“People dream their whole lives of having their wedding,” said Jonathan Jennings, the chief operating officer of the Connecticut Wedding Group.
But changes to those dreams because of the pandemic don’t just have couples suffering. The wedding and event venue industry is too.
“2020 has really been a tough year for everybody in Connecticut, but in the wedding industry and the private event industry, it’s really been catastrophic,” said Jennings, who says Connecticut Wedding Group would usually have had 150 people working weddings this weekend at their three venues around the state.
Monday, they’re down to five employees.
“I think a lot of the people in the event industry are saying, 'what’s the difference between us and those in the restaurant?'” said Marybeth Keener, owner of Meadowbrook Estate in Marlborough.
While Connecticut restaurants can serve their dining rooms filled to half capacity with an appropriate social distance, gatherings have been limited to just 25 guests inside and that number includes some staff, too.
That cap has been devastating for those who own and work at event and wedding spaces, something wedding planner Kia Martinson has seen firsthand.
“Wedding venues can still only have 25 people inside, whereas a restaurant can be at 50% capacity. I mean, most of these are small businesses and if they want us to get through winter, we can’t even have 50 people inside," Martinson said.
“That sector of the industry has probably been hit the hardest, they’ve really been crippled,” said Connecticut Restaurant Association Executive Director Scott Dolch.
The CRA alongside venue owners hosted the governor at The Barns at Wesleyan Hills last week to ask for 50% capacity inside event venues with a cap at 150 people.
“We look at some of those venues and we’ve got to help them survive this and that what this was about,” said Dolch.
Jennings said his staff set up the space to show Gov. Ned Lamont how these events can be hosted safely.
“Let’s be honest, there are parties happening all over Connecticut, all summer long, but unfortunately they’re happening underground in environments where people aren’t following the rules or don’t even know there are rules,” he said.
Despite partying concerns at weddings, Martinson said social distancing is part of the world we live in now.
“They do drink, they do eat, and they do want to dance and do things, but everybody, at least the weddings I’ve had and been to, have been really conscientious about keeping 6 feet apart," Martinson said.
Meadowbrook Estate hosted an outdoor wedding this weekend, but the chilly weather has Keener concerned.
“This past event, it was 38 degrees. This is not going to work anymore," Keener said.
Now, venues around Connecticut wait for updated guidance from the governor.
A spokesperson for Lamont said the governor hopes to have some updates in the coming days.