Wedding, funeral industries call for reintroduction of COVID-19 safety measures

After B.C. gyms were given the go-ahead to reopen with COVID-19 safety plans last week, the wedding and funeral industries are calling for the same treatment.

Indoor, organized gatherings in B.C. have been banned since Dec. 23, when the province introduced new restrictions to curb the rapid spread of the Omicron variant. Those restrictions were extended on Jan. 18.

Liting Chan runs Paradise Events, a Burnaby-based studio that specializes in weddings. She said her business has already lost $50,000 in revenue for January and fears what the rest of the year will look like given the amount of planning that’s needed for a wedding.

“When you shut down completely, it’s not just one month, it’s an entire year, and this is our third year, so we cannot handle another year,” Chan said.

Chan is part of a growing social media movement calling for the reopening of the events industry in a safe way. The hashtags #ReopenBCWeddings and #SaveBCEvents are being used on Instagram to promote the stories of industry members. They’re asking for a return of the COVID-safety plans that allowed events to go ahead last year at venues with mask-wearing, spacing and no dancing.

“When there are rules put into place for other business like restaurants, sports events, even casinos, I don't see a difference from that,” Chan said.

Those who organize funerals and celebration of life events want the same kind of treatment. Under the Public Health guidelines, those events can be held at a church or funeral home, where they can be classified as a “worship gathering.”

Emily Bootle, a death-care provider with Koru Cremation Burial Ceremony in Vancouver, said those two venues don’t make sense for many people.

“The family is choosing a venue very intentionally that’s connected to their loved one,” Bootle said. “They want to go to restaurants, they want to go to community centres, they want to go to facilities and venues that are in the community.”

Bootle said she’s had to explain the rules to many people who are grieving, saying it’s been a “really excruciating process” to walk through with them. Most are choosing to delay ceremonies altogether, she said.

“Our bereaved are very silently and secretly wounded people,” Bootle said.

Both Bootle and Chan said those in their industries already know how to hold safe events, given they were doing it at certain points through 2021. They’re calling for public health officials to allow the same plans to be implemented now.