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By Miriam Raftery

Photo: CC by ND via Bing

June 17, 2020 (San Diego) – Couples eager to tie the knot can now hold weddings under newly announced state of California rules, but with limits due to COVID-19. However, receptions are generally not allowed per state health guidelines, due to concerns about dancing and close contact among non-household members potentially spreading the virus.

Outdoor weddings are allowed with no limit on size, provided social distancing is maintained. Indoor weddings of up to 100 people or 25 percent of a facility’s capacity are allowed.  All participants must wear face masks and maintain six feet of social distancing, except the bride and groom do not need to wear masks when they are six feet apart for others, so they can have wedding photos at the altar and share a post-wedding vow kiss.

The new guidelines are part of relaxed guidelines for all religious events, including worship services. 

Dawn D’Aquisto, a San Diego County spokesperson, said the rules for weddings and receptions are being reviewed after the agency has received many phone calls. She added that couples could potentially host a post-wedding dinner with guests at a restaurant, provided the restaurant can meet county guidelines for capacity, social distancing, and seating household members together.

ECM has asked state and county health officials to explain how banning wedding receptions is not discriminatory, given that large protest marches and rallies have been allowed without social distancing and since even very large venues such as Disneyland and the San Diego Zoo have been allowed to reopen, provided guidelines for sanitation and social distancing are maintained.

The California Department of Public Health's press office sent the following reply:

Guidelines for weddings is not one of the sectors in which guidance has yet been issued. We will release additional guidance as we get closer to Stage 3.

The state as a whole is in Stage 2 under the statewide Stay-at-Home Order. Counties that are reopening their economy more quickly than the state as a whole (including some Stage 3 businesses and activities) may only do so after a rigorous attestation process reviewing local epidemiological data including cases per 100,000 population, rate of test positivity, and local preparedness to support a health care surge, vulnerable populations, contact tracing and testing. It is up to county health officers to decide WHEN to reopen certain sectors. The state gives guidance on HOW to do so in a way that reduces risk. Helpful link:

All of the decisions related to reopening are driven by these locally driven factors and data. The state issuing guidance for sectors to reopen does not mean ‘go.’ Many counties should – and will – move more slowly, but there are some counties where the data will lead health officers to conclude they can open more sectors of their economy.

We don't have a specific timeframe for Stage 3 at this point. Please continue to check for updates on the phases of reopening throughout the state.

As a reminder, your county health department is your best information resource as far as requirements (face coverings) and restrictions for reopening/activities in your area.

How can couples tie the knot and help keep vulnerable family members and friends safe?

One option is to livestream the ceremony virtually so that those unable to attend, including elderly relatives or friends with underlying health conditions, can view the wedding.

An additional option is to hold a wedding right away, but plan a reception for your one-year anniversary, by which time there may be a COVID-19 vaccine, making it safe and legal for everyone to participate.

This article from California Wedding Day, published before the latest rule changes, offers additional suggestions for engaged couples in the COVID-19 era:

Worldwide, COVID-19 has disrupted the wedding industry, with many couples and their families out thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars for weddings that they were forced to cancel due to the pandemic. While some venues, wedding planners and service providers have been cooperative in agreeing to postpone ceremonies or issue refunds, others have not. That's led to a rise in lawsuits over who should foot the bill for weddings cancelled due to COVID, reports, as couples unable to say "I do" instead proclaim,  "I sue."

Miriam Raftery, editor and founder of East County Magazine, has over 35 years of journalism experience. She has won more than 350 journalism awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, San Diego Press Club, and the American Society of Journalists & Authors. Her honors include the Sol Price Award for responsible journalism and three James Julian awards for public interest reporting from SPJ’s San Diego chapter. She has received top honors for investigative journalism, multicultural reporting, coverage of immigrant and refugee issues, politics, health, breaking news and more. Thousands of her articles have appeared in national and regional publications.

East County Magazine gratefully thanks the Facebook Journalism Project for support through its COVID-19 Local News Relief Fund Grant Program to help make this reporting possible. #FacebookJournalismProject.

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