With the easing of capacity restrictions, couples hope for larger marriages | Lifestyles

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CHICAGO – When Nicole Bowles and Hosein Heidari sent out invitations to their August wedding, postponed for a year from the original date, Bowles couldn’t bear the thought of reducing the guest list to less than 50 people.

Bowles, 33, of Chicago, therefore sent out invitations to the entire group of 120 people and hoped the city’s COVID-19 capacity restrictions would be eased. Those hopes gained new momentum last week when the city announced it would no longer count those vaccinated against the limits.

She plans to speak to her family and friends about their vaccination status closer to the event, but many have already let her know that they have received their vaccine, she said.

“I feel like my doubts are slowly disappearing,” she said. “I keep my fingers crossed, we’re not backing down.”

This year’s weddings will always be different, but advances in vaccine rollouts and as cities and states move to ease restrictions offer a path to weddings that would have been banned last year, when couples who did not postpone were limited to micro-marriages, minimons and runaways.

In Chicago, weddings are limited to half the capacity of the venue, with no more than 50 people inside or 100 outside, but guests fully vaccinated two weeks after their last dose do not count towards these. limits.

The immunized guest exemption gives those hoping for big celebrations a strong incentive to start asking friends and family to see if they’ve had a chance to get the vaccine.

The exemption went into effect on Thursday. At Walden, an event venue offering wedding planning services in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood, Maria Erickson, partner and sales manager, said she just wanted the city to give more notice.

One couple who will be getting married in the next few days are planning to invite a few more guests and check who has been vaccinated, while another stick to the current list. The two weddings will be much smaller than initially expected, but “they are focusing on the wedding and celebrating with their loved ones,” Erickson said in an email.

At events taking advantage of the vaccine exemption, city guidelines state that event planners are responsible for keeping records of the names of guests vaccinated, the date of their final dose, and declaring that they are fully vaccinated.

Requiring vaccines, rather than simply asking clients to share their status, is a more delicate matter.

Wedding planners have said most of their clients don’t need vaccines, although some encourage it. A client from Second City Stationery is sending notes with the invitations asking those who would not be vaccinated by marriage to quarantine themselves in advance or test negative for the virus, owner Savannah Whitlock said.

Clarisa Czekajlo, 28, of Madison, Wisconsin, who tried on dresses last week at Bella Bianca Bridal Couture in Chicago, said she didn’t want to make vaccinations mandatory. “I think it’s a personal choice,” she says.

Czekajlo and her fiancé Tony Paccello, 31, who got engaged in 2019, are waiting to tie the knot next summer, near the Paccello family in Colorado. Czekajlo is a perfusionist, operating heart-lung machines during surgery, and worked in a COVID-19 unit.

“Being in the thick of it made me a little more worried and cautious, would we be ready in 2021?” she said.

The changes precede what is shaping up to be an unusually busy wedding season. Some couples with May and June weddings have postponed or canceled their celebrations believing the 50-person limit would remain in place, especially those who had already had small ceremonies last year, said Susan Cordogan, owner of Big City Bride.

But many are moving forward with weddings planned for later this summer and fall. Among couples who had a wedding date set in 2020, 32% had the ceremony in 2020 but postponed the reception to a later date and 15% were postponed entirely, according to a survey by wedding planning website The Knot in February. Meanwhile, many couples who got engaged during the pandemic have set dates for 2021.

Jordan Cloch, 27, and Taylor Hoch, 28, toured Walden last week, just weeks after getting engaged. They don’t plan to tie the knot until fall 2022, but believed there would be competition for wedding dates delayed by a pandemic.

“We wanted to start right away,” said Hoch of the West Loop.

Businesses in the wedding industry have said couples appeared optimistic about bigger events even before Chicago announced the new rules.

Natalie Bauer, who co-owns Bella Bianca Bridal Couture, with locations in Chicago and Oakbrook Terrace, and a Bella Bridesmaids store, said she sees groups with eight or nine bridesmaids.

At ECBG Cake Studio in Edgewater Glen, owner Erin Martin said people planning fall weddings started asking for four- and five-tier cakes, after a year when most wanted just one. or two.

Stationers and planners, meanwhile, say many couples order invitations for everyone they hope they can attend and send them out in stages.

Even though weddings may be bigger, planners and couples continue to come up with creative solutions to overcome restrictions that can change at any time. Wedding planners have said they are encouraging couples to share plenty of information on how they handle COVID-19 precautions on frequently updated wedding invitations and websites.

It helps people who are still cautious decide whether they are comfortable attending and warns those who may be more cavalier about masking and social distancing of what to expect, said Lauren Kay, editor-in-chief of The Knot.

The couples are also considering hiring someone on-site to help monitor the masking and distancing so the couple don’t feel pressured into confronting their friends and family, she said.

Whether couples consider additional precautions, such as performing rapid tests for COVID-19 at the wedding, will likely depend on whether the event is taking place indoors or outdoors, on the size of the child. group or if participants have health issues that make COVID-19 particularly risky, Kay mentioned.

Cordogan, at Big City Brides, has had a handful of clients hire testing companies.

Others gave guests bracelets signaling their preferred degree of social distancing: one color for those who are happy to hug, another for bumpy elbows, and yet another for people who want a lot of hugging. space, Cordogan said.

Couples using the bracelets usually have elderly or immunocompromised family members, but Cordogan said she thinks it could work for any group because people who have been meeting for the first time in months don’t know. maybe not how careful their friends and family feel.

A key feature of marriage that is still off limits: a crowded reception dance floor. Whether dance floors will be allowed in the bridge phase is still under discussion, the Illinois Department of Public Health said in an email.

Bowles, who said her DJ was among the first people she hired for her wedding, is crossing her fingers that the restriction lifts before August. “It’s a dancing crowd,” she said.

Erickson, in Walden, said some couples have introduced alternative and socially distant entertainment like board games or dueling pianos. Photo booths remain popular, although props are banned, she said.

“Everyone is holding their breath,” Cordogan said. “And even if they have to dance at their tables, they will dance at their tables.”

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