On April 26, the D.C. government issued a new set of coronavirus orders that loosened some restrictions within the city. The latest order regarding weddings permitted indoor weddings at 25 percent capacity or 250 people, whichever is lower. Couples who want to have more than 250 people at their wedding must obtain a waiver from the city. The order also prohibited "standing and dancing at receptions."
The ban on standing and dancing went into effect on May 1 and it applies to both indoor and outdoor receptions.
Susan Castillo, a spokeswoman for the mayor, told local CBS-affiliate WUSA9 that the city is assessing and adjusting restrictions as needed and the top priority is to ensure the safety of residents and visitors.
Bowser's office informed Fox 5 that the standing and dancing ban was put in place as "an extra layer of safety" to prevent the spread of COVID-19, especially in indoor spaces, because people are more likely to get close and touch each other when they stand and dance.
D.C. is not the only jurisdiction that has banned dancing. Illinois and Michigan have similar bans in place, while New York and New Jersey have just recently rescinded their respective bans. (Related: How Florida beat coronavirus without masks or lockdowns, making California and New York look stupid by comparison.)
The ban came into effect just as the country enters the wedding season, surprising many couples who are getting ready to tie the knot in the nation's capital and has secured the dates of their wedding and reception venues at least six months in advance, sometimes with nonrefundable deposit.
Stephanie Sadowski, a wedding planner, said she was "completely shell-shocked" upon hearing the news. She said D.C. was starting to feel like the fictional town of Bomont in the classic movie "Footloose," where dancing was also banned.
"It's insane, it's been an absolute roller coaster," said Sadowski. "There's hardly been any time to react, rather than being incredibly frustrated and angry with Washington, D.C. and Mayor Bowser for completely blindsiding us. It's very confusing why Washington, D.C. is singling [dancing] out."
Brides hoping to have their wedding in D.C. are willing to make compromises just to be married in the nation's capital.
Jillian Harig, who is set to get married in D.C. in July, is willing to force her guests to get tested for COVID-19 or present evidence of vaccination and to wear a mask for the entirety of her own wedding if it meant the guests can look forward to a day of dancing and having fun.
Harig said if the ban stays in place until July, it will radically change the experience she and her groom are looking for in a wedding.
"A lot of the country is reopening at this point. So, to me, no dancing or standing at a reception seems like it's a little bit more of stepping backwards instead of moving forward to more of that normalcy that we're all looking forward to," said Harig. "I think the light is at the end of the tunnel. I am disappointed and shocked about this."
Harig is still planning to get married in the capital in July. She is hoping the ban on dancing will be revoked by then and that she will be able to stand and dance with friends and family.
Sadowski has four weddings in D.C. planned for May. The sudden announcement is forcing her and her clients to move their weddings outside of the capital with just one or two weeks' notice.
"This goes beyond just May weddings that are initially affected," explained Sadowski. "All of our summer weddings, all of our fall weddings are also very concerned and asking what should we do."
Some of Sadowski's clients have chosen to move their weddings to neighboring Maryland or Virginia, where she said it's very likely they will be able to hold the weddings with few compromises. It is also unlikely dancing is banned there.
"They want to have a party," she said. "Planning their wedding, they've made concessions along the way. They've reduced, reduced and reduced their guest count in Washington, D.C."
While there are certain restrictions to weddings in Maryland and Virginia, they aren't as harsh as those put in place in D.C. In Maryland, indoor or outdoor weddings are allowed at 50 percent of venue capacity. In Virginia, indoor weddings have a 50-person limit, while for outdoor weddings the limit is 100 people. This limit will change on May 15 to 100 and 250 people, respectively.
"I cannot even believe we're in 2021 right now, and we are saying no to dancing," said Sadowski. "I hope the mayor will start looking at the science and looking at the facts and looking at what the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] CDC is recommending and allowing."
Learn more about the severe coronavirus restrictions put in place in Washington, D.C. and in other parts of the country by reading the latest articles at Pandemic.news.