How Kaua‘i event organizers deal with COVID restrictions

  • Mallory Francks Photography/ Courtesy

    Guests pose for a portrait at a private dinner event organized by Aloha Friday Event Design.

LIHU’E — Large weddings and conferences are making a comeback after over a year of being downsized or digitized and event planners are staying busy.

“We’re really busy,” Mona Garcia, owner of Aloha Friday Event Design Weddings, said. “Wedding season this year has been the busiest it’s been since 2018.”

Under the latest county rules passed last week, large events are limited to 40 people indoors or 100 people outdoors. But for events exceeding that, event planners must register the event with the county and verify the full-vaccination status or negative COVID test results taken within 24 hours of the event for all participants.

That means more work, and cost, for event planners and venues.

The Grand Hyatt Kaua‘i offers testing daily to help large corporate events and meetings scheduled at its venue run smoothly and stay in compliance.

“We are picking up the cost of the testing that we’re offering to associates and our customers,” Director of Sales & Marketing Katy Britzmann said. “We anticipated (the cost) and don’t feel that we can pass that along to our customers.”

Britzmann is not concerned that restrictions are causing clients to rethink their destination and consider other locations in Hawai‘i or across the globe.

“I think that the customer understands that there’s going to be limitations,” said Britzmann. “In the long term, it’s going to be important that eventually (our restrictions) are lifted as other destinations lift their restrictions so that we can be competitive.”

For wedding planners, tracking COVID vaccination status and test results is one more detail to keep a wedding running smoothly.

Garcia sees it as the wedding planners’ job to inform a couple of all the restrictions. She works with couples on how to collect all the necessary data to put into a spreadsheet. The process has been easy, but does cause some anxiety for Garcia.

“There’s definitely more pressure and liability on the wedding planners part right now,” Garcia said. “If the couple isn’t prepared with their lists that they hand to us, or maybe (one of) their guests doesn’t want to participate in the vaccine or the COVID test, then that lies on us.”

Businesses can be fined $500 for violating state and county COVID-19 safety measures.

Garcia does not believe that she has lost any clients due to the restrictions and has seen some benefit to collecting the data.

“It helps them put (wedding guests) in a mindset of celebration,” said Garcia. “For example, for grandparents that have flown all this way it helps them get some peace of mind to know that everyone surrounding them has either been vaccinated or has tested 24 hours prior to the event so they can enjoy their family’s wedding, and they can do it safely.”

Some businesses are still hurting despite the busy event season.

Binky Goo is the owner Lee’s Rentals, a tent and party rental company. She estimates that they are currently seeing 60-70% of business compared to a pre-pandemic year. Smaller weddings and cancelations of big end-of-the-year holiday events at resorts have cut into their bottom line.

“Now that events are smaller, there’s equipment that (isn’t) being used as often. You’re still paying car insurance, business insurance and liability. There’s still a great amount of out of pocket just to continue running on a smaller income,” Goo said.

Goo is optimistic for 2022, with Lee’s Rentals already fully booked out for several months.

“I’m just grateful that we are continuing to have events, that’s all I can say,” said Goo. “(I am) grateful that there are still brides out there that are just wanting to get it done. (They are) keeping our businesses and our industry alive.”

  1. Pueo October 19, 2021 10:09 am Reply

    Hats off to these business owners. Just regular people trying to make it through this pandemic while keeping others as safe as they can.

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