While Covid-19 saw the postponement or cancellation of many wedding plans amidst stay-at-home orders, social distancing and safe-practices guidelines for hospitality venues, other hopeful couples and creative business owners had faith that love would find a way.
When our feature story couple, Amber Whiteside and Eli Murphy, got engaged in February of 2019, they had no idea their plans for August 2020 would be in jeopardy just months before the big day. “By mid-March, I was very nervous watching all the updates on shutdowns,” Amber recalls, “but I was determined to get married on August 29—and we did.” The Whiteside/Murphy wedding went on almost as planned at Benedict’s Plantation with the only difference being a guest count of 150 rather than 200. “The venue had to follow state guidelines of half capacity which was 150. Luckily, the RSVPs showed that just enough people declined out of caution to meet that limit.”
Carter Plantation Events Director Lauren Sadler also found ways to make wedding dreams come true at the sprawling golf course community and venue in Springfield that offers many alternatives to safely accommodate guests. “We have a lot to offer with multiple venues for ceremonies and receptions. Brides can customize their event with all our options. With distancing and capacity concerns, outdoor ceremonies are popular in our two courtyards and under the oaks of the Carter house. We also have indoor ceremonies in our atrium or ballroom. The atrium has an outdoor feel with walls of windows that can open, but it’s climate-controlled making it perfect for any weather. Our main ballroom has removable walls so if it’s a smaller wedding, they can close off part of it, or for those concerned about distancing, we can open it up to provide plenty of room.” Lauren also says that they address food service concerns by having masked and gloved servers rather than an open buffet.
With one wedding a weekend at Carter Plantation the norm, Lauren says she experienced an unexpected change in booking numbers. She explains that, at first, wedding parties simply rescheduled their dates. “We only had one couple cancel, opting for a small gathering in their back yard – and we were happy to return their deposit. The postponed weddings began rescheduling in June, so now we’re busier than ever with those that were pushed back and ones already on the books.” With ample room to accommodate multiple events in a weekend, Lauren is also booking weddings with the shortest lead times she’s ever seen. “Even with guest capacity cut and a ban on live music, couples just want to get it done. When they ask for October or November, I no longer assume it’s for 2021—they mean now.” Throughout the uncertainty, Lauren has reassured clients that there’s not a single deposit they’ve kept due to cancellation, understanding that circumstances change from week to week. “The deposit holds their date, but if there’s any interruption, it will be returned. That’s the scariest thing—the risk of losing that money, and we don’t want that to be the focus. We just want happy couples to enjoy beautiful and fun celebrations that focus on family, friends and an outpouring of love.”
Not everyone is maintaining business-almost-as-usual as it relates to the wedding industry during the pandemic, though. Samantha Bates of Especially For You Florist, which serves the Northshore, New Orleans and surrounding areas, says she had about 42 weddings affected during the months of shutdowns and restrictions, but that some brides found a silver lining. “For weddings that had to be canceled at the last minute, the girls donated their flowers to nursing homes. Those generous acts even caught the attention of Better Homes and Gardens. Some postponed their entire event, others had a small ceremony and rescheduled their reception until next year, but only maybe two canceled everything outright. I’m looking forward to making those postponed events even more special than we originally planned.”
Photographer Steve Randon says wedding inquiries have been almost non-existent during the pandemic with any existing bookings postponed until 2021. He too, though, has found an upside. “I think once COVID is under control there will be an avalanche of bridal business. Luckily, I didn’t have to photograph with restrictions requiring me to wear a mask—that wouldn’t have been nice. I was able to shoot some engagement sessions. One couple even wore masks for a few shots just for a future historical image.”
While there are mixed reports of weddings happening as planned, the success rate for uninterrupted honeymoons seems much lower. With international travel all but nonexistent and air travel limited, grand nuptial getaways have given way to shorter, closer-to-home options. As for our feature couple, Amber and Eli, they settled for a quick trip to Ft. Lauderdale and Miami after having to cancel two other trips—first, a cruise to Mexico and then a stay at a Cancun resort. Grateful to have successfully had their wedding, they happily look forward to rescheduling their vacation to Cancun for their first anniversary.