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Special permission given for weddings

Amid social media outrage over videos and photos of a wedding that took place on Harbour Island on Saturday while some Bahamians were forced to postpone their weddings due to a weekend lockdown announced on Friday, the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) said in a statement last night that the competent authority granted permission for two “pre-planned weddings” with more than five people in attendance.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced on Friday that weddings that had been scheduled for the next day could only happen with five people.

The order giving legal effect to that was released on Saturday morning.

OPM said last night it is aware of media reports of a wedding held on Harbour Island, Eleuthera, with more than five people.

“Permission was granted for a destination wedding on Harbour Island, Eleuthera, and a Bahamian wedding in New Providence,” the statement said.

“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.”

The wedding took place at Coral Sands Hotel.

Prior to the statement from OPM, the hotel’s owner, Tom Sherman, said the destination wedding took place legally and that special permission was granted for the American couple to continue with their ceremony.

“We had permission from relevant authorities to conduct the wedding,” Sherman said.

When asked to clarify exactly who were the relevant authorities, Sherman responded, “You can interpret that however you want. We know the system here. We have permission from relevant authorities.”

The prime minister ordered the lockdown in response to a surge of COVID-19 cases. The Bahamas has recorded 238 cases since July 8. Its total case count is 342.

Although neither Harbour Island nor anywhere else on Eleuthera has had any confirmed cases, the national lockdown was ordered as several other Bahamian islands have seen their first cases in recent days.

Several social media videos purportedly of the Harbour Island wedding show attendees dancing and toasting to the couple’s nuptials.

The videos, posted to Instagram, also show a Junkanoo rush-out as well as a live band.

Sherman said the destination wedding was planned well in advance and that after hearing of the prime minister’s announcement of a weekend lockdown that took effect Friday at 10 p.m., contact was made with the “relevant authorities” to seek the special permission.

“This wedding has been planned for a long period of time. I don’t know exactly what period of time,” he said.

When asked for further details as to the number of people in attendance and reports of the wedding being shut down just after 8 p.m., Sherman said, “I don’t want to say anything else to that. We got permission from the relevant authorities.”

Just after 2 p.m. on Friday, a communication from OPM announced the weekend lockdown, which took effect hours later.

It stated that the lockdown was nationwide and that residents, unless essential workers, were only allowed to leave their homes if headed to the grocery store, pharmacy or gas station.

The videos of the Junkanoo rush-out alone included more than 10 people.

In one of the videos, the groom is seen giving a speech while making his toast, saying, “Thank you all so, so much for all you went through and everything that it took to get here.”

Bahamian designer Kedar Clarke said the prime minister’s abrupt announcement of a weekend lockdown on Friday caused the postponement of three of his clients’ weddings that were scheduled for the weekend, one of which had as many as eight groomsmen.

For one of those clients, according to Clarke, this was the third attempt at a wedding due to postponements caused by the pandemic.

“Consider the fact that we’re back in motion, trying to get back to normal and people are back on track of having weddings again. Up to Tuesday, everybody was on pins and needles just waiting around,” Clarke said.

“Because nothing was said on Thursday, people felt like it was a green light to go. And then Friday comes; don’t forget churches were probably already filled with flowers, of course caterers were done or prepped for the next day, my team was already done steaming these suits. Some clients picked up suits on Thursday and you’re told that’s it, you’ve got to cancel everything.

“Of course, I called my clients to sort out what we could, only to wake up today to see that a whole wedding went down, no social distancing, a Junkanoo rush-out, a full live band.”

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