Swiping right, saying 'I do'... and navigating the vaccine-status minefield

On Oct. 16, 2020, Costa Tsitouras proposed to Laura Ciccia, and she said yes.

Exactly a year later, the two will get married, and the reception will be Oct. 22. But a lot has changed in the meantime.

After a half-year of restrictions due to COVID-19, by summer it was go time for the wedding. But now Tsitouras and Ciccia were faced with the potentially awkward question that everyone getting married now needs to address: vaccination status.

How do you ask your guests about that? Do you ask?

Should you use the VaxiCode passport app? For some navigating the new minefield recently, the app has helped them tackle the problem a little more elegantly, they say. But there's still a lot to consider.

RSVP WITH VACCINATION STATUS, PLEASE

Tsitouras and Ciccia, from Montreal's West Island, decided they were already confident they knew the vaccination status of each of their guests -- mostly family -- without needing to ask.

They cared that all were vaccinated for one reason above all.

"The main thing for me is I wanted our grandparents to feel comfortable, and my grandfather said that he is comfortable now," said Tsitouras.

"Months ago, when I told him I was planning my wedding, he said 'Don't do anything until it's safe,' and as soon as he was double-vaxxed, he felt comfortable."

"The only thing I think of when I think of an outbreak at our wedding is our grandparents," said Ciccia. "If I get it, it will suck, but I'm really just thinking about the elderly getting it."

The couple is not alone in those feelings.

Along with booking venues, choosing flowers, making guest lists and planning seating arrangements, couples and weddings planners also must navigate the potentially awkward topic of COVID-19 vaccine status.

Elyna Kudish is a local wedding planner who was busy this weekend with two weddings.

Her team simply downloaded the VaxiCode app reader and told all guests that their vaccine status would be checked.

"Even though we're not technically required to do this as private gatherings yet, we're being proactive," said Kudish.

Kudish said both weddings were great and that the guests were "very happy and easygoing about the vaccine passports."

She said that her colleagues in the industry seem ready to use the passport system and try to be part of the solution. Beyond the other reasons to do so, it'll mean their industry can remain open in the same way bars, restaurants and other events are.

"In general, accountability is the name of our game," she said.

"Even pre-COVID, as a planner, you're always dealing with family trauma, someone who's pregnant, there's always things you have to adapt to."

Ensuring everyone is vaccinated is just another variable to adjust to, she said.

"I think it's just another thing but I think in general as an industry, or at least as the planners, we're pretty flexible creatures," said Kudish.

Dr. Vardit Ravitsky, a bioethics expert at the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Montreal, said recently that it's preferable and responsible to ask whether someone is vaccinated.

"First of all, to know how to behave," she said. "Asking the question is also a more delicate way of making the unvaccinated person understand that his or her choice may create a barrier."

Laura Ciccia and Costa Tsitouras are getting married in October and when it comes to vaccination status their main concern is for their grandparents. SOURCE: Laura Ciccia

UNVACCINATED OPTING OUT

Tsitousas said he does know some friends who are unvaccinated and who he would, under normal circumstances, expect to see at some upcoming weddings.

"I asked him about our buddy who's getting married, and he just said, 'I won't go,'" he said.

Kudish said she feels this will become the norm.

"I definitely think those guests will stay away," she said. "Perhaps eventually [they'll] come around, but that belongs to them and that's really not for us to judge."

The VaxiCode app, Kudish said, makes the discussion more legalistic and takes one stressful step out of the equation.

"It just takes the emotion out of it, I think, for the host, the bride and the groom and the planners. It's just like it's the law and that's what it is," said Kudish.

"There's a great sense of relief that it's no longer a political question, it's no longer a judgmental question, it's just like 'Well, it is what it is. It's the law so I'm sorry there's nothing I can do about it.'"

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THE DATING WORLD JUST GOT MORE AWKWARD

Many, of course, are a long way from the altar and are just looking to find someone compatible to spend time with.

The "are you vaccinated question" is now a real elephant in the room, they say.

Kavita Ajwani is a dating expert and matchmaker who has run the site Dashing Date for the past 13 years.

The pandemic has had a drastic effect on her business, she says, as live speed-dating and other events went online immediately.

That didn't mean, however, that singles didn't still want to meet other people.

"The priority for us really was to keep our clients dating, and even more importantly, feeling connected, especially at such a crazy time," she said.

Dating, to state the glaringly obvious, is complicated. The pandemic added layers to that, and when the vaccination campaign began to gain steam, whether a person was vaccinated or not threw a curveball into the process.

"We're starting to see some clients [for whom] that's become a preference: 'Only introduce me to someone who is vaccinated,'" said Ajwani, or, on the other hand, "'Don't share that. I'm not comfortable sharing that I'm not vaccinated or whether I am or not.'"

The vaccine passport has helped in this case, too, however, matchmakers say. With its introduction and the clear rules around attending non-essential events, they're seeing a way around the question.

"If two people are agreeing to meet at a restaurant, you can most likely assume that the person that you are about to date is vaccinated," said Ajwani. "It's almost like a loophole."

The dating app Bumble has added a vaccination badge to jump the awkward hurdle out of the gates.

Vaccination badges, online dating forums, and wedding invites with a vaccination status associated with your RSVP seem parts of the etiquette landscape that are here to stay.

"We've been loving the video [first dates] because it's such a great way to first determine if it is worth meeting somebody face-to-face," said Ajwani.

"If you're curious enough, excited enough, if that chemistry is there." 

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