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Long Island couples petition state to loosen COVID wedding restrictions 

Brides of Long Island Facebook group administrator Caitlyn

Brides of Long Island Facebook group administrator Caitlyn Wells, left, with creator Heather Cunningham and administrator Suzanne Sommerhalter. Credit: Brides of Long Island / Charles Eames

Thousands of Long Island brides are pushing back against the latest COVID restrictions on the state’s wedding industry by signing an online petition to be sent to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, saying the "incredibly restrictive rules" are wreaking havoc on a wedding industry already struggling due to the pandemic.

Weddings and catered events with up to 150 people indoors (or 50% of the site's capacity) were able to resume March 15, subject to guidelines including guests having negative coronavirus tests, ensuring households don't mingle on the dance floor and a midnight curfew for celebrations.

The petition is being circulated by Heather Cunningham, administrator of the nearly 14,000-member bridal support group on Facebook, The Brides of Long Island. It had 4,000 signatures as of Monday morning.

Cunningham says the brides understand that guidelines are necessary to fight the spread of COVID, but the petition proposes alternatives that she says would be "more effective and easier to execute" while "lessening confusion for brides, vendors, venues and guests."

Among the petition's major points: Dropping the pre-event testing requirements for weddings on the larger side of the occupancy limits. Because some PCR tests can require days to complete, the petition reads, "these incredibly restrictive rules are forcing many brides to reschedule or cancel their weddings, hold smaller events at their homes, or in a devastating blow to our local vendors, decide to get married out of state." The petition maintains existing mask-wearing, social distancing and occupancy limits can ensure safety.

Another proposal is for event vendors to be a priority population for vaccinations. "Despite the fact that the nature of their job regularly exposes them to large groups of people, many remain ineligible for the COVD-19 vaccine," the petition reads." It adds that New Jersey begins allowing its hospitality industry to receive vaccinations as of March 29.

A third suggestion is that the midnight curfew be lifted, which Cunningham says is causing Long Island brides to have their weddings in neighboring states such as New Jersey and Massachusetts, which don’t have such curfews. "Many wedding venues rely on hosting several events per day," the petition adds. "With a midnight curfew in place, these venues must reduce the number of events they can hold, thus diminishing their already decreased profitability."

Lastly, the petition calls for the removal of the requirement for "dancing squares," so named for a tactic of creating masking tape boxes on the floor that keep dancers in designated zones. "It is our strong belief," the petition reads, that such limits "actually encourage closer contact than if a guest were permitted to move about more freely … Being able to fully utilize a venue’s open space, especially when it is at 50% capacity, would make social distancing far easier to achieve than if confined to a small square."

One of the brides who signed the petition is Kiera Liantonio, 26, who grew up in Garden City and now lives in Little Neck, Queens. She plans to marry her fiance, Felicita Santiago, 47, also of Little Neck, in a wedding scheduled for Nov. 12 at The Inn at New Hyde Park.

Liantonio says that one reason she wanted to sign was that she’s invited 150 guests and she wants things to go as planned so she can have the wedding the couple wants. "We haven’t had to postpone yet but I’ve been watching what all the other brides have gone through and they’ve been hit hard," Liantonio says.

Sarah Engler, 23, of Hauppauge, also is planning a wedding with 150 people at The Estate at East Wind in Wading River. She says she signed the petition because of the stress she has experienced trying to plan a wedding in the midst of ever-changing wedding dos and don’ts. Her nuptials are set for July 10, when she plans to marry her fiance, Christopher Stone, 28, also of Hauppauge.

"For me, some of the rules in place right now don’t make that much sense," Engler says. "The rules need to be changed or lifted." She notes that she’s particularly upset about the dancing square requirement for weddings when all attendees must have proof of a recent negative test or of immunization before the event. "So why would dancing be an issue?" Engler asks.

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