New gathering restrictions force couples to postpone weddings, sends industry scrambling

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Honolulu’s latest restrictions on large gatherings are already taking a toll on the wedding industry. It’s not just impacting businesses, but brides and grooms who have no choice but to postpone again and again.

One of the many couples now having to reschedule their big day is Sierra and Sean Steele. They have been looking forward to tying the knot at He’eia State Park since Sean proposed on New Year’s Eve 2019.

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When the pandemic began, the couple realized their April 2020 wedding wouldn’t be able to go on as planned. So they postponed.

“Our first push out was to September 2020 because we thought [the pandemic] would be over and done with by now,” Sean Steele said, explaining how they had to change their dates three times.

Their new wedding date was supposed to be Sept. 17, 2021, but Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s announcement on Monday changed that.

The new restrictions on gatherings effectively shuts down weddings larger than 10 people inside or 25 people outside for at least the next month.

“I have to laugh it off,” Sierra Allen Steele said. “I’m not going to lie, there has been times that we both have been defeated and broken down.”

It’s not just the couples that are feeling that way. Local business owners in the wedding industry are too.

“I do understand that we need to do our part to slow down the surge, but it doesn’t seem like there is consistency in the rules at all,” said Stephanie Le, a wedding planner and the owner of Esselle Weddings.

Under the new rules for Oahu, lu’aus can still operate at 50% capacity.

“To my local couples, they’re upset. It feels like the tourist’s needs are being placed above their needs,” Le said.

Le said she believes larger weddings can operate safely with guidelines. She said many of her clients were willing to require proof of vaccination, and have their guests take a rapid COVID test before the event.

However, the new restrictions will impact more local businesses than others. For example, with many last minute cancellations, florists now have thousands of dollars worth of wedding flowers that will go to waste.

Sue Tabbal-Yamaguchi of Su-V Expressions said she hopes people will buy arrangements just because so her flowers aren’t a total waste.

“The way that we do our ordering for our brides [is] we have to put our orders in about three weeks prior to the event,” Tabbal-Yamaguchi explained.

At the end of the day though, she said it’s just money. Tabbal-Yamaguchi said she hopes the community will start putting health, first.

“Think about not only your self, but the other person because that other person has a mother, a father,” she said. “We’re just impacting a lot of other people around us.”

As for Sierra and Sean Steele they officially became a Mr. & Mrs in June in a small ceremony. The couple is still holding onto hope that someday their big wedding at He’eia State Park will happen.

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“I only wanted to plan one wedding, but now I will be coming up on planning four 4,” Sean Steele said.

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