Safety First, ‘I Do’s’ Second
With the increased demand for in-person celebrations, many wedding officiants have added pandemic safety measures to their ceremony prep.
By Emma Grillo
For the past year, whenever Aretha Gaskin, a certified civil celebrant in Plainfield, N.J., leaves her home to officiate a wedding, she always makes sure she has more than enough personal protective equipment with her.
“The containers of sanitizers in my car is insane,” said Ms. Gaskin, with a laugh.
She also keeps sanitizer in her purse, and often reminds people that she no longer shakes hands. When it comes to mingling with guests after the ceremony, Ms. Gaskin tries to stand at a safe distance, and always has a mask on.
“I’m always very, very conscientious,” she said. “Sometimes I’ll take my mask off for a quick picture with the couple, and then the mask is back on.”
Ms. Gaskin is just one of the many officiants across the country who have been steadily working during the pandemic, officiating weddings for couples who have had to change almost every aspect of their wedding day. While some cities like New York made it possible for couples to be married over video conference in the beginning of the pandemic, many couples have still opted to have some sort of wedding celebration in person, whether it is a socially distanced gathering outside or a livestreamed, pared-down ceremony. And all of these weddings need an officiant to perform the marriage.
For Ms. Gaskin, this has meant adding livestreamed weddings to her repertoire, as well as giving advice to couples on how to keep their wedding as safe as possible. She encourages her clients to have a “Covid station,” with masks, hand sanitizer and anything else that can help keep guests safe. Although she does not require that the wedding party or their guests take a Covid test before she provides her services, she says that she recommends it to couples when they seek her advice.
Jimmie Berguin, a minister with American Marriage Ministries in Eugene, Ore., has also been following many of the same safety precautions while officiating weddings over the last year.
“I definitely wear masks anywhere and everywhere outside of the ceremony,” Mr. Berguin said. He typically takes his mask off to officiate while standing a safe distance from the couple, but will also leave his mask on during the ceremony if couples prefer it. Like Ms. Gaskin, he frequently sanitizes his hands while he is working, and always keeps a bottle of hand sanitizer in his coat pocket.
“Shout out to blazers because blazers are life-changing with their million pockets that they have,” Mr. Berguin said, with a laugh.
Even with new safety precautions in place and the obvious risks of gathering in the midst of a pandemic, Mr. Berguin has only seen the demand for his services grow in the last year. Compared with 2019, Mr. Berguin saw about a 40 percent increase in bookings for his officiant services in 2020. He said that many of these bookings were small ceremonies or elopements, sometimes with only a few days notice.
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