Weddings were among the many things the coronavirus pandemic halted or limited over the last year, but as peak wedding season nears for 2021, what will ceremonies look like?
On Tuesday, Chicago’s top doctor signaled a sign of hope for those with wedding plans this summer.
“I do think by this summer, broadly, you're going to be able to have a wedding in the way that you want to have a wedding," Chicago Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said. "I would put a couple of caveats on that.”
Arwady went on to express little concern if every guest is vaccinated, but said caveats like those who choose to not get the vaccine or children who cannot get the vaccine are worth discussing.
"I think if you're planning a, you know, 200-person wedding, I think by this summer that would broadly be something that you would be able to do," Arwady said. "There may still be some requirements in place around there - if you had a children or somebody who was higher risk and for some reason had not been vaccinated. There may still need to be some mask wearing at different points, but I think by this summer you probably will be in good shape to have a wedding and especially if you do it outside, that really just decreases a lot of risk for everybody."
For more than a year, event planners have suffered during this pandemic from strict capacity restrictions that have prevented large events.
But as those restrictions are eased, demand is coming back.
Wedding photographer, Collin Pierson, said calls have increased since Chicago announced outdoor gatherings of 100 or less are allowed.
“Any steps forward are welcome steps,” said Pierson.
Susan Cordogan of Big City Weddings and Big City Events said she saw a 35% increase in events being planned after the city's announcement.
Cordogan knows March is a critical time for planning summer events, which is why she worries the easing of restrictions in Illinois won’t be enough to compete with surrounding states that are more open.
“That restriction is only as good as the weather,” said Cordogan. “[In other states] you can have a dance floor; you don’t need to mask up. The capacity limits are gone."
Michelle Durpetti, co-founder of the Illinois Events Coalition and family managing partner of Gene and Georgetti’s steakhouse in River North, recently ran her first wedding in 16 months.
Durpetti says she won’t recoup the losses from 2020 because those dates are now taking up 2021 dates.
She’s hopeful that any step forward means we’re heading in the right direction, especially after the state announced vaccinated individuals don’t have to count toward capacity, as long as they show proof of vaccination.
“A wedding planner, a good photographer, a great caterer, a knowledgeable band leader, these are going to be the investments people make now,” said Durpetti.
Still, in the short term, coronavirus metrics are on the rise both in Chicago and Illinois, leaving health experts concerned and the future a little more uncertain.