Health & Medical

What Planning a COVID-Safe Wedding in a Pandemic Taught Me About Community Care

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I got married last month, and it was the most fabulous party of my life. We had an ABBA cover band, gold disco balls, and, best of all, no known resulting COVID-19 cases. It was the perfect celebration of love—not just because we had all-gender bathrooms and dessert options for the lactose intolerant among us, but because we took responsibility for each other’s health, following in a tradition that queer communities and organizers have long modeled.

A masked ceremony may have been all the rage in 2020, but most wedding photos I’ve seen this year bear more resemblance to pre-pandemic celebrations than to the outdoor micro weddings of the previous two years. Many people are willing to risk COVID on their wedding day, but my now-spouse and I were not.

I had the luck and privilege of avoiding catching COVID until last spring. The acute stage of the infection was enough to make me wary of reinfection, and the months of long-term symptoms that followed sealed the deal. I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid the worst long COVID symptoms so far, but I know reinfection could potentially heighten my risk of lingering side effects.

Even before we came down with COVID ourselves, neither I nor my then fiancé wanted to risk our loved ones’ safety as the price of admission for our wedding. And it was also important to us to avoid infecting the many vendors and service workers involved in making the celebration happen. So from the jump, we knew we were planning a COVID-cautious event. I’m really proud of how we did it, and our wedding served as a reminder that community care is key to getting through a pandemic—and through life.

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We aren’t supposed to go through a pandemic alone.

Despite known COVID risks, we wanted an in-person wedding. Gathering with family and friends was the primary goal, and every other choice we made was in service of that. As humans, we crave company and community. This is perhaps truer than ever in the third year of a pandemic.

It’s a lonely time to be a person who still cares about avoiding constant reinfections. It seems that we’ve entered somewhat of a “you do you” phase of the pandemic, despite the fact that each new variant of SARS-CoV-2 seems better at evading immunity than the last. And while President Biden may have declared the pandemic over, nearly 30% of the world’s population has not received their first dose of any COVID-19 vaccine, which in many cases is due to lack of access.

If an individualistic approach to a pandemic seems counterintuitive, that’s because it is. The shift away from “you protect me, I protect you” is no accident, in my opinion. Leaving decisions such as masking, vaccination, and testing up to each person means we can blame individual people, rather than policy or public health messaging, for spreading the virus. And a new study in the journal Nature also suggests that this sense of personal responsibility may be a key factor contributing to the severity of the pandemic in countries that score high on individualism (like the US). It can even work to dilute the efficacy of the COVID-19 policies in those places, the research shows.

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