On March 14, Madison resident Emma Liston went in for her final wedding dress fitting ahead of the “big day” marked on the calendar for April 4, when she would marry Austin Draughn.
On a day that is typically celebrated with champagne and happy tears, Liston was beginning to get nervous about whether her wedding would be able to happen in the coming weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the nation.
By March 16, Liston said everything had changed. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) had issued guidelines calling for no gatherings of people in crowds of 50 or more.
“So, we made the decision to reschedule,” Liston said. Now, the previously planned spring wedding will take place on October 10 this year, with aesthetic changes of course to fit the season.
After consulting with her wedding planner, Kendall Poole Event Planning, and deciding on the new date, Liston said they were able to secure all of her original vendors.
Now, they have reached out to some of the guests with an announcement over social media that the date has been changed. Liston said they will also send out another round of invitations with the new date on them.
Luckily, they were able to keep the same order of events and times on the day of the wedding, so while the date has changed, their initial plan remains the same.
“It has been one of the most painless things,” Liston said, as they made the decision to reschedule early on.
However, not all brides may be so lucky.
Fears include whether photographers, caterers and other vendors will be available on the new wedding date and concerns over loss of deposits if they are forced to reschedule.
And, if they make the decision to scale back the guest list, changes to all other aspects of the wedding must change as well, from catering to photography. Not to mention, how do you decide who still makes the cut for the guest list?
Elizabeth Upchurch, owner of Fresh Ink, said many of the clients she designed wedding invitations for ceremonies scheduled for
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the coming weeks are now turning to her for help with mail outs announcing cancellations or postponed festivities.
Some are even scaling back their guest lists and moving ahead with plans.
“I think that a lot of people are reacting in the best way possible for them, whether that means rescheduling or scaling back to a smaller event,” Upchurch said.
Upchurch said she has also seen some of her clients having a small, intimate ceremony with immediate family members and postponing the large reception until later on.
“It has just depended on the client,” Upchurch said, particularly with clients postponing out of town weddings. “And those with more local guests have been more likely to continue with a scaled back event.”
“It really hit home with this area (last) week,” Upchurch added. “Even though it has kind of been on all of our radars for a few weeks, the latest CDC guidelines have affected some of our clients.”
Most of her clients with events planned for June or later are optimistic about keeping their original plans. However, those with events planned through the end of May are considering their options and planning to make other arrangements.
Photographer Karla Pound is struggling with rescheduling wedding services through the end of April.
“I’ve been on the phone all day with either brides or their moms. It’s so heartbreaking,” Pound said last week, as the CDC recommended no gatherings of 50 or more people. “Most are having the issue of deciding to either have a small family wedding or to postpone.”
She has been trying to figure out alternate dates for four of those with weddings scheduled for the coming weeks, but she suggested those with May weddings to consider holding off on making a decision to reschedule at this time.
“It’s really hard to know what to do at this point,” Pound said. Some brides are even considering switching to a Friday night ceremony so that Pound can still shoot the event.
“Rescheduling is the hardest part,” she added, since most of her weekends are already booked.
On the other hand, brides who are scaling their events back to fit CDC guidelines for crowds so that they can keep their date, will need a smaller photography package, which could come with a smaller price tag. So, Pound is still feeling the effects of the coronavirus even for events that are still on.
Wedding planner Crisler Boone is working with six brides on rescheduling wedding festivities in March, April and May. She has three June brides waiting to make a decision on how to proceed.
“We have definitely been affected. It has been chaotic,” Boone said.
So far, she has had luck with rescheduling dates and transferring deposits for vendors to the new dates.
“Ideally you try to get a new date and move them. That’s generally what I’ve done is look at three possible dates, and I just call each vendor and ask if the date is available,” Boone said. “Then, you have to do what you did in the beginning, coordinate the caterer, florist, photographer, venue all for the new date.”
Boone said everyone with spring weddings scheduled is doing the same thing at the moment.
“It’s not as easy. And everybody is doing it at the same time,” Boone said. And now, they are not only planning around others who are trying to reschedule, but also those who have had summer and fall dates booked up for months.
“I am finding that with the vendors I deal with most often, it has been easy to plan a replacement date,” Boone said.
In addition to calling on vendors, she has been working with brides to figure out the best way to alert guests of the changes. One bride sent out postcards announcing that they will be having a private ceremony and that a save the date will be coming later with an announcement for the new reception date to celebrate their marriage.
Another bride has not yet sent invitations, so the couple is considering sending an insert with the original invitations requesting guests’ email addresses so that updates can be announced digitally in the event that they must cancel or reschedule.
Boone said, either way, no matter the date, the outcome will be the same: the couples will have their weddings and start their new lives together as husband and wife.