With wedding season about to commence, many planners and couples are paying particular attention to Mayor Muriel Bowser’s most recent Covid-19 guidelines, which went into effect May 1. The new order, says Kaitlin Przezdziecki, owner of Cheers Darling Events, has “crushed” some event planners as well as some couples. “The industry and [our] clients are feeling beaten down by the latest adjustment to the mandate,” says Przezdziecki. “We have had multiple clients move [events] out of DC to Maryland, Virginia, and other states in order to salvage some semblance of a wedding, since the mayor has put such strict mandates on events in the city.”
What, exactly, is now allowed when it comes to weddings and events in DC? The previous capacities—no more than 10 people inside or 50 people outside, no matter the venue’s size—have been loosened. Weddings and events are now permitted indoors and outdoors at 25-percent capacity. (A special waiver is required for more than 250 people.) But while gatherings in DC can now be larger, Maryland venues are allowed to hold events at a higher capacity—50 percent. Starting May 15, Virginia’s guidelines are set to increase to 100 people for indoor settings and 250 people for outdoor settings.
While capacities in DC have increased, what really has frustrated the industry is that standing and dancing are not permitted, for fear people will get too close to one another. Przezdziecki says this part of the executive order is “beyond what she ever thought she would be facing. The idea that they are no longer allowed to stand with their guests is absolutely ridiculous.” She also is puzzled by the restriction on dancing, saying that with larger dance floors, masks, testing, and vaccines, dancing can be done safely, instead of being banned entirely.
Kelley Cannon of Kelley Cannon Events says she doesn’t understand how people can go have a drink at a DC restaurant, but can’t mingle at a wedding. “You can go to a bar standing next to a stranger, but not with your family or best friend who you trust and know are fully vaccinated at a wedding? No planner wants to be responsible for a super-spreader event, but the science isn’t supporting the way the mayor has made the regulations. It’s not fair. Even at the height of Covid, we were dancing.”
Yodit Gebreyes Endale of Favored by Yodit Events & Design says that working around these new mandates is not just heartbreaking for couples, but also costly. “High-top cocktail tables, which are meant for guests to stand and socialize, will need chairs, and extra waiters will be needed to serve food and drinks throughout the event. It changes the whole vibe of the wedding. What we are trying to figure out is why the wedding and event industry has been hit so hard by the mayor’s office.”
Maryland and Virginia do not have the “no standing” or “no dancing” rule, which, according to Przezdziecki, is even more of an incentive for couples to move their events out of the city. “DC is losing out on so much business,” she says. Says Cannon: “People are sick of rescheduling and getting their hearts broken. The alternative to this [mandate] is to go somewhere else.”
Both Cannon and Przezdziecki also said they’ve relied on the nonprofit DC Event Coalition, which helps planners navigate new mandates. “From a member of the vendor community, we are exhausted,” says Cannon. “But, we are working together to get through this.”