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VERIFY: New NC order increases wedding reception capacity up to 250 seated guests

NC's newest executive order, EO195, expands the 30% reception venue capacity rule to up to 250 people inside, but guests must stay seated.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Wedding bells have not been ringing as vibrantly these days, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to turn the wedding industry upside down and foil lifelong dreams of the perfect big day.


Good Morning Show viewer Jerry emailed WFMY News 2's Meghann Mollerus, explaining he read her report from last summer on wedding reception restrictions. He explained his daughter got married in a small private ceremony last March and is holding a reception this March inside. He wanted to know the current rules in Charlotte.

Though Jerry's question was specific to Charlotte, the answer applies to the entire state, which remains under COVID-19 executive orders. The newest executive order, issued Wednesday, Feb. 24, and effective Friday, Feb. 26, eases restrictions and increases most business and event capacity as COVID-19 metrics stabilize.

RELATED: NC COVID-19 Blog: Gov. Cooper eases restrictions for businesses starting Friday

Credit: WFMY



None of Gov. Roy Cooper's executive order caps wedding ceremonies, which are protected under the First Amendment. Receptions, however, are not.

RELATED: Happily ever…after COVID? Pandemic crashes weddings, puts couples in pressure-laced predicament

Triad-based wedding planner Britni Botts with A Touch of Southern previously told WFMY, "About 80% of my brides now choose the same location for ceremony and reception, so it has been really difficult to try to figure out how do we have a ceremony that's not capped -- we invite everyone, everyone's welcome -- and then push away people without being rude? (You have to say), 'You didn't make the cut, I'm so sorry.'"

Initially, receptions fell under the original stay-at-home order's mass gathering limits of 10 people inside and 25 people outside. Eventually, Phase 3 (EO169) and the revised order (EO189) allowed larger receptions with 30% capacity up to 100 people. The new Executive Order 195 will expand that capacity, as of 5 p.m. Friday. 

EO 195 specifies outdoor receptions can have 30% capacity or seven guests per 1,000 square feet. Indoor receptions can have 30% capacity up to 250 people in one confined space.

Credit: NC DHHS
Credit: NC DHHS

However, as North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services communications representative Catie Armstrong previously explained, guests must remain seated except when getting up to get food or use the restroom.

    "Guests must be seated and the establishment must follow other requirements... Facilities should avoid scheduling a standing reception or cocktail hour. Wedding ceremonies are not subject to the capacity and other requirements...but guests are encouraged to follow the 3Ws (Wear a face covering, Wash hands, and Wait six feet apart)," she wrote in part.

EO195 also keeps the previously-established mask mandate in effect. That means guests must wear masks, except when actively eating or drinking.

Credit: NC DHHS

RELATED: NC COVID-19 Blog: Teachers become eligible for vaccines on Wednesday


It is true viewer Jerry's daughter can have an indoor wedding reception in March, as long as it is in line with the capacity rules established under the executive order in effect at that time. EO195 -- which allows indoor receptions of 30% capacity up to 250 people -- will remain in effect through 5 p.m. on March 26, 2021, unless revised or rescinded.

RELATED: Gov. Cooper extends stay-at-home order, evictions moratorium, and to-go alcohol sales

Do you have a VERIFY question? Submit a post, screenshot or selfie video to Meghann Mollerus via:

Facebook: Meghann Mollerus News

Twitter: @MeghannMollerus

E-mail: Mmollerus@wfmy.com

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