Throughout 2020, couples who were planning their weddings found themselves making last-minute changes as states and cities threw new restrictions at them. With 2021 bringing a new wedding season, many are wondering what the COVID-19 pandemic will mean for their nuptials. If you are shopping for wedding vendors and planners, or if you already have a date set, what do you need to do to protect yourself should the pandemic continue to cause closures and problems? Here is a closer look at the legalities surrounding weddings in light of the pandemic.
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Will I be able to host an indoor wedding in 2021?
The wedding industry has been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. With many cities and states banning large gatherings indoors, traditional indoor weddings surrounded by friends and family have been nearly impossible in some areas. What will happen in 2021 remains uncertain.
Likely, indoor wedding restrictions in 2021 will be based on the specific restrictions in your state and municipality. Unfortunately, no one can say what the schedule will hold, so it is important to have clauses in your contracts that allow you to get your money back if your area is shut down. If you are hiring a wedding vendor or talking to wedding planners, make sure you discuss these possibilities.
If I have to postpone my wedding due to COVID-19 restrictions, what will happen to my contracts for the venue and vendors?
Vendors and wedding venues have been hit hard by the pandemic and the forced cancellations. Many are struggling financially as a result, and they may not be as quick to refund deposits and cancel contracts in 2021. If you find that you have to postpone your wedding, carefully read your contracts, emailed correspondence, and any other agreements you have to determine your options.
Contracts should state the procedures for canceling or changing the wedding date. Look for a force majeure clause, which frees both parties of their obligations if extraordinary circumstances, sometimes called an “act of God,” make meeting those obligations impossible. That said, just having a force majeure clause may not be sufficient. The clause must specifically state a contagion, public health crises, or epidemic as being an included reason.
If you do not have a clause, it may be time to consult with a lawyer. Two common laws, the law of impossibility and the law of frustration of purpose may apply to your contract, but these can be harder to hold a vendor to without a bit of work. Talking with and enlisting the help of a lawyer will help you understand your rights.
Could I be held liable if someone contracts COVID-19 at my wedding?
The risk of contracting COVID-19 is larger at any big event, like a wedding. As you make your plans, you may want to add some protection against liability if someone contracts the virus at your wedding. While the chances of your friends and family holding you liable are likely small, you cannot control insurance companies, and many will look for any excuse to pass the cost of extreme medical care off on someone else. In addition, if you are bringing in outside entertainment, caterers, or other staff, and one of them contracts COVID, then you may be at higher risk for a liability case. One way to protect yourself is to ask attendees or participants, including those you pay to help with your wedding, to sign a Hold Harmless Agreement.
What are some COVID-friendly alternatives to a traditional wedding and reception?
Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic is not going away any time soon. For many couples, postponing their weddings is not an option. So what can you do instead?
In many parts of the country, outdoor gatherings are considered less risky than indoor. The risk of disease transmission drops significantly when you are outdoors with better airflow. Moving your wedding to an outdoor ceremony can help. If outdoors is not an option, micro weddings, which have very few attendees, will allow you to tie the knot without increasing the risk of viral spread too much.
For the reception, choosing individually packaged food or opting for professional catering, which has better sanitation, may help limit your risk. Choosing a food-free reception in favor of a party or dance event may work well too. Avoiding food and drink serving lines is best when possible. Drive-by receptions where your friends and family can wish you well as you hand out pre-packaged appetizers or desserts can work as well.
Depending on where you live, you could also opt for a civil ceremony, with a separate celebration planned for a post-COVID date, to be determined. Some local governments are offering online marriage certificates and ceremonies. Check with your county clerk’s office to see if that’s an option for you.
There’s no denying that the coronavirus pandemic will continue to impact the wedding industry in 2021. As you make plans for your wedding, be flexible. If you have questions about contracts and liability, contact a Rocket Lawyer On Call® attorney for fast and affordable advice.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.