Good news! While New York State still requires masks in certain settings, wedding receptions are NOT among them! In a nutshell, we're back to what many would consider a "pre-pandemic normal," as New York State no longer has any kind of COVID-related restrictions for wedding receptions!
Note: This post was originally published in late February 2021 and has been updated as regulations change. I'll continue to update this post ASAP when any changes are announced.
No More Wedding-Related COVID Restrictions
Citing declining case counts, Governor Kathy Hochul allowed the state's final widespread "vax or mask" mandate to expire on February 10, 2022.
As a result, there are no COVID-related restrictions or conditions for guests or employees to enter most wedding reception venues in New York State. No masks required, no proof of testing required, no proof of vaccination required.
There are certain exceptions (including schools, nursing homes, public transportation) but as far as wedding venues are concerned, the requirement is over. As long as case counts remain lower, you won't need to worry about all the smiles in your 2022 wedding photos being obscured by masks.
New York's Current COVID Policy
Although New York State is no longer requiring businesses to enforce a "vax or mask" policy for their indoor spaces, the State is allowing individual businesses to implement and enforce their own policies if they so desire.
Considering wedding venues often charge by the seat, I don't expect we'll see too many wedding venues implementing policies that could potentially reduce your guest count. Furthermore, I don't expect to see many venues hiring the extra staff it would take in order to monitor the entrances and make sure everyone's got vaccine proof or wearing a mask.
Communication is Key
As with many aspects of wedding planning, communication with your vendors is key. If your venue hasn't already been providing updates, check in with them maybe once every 6-8 weeks, or anytime there are major changes to State or local policies. Find out how they're responding, if there's anything you need to know, if there's anything you need to communicate to your guests.
Hopefully the current "relaxed" status remains in effect, but there will also remain the possibility for new variants. Should a new variant emerge, and show itself to be stronger or vaccine-resistant, we could unfortunately find ourselves back in a situation where masks are required or events could be curtailed. (For example, the "vax or mask" mandate from late 2021 through early 2022 was a direct result the spike in Omicron cases, even among the fully-vaccinated.)
Out-of-state wedding guests traveling into New York
When it comes to people traveling into New York State, the State defaults to CDC guidelines. Here's a brief summary:
Domestic Travelers into New York
- Fully-vaccinated: no testing requirements, no quarantines! Just get here and enjoy the party!
- Unvaccinated: See the CDC's full "Recommendations for People Who Are Not Fully Vaccinated" - including testing and quarantine recommendations, and a reminder that different localities could have their own laws in effect.
International Travelers into New York
- Fully-vaccinated: "All air passengers 2 years or older with a flight departing to the US from a foreign country ... are required show a negative COVID-19 viral test result taken no more than 1 day before travel, or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days, before they board their flight.." But that's it -- there's no longer any need to quarantine or get re-tested upon arrival in the U.S.
- Unvaccinated: Not allowed. CDC says: "The White House announced that vaccines will be required for international travelers coming into the United States, with an effective date of November 8, 2021. For purposes of entry into the United States, vaccines accepted will include FDA approved or authorized and WHO Emergency Use Listing vaccines. More information is available here."