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Washington wedding venues navigate new mask guidelines ahead of peak season

Following Gov. Jay Inslee's announcement, wedding venues are now adapting to the changes surrounding the new mask and social distancing policies.

SEATTLE — It's an industry that was pummeled by the COVID-19 pandemic. Countless weddings had to be canceled or rescheduled last year due to coronavirus concerns.

Now, businesses of all industries are scrambling to adjust following Gov. Jay Inslee's announcement that Washington will follow federal guidelines that say fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks in indoor or outdoor settings, unless otherwise stated by state, local, tribal or business policies.

The Foundry in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood is operated by Landmark Event Co. in Seattle, a business that is now navigating the updated mask guidelines.

Sam Benton is the company's director of operations and said the governor's announcement is again, changing everything.

"We just found out right, so we're kind of in the pre-phase of everything. Obviously, we're going to base it off the guidelines that are provided to us," Benton said.

Landmark Event Co. oversees three wedding venues, including Fremont Foundry, The Ruins in Lower Queen Anne, and Skansonia in North Lake Union.

As with most wedding venues, the pandemic imposed a challenging year for Landmark Event Co., but Benton said weddings are being booked fast as things normalize.

"We're very busy. Obviously things are now open so that is a really great thing for us. However, now the new mask mandate came out yesterday so we're trying to navigate how that looks for us and our guests," Benton said.

Benton said those who are fully vaccinated will no longer need to wear masks but those who are not vaccinated, must still wear one. Guests who go to the dance floor must still wear a mask and guests should be prepared to show proof of vaccination, Benton said.

"At any point of the evening, we as a business, can ask them to show proof of their vaccination card," Benton said.

Inslee said during his update Thursday that businesses may enforce their own policies when it comes to requiring customers to wear masks. 

"Now it's just making sure that everybody's safety is our biggest priority," Benton said.

Other wedding planners have slightly different rules. Rebecca Grant, owner of New Creations Weddings, operates a wedding venue in Snohomish.

Grant has worked alongside other wedding planners to lobby for specific COVID-19 guidelines for weddings from the governor's office as recently as last week, according to Grant, so the governor's announcement came as a shock to her.

"Jaw dropped. I mean it was completely unexpected," Grant said.

Grant said fully vaccinated guests at her venue will no longer need to wear a mask, but those who are not vaccinated must continue to follow the state's Phase 3 reopening guidelines of social distancing and masking. 

Grant said her guests will not be required to show proof of vaccination.

Grant said she is looking for more detailed guidelines on mask wearing, specifically for weddings. Until then, wedding coordinators like Grant and Benton said they will work through it.

"It's us as business owners to navigate this on our own, so we are going to figure it out, because we always do," Benton said.