Weddings, private events can resume under new state guidance

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SAN DIEGO – Brides and grooms are ready to meet at the altar once more in San Diego County.

Starting Thursday, private events such as weddings, receptions and conferences have state guidance to resume operations. Under new rules, outdoor events for counties in the orange reopening tier can allow a maximum of 100 people, or up to 300 if all guests are tested for or fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Indoor events require proof of vaccination with a cap of 150 people.

Additionally, state guidance calls for in-state visitors only.

But the guidance lands differently for the industry than it would for restaurants, for example, said Amy Ulkutekin, president of the California Association for Private Events.

“We are not like a restaurant where you say here’s your guidelines on Tuesday and you can reopen on Friday,” Ulkutekin said. “You need months of lead time.”

Events were one of the very first industries to halt operations when the pandemic began and now, one of the last allowed to resume. Ulkutekin says the private events industry includes 93,000 small businesses and roughly 3 million employees.

“From venues, to planners, photographers, DJs, entertainment, cake bakers, hair and make-up, delivery drivers, the list goes on,” she said. “And we haven’t had any sort of guidance. We haven’t been a part of the blueprint from the beginning.”

In the past year, the few weddings hosted at La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla looked very different.

“We did have a beautiful wedding of four, small intimate little events,” general manager Summer Shoemaker said. “They were beautiful and we were happy to have them.”

Typically, the hotel averages about 65 weddings a year. With eight months remaining in 2021, Shoemaker says they likely will have about 70 weddings, if not more.

“So it’s a lot, but we are really excited about it we are ready and just delighted to be able to finally do what we love to,” she said.

If San Diego enters the state’s yellow tier, capacity for the private events increases up to 400 outside and 200 inside if everyone is tested or vaccinated.

New guidelines not only allow for more guests, but also more extras that really make an event.

“Bar service, cocktail hours buffet service, dancing is allowed,” Ulkutekin said. “The difference comes in to fully vaccinated events versus non-vaccinated events in that there’s social distancing requirements.”

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