Weddings, Covid_19 & Me

May 22 2020


I hope this post finds you and your family healthy, and managing as best can be expected right now. I won’t pretend any of this is easy. As much as I am enjoying a slower pace to my life (my kids are older), I miss many of the little things about my everyday life, and I still can’t quite get my head around an almost entire wedding season moving a year ahead. It has been a tremendous labour of love to work with clients and fellow vendors on making postponements happen with as little upset as possible.

Regrettably, I haven’t been able to follow all of my clients into 2021 due to previous bookings. I feel grateful to be surrounded by a wonderful community of fellow officiants, starting with my team members Tori and Marci.

It has been a wild time, that’s for sure.

I am writing this update because as we have been hearing, some restrictions are lifting and some businesses are re-opening, albeit in altered ways depending on the type of service. Certainly confusion and inconsistencies abound between where one law ends and a health directive begins. What is common is the discouragement of gatherings over 5 people, particularly in confined spaces, sticking within our own household “bubbles”, going outside our homes only as necessary and when we do venture out, keeping a 2 metre distance. We are still under a provincial state of emergency, recently extended in Ontario to June 2, 2020.

As a minister, along with my fellow Something New Officiants, I receive direction from our ministry. They have continued to advocate that the best choice under the current circumstances is to refuse or postpone any ceremony except in the most exceptional of cases. As we know, Public Health Ontario advises that anyone can be asymptomatic (no symptoms) and yet still be a carrier of the virus, including ministers/officiants.

Despite warnings, I am aware that weddings are still occurring. Until now I have declined to perform any ceremony except in an emergency, under the directive of my ministry and current health direction. I have also felt strongly about contributing to a healthy and thriving wedding industry. For me, behind every vendor is a person trying to salvage their income and ensure they are fully functioning for when weddings in all their glory, are back up and running.

The current reality means that many vendors integral to a wedding day are for the most part, still unable to work without the risk of a fine. Some of us are going to be able to resume our income generating activities sooner than others, and that’s having a devastating impact on friends and colleagues. Never mind some of the treatment vendors are receiving for upholding their end of negotiated contracts - everything from being threatened with lawyers to bad reviews. My heart aches.

At the same time, couples are faced with concerns that mirror our own. Balancing finances, expectations, priorities, health concerns, disappointment, alongside exhaustion and no clear answers …

well … it’s just so much.

These considerations, multiple perspectives, and balancing of needs versus wants keeps me up at night.

Moving forward when ceremonies do occur, every precaution should be taken for the safety of yourselves, your 2 witnesses, your officiant and our community. Current social gathering numbers in Ontario are restricted to 5. Under no circumstances should ceremonies just be pushed ahead because they are booked and you have a licence in hand. Ignoring or dismissing any Covid_19 related symptoms will put us all in harm's way.

Each decision to perform a ceremony this season will be decided on a case by case basis, navigated between myself and my clients in light of whatever new information is available to us and personal circumstance.

Here are the minimum recommendations coming from our ministry for a wedding ceremony in Ontario:

1. 5 people maximum – the minister/clergy/celebrant, the couple and two witnesses.

2. The ceremony should take place outside (avoid meeting indoors if at all possible)

3. All participants wear a mask *

4. Hand sanitizer to be made available

5. Maintain a minimum of 2 meter/ 6 foot distance between all parties except you [the couple]

6. Each person brings their own pen for signing the documents

7. Each person signs separately, maintaining distance, colour coded stickers to direct each person

8. Take care handling the documents and employ proper hand washing or sanitizing

9. A clause will be added to your contract that stipulates that you [the couple] are responsible for maintaining any and all legal requirements as to group size (5 including me), social distancing etc. for anyone attending the ceremony, and that you [the couple] will absolve myself as your officiant, of any liability should any violation occur.

Here is what this will look like for a ceremony planned outdoors:

• I will arrive a few minutes prior to the ceremony, and I will text you that I have arrived

• I will use hand sanitizer and wear my mask upon arriving and to set up paperwork

• I will stand 10 feet back during the ceremony, and encourage witnesses to as well to account for wind and standing stationary, and well, drift often occurs as people who care for one another intuitively want to move closer, so let’s start further back than the minimum • My register will be covered in plastic wrap (I know, a bit of a strange look), with the exception of the page used for signing

• I will fill out all pertinent information ahead of time so that only signatures are required

• I ask that witnesses wear masks until the ceremony begins or they maintain their distance of at least 6 feet at all times

• I will remove my mask just before the ceremony begins and then use hand sanitizer

• Everyone is to bring their own pens for signing documents

• Everyone will use hand sanitizer (again) prior to and after signing the documents and touching the register

Our collective safety relies on one another.

The decision to have a ceremony at this time should not be taken lightly, but weighed against the potential for spread and that knowledge that you or I or your guests may be (a)symptomatic. Physical distancing is part of our new normal.

Even as businesses open their doors, staying closer to home, staying home if unwell, sneezing into our elbow, wearing masks, resist touching our faces, and wash our hands is our new reality, at least for the time being.

Each of these are part of the “package” of actions that we take to reduce spread. And as Dan Levy (Schitt’s Creek) said of wearing masks, it is “the simplest, easiest act of kindness that you can do in a day.”

With so much love and appreciation,

Rev Jodi Hall

Something New

*If you have asthma, or any of condition that makes wearing a mask challenging, please notify me so that we can discuss.