As COVID-19 cases continue to decline, Governor Ralph Northam announced a relaxation of restrictions on outdoor events during a news conference on Wednesday, February 24.
As of Monday March 1, the number of people allowed to gather outdoors for social gatherings increased from 10 to 25 people.
Outdoor entertainment such as soccer stadiums and racetracks can operate with fewer than 1,000 spectators or 30% capacity. Indoor entertainment venues still have a limit of 250 people.
Wedding venue owners say the new social distancing restrictions favoring outdoor entertainment venues should include them too.
Venue owners like Sarah Brown of Waverly Estate in Lunenburg said it harms their businesses to limit wedding venues to a maximum of 25 people.
“It’s just ridiculous,” Brown said, “our venue isn’t scaled to only operate from small weddings, and without the larger weddings we’re going to be very tight financially.”
Along with other wedding venue owners, Brown is involved in a large group that is currently primarily trying to rethink the restrictions and take legal action.
“Just like the restaurants, concert venues, carnivals, fairs, etc. that are specifically pointed out, we can regulate our events to ensure safe COVID regulations as well, and that’s all we want,” Brown said. “We want the right to work. We don’t want government handouts. We want to work properly and earn our own money. “
Brown said COVID-19 regulations across the Commonwealth have forced some of their couples to postpone their original wedding dates several times.
According to Weddingreport.com, 41.5% of couples planning to get married in 2020 have rescheduled their weddings this year.
“We were fortunate that our couples understood this dire situation very well over the past year, and many have postponed their wedding to new dates in hopes that restrictions will be relaxed by then,” Brown said. “If this takes much longer, couples likely won’t have the same patience and will either want to have their wedding regardless of the restrictions we want, but putting our business at risk is scary.”
General Manager Joanna Baldwin of the Carolyn Baldwin Lake Pavilion in Farmville said couples want to know how many of their loved ones to invite and it has become overwhelming because of the ongoing changes.
“We are emotionally hurt because we really care about our customers and we are exhausted because we have to repeatedly explain to them that we don’t know how many of their loved ones will be admitted to their wedding until just before their date.” Said Baldwin. “It’s difficult when customers ask why other companies are allowed to work with so many more people in a similar room than they are allowed to have at their wedding.”
Separately, Brown said that people just want to get married, and the constant change in restrictions and the new restrictions on not including wedding venues are also damaging couples financially.
“If they’re unable to have the wedding, they should be back a year ago this year, which puts people in dire financial straits,” Brown said. “People just want to get married, and that is sure to happen.”