December 4, 2022

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Can We Attend a Big Fat Covid Wedding?

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Dear Liza,

My fiancé and I are doctors in medical specialties affected by the coronavirus in a midsize US city. Like so many in health care and in the world beyond, we’ve spent the past few months horrified by this disease and shocked that some people don’t seem to be taking it seriously. Given that we regularly care for Covid-positive people at work, we recognize that we could be vectors, and we’ve been as vigilant as possible in our own lives.

My fiancé’s sister is getting married this month. Despite our frequently voiced discomfort, the current plan is for a 95-person wedding—grandparents and all!—with absolutely no Covid-19 precautions in the groom’s parents’ backyard (outside, at least, but their home will be open to everyone). The engaged couple get their news from far more conservative sources than we do, don’t know people who have been sick, and don’t think it can happen to them. Ideally, we could talk this out and end up with a wedding that, though perhaps not exactly what we would do, would at least feel a little more responsible. Unfortunately, it appears that will not happen, and their only concession has been to say that they will understand if we decide not to attend.

It feels as if any decision we make is wrong. My fiancé desperately wants to be at his sister’s wedding, but it is hard to imagine spending 36 hours in a series of situations that are risky and socially negligent. It’s also hard to imagine not being there at all. Do we go? If we do go, do we wear masks and attempt to physically distance despite the fact that this will be completely out of place and seen as a political statement? If we don’t go, how do we bow out gracefully while preserving what we can of our relationships?

—Believer in Science

Dear Believer,

I sympathize; decisions like this one are extremely stressful, especially when they involve people who don’t interpret the pandemic in the way that we do. As painful as it will be for your fiancé to skip his sister’s wedding, I don’t think you should go. It would be too stressful to enjoy and would put you and many others at risk. I also suspect you’d resent it in the long run, since your fiancé’s family has made no effort to meet you even partway. The only good news about their intransigence is that you now have nothing to feel guilty about. You and your boyfriend should send an especially nice gift and write the couple a heartfelt letter. In the letter, note that given your constant exposure at work, you’re worried about infecting family members and other wedding guests. Let the couple know you love them and that this has been a painful decision. Don’t reproach them for their ignorance or for being jerks about this. It’s their wedding, and you want a good relationship with the family in the long run. Emphasize that you’d love to take them to dinner or on a weekend away to celebrate their marriage when this is all over. Then don’t torture yourself any longer! Let it go.