Washington bans wedding dances, which some couples call 'a bit extreme'

·3 min read

Washington resident and bride Shakira Tobin’s father died in a car accident three years ago. To honor her father in her wedding reception, Tobin had planned to dance with her mother as they both held a photo of him.

But Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser’s ban on dancing at weddings put a pause on Tobin’s tribute to her father.

“For others, dancing at their wedding maybe is just dancing, but this is more than an inconvenience. This ban takes away a special moment with my mother and dead father,” Tobin told USA TODAY.

Bowser’s order, which went into effect May 1, states guests at weddings must remain seated and socially distanced from one another or other household groups. Venues hosting weddings may open with 25% capacity or fewer than 250 guests.

“Standing and dancing receptions are not allowed,” the order says.

Bowser said the ban is in effect until May 20 but will probably be extended, according to The Washington Post.

The ban prohibiting wedding traditions such as cocktail hour and father-daughter dances has faced backlash. For one groom, the ban even means breaking a religious tradition.

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Daniel Chazen plans to marry his high school sweetheart on June 4 at a 40-person wedding in the District of Columbia. Raised as a devout Jew, Chazen said he can’t imagine skipping out on the traditional hora dance during his reception.

Custom indicates Chazen, as the last to wed in his family, would dance with his parents, in a dance called mezinke. Although he understands Bowser’s COVID-19 precautions, Chazen wishes it didn’t come at the cost of his wedding customs.

“So we, including my family, are at a crossroads. We’re vaccinated and feeling safer about having a small wedding, but now we can’t stand or dance at our own wedding,” Chazen said. “It just seems a bit extreme to me.”

Wedding planner Tiffany Balmer has offered her clients solutions to the no-dancing ordinance.

Balmer told USA TODAY some couples have prerecorded their father-daughter and bridal party dances and played them on a screen during the reception. Other couples have opted to briefly dance after they’ve exchanged vows at the altar.

Tobin said if the dancing ban isn’t lifted by her wedding June 11, she and her mother will record their dance and include photos of her late father in a video tribute. Tobin said this would be her “worst-case, backup plan.”

Balmer said that although most of her couples have rescheduled their wedding for 2022, the ones who didn’t have been getting creative around the COVID-19 restrictions. Despite the backlash Bowser’s order has faced, Balmer said she respects the mayor’s decision to be cautious.

“The last thing a wedding planner or wedding party wants is to have an outbreak at a wedding. So if Bowser’s ban can prevent that even more so, it’s a reasonable decision,” Balmer said.

The ban is supported by public health experts such as Lynn Goldman, dean of George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health. Goldman told the Post the “virus-laden droplets” are more easily spread when people are in close contact during activities such as dancing.

“Coming in closer to each other is of more concern than touching because it is the airborne transmission you worry about,” Goldman said. “And masks aren’t perfect. You create more droplets (when) you’re breathing heavy or exercising.”

Tobin said although she respects public experts and Bowser’s reasoning, she can’t help but feel the ban is “excessive.”

“What’s a wedding without dancing? This takes away huge moments and I’m just crossing my fingers the ban is lifted sooner than later,” Tobin said.

Follow Gabriela Miranda on Twitter: @itsgabbymiranda

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Washington, D.C. couples call wedding dance ban excessive

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