Is Your Dream Wedding Even Possible Anymore?

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When my fiancé got down on one knee and asked me to marry him on March 29, 2019, the possibility that a worldwide pandemic would ruin our wedding plans was not even something that came close to entering my mind. We have the sort of crazy-in-love relationship I thought I would only experience in fiction, yet we are two strangely practical lovebirds. Even though we both knew we wanted to get married after mere weeks of being together, we waited for two years to move in together and then another two years to get engaged. So, it made perfect sense that we would wait another two years to get married — almost two and a half years, in fact, in September 2021.

As the owner of some very hefty debt following medical issues that took the better part of a decade to even somewhat resolve, I knew I didn’t want to pass that debt onto my fiancé. We also knew we didn’t want to rush when planning our wedding. We wanted to be able to actually enjoy our engagement, the only time we would be fiancés. 2021 seemed like a lifetime away and we could very leisurely plan our nuptials.

Is the wedding I have been planning in my head ever since I was a little girl even possible anymore?

When I emailed our venue of choice on March 5, I felt ahead of the game. We would lock in the details and then I would drop off a deposit by the end of the month. It would all be so easy, I thought. That is, until 10 days later when my venue was forced to shut down, unsure of when they would reopen, if ever. Along with the caterers we were vetting and florists we were hoping to contact, pretty much every facet of the wedding industry was shut down or on hold.

The effect the pandemic has had on the wedding industry, the vendors that rely on this much-needed business, especially in the summer, is catastrophic. A once multimillion-dollar industry has come to a crashing halt in a matter of weeks. Many vendors had already taken nonrefundable deposits, so even if they do move the events to next year, they will only be receiving half of the pay they normally would have, having already spent the deposit out of necessity this year. This means many of these people will not be able to meet their usual income for at least two years if not more. If ever. 

I know any damage my wedding plans have taken pale in comparison to the people who have lost their livelihoods in a matter of days. But, since it’s happening to me and many other would-be brides, you may be curious what it’s like trying to plan a wedding during a pandemic.

No Timetable for Return

First of all, we completely halted any wedding planning. We couldn’t communicate with our venue, so we couldn’t exactly confirm the date. We couldn’t vet any restaurants, caterers, florists, DJs — many of whom were unsure whether they would still be open come 2021. And, it quite frankly just seemed kind of callous to even try during the early days of the pandemic, as shell-shocked as we all were.

As the two-week quarantine stretched into months, we began to realize that we had no idea what the real timeline of COVID-19 was going to be. Until there was a safe and proven vaccine readily available worldwide, we were not going to be able to have the wedding we always pictured. With my family scattered all over the world, there was no telling when it would be possible to herd everyone we loved into one tight space. Even planning a wedding for 2021 seemed too optimistic with how little we knew, so how could we confidently plan a massive gathering for then?

But then, one of my fiancé’s closest friends — someone he wants in his wedding party — received a Save the Date for our date. In September 2021. Sent at the height of the pandemic. I mean, c’mon — slow your roll. I had no idea how this person could still be planning their wedding with all of the shutdowns happening, never mind having the confidence to tell others to save the date. We’re learning new things about COVID-19 almost every hour, I thought. We have no idea how the world will look over a year from now! Wait … should I be planning my wedding, too?

So now, spurred and somewhat shamed by a fellow would-be bride, I’m back to trying to slowly plan my wedding. My venue has reopened and has graciously accepted our deposit to save our wedding date, with the caveat that if a vaccine isn’t available worldwide, we can push the day if necessary without penalty. We are planning and making decisions before we tentatively reach out to the vendors we need. We’re even working on our own Save the Dates, with the knowledge that, at any given moment, our date may need to change.

But my fiancé and I have been lucky. We had no idea what a fateful and fruitful decision we were making when we decided to schedule our wedding for 2021 and not 2020. So many happy couples have seen a day they were looking forward to with their whole hearts turn into a stress-filled beast of a decision. Should we delay? Or should we alter the wedding to accommodate for the necessities of a pandemic? These are questions many almost-betrothed twosomes are having to ask.

Should we delay? Or should we alter the wedding to accommodate for the necessities of a pandemic? These are questions many almost-betrothed twosomes are having to ask.

Last year, two of my best friends got engaged as well (not to each other). And, both of these friends decided to schedule their weddings for 2020. On the same day. This was not good news to me. Devastated at the idea of missing one of my best friend’s weddings, I kept praying for a way where I would be able to attend both events. So … uh … sorry, guys. I think I may have prayed too hard? My bad.

Now, both couples have been faced with the same decision of what to do about their upcoming September nuptials. And both couples have taken different, yet equally valid, paths. One couple has decided to delay their wedding until 2021 in order to maintain the same plan and picture they had for their wedding day. 

The other couple has decided to move forward with their wedding, albeit with a much, much smaller guest list. Immediate family and best friends are invited sans plus ones, and we all have to either quarantine for two weeks or get tested for COVID prior to the wedding. Additionally, we all have to wear masks and socially distance the whole time, a small price to be there for one of your best friends on such a happy and momentous occasion, if you ask me. The couple hopes to have a wedding reception a year after the ceremony, the same wedding reception they had planned for initially. 

Neither of these decisions is an enviable one. Having to delay bonding yourself to the person you love even by just a few months is a hard decision to make. You have a new anniversary to think about and potentially some plans that you may feel need to be delayed as well, such as starting a family. And, you also have the anxiety of not quite knowing whether your new date will fare better than the old one. 

Changing your wedding completely to still get married on your planned date is also an extremely tough decision. There is no way to safely have all of the people you planned to have at your wedding this way. No bride ever dreamed of wearing a mask to match her dress on her wedding day. And, even if you do have the reception you always wanted at a later date, will people still take it as seriously as they would have taken your wedding? Will they still make the effort to travel to be there? Will it still feel as special?

While these are very privileged problems to have at a time when people have faced significantly worse losses, there are many people around us who are facing these very real decisions. What was once the prospective happiest day of their lives has all kinds of asterisks attached. And, they have every right to feel this loss. None of us saw this coming.

I’m left with the question: Will the wedding industry and, more importantly, the people behind it even be able to outlast the pandemic? It’s highly unlikely the majority of those in the wedding industry will be able to make a living without enduring some sort of career pivot. So, what does that mean for the wedding industry itself? Will weddings look different from here on out? Is the wedding I have been planning in my head ever since I was a little girl even possible anymore?

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