GOOCHLAND COUNTY, Va.-- As Virginia Governor Ralph Northam increases attendance at outdoor graduations to 5,000 people, some in the wedding industry are hoping it will be their turn to reopen next.
After being closed for more than a year now, some wedding vendors are struggling to pay bills.
"It definitely feels like we're being left in the dust," explained Kim Moody, event coordinator at proprietress at the Estate at River Run in Goochland County.
She's asking the governor to look at percentage capacity instead of strict numbers like 10 or 25 people for her 22,000 square foot facility.
"None of us in the wedding industry that are legitimate vendors want there to be this willy nilly reopening," Moody said. "We want it to be done safely, done well with policies and procedures, just like what we put in place last fall, to safely have in host events."
According to Moody, those in the Virginia wedding industry have only been able to work about five weeks in the fall before the governor put the 10 person restriction in place.
When Moody heard the news graduations would be allowed, she got excited.
"We do share so many similarities with graduations, so that's a really hopeful piece for us," she explained. "Because just a few weeks ago, we have been told that commencements probably were not going to be moving forward. And I think that's attributed to, you know, stations like yours, bringing light to it."
Moody said she was on a Zoom call just this week with the governor’s office and the Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Trade, but she still has no word on when weddings could reopen.
"It's just been the most soul-crushing year to not only to have not been paid for all of the work we've done for all the reschedules and all that, we're still working 60 to 70 hours a week in our professions," said Moody. "But we're also having to spend 20 or 30 hours a week, individually dedicated towards fighting for a reopening, and it's a complete suck of time and spirit.”
There’s also no relief funding available for some in the wedding industry, as the federal Shuttered Venue Operators Grant includes concerts, performances, and even performers themselves, but not live events like weddings.
"This should have been well thought on the front end," Moody said. "As soon as we were required to be shut down, a funding package should have immediately been opened up for our industry."
Moody said weddings that were scheduled in Virginia are still taking place in other states, which is taking revenue out of the Commonwealth and creating a more dangerous situation.
"They're traveling to other states, and then inherently causing more danger to the citizens by keeping everybody locked down so tightly," she explained. "It's really at the point where it's not what's best for the citizens."
CBS 6 reached out to Northam's team Thursday morning to find out when he plans to loosen restrictions for weddings, and we have not yet heard back.
The governor did address weddings at his March 9 news conference saying, "I would ask you to think about what happens at weddings. People are in close proximity they’re hugging folks, it's a happy occasion. There’s eating, drinking, singing all of the things we know that spread this virus, so we’ve really tried to follow the science. I promise you, as soon as we can, we’ll lift the measures."
What's been the most difficult for Moody is watching others in her industry struggle to make ends meet.
“We have a lot of vendor pals that have had their phones cut off, their lights have been off, they're unable to pay their bills," she noted. "I mean, this is a really serious situation. And you know, we started thinking about what are some things that we could do that are healthy and safe and family friendly."
That's why starting Friday, March 19, Moody and her team are launching an event at the Estate at River Run called "Illuminate the Estate" to help benefit some of the wedding vendors who haven't worked in months.
You can purchase tickets for the 45 minute self-guided walking tour around the property, which has been decked with lights by The Lighting and Sound Company. Access those tickets here.