CLEVELAND — On Thursday, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced that wedding receptions will be allowed to resume beginning June 1 as catering and banquet centers will reopen under state-issued guidelines. While the specific guidelines have not been released yet, Husted said they would be similar to guidelines given to restaurants.
So what would that look like at a wedding reception?
The few guidelines we know at this time are that a limit of 300 guests will be allowed at catering and banquet halls, with tables spaced six-feet apart and no congregating between tables.
“The open congregate areas in restaurants and bars that are not necessary for the preparation and service of food or beverages (billiards, card playing, pinball games, video games, arcade games, dancing, entertainment) shall remain closed,” reads the mandatory guidelines listed for restaurants and bars.
Yes, if it’s the same as bars and restaurants, dancing would be prohibited at a wedding—unless the state decides to make an exception for banquet and catering centers to allow dance floors to be open.
While we know that the tables will be required to be 6-feet apart from each other, it is unclear the specifics of how a seating chart would be required to work.
At restaurants and bars, a maximum party of 10 is allowed to be seated together, so if the guidelines for weddings are similar to restaurants, tables at the reception might also be limited to 10 guests each.
Seating households and families at the same table when possible may be the most logical way to limit the spread of the virus at wedding receptions that tend to bring in a range of family and friends.
Couples planning on having a buffet-style selection can still opt for that, but staff would be required to serve the food with six-feet of the distance between parties, according to the guidelines issued for restaurants and bars.
Plated meals would not be affected but it is not clear how family-style catering would be received under the guidelines.
It’s common to see guests eagerly head up to the bar and order a glass of wine or a signature drink at a wedding reception, but if the guidelines for catering and banquet centers are similar to those given to restaurants and bars, waiting for areas with clearly marked safe distancing and separations per person—or perhaps at receptions each table.
Many wedding receptions feature plenty of decorations and unique centerpieces on each table. If the guidelines for wedding receptions are the same as restaurants and bars, that might not be permitted.
A mandatory guideline for restaurants and bars reads “Remove self-service, table, and common area items (e.g. table tents, vases, lemons, straws, stir sticks, condiments).” The state could make an exception for decorations at banquet and catering centers with specific sanitation requirements.
Venue and staff
Servers, bartenders and caterers will likely be required to wear face masks or coverings and will be required to wash their hands and monitor their health frequently if the guidelines are the same as those provided to restaurants and bars.
Centers will likely have signage posted about best practices and handwashing/sanitation methods.
Hand washing or sanitation products will be required to be proved in the common areas, if the guidelines are the same and the venues will be required to clean and sanitize tables and chairs between sittings and high touch areas every two hours.
Although Husted said the guidelines for wedding receptions would be similar to those issued to restaurants and bars, the state is expected to release specific guidelines that include banquet and catering centers on its website soon.
To read the guidelines issued to restaurants and bars, click here.
A bride is glad she postponed
When News 5 first interviewed Taylor Hepburn in March, she and her fiancé had just postponed their May 15 wedding to the end of June. But uncertainty in April made them postpone it again to October.
"I just didn’t feel comfortable leaving us like a week until we could make the decision if we would have it or not," Hepburn said.
The couple had mixed feelings about Thursday's news and wondered if maybe they could have had a June wedding after all. But Hepburn said they didn't feel comfortable putting friends and relatives, especially elderly ones, in that situation.
"You still have to stay six feet apart," Hepburn said. "No dancing, no hanging out at the bar, and I feel like that’s a lot of the reasons why people come to weddings is to talk, get to see family you don’t really see anymore, drink obviously, hang out, dance."
She said if restrictions haven't loosened up by October, they would likely just get married then and have a reception sometime in the future.
A venue prepares to keep tables six feet apart
The governor’s announcement was welcome news at La Villa Conference and Banquet Center on Brookpark Road.
Ramez Nakhleh, the venue's banquet manager, said the venue can typically accommodate as many as 1,200 people in its large ballroom, so accommodating up to 300 people with more than six feet between tables shouldn't be an issue.
"I’m sure everybody’s going to be careful, our staff is going to be careful and I’m sure our guests are going to be careful," Nakhleh said.
He also added that buffet and family-style meals wouldn't be an option, and that all food would be plated and served individually. He is still looking for guidance on whether dancing is acceptable in small groups.
Pierre Bejjani, who is on the governor's Restaurant Advisory Group, said the governor's announcement is a good step and prioritizes safety.
"People need to go on with their life," Bejjani said. "People need to have their weddings. They need to have their events happening."
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