Should we cancel the wedding? Couples unsure as coronavirus pandemic drags on

For more than a year, Corey Cooper had the date of Sept. 26, 2020 etched in his mind.

It was the day he was meant to marry his girlfriend of three-and-a-half years, Erin, at a Vaughan, Ont., venue surrounded by loved ones, including their kids.

But a few days ago, Cooper and his fiancée decided to halt their wedding plans due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“With everything going on, we fear that even if things settle down, life will not go back to normal and people will be skeptical of large gatherings for some time,” he said.

“As Erin and I chose to be married the same weekend we first met, we would need to push the wedding a year in order to maintain the sentiment.”

Like Cooper, many couples are cancelling or postponing their weddings due to the pandemic. As Canadian health officials have closed places of worship, venues and restaurants, and banned large gatherings, brides and grooms have no choice but to hit pause on their big day.

Many March weddings were postponed or cancelled, and April, May and June weddings are almost all delayed, too.

On Tuesday, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health encouraged residents to postpone weddings another “few months.”

“The biggest challenge for everyone has been the uncertainty,” said Jennifer Bergman, an Edmonton, Alta.-based wedding and event planner.

It’s an emotional time for couples, she said, and no one has concrete answers as to when things will go back to “normal.”

While news around the pandemic is rapidly changing, Bergman said some couples with September wedding dates are already making arrangements to postpone. She doesn’t think bans on large gatherings will lift any time soon, and people are being cautious.

“I’m very hopeful that we’ll still have September and October weddings, but I’m losing hope by the day,” she said.

Apart from throwing couples’ plans off course, the pandemic has been devastating for the wedding industry, including venues and vendors, Bergman said.

Events that would have happened this year are being pushed to next year, which means many vendors will be earning one year’s worth of revenue instead of two.

“If all of the 2020 weddings are now going to move to 2021 in the prime wedding season — the summer months — those are then taking up prime revenue-generating dates for many vendors,” Bergman explained.

“There is definitely going to be a financial impact on the industry. There already is.”

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Bergman said many vendors are encouraging couples to postpone, not cancel, in an effort to offset some losses. Most venues, photographers and planners want to make things work with couples, she said, and are willing to carry over deposits to new dates.

Cooper said he is in the midst of figuring out how to move forward with his venue, but doesn’t have a clear answer just yet. His vendors have been very understanding, he said, and are committed to working with him on his new wedding day.

Vendors, for the most part, have also been really accommodating for Ashley McGuire, an account director at a Toronto-based PR firm.

McGuire’s original wedding date was June 20 this year, but she and her partner pushed their wedding to June 19, 2021 due to COVID-19.

“Once the City of Toronto banned city-run events until June 30… it was clearer and clearer that a gathering of even 50 people would likely not be allowed by June 20,” she said.

“To add to this, my entire family is in the U.S. and there’s a lot of uncertainty around when the borders will open up.”

Travel restrictions are not only affecting wedding guests, they’re putting a wrench in pre-wedding activities, too.

For Sarah Tassielli, a Toronto-based bride, the coronavirus outbreak means her wedding and bachelorette party won’t be moving forward as planned. She was originally meant to tie the knot on June 13, but has pushed her date to early September — a date she hopes will still work.

Tassielli’s original bachelorette plans included a five-day trip to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico with 12 of her closest friends.

“This got cancelled around mid-March after the severity of COVID-19 became clear,” she said.

“We received airline credits for cancelling our flight (that have to be used within a 12-month period) and 80 per cent of our money back from the all-inclusive resort.”

Offering travel vouchers and not charging rebooking fees are common routes many airlines are taking, said Seth Kaplan, a D.C.-based airline analyst.

“Generally, all airlines are being more flexible than they are usually,” Kaplan said.

Still, he advises that couples hold off on rebooking trips until they have a better sense of when they can actually travel. Generally, he said, it’s harder to change a reservation once you’ve made it — especially when it comes to airlines that are currently only offering one-time changes.

“If you have a voucher that’s good for the rest of the year, I would say with not knowing what’s going to happen, you’re better off putting a note in your calendar for when it’s about to expire, and not yet booking a trip that you might not make.”

If you need to postpone your wedding, Bergman suggests seeing what future dates are available at your venue as soon as possible. Once you have options, you can go back to your original vendors and see if they’re free on your new tentative date.

Guests will likely be understanding about the need to postpone, Bergman said, and understand that some things are beyond your control.

This was McGuire’s experience, as she said all her loved ones are supportive of her decision to move her date.

“Everyone was really empathetic and understanding, which is nice,” she said.

“For right now, we’re just thankful everyone is healthy and safe and we know that next year’s celebration will be worth the wait.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness.

People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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