Thanks to the pandemic, traditional big fat Indian weddings have now become small, muted family events. As social distancing and restriction of movement became the norm in the COVID era, weddings changed too. Many couples have still gone ahead with their matrimonial plans over the past few months, and more plan to tie the knot in the weeks and months ahead but even they must adhere to the current COVID protocol for weddings as laid down by the states.
Even though lockdown norms have been eased in Chennai, things are not entirely back to the old normal. Citizens must be aware of the current norms and protocol for COVID weddings, as prescribed by the state to ensure smooth and safe conduct.
So what are the rules to follow if you are conducting a wedding in the COVID-19 era? Here is how things stand at present.
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State limits on weddings and other related ceremonies
Tge government of Tamil Nadu has fixed a cap of a maximum of 50 persons for weddings and other related ceremonies. This applies to the whole of Tamil Nadu, including Chennai.
Attendees who are coming to Tamil Nadu from other states have to furnish their travel details in the e-registration portal. Guests from Chennai who may be residing in areas that are marked as “Containment Zones” can’t attend the wedding. Nor should those who are currently under home quarantine or isolation attend.
Guidelines for marriage halls
The Greater Chennai Corporation has issued an order, asking all the marriage halls, hotels, banquet halls to inform the corporation body about any functions that may be happening in these venues. Wedding hall owners/representatives should register the information pertaining to upcoming ceremonies at the corporation site linked here.
The Corporation has also emphasised that the marriage halls must ensure compliance with the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) of masking, social distancing and hand sanitization and most importantly, maintaining the cap of 50 guests. Any failure to adhere to these norms would invite stringent action under Section 51 of the Disaster Management Act 2005.
A senior official from the Corporation said “The GCC has mandated that all wedding halls, hotels must provide details of functions taking place on their premises. There are 45 zonal teams designated for inspection of marriage halls, to check for any sort of violations in COVID norms. The state cap on events for weddings has to be strictly adhered to. Any violations will attract penalties and due action according to the course of law.”
Thus, the onus of ensuring the smooth and safe conduct of weddings has been placed largely on the owners or those in charge of marriage, boutique halls. Karthikeyan, proprietor of several such premises, including the Ramanuja Koodam marriage hall in Triplicane said, ”We do take full care to abide by the norms/guidelines prescribed by the authorities, as we understand how critical the current situation is. We must also ensure that we can carry on in the profession and earn our livelihood in this pandemic.”
COVID-appropriate behaviour such as masking, hand sanitizing and social distancing assumes special importance in gatherings such as marriage ceremonies. There have been many instances where unregulated weddings have turned into superspreaders.
Karthikeyan adds, “We have installed thermo guns and hand sanitisers at the entry point. Guests’ temperatures are checked before they enter the halls. Besides, we have installed hand sanitisers at prominent points at the venue, such as on the stage, beside staircases, in the eating hall, kitchen etc. so that they are all equally accessible to both guests and staff.”
The wedding hall is sanitised after each and every function to ensure the safety of guests as well as staff. Karthikeyan has a team of eight staff members, including a manager, an electrician and six cleaners, all of whom have been asked to vaccinate themselves. Other than that, they have to wear masks all the time and repeatedly sanitize their hands during the event.
The real task, however, is to ensure that guests adhere to the specified protocol for weddings during the entire event. It is common to see friends and relatives, most of whom are meeting after ages, let down their guard. Karthikeyan and his staff (the person in charge of the event or the manager ) have to constantly monitor people’s movements and step in when things appear to be going out of hand.
“Sometimes the guests forget about their masks and bring their chairs too close to each other as they interact. We politely request them to adhere to the rules mandated by the authorities,” says Karthikeyan, “We can’t be very harsh or strict with them as in the end, they are our clients. They may not always take it in a positive manner, but then we are also answerable to authorities if anything goes wrong.” Violations lead to penalties and some marriage halls have been known to be fined to the tune of Rs 5000 for failing to comply with the mandated protocol for weddings.
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Personal safety measures
The points made by Karthikeyan clearly point to the need for us, as citizens, to be cautious and particular about maintaining the protocol for weddings, and in fact all mass gatherings. Civic authorities have been working hard to break the chain of transmission of the coronavirus and citizen cooperation will be critical in determining the success of all these strategies, especially during celebrations such as marriages.
At a personal level, therefore, apart from following the current legal protocol for weddings in the COVID time, we should take the following measures for our own safety and that of all others:
- Do not remove your mask while attending the marriage ceremony until or unless you are in your private space
- It is advisable to urge guest or relatives from vulnerable groups (senior citizens, people with comorbidities) to get vaccinated with both doses before attending the wedding.
- Each guest should carry a small hand sanitizer bottle and use it to sanitize the hands after touching any common or widely touched surface such as lift buttons, taps, etc.
- Guests should consciously ensure sufficient gaps between seats, chairs to ensure social distancing.
- Be aware of the local guidelines prescribed by the state, civic authorities.
- Hosts should ensure that there are enough close lid bins, masks, soaps, tissues and sanitizer machines, etc.
- It is also advisable to have staggered entry and exit timings for different groups of guests.