In the midst of a global pandemic, it feels selfish to complain about wedding plans going down the drain. That’s why many brides and grooms are suffering in silence. Weddings are getting cancelled and postponed for unforeseen future dates, as couples live in limbo, unsure of what to do.
At the same time, businesses are going bankrupt. People are losing their jobs. Loved ones are getting sick and U.S. death tolls are continuing to rise. Brides and grooms know there are bigger problems in the world than a party, so they’re resisting the urge to share about their struggle.
For that, they deserve acknowledgement. They deserve credit for putting their thoughts and feelings aside, and they deserve our sympathy for all they’re going through. Having your wedding plans toppled upside down due to a global pandemic is difficult logistically, emotionally, and financially.
In the wedding industry, things are a mess and there’s no easy way out.
Weddings Aren’t Easy to Plan
According to The Knot, which serves 15 countries, nearly 350,000 U.S. weddings and more than 600,000 international weddings were set to take place in April and May alone. The COVID-19 crisis will likely go well beyond that, presenting brides and grooms a particularly difficult decision: Tie the knot on their chosen date with a pastor or other officiant and no one else, or postpone for months, if not more than a year.
The former option has its obvious downsides, while the latter is more complicated than it sounds. Couples who are willing to wait face another question: At what date is it safe to reschedule for? Many spring couples have already chosen late summer or fall. But what happens if by then, COVID-19 still isn’t contained? Will they have to go through this all over again?
Then there are couples with aging family members, or folks who are already sick. Are they being selfish by planning any sort of social gathering, even if the risks are lower? On the flip side, will they be around if the wedding is pushed any longer?
There are also couples who want to start a family, and are well aware of the biological clock. Delaying their timeline for having children isn’t ideal, but then again, neither is getting pregnant in this uncertain environment.
Then there are destination brides, who asked everyone to travel internationally for their big day. Even if coronavirus gets contained in the United States, when is it safe to ask people to travel abroad again?
Finally, there are brides and grooms who have lost their jobs because of the crisis. Unlike a few weeks before, these couples can no longer afford to finance their elaborate celebration.
I could go on, but you get the point. Brides and grooms are in a difficult spot. Worse, their situations have a ripple effect.
It’s Hard for the Vendors, Too
If one wedding goes down the drain, so does the venue, the caterer, the photographer, the hair and makeup artists, and the florist, just to name a few. According to Wedding Wire, the average couple hires 14 vendors for their big day. Many of these are small businesses, operating on thin margins.
They have their own bills to pay and families to support. While vendors are doing their best to work with couples on rescheduling, in some cases, it’s not possible. Couples are finding the church might be available on the first Saturday of November, but the photographer is not.
In this case, is the photographer supposed to give the couple their deposit back? What if that photographer already took pictures for the couple’s engagement shoot, and declined other business for a June wedding the couple technically could have held?
Some brides and grooms who are selflessly choosing to cancel the big celebration they had planned and get married in a private ceremony are getting stuck paying thousands of dollars as deposits they can’t get back. That’s not necessarily to fault vendors, who are doing their best to work things out. But it’s not the fault of the bride and groom, either. It’s nobody’s fault but COVID-19. But COVID-19 can’t pay for these expensive deposits.
Will Weddings Ever Be the Same?
While there are no easy answers, there is support. On Facebook, a private group called Wedding Disaster Support: COVID-19 has nearly 3,000 members. Just when you think you’ve read the most depressing story, you learn another couple has it worse. Already, October brides are asking if they should reschedule.
It’s encouraging to see brides support each other and offer help. These are strangers who’ve never met. While they don’t have the answers yet, they’re at least finding comfort in not being alone. Someone else understands their struggle.
Our country is undergoing a national trauma. Even when we defeat this invisible enemy, social gatherings won’t be the same. At weddings we cram into churches, sip champagne, sweat on dance floors, and share all sorts of love and hugs. While the country will learn to have fun again, coronavirus will be ingrained in the back of our heads.
The best we can do is stay positive, and try to find the silver linings. For COVID-19, that means reminding ourselves that it’s not the wedding, but the marriage that matters.
Brides and grooms can get married anywhere. Already, they’re tying the knot in the streets, in grocery stores, and even online. They know that if it comes to it, they can get married by a priest in a parking lot.
Still, they have a right to grieve the celebration they were supposed to have, and the hundreds, if not thousands of dollars they’ve now lost. So please, if you know someone in this situation, spare them the lecture.
Instead, encourage them with this: We see you. We feel for you. And one way or another, we’ll celebrate you. When we do, your celebration will be far more meaningful than any wedding we’ve attended before. It will be far more special. Your marriage will have conquered coronavirus, and serve as an important reminder about what matters. Above all, that’s love.