While the coronavirus (COVID-19) shuts down businesses and events across the country, there are those who have had one of the biggest days of their lives—their wedding day—completely altered.
“These couples have been planning for at least a year or more and have put in a lot of time and their finances,” said Jessica Aiken, owner of the Wedding Company of Williamsburg. “We have to remember this is someone’s biggest day of their life, people should understand this is a big deal.”
As a wedding planner in the area, Aiken said she has been very busy during the coronavirus outbreak as many of her clients panic about how their big day will be impacted, or if it should happen at all.
Lauren LaBelle, public relations manager with the international wedding planning website The Knot, said the recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to postpone events larger than 50 people is impacting hundreds of thousands of weddings across the country and internationally.
“It’s okay for couples to feel disappointed or upset and to acknowledge their feelings and understand they are valid,” Kristen Maxwell Cooper, editor in chief of The Knot, said. “We encourage couples to voice them to us, to their partner or a close friend who can help with the coping process.”
As a result, The Knot and WeddingWire, a wedding planning website, partnered to launch a 24/7 hotline for couples to ask questions about their weddings during this time of isolation.
LaBelle added that the couple’s safety and the safety of their guests should be top priority now that the CDC is encouraging people to postpone events with more than 10 people.
Aiken said this is a difficult time for those getting married because even if they decide to reschedule their wedding, it might be difficult to find dates and venues for 2021 because they’re already being booked by other couples.
“For those couples that are considering postponement or cancellation, they’re in a tough situation,” she said. “If they pick another day, it’s not easy, they’ll have to make sure every vendor involved is available for the new date.”
The Williamsburg Winery, a popular wedding destination in the area, is also complying with the order from Gov. Ralph Northam that banned gatherings of more than 10 people, said Patrick Duffler II, president of the winery. The venue has been discussing postponements and cancellations with its clients in recent days.
“Obviously we are as concerned about the current situation as everyone else,” he said. “Any large gathering like a wedding is just not a responsible thing to do right now.”
Aiken said she is having cancellations as far out as June or May. One of her clients whose wedding was scheduled for April already had their venue cancel on them.
After talking to other wedding planners in the area, she said many are having clients cancel or postpone their big days to as far out as spring and fall of 2021.
Aiken said her business could potentially lose approximately $20,000 in the next few months if weddings continually have to be canceled.
“It’s a really tough position to be in but I’m hopeful that in a couple of weeks, we will see some relief in all this,” she said.
Duffler said weddings make up about 10 percent of Williamsburg Winery’s gross income so the coronavirus cancellations are expected to make a decent financial impact on the business.
It’s a hard loss for caterers and vendors as well but the business community involved in making the weddings happen have come together to support the couples and each other.
The winery is looking at canceling public weekend events, or rescheduling them for weekdays, later in the season in order to open available days for couples they already have contracts with.
Aiken said there is more flexibility for cancellations and rescheduling among the vendors, wedding planners and caterers.
“I do foresee when acts of God happen, everyone ramps up to be the best team to support the couple,” she said. “I think all of us are in it to make the best day we can and allocate those funds the best way we know how.”
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