Q: Dear APW,
My partner and I have several amazing children in our lives that we are excited to include as part of our wedding party and as wedding guests.
Two of these amazing children are my young godchildren (they will be around four and six for the wedding) who I am close to and love very much. They would ordinarily be an obvious choice for flower children in our wedding… except they are unvaccinated. Their mom, a dear friend, is vehemently anti-vaccination and quite vocal about her opinions even to the point of being hurtful when I mentioned getting my flu shot. So now my partner and I are tied up in knots about including them in our wedding.
Our guest list includes other babies and young children, elderly relatives, and at least one friend who is fighting cancer. And of course there may be other immunocompromised or pregnant guests we don’t know about. In addition, many of our parenting friends, including my partner’s sister, are vocal about their frustrations with anti-vaxxers. What is our responsibility to them?
We love my godchildren very much and it’s hard to imagine not having them as part of our celebration… but we don’t feel like we can in good conscience put other people’s health at risk. We also feel like other people may be hurt or angry if they find out later that we knew about my godchildren’s unvaccinated status and let them and/or their children be exposed.
A: Dear Anonymous,
You’re overthinking this one.
You’re under no obligation to check the vaccination history of each guest. This wouldn’t be on your radar, wouldn’t be an issue, if your friend wasn’t so outspoken. There are going to be a lot of people who haven’t had their flu shots in attendance at your wedding, and you’ll have no way of knowing. That’s just how it goes with a big crowd! I’m as pro-vaccine as they come, but there are limits to what you, as a host, are expected to control. Who even would’ve foreseen the coronavirus just a few short weeks ago? You can’t predict (or prevent) everything.
But to get another perspective, I asked APW staffer Mark his thoughts, as someone who has a chronic illness. Here’s what he offered:
My medications make me immunocompromised and I know it’s a risk for me every time I venture out into the world. Especially enclosed spaces with groups of people. But that’s a risk that I decide to take on myself and I know that I can’t count on other people to manage my own health. Sure, there are reasonable expectations (don’t cough on me, don’t touch me with your germy germy hands) but in the end I know I’m the one who has to manage my own health safety in any situation among groups of people.
Intentionally seat immunocompromised guests across the room. Obviously don’t let the kids come if they have a horrible illness. But, truly, no one expects you to worry about this.