CHICAGO — When Nicole Bowles and Hosein Heidari sent out invitations to their August wedding, postponed by a year from the original date, Bowles couldn’t stand the thought of trimming the guest list to fewer than 50 people.
So Bowles, 33, of Albany Park, sent invitations to the full 120-person group and hoped Chicago’s COVID-19 capacity restrictions would ease. Those hopes got a boost Thursday when the city announced it would no longer count vaccinated people against the limits.
She plans to talk to family and friends about their vaccination status closer to the event, but many have already let her know they got their shots, she said.
“I feel like my doubts are slowly creeping away,” she said. “I’m crossing my fingers we don’t move backward.”
This year’s weddings will still look different, but progress on the vaccine rollout and Chicago’s move to loosen restrictions offer a path to weddings that would have been off limits last year, when couples who didn’t postpone stuck to microweddings, minimonies and elopements.
Capacity limits on social events like weddings in Chicago now match the rest of the state: Weddings are limited to half the venue’s capacity, with no more than 50 people indoors or 100 outdoors, but fully vaccinated guests two weeks past their final dose do not count against those limits. Once the state and city move to the bridge phase, up to 250 people will be allowed indoors and 500 outdoors.
On Thursday, city officials predicted that could happen in two weeks if COVID-19 metrics continue improving. In the meantime, the exemption for vaccinated guests gives those hoping for big celebrations a strong incentive to start quizzing friends and family about whether they’ve gotten a shot.
The exemption went into effect Thursday. At Walden, an event venue with wedding planning services in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood, partner and sales director Maria Erickson said she only wished the city gave more notice.
One couple with a wedding in the coming days is considering inviting a few more guests and checking who has been vaccinated, while another is sticking with the current list. Both weddings will be significantly smaller than originally planned, but “they are focusing on the marriage and celebrating with their nearest and dearest,” Erickson said in an email.
Couples in the suburbs, where the exemption went into effect earlier, have already started adding a question to their RSVP cards asking whether guests planned to be vaccinated, said Alexis Alvarez, CEO of Lillian Rose Events. She advises including a “prefer not to answer” option and asks guests to provide copies of their vaccine cards in advance so she can bring a binder with their records to the wedding in case the health department shows up.