Grant Hamilton is getting married Saturday, and while bride and groom will be able to share a kiss, they won’t be able to share a first dance.
Manitoba announced Tuesday — starting the same day Hamilton’s set to be wed at a rural venue — indoor wedding attendance limits would jump to 50 people (or 50 per cent of room capacity) and outdoor events could allow 1,500 (or 50 per cent capacity), with no requirements those people be fully vaccinated.
However, public health orders coming into place Aug. 7 include the requirement dance floors remain closed, and many typical wedding hallmarks would not be allowed.
"Activities that encourage close gathering and mingling are not recommended at any location, indoors or outdoors, for these types of events," a spokesperson from the province said Tuesday.
"This will include things that bring people into close contact, such as dancing or not having people gather in close to catch a bouquet, and making sure people practice physical distancing."
The Footloose-style ban is an unwelcome turn for the couple and their 35 fully vaccinated guests.
(In the 1984 movie Footloose, a small Midwestern town has banned dancing and rock music.)
"From what I can see of the orders it's unequivocal: it's no dancing. I don't think that permits a first dance, unfortunately, and I think that's a real shame," Hamilton said.
The fact Tuesday’s announcement means he could technically have 1,500 unvaccinated people at his wedding (if outdoors) and has no specific benefits in place for weddings that committed to vaccinated guest lists was a "gut punch," Hamilton said.
The province had promised additional benefits for fully vaccinated Manitobans just months earlier.
"I'd love to be able to say, 'Hey, you can have no masks because we're outdoors, and we're all fully vaccinated.' Or maybe, we can have a dance, because we're all fully vaccinated, or we can mix and mingle at the tables, which is currently, I guess, permitted, but highly discouraged," Hamilton said.
"This will include things that bring people into close contact, such as dancing or not having people gather in close to catch a bouquet, and making sure people practice physical distancing." – Provincial spokesperson
He believes the province was likely thinking about much larger events when making the rules. He hoped speaking up will influence the province to provide more specific clarifications to the upcoming orders.
"Hopefully, they can do that sooner rather than later and give us a little bit of clarity. But the upshot is: we're in love, we're going to get married, and we're going to have a great day one way or the other," he said. "And that's what really matters."
At the World Famous Palomino Club in downtown Winnipeg, there are two DJs at work — one inside, one outside. The one working outdoors, assistant manager Scott Townsend said Tuesday, was hoping to get to do his job starting Saturday.
"We have the best DJ in Canada, and we tell him to be bad. We tell him to play bad, you know, don't use your skill, because we're not allowed to have people dancing," Townsend joked.
But there wasn’t much for Townsend to laugh about when the new COVID-19 restrictions were announced. In the brief time the Palomino has been allowed to reopen to the public amid the pandemic, its dance floors have had to stay closed.
While it is a heavy blow for any night club, it feels especially bitter for the Palomino, Townsend said. The club has an outdoor dance floor management expected would be able to open, considering other patios have been open to the public for weeks and other situations that might encourage dancing are allowed.
"Are they going to have the health department walk around these concerts that they're now allowing, seeing if there's dancing? Because I guarantee you there's dancing at concerts," he said.
Nightclubs — or at least the few that have managed to stay open — have been working through a "stigma" that paints the industry as a super-spreading hub, Townsend said. The decision to keep dance floors closed is another example of the province painting a wide range of situations with one brush, he added.
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.