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Wedding venues strained by restrictions

As COVID-19 cases continue to decline, Gov. Ralph Northam announced an ease of restrictions on outdoor events during a Wednesday, Feb. 24, news conference.

Beginning Monday, March 1, the number of people allowed to gather in outdoor settings for social gatherings increased from 10 to 25 people.

Outdoor entertainment venues such as football stadiums and racetracks will be able to operate at the lower end of 1,000 spectators or 30% capacity. Indoor entertainment venues continue to have a cap of 250 people.

Owners of wedding venues say the new social distancing restrictions that favor outdoor entertainment venues should include them as well.

Venue owners, like Sarah Brown of Waverly Estate located in Lunenburg, said holding wedding venues to a 25-person limit is hurting their businesses.

“It is just ridiculous,” Brown said. “Our venue is not scaled to be able to operate off of just small weddings alone, and without the larger weddings for much longer, we will be very tight financially.”

Along with other wedding venue owners, Brown is involved with a large group that is currently majorly involved with trying to get the restrictions reconsidered and taking legal action.

“We, just like the restaurants, concert venues, carnivals, fairs, etc., that are specifically pointed out as allowed, can regulate our events to ensure safe COVID regulations too, and that’s all we want,” Brown said. “We want the right to work. We don’t want government handouts. We want to work and earn our own money the right way.”

Brown said due to the COVID-19 regulations across the commonwealth, some of her couples have had to postpone their original wedding dates multiple times.

According to weddingreport.com, 41.5% of couples who planned to marry in 2020 have moved their weddings to this year.

“We have been fortunate that our couples in the past year have been very understanding of this awful situation, and many have postponed their wedding to new dates in hopes that restrictions are eased by then,” Brown said. “If this continues much longer, I imagine couples are not going to have the same patience and will either want to do their wedding regardless of the restrictions, which we also want, but it’s scary to put our business at risk.”

General Manager Joanna Baldwin of Carolyn Baldwin Lake Pavilion in Farmville said couples want to know how many of their loved ones they can invite, and it has become overwhelming due to the ongoing changes.

“Emotionally, we are hurting because we truly care about our clients and have been worn down by repeatedly having to explain to them that we don’t know how many of their loved ones will be allowed at their wedding until right before their date,” Baldwin said. “It is hard when clients ask why other businesses are allowed to operate with so many more people in a similar space than they are allowed to have at their wedding.”

Regardless, Brown said people just want to get married, and the constant change in restrictions and the new restrictions that do not include wedding venues is hurting couples financially as well.

“If they are unable to have the wedding, they were supposed to have a year ago again this year, that puts people in a major financial hardship,” Brown said. “People just want to get married, and that can happen safely.”