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Are Weddings Essential? The Essential Question

Some Say Yes, Some Say No... What Say You?

On Tuesday of last week, nearly 100 people gathered on the steps of the California State Capitol in Sacramento, led by the California Association for Private Events. Those people wore wedding dresses and suits, they carried signs with things like, “Unemployed Event Planner”, “Don’t Push Weddings Underground”, and “Weddings Can Be Done Safely, Let Us Work.” (You can see a video of that protest, here.) Another group of event professionals coordinated a ‘funeral for live events’ on the steps of San Francisco’s City Hall the week before. I have years of history in the wedding industry as a pro, I currently work for a wedding publication (*hi*), and I am currently engaged to be married… to say ‘I have feelings’ is an understatement.

First of all, I must say that I see and ache for the folks whose livelihood is live events. I have innumerable friends who are facing this nightmare head on daily—losing money, struggling to pay bills, and risking completely losing their businesses if things don’t improve. I also feel really strongly about following all the safety guidelines and practices to the best of my ability—hell, I’d wear three masks if it meant we could stop the death toll in its tracks. I don’t think any tier of government, at least that I’ve seen, has handled this pandemic particularly well. From the top (obviously) to local community leaders, it’s been a difficult task and one that just hasn’t been overly successful anywhere in our country (ahem… see ‘death toll’), or at least that’s how it feels. And I’ll also say that while I wholeheartedly support peaceful protest, and appreciate the fully masked faces in these photos, I struggle with a ‘funeral’ as a theme… since actual funerals aren’t possible or safe right now, either.

I can’t speak to how things are going in other states, but let me give a peek into what I see and know is happening in California (where these two peaceful protests occurred). California Governor Gavin Newsom has put the entire state on a tier system from “Widespread to Minimal”—these tiers are determined based on an ‘adjusted case rate’ and a ‘positivity rate’ for each county. Where I live, in Sacramento, we recently moved from widespread into substantial. So far, what’s changed is that: my waxer got to reopen, folks are allowed to eat inside restaurants (at 25% capacity), and if we stay in this tier long enough, our 7-year-old would be welcomed back to in-person schooling soon. (I’ll note: I won’t be eating inside a restaurant or sending the 7-year-old back to school… anytime soon, but that’s me.)

And as it pertains to restaurants and gatherings, here’s what the California state COVID website has taught me:

As of October 9, 2020, outdoor private gatherings are allowed under the following conditions:

  • Attendees must be from no more than three separate households
  • Duration should be 2 hours or less

Restaurants throughout the state are either on 0% inside capacity (all outdoor), 25%, or 50% indoor capacity, OR up to 100/200 people respectively, whichever comes first.

Yup, you read that right: no more than three households should gather, but up to 100 people could be inside a restaurant at a time if it’s large enough.

Now here’s the kicker… when you look at the website’s guidance on weddings, for the entire state of California, here’s what it says:

Only wedding ceremonies are allowed, not receptions.

Ceremonies have restrictions on their setting or capacity, depending on your county’s tier status:
Widespread (purple) tier: Outdoors only
Substantial (red) tier: May be held indoors, but with max capacity of 25% or 100 people, whichever is fewer
Moderate (orange) tier: May be held indoors, but with max capacity of 50% or 200 people, whichever is fewer
Minimal (yellow) tier: May be held indoors, but with max capacity of 50%

So, folks can have up to 200+ people together for a ceremony, indoors, if their county is doing well. BUT… no receptions… unless maybe they just take over an entire restaurant?

Amy Ulkutekin, president of CAPE said, “CAPE endorses a safe and responsible tiered approach to re-opening, with events first taking place under the currently approved guidelines for restaurants and religious and cultural ceremonies, then focus on opening larger events when local health metrics have improved.”

What do you think, apw? What is the balance of safety, cautiousness, and allowing folks to reignite their struggling businesses? What’s the difference between a wedding reception and a restaurant full of diners? Most importantly, are weddings essential? Should they be allowed to open back up regardless of the state of the virus? Tell us your thoughts. 

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