By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
A bride-to-be is upset that she cancelled her wedding to comply with COVID-19 rules only to learn that Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis exempted two couples from regulations limiting the number of wedding attendees to five.
The Office of the Prime Minister released a statement last night after photos and videos of a wedding at the Coral Sands resort in Harbour Island went viral. The wedding had more than five attendees, featured a Junkanoo performance and appeared to have guests who did not strictly follow social distancing protocols.
The Office of the Prime Minister said in a statement: “The competent authority granted permission for two pre-planned weddings with more than five in attendance to be held over the weekend lockdown, provided that proper COVID-19 mitigation protocols were adhered to. Permission was granted for a destination wedding on Harbour Island, Eleuthera, and a Bahamian wedding in New Providence. The competent authority has asked the Royal Bahamas Police Force to investigate reports that proper COVID-19 protocols were not adhered to at the wedding held on Harbour Island.”
Wedding planners and engaged couples expressed dismay and the revelation sparked criticism about preferential treatment.
Dornella Newbold, 29, had a wedding planned for Saturday at 1pm which she cancelled after Dr Minnis announced the new wedding rules during a Ministry of Health press conference on Friday evening.
She said news that a couple was exempted from the rule felt "like an insult, a slap in the face".
“It’s hurtful,” she said. “Everybody knows how expensive it is to put on a wedding. Everyone knows the amount of time that goes into preparing a wedding.”
She said many lack access to request certain privileges from the competent authority.
“I didn’t know any number to ask permission to do things," she said. "They said nothing about whether there was a number to call so I couldn’t reach them to ask them any questions. It’s just double standards. We are supposed to all be under the same order so how could they have their event but others were made to cancel their events after what we heard on Friday night?”
She and her fiancé are now fighting to recuperate their $10,000 investment as most vendors refuse to refund their payments.
“I haven’t heard from one vendor saying they will refund us,” she said. “The flowers were already done. The cake was already done and it’s not like they could be saved for the next time. Both my fiancé and I we had our parents brought here to Nassau for the wedding from Family Islands so the ticket costs are another loss we can't make up. This is such a blow.
"Never in a million years I thought we would be going through this. Now we’re battling vendors, trying to see if I can get refunds and all that. It’s been a hassle and a mess, everyone saying they don’t do refunds and they can only allow me to have the services in the future. I’m not comfortable with that because I don’t know how long we will be in this situation of not being able to host our wedding.”
Ms Newbold said if the new wedding rules were announced earlier she would have saved money.
“I paid close attention to the radio all week because I wanted to see if he would make mention of it," she said. "If he did we could’ve done things differently. He was on the radio days before, had he said something I wouldn’t have made all my payments and the like. But you wait until Friday night at 6pm to address the nation when everything for our weddings were already set, when we couldn’t do anything?”
The couple initially planned to have their wedding on July 4 but pushed their date back because the country “had just reopened” and they wanted more time to prepare.
Ms Newbold said her wedding was planned to follow social distancing guidelines more strictly than what happened at the Harbor Island wedding. “We planned for 30 people,” she said. “In our invites, we requested our guests bring masks because they would need the masks to enter. We told persons doing the decorations to set up tables in such a way that only five people could be at a table to ensure the necessary spacing in accordance with the social distancing rules. We tried to do our part."
The Minnis administration has been criticised for extending privileges to some and not all before during the COVID-19 crisis.
Small restaurant businesses recently complained after learning that the Office of the Prime Minister gave a business group permission to open their restaurants until 9pm while restaurant businesses were generally mandated to close at 8pm.
Dwight Hart, owner of YOLO Grill and Hookah Bar, a restaurant in Exuma, called it a double standard. “Here’s the problem,” he said, “once you do that for one, it shouldn’t be a question where anyone else could write and ask and get it, it should be automatically given because obviously everyone will want the same thing, everyone wants to be open later.”