Jonathan Wiegratz, drummer and founder of the Boston Common Band, can’t wait to start performing music at large weddings again. But there’s a problem.
For his eight-piece outfit to play popular dance tunes at an indoor wedding on the Cape in June, the lead singer may have to stand outside and sing through a window.
Wiegratz said he’s “getting creative” as he figures out how to adhere to the state’s coronavirus protocols while also taking advantage of loosened restrictions that allow large gatherings and the resumption of live music. For wedding bands, this means no singing indoors and separating band members by 10 feet — so photographers better bring their wide-angle lenses.
“It hurts my head trying to wrap my brain around what logic Massachusetts is using,” he said. “They wrote the regulations like Justin Timberlake is coming to the TD Garden ... it doesn’t work with smaller venues.”
Still, Wiegratz, like others in the wedding business, is relieved to have a full calendar. Local vendors say their schedules are almost booked for the rest of the year, with their first triple-digit guest-list weddings since the pandemic began scheduled as soon as this summer.
But wedding planners are quick to point out that the large bashes will look a lot different than what many couples may have pictured when Governor Charlier Baker in February gave the OK for events of 100 people indoors and 150 outdoors, as well as allowing dance floors at weddings starting March 22.
Among the safety protocols, there can be no more than six guests at a table, and tables must be spaced 6 feet apart. Wedding bands must be 25 feet away from guests, and while couples can have a dance floor, forget the conga line — guests are required to keep a 6-foot distance “whenever possible.” There may never have been this much pressure to perform Mambo No. 5 correctly.
Joe Rogers, owner of Boston-based Contagious Events — no pun intended, he says — is telling clients to couch their expectations. Their budgets may need to adjust, too.
“The biggest thing we have been communicating to guests is that you can have 150 people outside ... but we live in New England, so you need to have a tent,” he said. “When you do the floor plan [accounting for social distancing], it is a massive tent, and that might not be an option.”
Some couples are betting that Massachusetts will relax its gathering restrictions further by the time of their wedding, in some instances sending out invitations to more individuals than currently allowed. It’s a risky move, given the unpredictability of the virus, but a sign that many are eager to get back to large celebrations as soon as possible.
“June is our first event that has 100-plus, and in September we are looking at 200-plus ... it’s a big difference from last year,” said Kristen Campbell, director of sales and marketing at Needham-based Forklift Catering. “The word is getting out that there is going to be a busy season coming, and if you want to have your choice, you should book sooner rather than later.”
Ashton Lange, who works as a recruiter in Reading, made plans last August for a 160-person wedding this September at the Bradley Estate in Canton. She and her fiancé plan on being vaccinated by their big day, and they believe their guests will be, too. While he’s remaining optimistic, Lange admits planning the event is a gamble.
“We have been keeping our fingers crossed since we decided on the date last August,” he said. “The wedding we want may look different than the one we have, but in the end we are just excited to start our lives together ... whether it’s in front of 25 of our closest family and friends or our full guest list.”
Some vendors worry other clients won’t be as flexible, possibly asking to postpone into 2022 if regulations do not line up with their expectations.
“We, as a band, can still perform, but your vision for the wedding might not be how you want it to be, “ Wiegratz said.
Rogers said many of his colleagues in the live events business are happy to be back to work, but there’s a mutual understanding that caution should prevail.
“We are going from 10 to 20 people at an event to 150 people. In the back of our heads is, ‘Does this feel safe?” he said. “I think our clients are sharing that feeling as well. Just because the state says you can, doesn’t mean it will be the best experience.”
Although schedules for vendors are mostly booked for the year, the fact that many upcoming events are postponements from last year means a full calendar is slightly deceiving.
”We’re still losing money, but it is more than nothing,” said Jeff Fraser, lead vocalist and guitarist of Boston wedding band Men In Black.
Fraser’s band only played at five weddings last year, less than 10 percent of its typical schedule. He’s prepared to deal with more pandemic quirks this year, like grabbing a new microphone for each guest who wants to make a toast, instead of passing the same one around.
Rogers said his clients are still navigating how to safely bring large groups together, in some cases weeding out people they worry could put others at risk.
“Some clients are really cutting their guests lists down to just guests they know are either being safe or already vaccinated,” he said. “For the remaining guest list, they are telling them to attend virtually and sending a physical care package so they can celebrate from afar.”
While couples and vendors keep their fingers crossed for large events to go as planned this year, others have little to worry about — some couples opted out of the hassle and instead celebrated over Zoom or with their immediate family.
Rogers said his company even received bookings last year from couples who “wanted to have a small wedding and were almost using COVID as an excuse to not invite the entire family or all of their friends.”
Gina Brocker, cofounder of wedding photography education company Revealing the Narrative in Sharon, said some of her clients were pleasantly surprised by how much they enjoyed having an intimate wedding and reception. Brocker believes it’s a trend that will persist post-pandemic.
“A lot of people were having these small, unique weddings, which they realized was what they actually wanted,” she said. “They might have gotten takeout at their favorite place ever, but they didn’t need caterers because there were only six people ... or the parents [were] putting together the flowers or making the cake.”