B.C.’s mask and vaccine-card mandates come at short notice for wedding hopefuls and planners

When bride-to-be Cherisse Watson heard indoor masks were being made mandatory again, she began scouring to find a tent at work for her wedding this weekend in Vancouver.

The film industry worker’s reception, initially planned for a church hall, will now take place under a decorated tent beside the church parking lot. 

Although there will only be 20 guests, Watson says she wants to ensure everyone feels comfortable at her wedding. 

“We don’t want to have an event that people are not comfortable being at. We would rather not have it,” she said.

When Cherisse Watson heard indoor mask mandates were back, she and her fiancé Tom van der Lee agreed to switch the reception outdoors under a tent. (Cherisse Watson)

With the return of the mask mandate in public places and at events, along with B.C.’s planned vaccine cards, couples, planners and vendors are having to think fast about how to accommodate wedding guests safely and according to public health orders.

“We’re just constantly playing damage control and catch-up,” said Jordan Maxey, a wedding planner with Smitten Events in Vancouver. 

Planners like Maxey say the there are a lack of specifics around the new rules and they’ve been struggling to stay on top of every change and update. 

“We want to be able to work for our couples to make sure that their days are as perfect as possible. But without additional information that we can use to guide them, it’s really hard,” Maxey said.

They’ve also been left wondering who will be responsible for making sure wedding guests are vaccinated when the province’s vaccine cards, which will prove the holder’s immunization status, are introduced.

“Is it the venue? Is it the wedding? The wedding professionals? … because we have to bring on extra people to do this,” said ThistleBEA wedding co-ordinator Breanne Dodge.

“Shouldering the expense of additional staff and training for weddings is not something my business, nor many others, are able to do. I loathe the thought of sending an invoice to a client with yet another unexpected expense.”

A public health order announced Tuesday said people attending certain events, services and businesses must have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 13, and two doses by Oct. 24.

When asked who would be responsible to co-ordinate vaccination cards in the wedding industry the Ministry of Health said, “details specific to weddings and vaccine cards will be available closer to Sept. 13.”

Wedding co-ordinator Breanne Dodge is wondering whose responsibility it will be to ensure wedding guests are vaccinated when vaccine cards are introduced in B.C. ( Kaidra Mitchell /Capture Your Now)

Maxey says it shouldn’t be the responsibility of event planners or hosts to ensure guests are vaccinated. 

But despite the uncertainty, she said planning safe professional events is the top priority. One example would be converting indoor dance floors to lounge seating areas for cocktail parties.

Other businesses in the wedding sector are staying positive by taking the long view. 

Despite the challenges they pose, the new mandates are music to the ears of DJing event specialist Jono Catliff. It gives hope for guests to eventually return to dancing the night away on the indoor dance floor, he says.

Catliff says it’s been a tumultuous time for his business, but the biggest challenge is the uncertainty of what the future holds. 

“As a company, anything we can do to get back to normal life is a step in the right direction,” he said. “We’re going to take all the necessary precautions to make sure that happens.”

Kylie and her husband David have had to postpone their wedding reception from May 2021 to next spring. (Alton Martin)

Holding out hope for mask-free wedding

Kylie Lung’s reception has been previously postponed due to COVID-19. After eloping with her now-husband David Reid three years ago, the couple is looking forward to spring 2022 for a safer celebration.

With her parents living in the United States, Lung says it’s been a long wait to unite their two cross-border families for the first time. 

But Lung says she will cancel her party again if a mask mandate is still in place next spring. She wants her reception unencumbered by anything COVID-19 related.

“We’re only going to have one wedding party and I don’t even want to think about COVID on that day,” she said. 

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