For the last 12 months, Brian has been carefully planning his wedding with his fiancé, Allison. The ceremony, in question, will be held at a hotel venue on Long Island, New York this coming May. Now, amid concerns of safety and logistics, the couple is deciding whether or not to cancel their wedding, as well as honeymoon, in the wake of the spread of the coronavirus.
“We were about to have our final meeting with the venue this week,” he said over the phone. “And we were supposed to leave for Disney World and on a Disney cruise the day after the wedding—you always prepare for the worst and hope for the best, but nobody can prepare for something like this.”
As a result of concerns surrounding the coronavirus, many couples are reconsidering their wedding arrangements last-minute. For some, it might mean changing the date or venue. For others, it might mean canceling their wedding indefinitely.
Konnor Fulk, who is planning a wedding at the end of March in Virginia, said eight attendees had canceled their RSVPs in the last day, alone. If more cancel, he and his fiancé, Amanda, would be forced to change their plans and risk losing out on nonrefundable deposits. “It’s one day in our lives [that] we’ve spent a year and a half of constant discussion over and it can be ruined by something that is completely out of our control,” he said. “There’s nothing we can do to fix this.”
Megan Hiltbrand, a New York-based wedding planner who organizes 30 weddings a year on average, said more than half of the couples she’s working with this year have expressed similar anxiety about the news as it relates to their wedding plans. “There’s some panic,” she said over the phone. “People are having a hard time moving through the process because, universally, there’s a huge question mark for all of us.”
Vendors in the wedding business are also affected by these changes as clients cancel or otherwise make alternative arrangements. According to Chris Palliser of Scott’s Flowers NYC, several weddings planned for March and April had already canceled their floral arrangements in the last two weeks; overall, he predicts a 60 percent drop in events for the spring. “It’s going to be a rocky road for a few weeks here,” he said in an email. “My personal thoughts are that small businesses are going to be walking a tightrope here for the foreseeable future.”
For couples, having wedding cancelation insurance isn’t a guaranteed safety net, either. Some insurance policies might only payout in circumstances like extreme weather or illness. “We’re in a strange limbo,” Hiltbrand said. “If a government issues a shutdown or a blanket ban on any large gatherings, maybe [cancelation] clauses might be enacted, but if it’s just at the discretion of the couple, that might not be covered for the most part.”
Going forward, the biggest concern for Hiltbrand, logistically, is keeping a close eye on contracts and their cancelation policies, in particular. “Vendors are just citizens trying to make informed decisions as well,” she explained. “It’s about having a frank discussion about their comfort level, your comfort level, and coming up with a game plan that everyone can agree to.” For now, no couple she’s working with has canceled a ceremony outright. She said for the foreseeable future, it’s “business as usual.”
For his wedding this Saturday, James Dennin, a New York-based writer, said he was feeling “shifting anxieties” about the news. “We’ve had a few people cancel,” he explained over the phone, “usually older people and people who were already sick.” He said they’ve moved the wedding from a small, intimate chapel that would fit 100 people to a cathedral that seats 5000 and eliminated parts of the church service which might involve direct contact among guests.
In a message, Brian said he’s currently discussing cancelation options with his fiancé and her family with regard to his wedding on Long Island; he said several vendors were willing to work with them as the news and events progress, and that they might hold a smaller ceremony instead—a “worst-case scenario,” he called it.
“But there are lots of other people that are in worse situations than she and I.”
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