Updated 12/31/21: We managed to make it through the 2021 wedding season, but an omicron-fueled resurgence of COVID has resulted in some restrictions coming back into play. Find out how the new policies impact your wedding plans in this post.
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.
New York's New COVID Mandate: Vaccinations or Masks
Citing a recent increase in COVID cases, Governor Kathy Hochul has announced, effective Monday, December 13, 2021, masks will be required for all persons -- regardless of vaccination status -- entering any indoor public space, including houses of worship and wedding reception venues.
Exceptions will be granted ONLY if the business or venue requires proof that all persons entering the venue (guests and employees alike) are fully-vaccinated. According to the Governor's announcement:
Businesses and venues that implement a proof of vaccination requirement must ensure that anyone 12 years of age or older is fully vaccinated before entering indoors. Businesses/venues can accept Excelsior Pass, Excelsior Pass Plus, SMART Health Cards issued outside of New York State, full-course vaccination through NYC COVID Safe app, a CDC Vaccination Card, or other official immunization record.Governor Kathy Hochul press releases, 12/10/21
How New York's New COVID Policy Impacts Weddings
[Updated 12/31/21] If you're getting married anytime before February 1, 2022, this policy will definitely affect your wedding. That's the soonest this new requirement could be relaxed. If COVID rates don't decrease, the Governor has indicated this mandate could be extended (it has already been extended once). And the door's always open for other restrictions being reinstated.
If you're getting married in early 2022, contact your venue and all other vendors right away to find out how they're responding to this new mandate.
By default, you and all your guests will need to wear masks throughout your wedding reception except when you are actively eating or drinking. Can you imagine first dance photos with masks on? You can avoid that, but BOTH of these things will need to happen:
- Everyone attending the wedding (including your vendors) will need to be fully-vaccinated.
- Ages 12 and up: at least 14 days have passed since the final dose of the vaccine series (2nd shot for Pfizer or Moderna; one shot for J&J).
- Ages 5-11: Since vaccines have only been available since November, the State is considering proof of just one dose to be sufficient at this time.
- Ages 4 and under: No vaccines available yet, anyone ages 2-4 must wear a mask.
- The venue MUST verify everyone's vaccination proof upon arrival -- and they MUST turn away anyone who doesn't have sufficient vaccination proof.
This will be easier at some venues than others. Hopefully, smaller venues that are only open to one or two private events at a time will be able to comply. But a larger venue that's typically open to the public (e.g. hotels, casinos) might not be able to offer the option as it might not be feasible for them to staff every possible entrance to "card" people for vaccination proof, or to turn away unvaccinated guests.
What if any of your guests or vendors aren't vaccinated?
If you want a mask-free wedding reception, everyone must be vaccinated -- no exceptions. That includes you, your guests, and everyone working the wedding.
You'll need to specify this requirement in your invitations so guests who aren't vaccinated can decide whether to get vaccinated, or decline the invitation.
If you've already sent invites and/or received RSVPs, you'll need to inform guests ASAP and find out if anyone who originally replied "yes" might need to change to a "no." That way, you can maintain an accurate head count and avoid wasting money on "no-show" seats.
If you're going to lose any vendors due to this requirement, read your contracts carefully to see if you should be entitled to a refund. Even if a deposit or retainer is "non-refundable," that clause could be unenforceable since you would be breaking the contract due to a government mandate, rather than a voluntary choice. Depending on how much is at stake, it could even be worth having a lawyer review things for you. (And if you wind up needing a new DJ... I'm fully vaccinated, plus a booster... just saying!)
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."