In March, the world stopped spinning. Whiteout stretched across plans etched in Sharpie, erasing any trace of permanency. Saturdays that were once consumed with baseball games, spring concerts, and weddings quickly became a part of the endless succession of unidentifiable yesterdays. Within this cycle of yesterdays, came the forbearance of plans. For brides-to-be, this meant pressing pause on wedding planning, cake testing, dress shopping, and, for those with spring weddings, withholding the words “I do” in the presence of family and friends.
However, the brides were not the only ones affected by the rapid turn of events. Photographers, wedding planners, and event coordinators were left without an income nor feasible alternative under the ordinances enacted by the statewide lockdown. However, as soon as restrictions began to loosen their restraints and small gatherings were able to be held, those instrumental in the wedding industry took their creative skills to the next level and embraced a “new normal.”
While everyone had to learn to adapt quickly and take on various new roles, Karla Collins of Pound Photography was thrown into the pandemic holding on to seven different ropes pulling her in seven different directions. These ropes, which were originally labeled mother, wife, photographer, and friend, now read teacher, counselor, and wedding planner. During the early days of the pandemic, the number of guests allowed at events fell below fifty, causing wedding day plans to completely unravel. Collins said, “In the beginning, it was a lot of calming people down and trying to come up with other options.” For one of Collins’ brides, she helped plan the wedding at the bride’s home. She watched other brides get creative and have destination weddings or serve sit-down dinners at the reception.
Apart from the creative aspect, Collins greatly enjoyed the intimacy of the COVID-19 wedding atmosphere. She said, “I feel like every bride got to actually visit and see everyone who came to their wedding. We weren’t rushing to do things at a certain time. We had more freedom to enjoy the day.” The hardest part for Collins was knowing that grandparents and those who were at high-risk for contracting the virus were not able to attend. Therefore, she made sure the bride received a few pictures the night of the wedding to share with friends and family who were unable to participate in the day’s events. As brides moved their spring and summer weddings to the fall and winter months, Collins’ schedule lightened, and she was able to participate in smaller weddings that had not originally been on her calendar.
Unfortunately, not every one in the wedding industry was able to take on more during this pandemic season. Old Capitol Inn, a prominent event site and wedding venue in the Jackson area, had to close its wooden doors for the first three months of the pandemic. Since roughly 80% of their income stems from events, this tough decision was made with the health and safety of their patrons in mind. As quarantine came to a close, the red-brick building once again began to shed light onto North State Street. Since then, Mende Alford, event coordinator at Old Capitol Inn, and her team have hosted more outdoor weddings than ever before to create a more inclusive and socially-distant atmosphere. Due to the layout of Old Capitol Inn, brides can host their guests in both indoor and outdoor settings, which gives guests the option of remaining outdoors if they do not feel comfortable being in a populated, indoor environment. Alford and her staff are abiding by COVID-19 guidelines and are making every effort to prioritize safety. One of the ways her staff has adapted to the new normal is by providing hand sanitizer stations throughout the venue. Additionally, Alford has her staff members serving guests food and drinks rather than letting the guests serve themselves.
While many people were let go of their jobs due to the coronavirus, Julia Putt of Fresh Cut Catering and Floral was fortunate enough to have to hire additional staff members to meet safety guidelines in regard to food distribution. Outside of team’s usual wedding catering, venue hosting, and event planning activities, which were limited due to COVID-19 restrictions, they sold and delivered catered meals to those living in the Jackson-metro area. While the wedding industry was slow during the spring and summer months, it quickly gained momentum, creating a busy fall for Fresh Cut. For Putt, the biggest adjustment during the pandemic was creating plans on-the-go. Nevertheless, Putt said, “We were always optimistic. It was never our decision to not plan their wedding. It was theirs.” With the bride at the forefront of every decision made, Putt made certain that a covid wedding was equally as special as any other wedding.
Wedding planner Crisler Boone keeps the same values in mind when working with her brides. “This is one of the most exciting – and emotional – times in these girls’ lives, and I wish I could tell them what we’ll be able to do at their wedding, but I can’t. What I can do is guide them and their families through the planning process, holding hands and reassuring them that whatever the situation is at that time, we have a plan,” said Boone. Thankfully, COVID-19 didn’t take away her favorite part of the wedding planning process—getting to know the bride, groom, and their families. For Boone, even though she and her brides were in the midst of uncertainty, COVID-19 created a cherished atmosphere of intimacy.
Whether brides walk down the aisle of a church, backyard, or living room this year, the promise of marriage remains the same. Although hand sanitizer may be ever-present, it does not mean that brides have to wait to walk hand in hand with their groom. Collins, Alford, Putt, Boone, and countless others in the wedding industry are thinking outside of the realm of tiered cakes and floral displays to embrace an ever-evolving “normal” that prioritizes safety while fulfilling the promise of happily-ever-after.