COVID-19 has wreaked havoc and seemingly brought the world to a standstill. International governments banned large gatherings, which has had a strong and direct effect on the wedding industry. Due to social distancing, many couples have had to either postpone or seriously modify their ceremonies to fit within governmental guidelines.
The guidelines for gatherings vary from state to state. Some states, such as Oregon, allow groups of up to 100 people outside and 50 people inside under Phase 2 of Governor Kate Brown’s reopening plan. This allows for smaller weddings to continue with social distancing, especially if the ceremony takes place outdoors. However, other states with a higher number of cases have stricter limitations, which require either smaller weddings, elopements or postponements.
Allie Weeks, a resident of Eugene, Oregon, married her husband on May 30, which marked their fifth anniversary. Oregon was still in Phase 1 of reopening, which made for a hectic wedding planning experience.
“We were in the first wave of couples and vendors that were really impacted by the whole thing. It wasn’t until a few weeks before the wedding that we even knew we would be in Phase 1 really. But leading up to that, it was a time where no one really knew what to do,” says Weeks. “Most of our vendors were extremely understanding of the situation, and literally told us to give them a time or place next year and that they would be there.”
The couple did not end up needing to reschedule, as they managed to find a venue to accommodate their small wedding with proper social distancing and cleanliness practices three days before the ceremony. They originally planned on having the wedding in Weeks’ in-laws’ backyard, but a rainstorm made that idea impossible.
Weeks was further stressed by her initial venue’s refusal to provide any sort of refund for their originally planned wedding, a wedding that could not take place due to the COVID-19 outbreak. “At this point we have filed a formal complaint with the [Department of Justice] and found 20 other couples impacted by the same business. That has probably been the most upsetting thing in all this, mostly because the things that the business has said to us have been terrible and made us feel like terrible people,” says Weeks. ”Finding the other couples involved has really helped with that because we aren’t the crazy people in this situation, it is that business who has lied and done wrong by all of us.”
Despite the financial problems with the first venue, Weeks still had a beautiful, intimate wedding on the planned date at their new venue.
Paula Dulce, another resident of Eugene, is getting married on July 31 in eastern Oregon. COVID-19 has greatly affected nearly every aspect of her wedding. “COVID has changed this wedding by affecting ceremony and reception logistics and guest count,” Dulce says.
She says that many of her guests from out of state are hesitant about attending, as they worry they could spread the virus or get infected by other guests. “Everyone has their own interpretation of the situation and government regulations along with their own levels of fear and care about the pandemic,” Dulce says. Her venue is taking every precaution to ensure social distancing measures are in place to prioritize the health and safety of all guests.
Much of Dulce’s family lives in California, a state with stricter prevention strategies in place due to a higher population and a higher number of positive cases. “I’ve noticed there is a higher level of fear among my family in California, which makes them stressed about attending the ceremony,” Dulce says. She wants her family to attend her wedding and many have committed to being there, but they will be driving to the ceremony to mitigate the risks of infection inherent to air travel.
Wedding planning has been unexpectedly stressful for Dulce. “The most stressful part about planning a COVID wedding is planning for multiple hypothetical situations such as potentially limiting guest numbers, ever changing reopening phases and assuaging guest fears,” Dulce says. Depending on how Governor Brown’s reopening goes, her wedding may or may not go on as planned.
Dulce understands this possibility. “Even though we can still have our wedding proceed as planned with health and safety guidelines, guests are still hesitant to attend as they fear it won’t be enough. In addition, there is always the possibility that if anything changes the wedding could be cancelled all together,” Dulce says. If cases spike as Oregon reopens, her wedding could be shut down. She is open to postponement if this occurs, but she greatly hopes it will go on as currently planned.
Despite the measures in place to keep the wedding going during unprecedented times, some of Dulce’s family still cannot attend. Her maid of honor dropped out of her bridal party due to concerns about the health of her grandparents, whom she lives with. Dulce’s brother is stationed in Germany with the Air Force and cannot attend the wedding due to limits on international travel.
Getting married during a pandemic is certainly unexpected and can be incredibly stressful. However, there are resources to help you with your wedding. If you are currently a COVID bride or groom, there are some steps you can take to help with health and safety at your ceremony if you plan to move forward with your wedding.
Firstly, you should encourage your guests to check on travel restrictions if they have to travel to get to your wedding. Guests may not be able to come or will have to come early if your state demands a 14-day quarantine for out-of-state visitors. You should also ensure that you and your guests follow CDC and state government guidelines to prevent spreading COVID-19 at your ceremony. You can check in with the venue beforehand to inquire about what actions they are taking to make your wedding safe and confirm they are following CDC guidelines.
It’s important to stay updated on coronavirus cases both nationally and in the state of your ceremony and the states your guests call home. No matter your wedding plans, make sure to prioritize your safety and that of your guests.