Government forced to clarify new mask rules don't apply to weddings

The new mask rules coming into force under the Red traffic light setting will not apply to weddings or gatherings that have the exclusive use of a venue, it was confirmed on Friday.

It came after widespread confusion saw a petition receive tens of thousands of signatures, urging the Government to drop the non-existent mask rules at weddings.

However, it appears the rules never applied to weddings in the first place, with a line on the Covid website seemingly causing the issue.

A couple getting married (file picture).

A paragraph on the Covid-19 website said anyone attending a gathering would have to wear a mask, even while having photos taken. It previously stated the only time anyone could remove the mask would be to eat or drink.

The wording differed to what the Prime Minister had said during the mask announcement on Tuesday. Ardern had stated the new rules would not apply to those who had exclusive use of a venue.

It caused mass confusion and frustration from those planning a wedding, working in the industry and even MPs.

Both National MP Chris Bishop and ACT leader David Seymour released statements urging the Government to drop the rules. Bishop called it "stupid" and "nonsensical", while Seymour joked about whether the Government would enforce mask wearing "to consummate the marriage".

"Forget a veil or garter, the latest bridal fashion accessory this summer is a mask – that must be worn for the ceremony and in all photos," Seymour said.

The confusion saw a petition to stop the rules being applied to weddings gain over 30,000 signatures in less than 24 hours.

The original wording on the Covid-19 website

Jean Bell, the person behind the petition, wrote that the masks would “cripple the weddings and events industry”.

Tougher mask rules on the way in light of Omicron

One woman who signed the petition said she was getting married in an outdoor ceremony. She said it was “crazy” they could go to the gym indoors with 99 people without masks, but would need to wear a mask at an outdoor wedding with 70 guests.

A photographer who signed the petition said it would “cripple” his business.

The rules have since been re-clarified in a statement from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the website has been updated.

“As announced by the Prime Minister on Tuesday, enhanced mask wearing protocols will come into effect from 4 February to help us slow the spread of Omicron," a spokesperson from DPMC said.

“Officials are working to develop detailed guidance around the new rules, which will be published as soon as details are finalised. As the Prime Minister stated, the changes will not apply to non-public facing workplaces, swimming pools, gatherings where you have the exclusive use of the venue, including weddings, and at private dwellings.”

The wording on the website now reads: From 4 February 2022, you must wear a face mask when attending a gathering — except where you have the exclusive use of the venue, including weddings.

1News requested an interview with a representative from the Government. The request was passed on to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, who then supplied the above written statement.