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VERIFY: NC wedding receptions still capped under Phase 2.5, regardless of venue

Getting married soon? The First Amendment protects your ceremony guest list, but Phase 2.5 caps the reception at 25 people inside and 50 people outside.

GREENVILLE, N.C. — After the frustration, unknowns and disappointment of 2020, most fall brides were hoping Governor Roy Cooper's next reopening phase would ease up guest list limitations.

That is not case under Executive Order 163 -- Phase 2.5.

RELATED: Everything you need to know about Phase 2.5 in North Carolina


Good Morning Show viewer Erin K. reached out to WFMY News 2's Meghann Mollerus. "Hi, Meghann. My sister and her fiance live in Charlotte and intend to host a wedding on September 26... She and the venue believe that because they are a restaurant and museum... they don't have to adhere to the 25-person (mass gathering) capacity that (Governor) Cooper set for Phase 2.5...and instead must adhere to 50% (restaurant and museum) capacity, which in this case is 100..."



Just as they were under Phase 2, wedding ceremonies are exempt from mass gathering limits in Phase 2.5. The Phase 2.5 section 4 explains wedding ceremonies constitute First Amendment protection of freedom of religion. But, that protection does not extend to wedding receptions

Credit: Executive Order 163

RELATED: VERIFY: NC wedding receptions supposed to have Phase 2 capacity limits

Sub-section 4 explains receptions, events or parties must follow mass gathering limits. They are capped at 25 people inside and 50 people outside (an increase from 10 people inside and 25 people outside under Phase 2). DHHS spokesperson Kelly Connor said the limit applies, regardless of whether the venue is a restaurant or other business allowed to operate with larger capacities during a non-reception event. For example, on a typical Saturday night, the restaurant could operate dinner at 50% capacity and space out tables at least six feet. 

Credit: Executive Order 163

Is there any wiggle room for receptions?

Coordinator McGinn explained she has not participated in any gatherings outside of the guidelines. However, she said she is aware of some venues that are allowing the couple to perform a vow renewal ceremony at the reception. That way, it could qualify under the religious exemption to the mass gathering limit. 

McGinn noted her couples are not trying to bend the rules. Instead, they are putting their guests' health first, opting to do small ceremonies now and plan larger receptions post-pandemic.

"Couples have been very concerned with keeping their loved ones safe. They have decided to get married and adjust their budget to add professional streaming services and a finished video," McGinn explained.

If you are an engaged couple wanting to get married during the pandemic, McGinn suggests you:

  • Take out wedding insurance, especially during these uncertain times
  • Understand all the details of your contract
  • Cancel all vendors as soon as you know plans have changed 
  • Put an alert on your calendar at least two weeks before a full refund deadline, so you don't forget


Viewer Erin K.'s sister will want to check with her venue about the upcoming reception, which Phase 2.5 specifies must be capped at 25 people inside and 50 people outside. Enforcement is up to local law enforcement agencies. DHHS reminds you to call a jurisdiction's non-emergency line -- not 911 -- if you feel you need to report a violation. 

Do you have a VERIFY inquiry? Submit a post, selfie video or screen shot of the claim in question to Meghann Mollerus via:

Facebook: Meghann Mollerus News

Twitter: @MeghannMollerus

E-mail: Mmollerus@wfmy.com