Humanist weddings & covid-19

Covid-19 has had a massive impact on weddings. They have been postponed or cancelled. In my new podcast Losing My Religion, I discuss my personal view on the prospect for weddings for the foreseeable future. Health and safety comes first. No ceremony is worth endangering anyone – people at the ceremony and their contacts.

Weddings are dangerous places at present, due to Covid19. The safest weddings are small weddings where everyone wears a mask and keeps two metres apart from everyone else.

  • Weddings without kisses and handshakes and hugs seem unthinkable. And yet those are the very activities that can spread this deadly virus. Guests queueing up to congratulate the couple with hugs, kisses and handshakes, as so often used to happen after the wedding ceremony, should not happen.
  • Singing and live music used to enhance wedding ceremonies. However, singing releases tiny particles which can carry the virus, increasing the virus load and heightening the risk of infection. Wind instruments can also spray the virus beyond the recommended two metres’ social/physical distancing
  • Two metres social/physical distancing is safer than one metre; and even if authorities reduce social distancing to one metre, that does not make it safer – it only makes it permissible. In my view, couples should commit to two metres social/physical distancing regardless of what may be permissible. Science is more important than regulation. So commit to two metres to protect people at your ceremony.
  • Many rituals cannot take place during a pandemic, as they often involve guests touching objects such as the wedding rings being passes around all guests.
  • Microphones should not be shared during a pandemic, as these can spread the virus, by people holding the microphone and by speakers leaving droplets on the microphones. This can mean that it’s harder to hear the celebrant or speaker at a ceremony, especially given the need for guests to sit two metres apart. But better for people not to hear, than for this deadly and highly contagious virus to spread.
  • Masks should be worn by everyone at the ceremony, as they help control the spread of the virus. This also includes the celebrant, given that he or she will be projecting their voice and thereby potentially spreading viral droplets more and further than normal.
  • My ceremonies used to involve lots of laughter from guests, and clapping and involvement. That can increase the viral load in the room.
  • Duration is also a factor. With covid, the shorter the ceremony, the safer for everyone. But that can militate against the emotional flow of a ceremony.
  • Health warnings are important and necessary at the start of a ceremony, especially if a celebrant sees risky behaviour by guests. There are a lot of ‘covidiots’ about, who, through ignorance or irresponsibility, endanger the lives and health of others. In my view, the celebrant should challenge behaviour that threatens other people. But when the celebrant does this, it can be difficult to conduct a ceremony with the joy and celebration we all want.
  • Guests sometimes come to a wedding ceremony already having had a drink or three. As is clear from media accounts and police comments, alcohol and social distancing don’t tend to mix well. Alcohol tends to lower people’s guard, heightening pandemic risks for everyone.
  • Even items like sharing the one pen to sign the Marriage Registration Form is dangerous for the spread of covid.
  • Outdoor weddings are safer, but you always have to have an indoor option. This is a legal requirement in Ireland, where an outdoor venue has to be adjacent to a legally compliant indoor option – namely that it is open to the public, especially on the day of the wedding. But many venues that used to be open to the public are closed due to lockdown. Hence a wedding can’t he held in the garden of a hotel if the hotel is closed.
  • The HSE has recommended that couples not plan their wedding until after the pandemic. I think that that is wise advice.