- Associated Press - Sunday, November 29, 2020

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - Nikki De Vries had hoped to celebrate her wedding Saturday with about 50 of her family and friends.

But this week, she was faced with the unenviable task of whittling her guest list down to 15. She understands, though, that disinviting some people is an unavoidable consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I don’t want my family members to get sick,” said De Vries, who last weekend married Armando Castro in a small ceremony in Sioux City.

Recently, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a proclamation imposing new restrictions on public gatherings as the state recorded record numbers of new coronavirus infections. Attendance at weddings, funerals and other indoor events are temporarily capped at 15 people, while outdoors gatherings are limited to 30. The proclamation remains in effect until at least midnight Dec. 10.

In recent months, as COVID-19 ebbed and flowed, De Vries went back and forth on her November wedding plans, before she ultimately decided that the nuptials should go on because “there’s always a reason not to.” For those immediate family members who do make the final guest list, the ceremony will have masks and sanitizers in addition to the rings and vows.

“I feel kind of sad that certain people aren’t going to be there, and kind of guilty, like, who do you invite, who do you not invite, where do you draw the line?” she told the Sioux City Journal.

With an ongoing, elevated number of coronavirus infections in Woodbury County, the Siouxland District Health Department has warned repeatedly against large wedding receptions and similar gatherings. Now these warnings are backed by a governor’s proclamation.

It’s unclear to what extent the governor’s order will impact funerals, as a large number of obituaries in recent months have indicated that memorial services are being postponed to a later date in the future.

“Some families are choosing just to do a private, family service, with just those 10 or 15 people there,” said Dale Meyer of Meyer Brothers Funeral Homes. “Others are probably going to delay services until a later date and hope that the mandate gets lifted and we’ll be able to go back to doing services with more than 15 people.”

Reynolds’ proclamation, which also included a partial mask requirement in public buildings, did not appear to carry any enforcement mechanism. On Thursday, Sioux City leaders said police would start enforcing the new rules, though voluntary compliance remains the city’s goal.

“In cases where we cannot obtain voluntary compliance, the Sioux City Police Department will work with the Woodbury County Attorney, Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division, and the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals to enforce all aspects of the proclamation,” Police Chief Rex Mueller wrote.

Kathy Ellison, the proprietor of the Country Celebrations events space at the northern end of Hamilton Boulevard, said Reynolds’ orders effectively leave her business shut down once again. Brides and grooms, Ellison said, have been opting to postpone their nuptials rather than shrink their guest lists.

“I had Christmas parties in December, but they’ve all cancelled. I have one wedding in December. I have a wedding this weekend, and it’s not happening, and I have a wedding next weekend, that’s not happening,” Ellison said.

“We do celebrations of life, but they’re all cancelled, they’re not going to do anything with 15 people,” she added.

Lila Plambeck, director of sales and marketing at the newly-opened historic Warrior Hotel, said the downtown hotel’s event spaces won’t be much impacted by the governor’s order, largely because November is not usually a popular time for weddings. Some scheduled holiday parties had guest lists slightly longer than 15 people, and they’re working through the logistics of that.

“It didn’t change a whole lot for us, because we were done with our weddings for the season,” Plambeck said.

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