‘Everything is so uncertain:’ New Alberta COVID-19 rules flummox wedding plans

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The Alberta government’s new COVID-19 restrictions are knotting up plans to tie the knot.

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Premier Jason Kenney announced in his Wednesday news conference that effective Sept. 20, indoor wedding services are limited to 50 people or 50 per cent of fire code occupancy.

That cap can be lifted if attendees can show valid proof of immunization or a recent negative COVID-19 test, fulfilling requirements of the Restrictions Exemption Program (REP), as chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw clarified in a press conference on Thursday.

Receptions can only be held if they implement the REP.

Nicole Letersky and Matt Gabert postponed their Sept. 24 wedding until 2022 upon hearing the new restrictions.

“We can’t feel safe having a wedding right now when everything is so uncertain,” Letersky said. “We would rather wait to have the wedding we want safely with the people we want.”

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The rules would complicate doing the wedding their own way.

They might qualify to have the 50-person limit removed for the service at West River’s Edge at Fort Saskatchewan, however Letersky feels it’s too much of a hassle at this point.

“We would have to get all 50 guests to enter the REP. We just didn’t want to put those restrictions on our guests. We only have T minus eight days until the wedding. I had uncles flying in from Arizona as well. It’s not worth putting my family through all of that for just one day.”

Other logistics, like cooking and serving food would also be less convenient.

“I come from a big Ukrainian family and we were planning to make all kinds of Ukrainian food. Indoors we could have 50 people (but) we were only going to have people in the building in shifts and we would have to count people coming in and out.

Letersky called her family after Kenney’s announcement on Sept. 15 to inform them the wedding was moved ahead to next year on Sept. 24, her grandmother’s birthday.

“We had a very good cry yesterday. And there was some anger. This could’ve been avoided if better measures were put in place. We didn’t sleep very well last night, unfortunately. I hope ‘open for summer’ was worth it for ‘closed for fall.’”

Wedding events will continue for 120th Street venue Always Occasions, but the changing government rules frustrate its ability to plan for capacity.

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Until Hinshaw clarified the protocol on wedding services, clients who had booked wedding ceremonies for 75 people had to reduce their guest lists, explained owner Anna Liska.

“It’s an awful experience from a wedding perspective to have to call your guest list and tell them, ‘We have to cut 10 people off our list and I’m sorry you don’t make the cut.’ ”

During the pandemic, Liska had already postponed weddings that had been booked for 2020. For two clients with weddings in October it will be their third attempt at re-booking. They decided to reduce their guest list and have only family members due to some out-of-province guests having been immunized with vaccines that don’t meet Health Canada mandates.

For now, Liska’s pausing her bookings to see if there will be more restrictions.

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“We don’t get the opportunity to make plans anymore,” she said. “We have to make them up as we go. The government doesn’t understand that three days’ notice to completely alter the way we run business isn’t enough time. I’m worried that we won’t have clients this winter. In my six years in this business I’ve never had more backup plans than I had this year. It really puts a lot of strain on an industry that plans 365 days in advance.”

Stephen Bociurkiw and his fiancée Alexis are going ahead with their wedding on Sept. 25, though with a little anxiety about how it will play out.

They’ve booked a 200-person indoor reception at Woodvale Community Facility at Millwoods Golf Course. They hope it can proceed under the REP.

“We had already asked everyone to be vaccinated so the only thing that has changed (now) is the guests will need to show proof,” Bociurkiw said.

Their service will be at St. Josaphat’s Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral on 97 Street.

They qualify to have the 50-person limit lifted. If not, their backup plan was to hold the ceremony outside, or limit the service to 50 and livestream it for their other guests.

Still, Bociurkiw finds the rules somewhat confusing.

“That doesn’t make sense to me because worship services have different rules. How is (a wedding service) different from a religious service?”

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