The long-awaited arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine is a beacon of hope not just for the American public, but for engaged couples eager to move forward with their 2021 wedding plans. But as the vaccine’s roll-out continues, it’s important to remember that the return to “normal” will be slow—really slow, if experts’ predictions prove correct. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the top infectious disease experts in the country, suggested that if 75-80% of the population is vaccinated over the second quarter of 2021, “we may actually have enough herd immunity protecting our society that, as we get to the end of 2021, we can approach very much some degree of normality that is close to where we were before.”

But the speed and efficiency of the vaccine’s roll-out, in addition to American citizens’ willingness to receive the vaccine, remains the big “if.” With more than 475,000 Americans having lost loved ones to the virus as of mid-February, new, more potent variants emerging and experts forecasting mask-wearing and social distancing well into 2022, couples must understand that the virus will be a very present disruption to their plans for the foreseeable future.

While the overall COVID vaccination timeline for 2021—the CDC reports a total of nearly 48.5 million doses administered as of mid-February—seems optimistic, it’s in couples’ best interest to set reasonable expectations for the year ahead. Below, you’ll find our predictions regarding:

Your 2021 Wedding Will Require Masks

Until and unless the majority of guests have been fully vaccinated, masks and social distancing will be necessary to have a safe wedding in 2021. It is currently unclear whether a vaccinated person can spread the virus—though it has been determined that a person can still test positive for COVID after vaccination if they encounter the virus shortly after receiving the vaccine—so opting for a “better safe than sorry” approach is the most responsible option for your 2021 wedding. Luckily, designers have been quick to whip up fashionable, formal wedding mask options for you, your wedding party and your guests.

Again, masks and social distancing will be the norm until the majority of the population is fully vaccinated. To learn more about the vaccine, visit the CDC’s Facts Section.

You’ll Likely Plan Your 2021 Wedding Virtually

We hate to say it, but: The Zoom meeting isn’t going anywhere! 

Wedding planning in the era of COVID has more facets than ever before, and engaged couples are rightfully getting a jump on their plans early. As venues, vendors and planners continue to offer comprehensive virtual services, there’s no doubt that 2021 couples will take advantage of their convenience as they work their way through their wedding checklist.

You’ll Need to Keep Your Guests Updated

Once again, until the majority of the population is fully vaccinated, your wedding timeline is beholden to the COVID vaccine timeline, and that may lead to some uncomfortable decisions, such as rescheduling your wedding. You’ve heard that these are “uncertain times” about a thousand times by now, but the sentiment’s ubiquity doesn’t make it any less true. As health and safety recommendations evolve and so much remains tentative, frequent communication with guests has become proper COVID event etiquette.

A 2020 survey of wedding guests by The Knot indicated that the majority of guests—71% and rising—say it’s important to them to receive health and safety measure information from a couple before returning their RSVP. We recommend making a general wedding website to act as you (and your guests’) headquarters for all things wedding-related, including updates to health and safety measures, dates, etc. Empowering your guests to make informed decisions will go a long way to make everyone feel more comfortable!

You May Want to Track Guest Vaccinations

While previously only an option for very few, guest vaccination tracking will become increasingly feasible for 2021 couples as the year progresses. Not only will requiring proof of full vaccination help everyone feel safer at your 2021 wedding, it may also aid in configuring seating arrangements, ceremony layouts and the like. Talk to your partner about your mutual comfort level regarding vaccination tracking and consider whether this safety measure might suit your wedding plans.

2021 Will Be the Year of Outdoor Weddings

… and 2022 may be as well. According to the CDC, the highest risk of contracting COVID-19 at an event occurs at large, in-person gatherings that limit the opportunity for social distancing, i.e. indoor events, particularly in small spaces and with large guests lists. Lower on the risk scale—though still riskier than not attending events at all—are smaller outdoor, in-person events “in which individuals from different households remain spaced at least 6 feet apart, wear masks, do not share objects, and come from the same local area.”

That’s right: Even if your 2021 wedding is outdoors, your guests will still need to wear masks and socially distance. Still, an outdoor wedding poses significantly less risk to you, your guests and those working during your wedding, so they will likely remain the norm until the majority of the public is fully vaccinated.

Calendars Will Be Crammed Starting Summer 2021 Throughout 2022 

If you thought the perfect wedding date was hard to come by before COVID, wait until you see what venues and couples will be dealing with this year! 

2019 and 2020’s engaged couples have largely chosen 2021 for their wedding, according to a recent study by The Knot. Not to mention all the postponements that pushed many 2020 weddings into 2021, or that coming out of proposal season, the number of prospective couples looking for 2021 and 2022 wedding dates is only growing. 

Needless to say, there will be a lot of weddings planned for Summer 2021 and beyond, including all of 2022. The exact numbers are likely to change as the vaccine roll-out continues and we see if Fauci’s hopes of 75-80% vaccination by this summer come true. If not, we’ll see more postponements into whatever dates are left in 2022 and into 2023. We’d advise 2021 couples to not only have a secondary 2021 date in mind if possible, but also backup dates in 2022 and, yes, possibly in 2023.

Earle Brown Will Be Here to Help

No matter how your plans and priorities change as we move into 2021, Earle Brown Heritage Center will be here to help make your wedding day extraordinary. We’re dedicated to providing a safe, joyful experience to everyone who walks through our doors. As proof of our commitment to health and safety, we even became a vaccination site to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community. 

Whether you’re planning a wedding in 2021, 2022 or beyond, our expert planners and compassionate staff stand ready to assist you. Contact us today to begin the planning process or to learn more about the measures we’re taking to keep you and your guests safe.