DENVER — Michelle Strode has albums and albums of wedding photos saved on her laptop.
They remind her of an easier time.
“I’ll always remember this wedding,” she said, pointing to photos dated March 2020. “It was that last wedding before this pandemic and before guidelines drastically changed events. It’s our last 'normal' wedding here at Moss.”
Strode is talking about Moss Denver, an event venue in the Sante Fe Arts District of Denver where she works as the venue manager. Weddings make up about 90% of its business.
“2020, of course, was a difficult year,” Strode said. “We were slated to have one of our best years as an industry.”
That was before COVID-19. Last year, weddings were forced to shrink, reschedule or even cancel. And the list of rules started to grow.
Moss Denver rode the pandemic roller-coaster along with the couples who planned to marry there. Besides limiting guests, the event space implemented social distancing measures in the building that allowed wedding guests to sit, eat and socialize within small, pre-arranged pods. Masks were required, and temperatures were taken at the front door.
It was … different.
“I miss the space being full of love and emotion and celebration,” Strode said. “And we just tried to keep a smile on our face and keep our clients remembering what they’re here for.”
But 2021 brings better news for the hard-hit wedding industry: vaccinations.
Colorado just reached a major milestone, vaccinating 70% of people aged 70 and older.
Which means five-star certified businesses in Level Yellow counties can now move to Level Blue, and open at a greater capacity.
Moss Denver applied for five-star certification a few weeks ago and was approved.
“That certificate empowers us to say, 'We’re safe. We’ll keep your guests safe. We’ll take all precautions necessary and go above and beyond for you,'” Strode said.
For Moss, Level Blue means 50% capacity up to 175 people. That's the guest size of most of their pre-pandemic weddings.
“So exciting!” Strode said. “Still, of course, with social distancing measures and masks, but it just allows our guests a little more leeway to say yes to those guests.”
Strode is quick to credit the entire wedding and venue industry for supporting each other through the past year. The Colorado Event Alliance formed last March and now advocates on behalf of special events businesses.
“We’re a team, believe it or not. All the venues are a team,” said Stephanie Helzer, director of sales and marketing for two venues: Ironworks and Mile High Station.
Both of those venues also have five-star certification and are eager to open to more capacity.
“We started getting really scared in January when we were getting September and October, even December clients saying, ‘Hey, I think we have to pull the plug, I don’t think its going to happen.’ We really needed it. This is a huge boost of self-confidence for our clients,” Helzer said.
With Level Blue taking effect immediately, Helzer said their March clients will enjoy more capacity and it will also give their clients booked for the later in the year some peace of mind. Helzer said Level Blue means a capacity of 225 for Mile High Station and about 160 for Ironworks.
“Oh my god! That’s the average wedding! That’s all we ever wanted,” Helzer said. “These couples have been amazing. They get it. They still want to have their event… They have been great. They have renewed my spirit in humanity.”
At Moss, Strode is feeling optimistic with Level Blue, too.
“It gives me hope for the future, and how we're trending and what events will look like when it's safe again,” she said. “I’m really hoping with the vaccines and with these safety measures that there is more consumer confidence that when you come to an event you will be safe.
“I truly cannot wait to see those celebrations and the happiness that comes within the space,” Strode said.
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