Central Ohio Vendors React to COVID-19 Restrictions

Local vendors weigh in on how Ohio's latest round of guidelines to curb the spread of the coronavirus effect what weddings look like.

Peter Tonguette
Columbus Monthly

Nicole McCrate of the Darby House gets it: Each time a new coronavirus-related public health order is issued in Ohio, engaged couples are sent into states of anxiety and worry.

“Unfortunately, it’s kind of a panic every time,” says McCrate, director of sales and marketing at the popular wedding venue in Galloway. “Everybody immediately says, ‘Oh my gosh, here we go again.’ That can be really hard for us to manage.”

Last week was no different: The Ohio Department of Health issued a pair of orders that are sure to get the attention of soon-to-be-married couples.

A mass-gathering order contained restrictions unique to weddings, including prohibitions on dancing and socializing in congregate areas. (We covered the specifics of that order in a story last week.)

A subsequent order imposed a nightly 10 p.m. curfew to last at least 21 days.

But McCrate tells couples to calm down—the Darby House has been through this before. “We’ve been abiding by these orders for several months,” she says. “We’ve had several successful weddings.”

The no-dancing rule has received the most concern, McCrate says.

“They don’t necessarily envision their wedding just being seated at a table with the same 10 people,” says McCrate, who, earlier in the pandemic, brainstormed substitute ideas in lieu of dancing.

“We worked with some of our vendor partners to come up with alternative options, whether it’s karaoke or if we’re doing a fun, family, get-to-know-the-couple ‘Jeopardy!’ game,” she says. “While it’s not that traditional wedding that everybody goes to, you’re throwing in a few things that are a little more fun, engaging and could be more memorable.”

David Kurtz of D&M DJ Entertainment finds that many couples are open to reimagining their events under the new directives.

“If they’re going to keep their date, they are readjusting to the current situation,” Kurtz says. “Instead of doing a 6-to-midnight wedding, they’re doing a 4-to-10.”

Kurtz has used the current restrictions as an opportunity to innovate. For anniversary dances, he says, “our idea is everybody stands up next to their partner, when their year is called, you sit down.”

Other couples have opted to postpone on the assumption that the public health orders will be rescinded in the months ahead (and that the virus itself will be more fully under control).

Rodney Sutton of the Conspiracy Band, which frequently plays weddings, describes the no-dancing rule as something akin to the final nail in the coffin for some of his couples. “The remaining gigs that were on the books, they kind of ran,” says Sutton. “As soon as they heard the orders from the governor come down, they contacted their wedding planners, wedding planners contacted me and started throwing out dates.”

Louie Pappas of the recently opened North 4th Corridor venues, which fill the building once occupied by the now-closed Dock 580 and Juniper, says that most couples are reluctant to schedule events in the next four months but are far less hesitant about booking dates in the spring.

“With the recent positive news with vaccines, there hasn’t been really a slowdown in people inquiring about April, May and beyond,” says Pappas, adding that the new restrictions are well-timed in one way: There is traditionally a slowdown in weddings this time of year anyway.

“We’re kind of at the tail end now of the season,” Pappas says. “We’re kind of all entering into our idle time.”

For couples who choose to proceed with their wedding amid current pandemic-necessitated limitations, McCrate urges them to embrace the day—even if you can’t get down and boogie. 

“I really try to just encourage everyone to get to the mindset of: ‘You’re marrying your best friend, and you’re still getting to visit with your family and friends, whatever that looks like,’ ” she says.