Understanding Washington's COVID-19 Guidelines (and what they mean for your wedding)
Updated: 2 days ago
Last Updated: May 7
NOTE: If you’re planning a wedding in Oregon, you’ll want to read our Oregon-specific breakdown.
SUMMARY OF MOST RECENT UPDATES:
Governor Inslee announced higher capacity limits with the implementation of "vaccination sections"
We're seeing some couples liking the idea of requiring guests to be vaccinated or arranging seating based on vaccination. The benefit is that you won't have to stress about anything happening. It might work for you or it might not.
This announcement is specifically for spectator venues (i.e. stadiums) and religious establishments (i.e. churches). However, if your wedding is in a churches or other faith-based institution, the venue can:
Increase capacity in Phase 2 from 25% to 50% with a "vaccinated only" section
NEW GUIDANCE - As of May 7, the WA Wedding guidelines now clarify and have new (aka less restrictive) updates on the following:
Standing - guests are welcome to roam and mingle outside of their tables as long as they're wearing masks, distancing and not eating/drinking.
Dancing - there are real numbers for how many people are allowed on the dance floor, see the % in our charts below
Table of Contents
Side by Side Phase Comparisons for Weddings
COVID-19 guidelines are constantly changing, but when it comes to how those affect your wedding, you can count on us to break those down for you.
In this blog, we simplify how Washington State’s Roadmap to Recovery impacts your wedding and we’ll add updates when wedding COVID-19 requirements change. Be sure to check back to this page from time to time!
Our Advice for Wedding Planning with COVID-19 :
Be clear with your guests about the expectations at your wedding. It is YOUR day and they should understand what you expect of everybody. Whether that be outlining mask expectations, vaccine requirements, and/or venue rules, we recommend to let everyone know these before hand to avoid trouble on the day-of.
Work with a planner!! The value of having a professional hand to hold under under these times is invaluable. With changing guidelines, it can be overwhelming to keep track of everything and the "fun" of planning can be lost. Planners are your sanity checkers, logistic experts, and additionally, there to enforce your expectations on the day-of so you don't have to stress.
Have a good Plan B. With new surges happening across the country, no region's Phase is guaranteed. Having a loose Plan B for a lower phase can make last minute planning a little less stressful.
WEDDINGS AND PHASES
You’ll want to know what region your wedding venue is, as the Phase for that region will determine what you can and can’t do at your wedding. You can check the most up-to-date metrics and Phase of each region here.
The tricky part is, Phases can change every two weeks when metrics are reevaluated. A region’s Phase changing in the two weeks leading up to your wedding could mean some adjustments, which is why we highly recommend having a planner to help you through this and make those last-minute changes if needed.
We have read and reread all the documents Governor Inslee has published that depicted all the restrictions for your wedding. All we write below is summarized from the following documents:
Weddings, Funerals, and Events COVID-19 Requirements (Updated May 7)
Open Air and Outdoor Seating Requirements (for outdoor seating)
COVID-19 Guidance for Food Workers & Food Establishments (for self-serve food)
Healthy Washington Roadmap to Recovery (description of COVID-19 metrics and up-to-date Phases)
Here is a quick overview of the differences, but we'll go on to explain more about the restrictions in each phase and category.
It's a common misconception that state requirements only apply to venues. But Governor Inslee’s restrictions apply to weddings no matter the location: “privately owned property, business establishments, non-profit establishments, establishments owned by religious or faith-based organizations and publicly owned property.”
Now for the nitty-gritty: what exactly you can and can’t you do on your wedding day based on the Phase.
WEDDINGS IN PHASE 1
For an indoor venue, your guest count can be no more than 30 people or 25% capacity of the venue, whichever is less, and that count does NOT include vendors. With an outdoor wedding, you can have a maximum of 30 people.
Guests should also be warned to keep to their bubbles and avoid mingling without masks between groups (this will help ensure your wedding day is stress-free and COVID-free).
Unfortunately during Phase 1, celebrations or receptions before/after an indoor wedding are prohibited. If you want to have a wedding reception in a Phase 1 region, you will need to have an outdoor wedding.
For outdoor venues, receptions are a go. There are, of course, restrictions that apply, such as ensuring guests wear face coverings and social distance. In the Wedding COVID-19 Restrictions document from Governor Inslee, there is a list of general practices for vendors and wedding hosts to follow.
For outdoor weddings with a reception, make sure to arrange your tables based on state guidelines. Table sizes are limited to 6 people from a maximum of 2 households and all tables must be spaced 6 feet from any other table.
This will be the same for receptions in Phase 2 also.
The area where people are sitting and eating must also follow the state’s Open-air Seating Guidance. There are many options for setting up your outdoor reception area, such as having tents or canopies but to sum it up: less walls = less restrictions.
Food & Drink:
You can serve food and drinks in a Phase 1 outdoor wedding, but there are various eating and drinking requirements.
Important to note that to note during all phases, masks are required if you are not eating or drinking. That being said, we advice that you are clear with your guests on what they should expect, that way everyone knows what you and your partner want for your wedding (after all, it is your day).
Your caterer or venue should be aware of all guidance for serving food, but have a conversation with your vendors so you’re on the same page.
As of March, buffets and self service food stations are allowed (with restrictions of course!). You must have some kind of sneeze guard barrier, have the serving utensils sanitized, and/or provide single use utensils, or have a staff member serving the food.
Back in the beginning of 2021, there were restrictions on live performers (solo singers, bands, etc), but now the general rule of thumb is performers are allowed as long as they are significantly distanced from the audience. The performers must wear masks, or be behind plexiglass or some other barrier.
It’s crazy to think that dancing was prohibited earlier this year, like Footloose became a reality. Now, dancing is allowed through all phases as long as guests wear masks on the dance floor, guests are not carrying food or drinks, and people try to distance or stick with the group limits (the same as the table groups).
There are also numbers for how many people can be on the dance floor. The general rule of thumb is 25% of your guest count, and as we know, your guest count is limited by a capacity percentage.
Example: Phase 2 Outdoor allows for 25% of the capacity. If your venue allows for 400 at full capacity, you can have a guest count of 100 (25% of 400) and 25 on the dance floor (25% of 100)
First Dances/Parent Dances
Since Phase 1 Indoor weddings don't allow for receptions, dancing isn't an option, but you can still do a first dance or a parent dance! For these traditional dances, the dancers do not need to wear a mask as long as they are the only ones on the dance floor. You'll get the best photos of these moments!
WEDDINGS IN PHASE 2
The guest count for indoor weddings increases significantly in Phase 2. It allows for 200 people or 25% of the venue capacity for indoor weddings not including vendors. Remember to pay attention to the venues max capacity! Outdoor weddings allow for 200 max.
The group limits also increase to a maximum of 15 people, but still from a max of 2 households.
Hurray, you can have an indoor reception! You will need to follow your venue’s guidelines and have your guests wear face coverings and social distance.
Seating is the same as Phase 1 outdoor weddings. Table sizes are limited to 6 people from a maximum of 2 households and all tables must be spaced 6 feet from any other table.
If your wedding is indoors, it's good to consider what the air flow will be like. The state recommends to open any windows and utilize fans if possible.
Food and Drink:
Food service must follow eating and drinking requirements for Phase 2. They are more or less the same as Phase 1.
Music and Dancing
Phase 2 guidelines for music and dancing are the Phase 1. Wear a mask and distance as usual.
WEDDINGS IN PHASE 3
Governor Inslee released guidance for weddings in Phase 3 on March, 23, and we are happy to say that the guest count allows for practically "a normal" wedding size. If you are somebody who likes a party with all their friends and family, Phase 3 allows for that.
Your grandparents, your extended family, your mom's friends, your friends kids.... Phase 3 allows for significantly more humans to witness your special day. You can have 50% of an indoor venue's capacity, with a maximum of 400. Outdoors, the max is 400.
You will need to follow your venue’s guidelines and have your guests wear face coverings and social distance.
The group limits increased to a maximum of 15 people and no longer have a household restriction, so as long as your guests feel comfortable, making seating arrangements will be less of a hassle.
Food and Drink:
Food service must follow eating and drinking requirements. The only difference is that alcohol service can last until midnight.
YPB IS HERE TO HELP
We are staying on top of these changes and as always, it’s our job to make planning your wedding less stressful. If the COVID guidelines are impacting your wedding and you’re having trouble navigating them, reach out to us!
We executed 30+ weddings under these guidelines in 2020; we have experience figuring out the best solution and we will walk you through all of your options. You can reach us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For now, keep the faith. The vaccine is rolling out (though far too slow) and we are still very hopeful for a wonderful 2021 wedding season.
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