Making Sense of COVID Wedding Rules for NC

What Governor Cooper’s COVID Mass Gathering Guidelines for NC Mean for 2021 Summer Weddings

{Published on Sept 2, 2020 and UPDATED on April 28, 2021} On April 28, 2021, Governor Cooper announced new COVID-19  gathering guidelines for North Carolina. This phase of coronavirus recovery will launch Friday, April 30 at 5 p.m. These mandates will remain in effect until June 1, when the state anticipates lifting more restrictions. North Carolina 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 2021 summer weddings. We’ll also share how North Carolina wedding vendors are operating under these COVID-19 mass gathering guidelines for North Carolina.

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 North Carolina 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 Spring or Summer 2021 NC Wedding with COVID Mass Gatherings Rules

NC couples with spring/summer 2021 dates have been working hard with their wedding team to orchestrate safe weddings for their nearest and dearest. We’re not going to lie, COVID mass gathering guidelines are slightly confusing when it comes to weddings. The good news 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:

Starting Friday, April 30 at 5 p.m.

  • People do not have to wear face masks outdoors in North Carolina
  • Masks indoors will still be required. Cooper said he will lift the indoor mask mandate once two-thirds of adults are at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • Venues must limit guests to 50% of the stated fire capacity for each indoor and outdoor space controlled by the facility. For rooms or spaces without a stated fire capacity, the limit on guests is 12 per 1,000 square feet, rounded up
  • Social distancing required – the venue must limit the number of guests in the space so that groups can stay 6 feet apart

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. 

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, 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 spring/summer weddings including March through June, 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 while indoors
  • hand out face 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 Causes Mayhem for NC Weddings

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 2021, please note that a lot of venues have re-booked weddings and have more limited availability.

Resources for Newly-Engaged Folks During COVID:

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