Lessen the Overly Restrictive COVID-19 Regulations on Long Island Weddings
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Dear Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone,
We are the women of Brides of Long Island (BOLI), an extremely active group of almost 14,000 women getting married on Long Island. Through conversation, connection, and shared experience, we have empowered each other to advocate for fair contracts and quality service; provided emotional and financial resources for members in need; and raised thousands of dollars for several women’s charitable groups. In the five years since our inception, our collective voice has effectively changed the way in which the Long Island wedding industry operates.
We are writing in regard to the current restrictions surrounding weddings and their devastating ramifications on our local wedding industry and economy. We understand that restrictions are necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19, however, after extensive communication with our local venues and vendors, we would like to propose, and encourage you to consider, the following alternative regulations that we believe are both more effective and easier to execute. These alternatives will allow for an increased number of events to be held in a safe manner, allowing for a more efficient reopening of the wedding industry, while lessening confusion from brides, vendors, venues, and guests.
In 2019, there were 137,704 weddings in the state of New York, each costing an average of $32,162. According to Newsday, the average cost of a wedding on Long Island is $67,000 - more than double the state average. Many brides in our group admit to spending well over this amount. It is abundantly clear that Long Island wedding standards are unlike any other region in the country.
The pandemic’s impact to the industry as a whole is one that cannot be ignored. It has left thousands of people - from venue staff, chefs, bartenders and servers to photographers, musicians, florists and DJs -completely out of work. Small businesses that create detailed items, shops that provide personal services, sole proprietors like make-up artists and wedding planners, and local food distributors that supply larger venues have all been left to struggle. Without weddings, engagement parties, bridal showers, bachelor and bachelorette parties and rehearsal dinners, the hardworking men and women of the Long Island wedding industry have faced a huge and seemingly insurmountable financial burden. This burden also lies with New York’s taxpayers, as many of those who rely on wedding events for income have had no choice but to seek unemployment compensation. It is crucial for the fiscal health of our state that this industry be fully and safely reinstated.
Our first proposal is for a guest limit of 50% capacity up to 150 people with no testing. Current testing regulations make it extremely difficult for anyone to attend large events. With most PCR tests requiring 5-7 days to complete, many wedding guests would need to take personal time from work to ensure they’d obtain their results in an expedient manner. If a guest decides to rely on a more inaccurate rapid test, they may be faced with an hours-long wait at a testing site. These incredibly restrictive rules are forcing many brides to reschedule or cancel their weddings, hold smaller events at their homes, or in a devastating blow to our local vendors, decide to get married out of state. Time and time again, mask wearing has proven to be an extremely effective means of preventing COVID-19 spread. BOLI believes that with mask mandates in place, and venues limited to 50% capacity, testing requirements can be safely eliminated.
Our second proposal is that event vendors be eligible for vaccinations. It is not unusual for wedding vendors to work multiple events in one weekend, and in many instances, multiple events per day. Despite the fact that the nature of their job regularly exposes them to large groups of people, many remain ineligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. It is vital that all wedding industry professionals be deemed eligible for vaccination to protect themselves, their families, and the members of the communities which they serve. New Jersey will begin allowing hospitality workers to receive vaccinations beginning March 29th, 2021. BOLI urges New York State to follow suit.
Our third proposal is for the lifting of the 12:00 a.m. curfew. Many wedding venues rely on hosting several events per day. With a 12 a.m. curfew in place, these venues must reduce the number of events they can hold, thus diminishing their already decreased profitability. The Jewish religion prohibits weddings being held from sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday, in observance of Shabbat. A 12 a.m. curfew also further limits our Jewish couples, as it makes a Saturday evening wedding all but impossible. Sadly, it also encourages them to move their events to states like New Jersey and Massachusetts, where there are no curfew mandates in place. In an industry severely crippled by the pandemic, BOLI implores New York state to amend policies that continue to restrict revenue and drive potential business to surrounding regions. On April 5th, curfews will be lifted on casinos, movie theaters, and fitness centers. We request that wedding venues be included as well.
Our fourth proposal is for the removal of the required “dancing squares.” It is our strong belief that limiting 10 - 12 guests to one 36 square foot space would actually encourage closer contact than if guests were permitted to move about freely. Being able to fully utilize a venue’s open space, especially when it is at 50% capacity, would make social distancing far easier to achieve than if confined to a small square. BOLI requests that this unintentionally dangerous requirement be eliminated.
In summary, we are asking for the following;
1. A guest limit of 50% venue capacity, up to 150 people, with NO testing requirement.
2. Event vendors become eligible for vaccinations.
3. Lifting of the 12:00 a.m. curfew for wedding venues.
4. Removal of the required dancing squares.
Heather Cunningham, Owner of Brides of Long Island along with 13,700 Brides of Long Island members.
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