Kiwi couples preparing to tie the knot are making tough decisions as the fallout of COVID-19 and ongoing border restrictions mean their dream weddings may be unattainable.
The COVID-19 response scuppered wedding plans earlier this year as the Government introduced stringent protocols to combat the spread of the virus. Now with just 22 active cases detected in managed isolation and quarantine facilities, New Zealand has become something of a safe haven - but with the pandemic raging overseas, wedding planner Emma Newman says Kiwi couples are continuing to exercise caution.
"There hasn't been a great rush [under alert level 1]. People are still very cautious and a lot of people are still trying to work out what's happening with the economy, as well as what's going to happen with family and friends," Newman told Newshub.
Expats also face a $3100 fine for the cost of their 14-day mandatory managed isolation period upon arrival, depending on the amount of time they plan to spend in New Zealand. Family and friends who wish to return for a wedding - but are planning on spending less than 90 days in the country - will be slapped with charges under the Government's COVID-19 Public Health Response Amendment Bill. The minister in charge of managed isolation and quarantine, Megan Woods, is seeking Cabinet approval to charge $3100 per person, as well as $950 for each additional adult in a room and $475 for each additional child.
Newman says the legislation change will impact a number of weddings, as couples face the prospect that their nearest and dearest may be unable to attend their nuptials.
"People are being realistic and sadly having to make those decisions. Couples I have for the beginning of next year are now looking to postpone for a year," she said.
The isolation charges also mean some expats who intended to return home to celebrate their big day will be forced to consider a new location or postpone indefinitely, as many would not have factored additional costs at the border into their budgets.
"There is a lag period between people making that decision and getting on with the planning of it and holding the day. I've had more postponements and cancellations from people overseas," Newman said.
"It's tough out there for the wedding industry. We're quite a niche market but we bring in a lot to the economy."
Yet for Kiwi couples pushing ahead with their planning, the bizarre times have allowed for creativity to flourish. Newman says an unexpected result of New Zealand's 'new normal' is couples "thinking outside the box", with expectant brides and grooms veering from more traditional weddings to explore different styles and sizes of ceremonies.
"People are remembering that in New Zealand, you can do pretty much what you want - you don't have to follow the [traditional] plan," Newman said.
"You can have smaller affairs and really put your money into beautiful food, having cocktail parties and having the people that you really need there."
The COVID-19 Public Health Response Amendment Bill, introduced to Parliament on Wednesday, will provide a legal framework allowing the Government to charge for managed isolation and quarantine facilities. It will be passed next week before the House rises for the parliamentary term, and further details of the charging scheme and when it will come into force will be announced soon.
Who has to pay?
The Government wants to charge any New Zealander who leaves the country after the regulations come into force, or is visiting New Zealand for less than 90 days.
The same applies to temporary visa holders, unless they were ordinarily a resident in New Zealand as of March 19, and they departed the country on or before that date. They also wouldn't have to pay if they're entering as a critical worker.