How to go to a wedding now that Delta exists
August 18, 2021 8:30 AM   Subscribe

I am attending my cousin's wedding soon. I am about as nervous/careful about COVID as one can be, but I need help figuring out how to attend without also whipping myself into a worried frenzy.

My cousin postponed his wedding last year b/c of COVID and now the rescheduled time is almost here.

I have been WFH since March 2020, as has my partner. Our 8 yr old kid was in his tiny school all last year, masked, open-windows, outdoor lunches etc. Right now he's in outdoor camp, masked if they ever step foot inside. He is my main concern. All of the adults around him are vaccinated. We live in Boston.

In my family, I am the COVID worrier. I write emails to remind grandparents about CDC updates. I obsess over masks. I won't let another kid in our house, etc. I am 100% certain I annoy people (oh well).

However, I want to attend my cousins wedding and I would love some help in doing it in a way that I can feel relatively calm about. I know I can decide not to go - please don't just suggest that. My question is about going.

The marriage part will be inside a church. Any family member I've talked to will be masked. This part feels easy. The reception... it's at a wedding-venue kind of place. We will be seated at a table with my immediate family, all vaccinated, all people who are wearing masks everywhere they go. I won't dance. I'm not going to mingle and go meet strangers. No one under 13 is invited.

So... what is my risk assessment here? Can I take my mask off for 15 mins and eat the wedding chicken?? Can I drink a beer? Should I buy at-home COVID tests for post-wedding for my peace of mind? (I mean, I think the answer is yes for that one). I wish I was one of those people who worry less, but alas, here I am.
posted by jdl to Health & Fitness (21 answers total)
You can check your risk assessment at Be sure to re-check right before the event.
posted by aniola at 8:39 AM on August 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: It's important to keep in mind the difference between vaccine effectiveness at a society level, and at an individual level.

At a society level, we should expect 10% people that get exposed to Delta will contract the virus. They might transmit it to others - but if those others are vaccinated, again, only 10% would contract it.

At the individual level, you can track your specific odds around an exposure. (Along with the chances of the exposure in the first place). Punch in your stats, and see what it says.

So, you are eating dinner for 90 minutes without a mask with other vaccinated people - the risk in Boston is 300 microcovids (0.03%). That's well within my risk budget, but for your specific question, we can go one step deeper. If you were to contract it, but then, if your child would catch it from you. The estimates vary, but in general, a romantic partner only has a 60 chance from catching covid. Children seem to have a reduced effectiveness, but (0.03%*60% is a risk of 0.018%) or 18 microcovids. That's less than visiting the grocery store masked for your child.

In conclusion, I don't think you visiting without your child for the dinner portion would put your child at significant risk.
posted by bbqturtle at 8:41 AM on August 18, 2021 [12 favorites]

If it helps, I recently did a risk assessment with an all vaccinated rapid test before wedding (the microcovid thing helps here too) - the chances are 1% of someone having Covid. It's not nothing but should significantly help anxiety.
posted by pando11 at 8:42 AM on August 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

Just a quick note that microcovid is using data from the location. Presumably people are traveling from all over for this event and aren't just located in Boston. So "the risk in Boston is 300 microcovids (0.03%)" doesn't really hold for this particular scenario.

Whether you dance or mingle with strangers is pretty immaterial because air in the room does not just stay at your table. This is an airborne virus.

You would ideally want to double mask and wear an n95 or a kn95 covered with a surgical or cloth mask.
posted by twelve cent archie at 8:48 AM on August 18, 2021 [9 favorites]

I agree with what bbqturtle said. Except the numbers are actually higher than 10% with the delta variant:
Data has shown that vaccines are less effective at preventing symptomatic infection by the Delta variant than they were for the previously predominant Alpha variant. Pfizer/Moderna/Sputnik V have been reduced from a 90% reduction to a 84% reduction. AstraZeneca has been reduced from 60% to 54%. Single doses for all of the above have been reduced from 44% effective to 24%.

Johnson&Johnson’s single dose vaccine effectiveness reduced from 72% to 64% effective.
So about 16-36% of people fully vaccinated with Pfizer/Moderna/J&J will catch the delta variant.
posted by aniola at 8:53 AM on August 18, 2021 [4 favorites]

The X factor here, as I see it, is going to be your kid. No one under age 13 will be at the wedding, so there’s no risk to your kid from that. That means your two potential problems are getting a breakthrough infection, and passing that infection to your un-vax-able kid. The latter has an easy, if painful, solution: quarantine. If you have a place where your kid can stay for a few days until you’ve established that you weren’t infected, your kid will be fine. As for the former: this is really a question of how you interpret probability. The probability of a Covid infection in Massachusetts is already quite low. Presumably most of the infections that do occur are among unvaccinated people (I’m not bothering to check the statistics but I’m confident this is true), so being around vaccinated and masked adults is even lower risk. That said, it’s not a zero risk. I personally have an academic background that really pounded the fact that most people severely overweigh the risk of small probabilities, so I’d unquestionably go. Take precautions, yeah - masks, distancing, etc.

There’s this perception with Covid that any risk at all is too great, but your risk is never going to be zero. There’s a nonzero risk that you’re in a car accident on the way there. There’s a nonzero risk that the owner of the reception hall sets it on fire for insurance money. You can’t let improbable risks stop you from living life. My answer changes if you’re immunocompromised or otherwise high-risk, but for a healthy adult taking precautions in a fairly safe place like Boston, you’ll likely be fine.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:56 AM on August 18, 2021 [11 favorites]

So about 16-36% of people fully vaccinated with Pfizer/Moderna/J&J will catch the delta variant

This is not correct. My understanding is that (based on the paragraph you cited) in a situation where an unvaccinated person has a 100% chance of getting Delta, a vaccinated person has a 16-36% chance of getting Delta. Keep in mind that even if an unvaccinated person is exposed to someone who has Delta, they don’t have a 100% chance of getting it.

In terms of the wedding, do you know if all the guests will be vaccinated? If some may be unvaccinated, are they people who haven’t managed to get around to getting vaccinated but wear masks and avoid super risky situations, or might there be people who don’t believe in covid and do things like go to huge indoor events of similarly-minded people? If everyone is vaccinated, I’d definitely take off my mask and eat. If there are covid deniers present, I wouldn’t. I’m coming from the perspective of a parent with unvaccinated young children that are not higher risk than the average kid - ymmv.
posted by insectosaurus at 9:00 AM on August 18, 2021 [12 favorites]

Suffolk County (if that's where the wedding is - around Boston) has 18 cases per 100,000. I'd say it's an insanely low risk that anyone attending is going to have COVID.

For what it's worth, like what KevinBelt said: I went to a wedding a few weeks ago (man it was fun to be a part of society again!) in a place with approximately as low number of cases per 100k, and no-one got sick, my elderly in-laws danced (really nice to see as their time in life is almost done), and the groom's beloved grandfather (who paid for the whole thing and it was a at a yacht club where he had the boat) missed it due to a serious heart attack before the rehearsal. Life is filled with risk, and missing your family connections and their unknowable health conditions are also part of managing that risk.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:07 AM on August 18, 2021 [7 favorites]

How many people are going to the wedding and reception? And how big is the venue? That's a big piece of relevant information I'm inclined to be wary of very large events and, yes, they people who attend them indoors unmasked right now, because what other choices are they making? A wedding with 30 people in a venue that generally seats 100 is different than a wedding with 100 people in a venue that generally seats 100.

A few options: could you go to the wedding ceremony and not the reception? Could you arrange to visit with immediate family before the wedding ceremony outside? Could you eat in between the wedding and reception and then skip the meal?

I suspect the bridge and groom won't be masked, and many of their friends won't be either, including indoors. I'd think about how that feels. Are they vaccinated? Do you think the wedding party and their friends generally are?

You mentioned that you'll be seated at a table with vaccinated family members that you trust, but the virus could transmit from the table next to you as well.

Given how locked down you've been, one thing that could be jarring is simply being inside with a large number of people who are unmasked. Do you think you could relax in that environment?
posted by bluedaisy at 9:09 AM on August 18, 2021 [4 favorites]

I was at a wedding a bit ago, shortly before Delta took off, and found it really stressful, for what it's worth. Especially since it was super loud, so you had to get really close to people in order to hear each other.

Can I take my mask off for 15 mins and eat the wedding chicken?? Can I drink a beer?

I don't know, but apparently while the original virus required something like 30 minutes of exposure to infect, the thing about delta is it's been shown to infect people within a few seconds. So it's really a matter of luck as to whether anyone in your vicinity is infected or not.

Any chance you can inquire with the wedding venue what their ventilation situation is?

If the reason you want to go is to see everyone, maybe you could offer to host some outdoor meetup for the family and the new couple, while also attending the part at the church...
posted by trig at 9:35 AM on August 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I love AskMetafilter. Thank you all so much, so far. I forgot about and I'm a math dummy, so I appreciate those of you who also helped contextualize results.

To answer questions:

I do not know the number of guests. Maybe 100? It's in a venue that I'm pretty sure holds 250 - high ceilings, giant wedding space. Cousin and fiancé are vaccinated and I'm fairly certain all of their friends are. I'd also say 95% are locals, both sides are from Mass (southern & metro west).

And yeah bluedaisy, I won't be relaxed. I'm just trying to figure out how to be as relaxed as I can be in this situation because my goal is to attend. I'm also happy to skip the wedding chicken!
posted by jdl at 9:44 AM on August 18, 2021

Best answer: I won't be relaxed.

Okay, then, here are my suggestions for maximum relaxation and enjoyment. In a nutshell, plan to limit your risk as much as possible so you can try to enjoy your time. Eat before the reception so you don't have to worry about being hungry when food is being served. Plan to take a walk outside (see if someone else wants to skip the meal and join you?) during the time when people are eating. In a big group, the meal part can take a long time, so I'd say plan to be outside 30 minutes or so if not longer. Don't have a beer not just to keep your wits about you, but so that you know you have your wits about you. This also means you can leave (take a walk outside or leave entirely) at any point, without worrying about your blood alcohol level, etc. This might help reduce your stress, because you know you can bolt.

There's a chance that someone at the event will have Covid, even if most/all folks are vaccinated. That doesn't mean they're contagious or that you'll be infected. But a recent report showed a correlation between birthday parties and Covid, seemingly because people made exceptions to normal cautious behaviors for special events. (Here's a NY Times write up of the research.) There's a suggestion that we tend to relax the most with people we trust, like family members.

So my suggestions aren't just focused on how to limit your risk, but also how to have a plan to limit your risk so that you'll feel more comfortable with what you are doing. Hope that makes sense.

It's super stressful right now, and these feel like really complicated decisions, don't they?
posted by bluedaisy at 10:18 AM on August 18, 2021 [7 favorites]

I don't have anything to add on risk assessment, but I just want to say, from recent wedding experience, if you could suggest that the host or DJ to keep the music volume down, it would make speaking with masks easier and reduce the need for people to shout in close proximity.
posted by bread-eater at 10:22 AM on August 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: It's only a tiny peace of mind, but since you yourself are an exposure risk via your under-12 in camp, you could consider getting tested as close to the wedding as you can and still get results back.

If this was my close family member getting married I'd definitely be willing to loosen my extremely conservative stance to even be there, but I think the biggest challenge would be maintaining my personal beliefs about appropriate behavior in the face of a lot of people dropping their guard completely because, let's face it, we're all exhausted and sad and isolated and it would feel SO good to feel normal for a couple of hours. I think if you decide in detail before the day where your boundaries are going to be and get buy-in from the people in your immediate company, it will be easier to enjoy the event and not feel quite so pressured to make compromises you might regret.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:23 AM on August 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

Also, get some of those at-home tests. The one I bought came in a two-pack so you can test yourself something like 3 days and then 5 days after a possible exposure. When I had a possible (outside) exposure, it was quite reassuring to take that test. I hunkered down a bit too, not exactly quarantine, but definitely limited my out-of-home indoor activities.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:34 AM on August 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Hey, I thought about this some more. I wanted to reference something you mentioned above:

"Any family member I've talked to will be masked."

I would not assume this is true at the reception. I recently attended a masked ceremony and reception and before dinner and after dinner, there was drinks and water and toasts and... nobody wore masks.

I'm not saying this changes anything. I still stand by my numbers / use of microcovid above. But, mentally prepare yourself for either being the only person masked, or nobody wearing a mask. Microcovid DOES include adjustments for Delta. If people are attending from bad covid parts of the country, you can use total US for the numbers. Your odds could go up to a 1% chance of getting covid and therefore a 60% * ~50% of transferring to your child. (0.3%). This is a higher number than I previously quoted above, but again, still within my personal risk tolerance.

I hope you take from this comment the assumption that most of your family will be unmasked. I agree with other posters - the chances are really, really in your favor for everything going fine. If it's helpful, I formally give you permission to relax, and enjoy the event. Do the math, put in the event with you wearing a mask, and without, and decide if the incremental risk is worth pretending there's no pandemic for an evening.

Hope this helps!
posted by bbqturtle at 10:47 AM on August 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

My thoughts: double mask with KN95 + cloth on, don't eat or drink at the wedding at all (or see if you can take your plate outside, see if you can get a straw and briefly suck down a beverage with as much mask on as you can still keep on), don't stay for hours hanging out at the reception if being inside is worrying you, and stay quarantined from the kid for a while upon return if you can.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:54 PM on August 18, 2021

About masking options: If you have an N95 or KN95 that fits well, I’ve seen it recommended not to double it up with a cloth mask because that could interfere with the fit and actually reduce its effectiveness. Doubling up is usually recommended as surgical + cloth.

Anecdotally, though, I have KN95s with only a sorta good fit, and I find that putting a cloth mask with around-the-head elastic on over it does seem to reduce/eliminate leaks. What doesn’t work at all for me is double masking where both masks have ear-loop elastic. Even if each is comfortable on its own, combined they tug on my ears to the point of falling off.
posted by kite at 12:18 AM on August 19, 2021 [2 favorites]

My KN95's that strap over the ears tend to pop off my ears, so I double them with tie-on cloth masks so they will stay on. YMMV, though. Powecom sells KN95's that have elastics over the head that don't come off, though I am saving those for 8 hour workdays rather than any time where I may be taking them off to eat and drink off and on.

I was testing masks while singing last night and here's the results:

KN95 with ear loops + tie on cloth mask: generally stays on, but the ear loops will sometimes pop off anyway even if your face is pretty anchored.
Ear loop surgical mask + cloth mask, tying both loops on in the back with a string together: stayed on.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:51 AM on August 19, 2021

If there's alcohol at the reception, right around the second drink a lot of people with the very best of intentions will forget all about their plans to put their masks back on.

don't know that it even matters, considering how contagious it is, but that too is a judgment call that will be affected: that feeling of Well, I've been breathing the same air with these people for five minutes so if I'm going to get it I've already got it. fuck it, might as well enjoy myself for one evening. this point can be argued, but happy drunk people are not going to argue it with themselves.

one beer or whatever may not take you this way, but it is pretty certain to take a lot of other people this way. personally I rely heavily on my anxiety to keep up some semblance of good behavior, and a drink or two brings the anxiety way down. this used to be a good thing, but unfortunately in the present day it has become Bad.

so I guess, as others have said, decide your risk tolerance based solely on what you know of everyone's vaccination status and how much protection you think that implies, and do not count on anybody else wearing a mask. let alone everybody.
posted by queenofbithynia at 5:51 PM on August 19, 2021 [3 favorites]

I went to a wedding last weekend that was 100% outdoors. The couple required everyone to submit proof of vaccination in order to attend, and vulnerable people were asked to wear masks too, and all the food came individually wrapped, and we were all very careful. Until people started drinking. Then everyone was hugging and sharing cigarettes and shout-singing "Livin on a Prayer" at each other on the dance floor like a 2018 wedding. And we were still outdoors, but looking back on it, I'm wondering if maybe we shouldn't have done that.
posted by decathecting at 5:51 PM on August 23, 2021

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