DEPTFORD, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order on Wednesday to allow indoor wedding receptions to operate at 35% capacity of the room in which they are held.
Under the new order, up to 150 people are allowed indoors at 35% capacity and up to 150 individuals are allowed at outdoor receptions. Both capacity limits are exclusive of venue staff.
"We are able to take these steps as our COVID-19 numbers are declining, and we are optimistic that these trends will continue," said Governor Murphy. "As always, we ask New Jerseyans to adhere to proper COVID-19 health and safety protocols."
The new order is causing some mixed reaction.
"Relieved, very relieved. It's been a very, very challenging year," said Tina Briglia, one of the owners of Brigalias, a catering hall in Sicklerville.
For the last year, Brigalias has been trying to stay in business while fielding calls from upset brides, some of them crying and wanting answers the owners didn't have.
"It's a relief that we can finally answer the phone and tell our brides we can give them the wedding of their dream," Briglia said.
Meanwhile, The Merion in Cinnaminson has four reception rooms, which can accommodate from 300 and up to 600 people.
"We have over 100 employees that are excited to be open now. They wanna be back, they wanna get back to work," said Vinny Mazzella, one of the owners of The Merion.
Mazzella says the capacity expansion might not be enough.
"It's frustrating because we really should be open at 50% but, you know, it's memories that the brides and grooms are losing through all of this," said Mazzella.
The capacity limits have posed extremely stressful challenges for couples planning large weddings, like Jimmy Kolovos and his fiancee Meghan Tsilimidos, both of Hamilton Square.
"It's been extremely stressful, emotional, definitely a roller coaster of emotions with pushing everything back from not once, twice, but maybe three times," said Kolovos.
"November 7, then we pushed it to March 6, and now we're going for June," said Tsilimidos.
The difficult thing is knowing that many of their guests will be coming from out of state, and from as far away as Greece.
"And we have to send out invitations by mid-April, so that's right around the corner and we don't know what the limits are going to be by then," said Tsilimidos.
"Having the stress of having a plan B or having a backup plan for extra guests and whatnot, it's just tough," said Kolovos.
The couple hopes capacity limits increase by the time invitations get mailed out.
The new capacity increase will take effect Friday.
New Jersey increases occupant capacity for wedding receptions