry in Australia whenever a MP hears of wedding, their mind quickly goes to this wedding in Sydney, as there were so many people infected. Thus, they have been labelled super spreading events.
Why are events of this nature considered super spreaders?
There are so many factors that affect this. First there is the nature of a wedding. It is a virus breading occasion where people are embracing, kissing, hugging, laughing (with their mouths open) drinking and the list goes on. Then there is the dancing and singing.
People are gathering in large groups, in small spaces (often with poor ventilation). People are eating from grazing platters and share platters.
Every State has their own set of rules. Check out your local DHHS site to see what level your state is at and what rules and restrictions apply? https://www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/religion-and-ceremony-third-step
How is Covid-19 spread?
Covid spreads on multiple levels, mostly from droplets that are breathed in. These droplets can occur from people coughing, sneezing, from people singing, from people embracing, from people kissing and from people touching hands when dancing. It can also be spread from touching a surface that an infected person has touched. In fact, Covid-19 can live 28 days on a surface—OUCH!
So, if you own a venue, if you are a marriage celebrant, a make-up artist, a DJ, a cake maker in fact most businesses in the wedding industry need to be extra careful as mics, paperwork, make-up brushes etc all have the capability to bread germs and they need to be cleaned appropriately.
How can we make sure surfaces, mics and venues are cleaned?
Every business in the wedding industry needs to have a Covid safe plan. Each business will also have to ensure within this plan that the appropriate social distancing measures and contact tracing are being taken. They also need to be careful that they are cleaning every surface that is touched by a person. So disinfectant spray, bleach and water, antibacterial wipes and hand sanitiser are all your friends.
How can we plan a wedding and have it be safe?
First things first, check out your suppliers and ask them for their Covid safe plan. Have a read of it, so you know what they are doing to keep you safe. Every business needs to have their own plan, they will all have a different set of protocols that their business will follow. Contract tracing should be a part of the plan, as well as sanitiser, wipes for mics etc. If you are not satisfied with the Covid safe plan, do not engage the supplier, it is that easy.
You can have a smaller wedding. Invite less people to your celebration, that way the space inside will be bigger and there will be more square meters per person, inside the venue. Have clear guidelines set out for your guests, tell them you will have to enforce social distancing. Tell your bridal party they need to spread out from one another. If you have a small space for the ceremony, do not have a large bridal party stand next to one another, as it makes the celebrants job very stressful and awkward to enforce this. Set out expectations for no kissing, embracing and hugging. This is so hard to stop in the moment, so set out the guidelines before the event. That way it is not awkward at all, as hopefully everyone will take this on board and will not do the wrong thing. You must also write in the invitation that it is ok to cancel. Put in a line like: “If you feel unwell, please do not attend the wedding. Even if you have a sniffle, please do us a favour and do not attend.” No one wants to cancel going to an event; however, in this instance if you were the super spreader could you forgive yourself?
If your venue has an appropriate outside space, use this for the ceremony and the reception, that way you are in a well ventilated environment. Now I know this is not always possible for every State. For example, Melbourne, where there is often 4 seasons in a day. However, if it is a possibility then you should definitely try as an outdoor ceremony and reception means less chance for the airborne particles to spread.
For indoor dining, space people out. Make sure your guests are not seated too close to one another. For a cocktail party, put on the invitation for people to be mindful of how close they are standing next to the person they are talking to. Do not have grazing patters, buffets or share plates. Do not have canapes, where people have to reach over and grab food, as they could accidently touch another piece of food. Do not have utensils that need to be touched by multiple people. Make sure you have labels on drink glasses or ask people not to move their glasses from the table, that way you can keep an eye on your drink and make sure you have not accidentally had a sip from the wrong glass.
What about dancing and singing?
We have all heard about the chorale practise in the USA were there were 52 cases and two deaths reported. Now we all love a little “Living on a Prayer” and yes it is hard to not sing along. So, what do you do? Keep the dancing vibe to a minimum. Pick songs that do not cause you to bust a move. Keep the singing and dancing to a minimum. You could do fun things like pick out a couples name from a hat and they are the only two allowed to dance. How fun would this be to watch, everyone could have a moment to shine n the dance floor.
I am a guest, what can I do to be safe?
Be responsible. Do not hug and kiss others, maintain a safe distance between you and the person you are talking to. Wash your hands and frequently use hand sanitiser throughout the night. Stay in your seat and do not be tempted to bust a a move, if you are not allowed. Your safety and the safety of others, is in your own hands.
Last but not least, have fun—in a safe way!