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Editorial | Island Voices

Column: Wedding industry needs guidance on reopening

  • Tessa Gomes

    Tessa Gomes

  • Joseph Esser

    Joseph Esser

We are urgently requesting a formal meeting with Mayor Rick Blangiardi on behalf of the 150-plus local small businesses we represent here on Oahu, to partner with him on the plan to immediately reopen professionally managed weddings. Before the mandate extension expires in two weeks, there must already be a reopening plan in place in order to prevent the continued collapse of the wedding industry. There has been no clear guidance from the mayor’s office as to how and when our businesses will be allowed to reopen.

Without a plan or metric in place for businesses to base their decisions, we are truly working in the dark. We need to know: What does a safe metric look like for our industry to be able to reopen?

Oahu has the highest vaccination rate out of all of the islands (more than 70%), COVID-19 cases have returned to the lowest number since July 28, COVID-19 patient hospitalizations are well under the 200 mark, and the number of COVID-19 ICU patients is half the number since September. These have all been publicly cited as triggers that would lighten restrictions. Why is our industry still closed?

Many of our businesses are reporting 90-95% losses for the month of September. With the mandated City and County of Honolulu extension that bans large gatherings until Oct. 19, and the lack of any safety nets available to our industry, we are on the verge of collapse. Our members need to be informed of any mandate changes as soon as possible. We’re trying to hold our clients from canceling, and waiting until the last few days before the deadline puts a tremendous financial burden on our members, and their clients.

We recently met with Gov. David Ige, and he graciously allowed us an hour to detail the dire situation our industry is facing, and also present our industry’s safety protocols and reopening strategy. Understandably, at the end of our meeting, the governor stated that we need to work directly with Mayor Blangiardi on a reopening proposal. He was honestly surprised to learn that our association has not once had a formal meeting directly with the mayor.

We appreciate Mayor Blangiardi for his brief visit with us during our rally on Sept. 30. It was uplifting to hear directly from him that he is on our side fighting for professional weddings to reopen. It was shocking and disappointing, however, to hear him say in that same breath that he has not seen our reopening proposal and asked us to send something over.

We are fighting for the lives of our businesses and families. We need to get something in place with his detailed understanding and support, so that it has a chance of passing the governor’s desk.

Oahu is the only island that does not allow any exceptions for professionally managed events, even though Gov. Ige’s emergency order allows professional events. This needs to be immediately corrected. Our community trusts our professionals to keep us safe, so why have the wedding and event industry leaders been denied the ability to have input on how to safely reopen these businesses? Lean on us for successful mitigation strategies, communicate with us so we can better manage the message your office is sending to small businesses on Oahu.

Again, our entire industry on Oahu is hanging on by a very thin thread. We urgently need the mayor’s help to work with us to reopen professionally managed weddings. Time is running out for our industry, and we desperately request a meeting with him.


Joseph Esser and Tessa Gomes submitted this on behalf of the O‘ahu Wedding Association; he is the group’s president, she is its treasurer.


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