It seems like just weeks ago that the industry was back on its feet, with whispers of Delta fading and a pretty convincing light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. But as temperatures dipped and winter took over, Omicron took over as the most prevalent COVID variant in what felt like a matter of days.
Known for being highly transmissible and less severe than past variants, there is still a lot we don’t know about Omicron. For event professionals, that means there will be no scaling back on health and safety measures for the foreseeable future. In some cases, it may even entail a return to stricter, more stringent procedures to mitigate risk.
As we all know, social distancing continues to be one of the best ways to limit the spread of any variant. So as Omicron circulates, keep these best practices in mind as you update seating charts for upcoming events.
Seat fewer guests at each table.
This is an easy strategy and one that was widely adopted at the start of the pandemic. However, with restrictions relaxed, many couples have started maximizing their tablespace to increase their headcount.
But now, wedding experts are saying it’s time to go back to the original game plan, as Bri Marbais, bridal stylist for The Bridal Finery, encourages: “Couples should reduce the number of guests per table. While this can be a bit of a hassle, especially for weddings happening soon, it’s the best way for guests to feel comfortable in a large group setting. By doing so, couples will have to realize that this will potentially increase many things such as the number of tables, chairs, linens, and centerpieces needed for their wedding.”
Laura Maddox, the owner of Magnolia Celebrates, agrees, adding a general guideline to follow: “We have been advising our clients to stick to 8 to a table instead of the typical 10-12. Also, if your room allows for a bit more space between tables we suggest this as well, it only helps the wait staff to better serve you!”
Mix up table sizes and shapes.
A sticky situation calls for a creative solution, and Maddox suggests a fix that is as effective as it is aesthetically pleasing. “We find a mixture of different table sizes and shapes help keep the room interesting while you’re adding more tables,” she says. “This also helps to spread people out while making it feel purposeful in a subtle way.”
Simply put, there’s no need to stick to a less-than-exciting floor plan with standard round tables spaced out. By mixing in banquet tables, cocktail tables, king and queen tables, or a sweetheart table, you can add a dynamic flow to your event space while honoring the health and safety parameters necessary to protect your friends and family.
Go outside whenever possible.
While it may not be a viable option for all climates, it’s been clear that celebrating in the great outdoors is the safest way to gather with loved ones.
Marbais confirms, stating: “This is the safest way to host events in the environment we are currently living in. If a couple is already planning on the majority of the wedding being outdoors, socially distanced seating should still be done. Any extra safety precautions that can be taken not only for the couple but guests and staff should be done.”
If an outdoor setting is not available, see if there’s an opportunity to move to a larger indoor space with higher ceilings. It’s also worth discussing ways to enhance air circulation with your venue coordinator.
Keep vendors abreast of changes.
Any changes to the venue, floorplan, or headcount should be addressed with all members of the wedding team. This has always been a rule of thumb, but it is especially vital when planning a wedding during the pandemic.
“The table size, shape, and number sitting there affect everyone,” Maddox explains. “From your caterer, linen rentals, decor, and planner, everyone has a part to play in the table settings! Communicating all changes helps for them all to best serve your guests and keep the evening as smooth as possible.”
Marbais agrees, elaborating: “Speaking to each vendor, while time-consuming, individually would be the best way to make sure everyone is on the same page. Each vendor will have their own questions and concerns which can easily be addressed by a simple phone call.”
So if you’re wondering whether you can host a wedding safely and responsibly while navigating Omicron, the answer is most likely. Consult your vendor team for questions and concerns, as they’ve executed weddings within pandemic circumstances for nearly a year. They will be able to help you assess risk, plan strategically, and communicate with guests to ensure everyone remains safe, healthy, and in the loop.
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.