MDH provides more guidance on new wedding capacity limits

The new rules only apply to the reception, not the ceremony.
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With Gov. Tim Walz's executive order on Tuesday comes new restrictions on weddings – the receptions, not the ceremonies.

Currently, wedding receptions are limited to 250 people but Executive Order 20-96 will eventually limit pre- and post-ceremony festivities to 25 people.

This new order comes as COVID-19 cases in Minnesota are surging, due in no small part to social gatherings, including weddings. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) said Tuesday that 851 COVID-19 cases and one death have been linked to 96 different weddings. 

The new capacity restriction for wedding receptions and other similar celebrations will be phased in to give couples more time to make changes to their plans if needed. 

Starting Nov. 27, celebrations must not exceed 50 people. Then, on Dec. 11, receptions are limited to 25 people – regardless of if the event is held indoors or outside. 

These events cannot take place between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. Masks, social distancing and other previously announced requirements are still in effect. Dancing is allowed but state health officials strongly discourage it because it has a higher risk of spreading COVID-19.

BMTN asked MDH what happens to those whose weddings are happening in the next few months and have invited significantly more people to the reception than the 25 maximum.

A spokesman responded: "We appreciate that weddings are a once in a lifetime major milestone event. Unfortunately, during the pandemic they have also contributed to the spread of COVID-19.

"The purpose of giving celebrants a transition time of November 27 and December 11, is to provide that time to allow them to make changes in their plans. Large gatherings are especially dangerous in this stage of the pandemic."

But for some couples the transition time might not be long enough, with one couple telling WCCO the new restrictions on both party size and the 10 p.m. cut off for service have thrown their New Year's Eve wedding plans into disarray.

The change will also have an impact on venues that are now facing a shortfall in the expected revenue as they host smaller events.

This new guidance only applies to the wedding reception, not the actual ceremony. The state has different requirements for ceremonies, which are less restrictive. 

That's because state public health data show the ceremonies haven't been the primary cause of the spread of COVID-19, it is the celebration after the ceremony – when people are socializing, drinking, and dancing – that has resulted in outbreaks, health officials said. 

By nature, celebrations like wedding receptions allow people to gather together with people outside of their own households to eat and drink without face masks, the Executive Order says, adding that: 

"Many gatherings, celebrations, bars, and restaurants also serve or involve alcohol, which can lower inhibitions and interfere with effective social distancing. Further, we tend to let our guard down when we gather around close friends and family, even though the data shows that these gatherings are often just as risky as gathering around strangers."

Gov. Walz told reporters on Tuesday that he's hopeful that if people heed public health recommendations, the capacity restrictions will be loosened for the spring.

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