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Making Sense of COVID Wedding Rules for NC

What Governor Cooper’s COVID Mass Gathering Guidelines for NC Mean for 2020 Fall Weddings

{Published on Sept 2, 202o and EDITED on October 5, 2020} On September 30, 2020, Governor Cooper launched phase 3 of his three phase plan for NC. This phase of cornavirus recovery will launch Friday, October 2 and will last until October 23. At last, NC reception venues are able to host weddings for more than a handful of guests! And the best part is, there are safety guidelines in place that will ensure safety for guests and wedding vendors. Today, we’re sharing what that means for engaged couples planning 2020 fall weddings. We’ll also share how NC wedding vendors are operating under these COVID mass gathering guidelines for NC.

At Heart of NC Weddings, we’ve been tracking the progress of what Governor Cooper is allowing. We’ve also been in touch with dozens of NC wedding venues and vendors to hear how they are coping and safely allowing weddings during this time. We are sharing the facts, and will continue to update this post as restrictions ease in the coming weeks and months.

Planning Your Fall 2020 NC Wedding with Phase 3 Mass Gatherings Rules

NC couples hanging on to fall 2020 dates have been working hard with their wedding team to orchestrate safe weddings for their nearest and dearest. We’re not going to lie, at first glance the new Phase 3 that began on October 2, 2020, is slightly confusing when it comes to weddings. You might notice that the mandate still says mass gatherings are limited to 25 guests indoors and 50 outdoors. But, the big news for Phase 3 is that NC wedding and reception venues have been named among the small entertainment venues that can host non mass gathering events at larger capacity.

Yes, you might still be confused. We were too at first. Here’s the breakdown:

Section 3.8 of the Phase 3 NC COVID safety mandate clearly states that reception venues are among those that are now permitted to operate at 30% of capacity – or, up to 100 guests.

The key here is the guidelines that follow. Let’s talk about each part of the wedding and how these rules work.

NC Wedding Ceremony Guidelines

There have never been restrictions on your ceremony guest count, although ceremonies do still require social distancing and mask rules. Please note that if you don’t restrict your ceremony guest list and plan to host a reception afterwards, you may have to designate ceremony invite list versus reception invite list. Tip: Some couples are offering to-go meals for ceremony guests who don’t get to attend the reception. 

NC Wedding Reception Guidelines, Phase 3

So we are now looking at 30% capacity, or up to 100 people at a wedding venue – IF you operate the event under specific guidelines. You can now host events for 100 guests legally and safely as long as you do not allow guests to flow from one area to another. If your guests are assigned to a space, and do not inter-mingle with the other group, you are following the rules. This applies to both cocktail hour and the dinner portion of your wedding reception.

The venues noted under these guidelines are private rooms or other private meeting spaces in a hotel, conference center, meeting hall, or reception venue.

We’ve talked to venues who hand out wrist bands, and each group of guests goes to their own space or table.  The key to legality and safety is true separation. 

Is My Venue (or Back Yard) Exempt from these NC COVID Safety Guidelines?

Please note, these mass gathering rules apply to every type of establishment in North Carolina. So if you are hosting your wedding in a restaurant, or on a farm, which are allowed to be open at 50% capacity, you must defer to the above guidelines.

This goes for private, home weddings as well.

What Would YOU Do?

Our recommendation is to plan for fall weddings including October through December, based on these guidelines, because we do not know if the guidelines will be eased at the end of the month. If you are not following the rules, all of your contracted wedding vendors might not be comfortable coming onsite for your wedding. They have to look out for their business and the application of their insurance. So we recommend an open dialogue and playing it safe with the rules.

So we say, go ahead and pare down your guest list according to how these rules fit in with your venue. You can always keep a list of your priority guests that you would invite should the guidelines ease up more next month.

COVID Safety First

By all means, please do prepare for safety! It is not your venue or your planner’s responsibility to act as a police. Work with your vendors to prepare an environment that promotes safety. The last thing anyone wants is to have coronavirus spread at their wedding.

  • make sure your guests know in advance that they should only come if they are certain they have not been exposed to covid, and that you are taking it seriously
  • have your DJ make announcements reminding guest to mask up
  • hand out masks upon entry to the event
  • work with your caterer for a pre-plated meal and table service
  • set up sanitizer stations
  • abide by the NC guidelines
COVID wedding guidelines NC fall 2020 Morgan Caddell
PHOTOGRAPHER Morgan Caddell

COVID Causes Mayhem for NC Weddings in 2020

2020 was to be a record-breaking year for weddings. (Gosh, who wouldn’t want 2020 as their anniversary date?) But COVID-19, has caused a wrench in the plans of thousands of US couples. And here in North Carolina, we’ve been a hot spot for the novel coronavirus, prompting Governor Cooper to enact strict limits on mass gatherings. Logically, this does include weddings. But, these limits have been to the dismay of betrothed couples and event professionals. Our NC event industry has been getting very creative with how to host weddings safely during this time. For couples and wedding pros, the uncertain climate and regularly changing rules mean having to prep a Plan A, B, and C for your wedding. That’s not easy! But, we’ve got your back. 

More resources on COVID wedding planning:

If you’re NEWLY engaged and planning a NC Wedding for Fall 2020 or anytime in 2021, please note that a lot of venues have re-booked weddings and have more limited availability.

Resources for Newly-Engaged Folks During COVID:

Merrimon-Wynne-House-Raleigh-NCWashington Duke InnSanderling Resort Southern Destination wedding venue in Outer Banks NCRumbling Bald on Lake Lure Destination Wedding Venue NC Mountains
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