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Venues adapting to canceled, rescheduled weddings

For brides-to-be in the time of COVID-19, the pandemic has been less about social distancing and hand sanitizing, and more about putting your dreams on hold and postponing that special day.

According to Becky Yeagle, general manager at Herman & Luther’s, Montoursville, a wedding venue and caterer, brides are choosing to reschedule rather than cancel as a option.

“The brides still want to get married. …they’re just postponing to a later date. Some of our brides have opted to get married at their house with immediate family and then they’re going to have a larger celebration at the (Herman & Luther’s) barn at a later date,” Yeagle said.

She noted that about 25 percent of the brides seeking to have their wedding at Herman & Luther’s during the summer have chosen a date later this year while about 75 percent have changed the date to next year.

So how are the brides handling the stress of not only having to move their wedding date, but literally not knowing that if on the date they have chosen they might still not be able to have their event?

“All of us, whether you’re a bride, venue, a restaurant, a small business, or all concerned, it’s stressful for everybody,” Yeagle said.

“So, the brides had just been asking us a lot of questions and we’re answering them to the best of our ability,” she added.

Eric Winters, who with his wife, Anna, owns Farrington Place, also a wedding venue and caterer, shared the story of a bride whose wedding day was six days out when the governor shutdown non-essential businesses.

“We had a wedding scheduled that had been planned for a year and scheduled for the weekend that we got closed for COVID in March. They were absolutely phenomenal, they had great attitudes,” Winters said of the bride and groom.

“I felt so horrible. I’m like I know that you literally did the dress-fitting and you were ready to get married. That was so horrible, I felt so sad for them,” he said.

“They actually moved their wedding to the end of May back in March. We had no idea this was going to be what it was. Then they had to move their wedding again when April came and we realized it’s not going to be okay to do it,” Winters said.

He added that the couple finally found a date in the fall for their wedding.

“We’re praying that we don’t have to move it again,” he said.

For businesses that specialize in providing food and a venue for weddings, having the time when events can be scheduled curtailed can mean a huge loss of revenue.

For volunteer fire companies, this loss can be compounded by the loss of other functions, such as fund-raisers involving food which were not permitted during the shutdown.

According to Joseph Hopple, director of emergency services at the Old Lycoming Volunteer Fire Company, the fire company lost a major source of income when everything was completely cancelled because of the pandemic.

Hopple estimated as of last month, the fire company had lost about $7,500 in income due to the loss of multiple events, including wedding receptions.

One of the problems facing couples trying to plan a wedding in the time of a pandemic is, how many guests will be permitted to attend your nuptials and will the people who come even feel safe to attend.

Both Winters and Yeagles businesses offer outdoor venues, which can accommodate more guests, but even in the governor’s green phase there will be guidelines for social distancing and sanitizing of facilities.

And then there is the issue of so many brides choosing to move their weddings to next year, which creates a competition for dates with the brides who have rescheduled.

“We’ve had quite a few of our brides this year request to move into next year, which we have allowed. Of course, if this pandemic continues into June, July, August, or if the governor comes out and says these are the rules for your weddings this fall, it’s possible that more people could move into next year which would then cause a bit of a cluster for all the brides that normally would be getting married next year that are just starting their planning now,” he said.

“If I had any advice for 2021 brides, it would be, start looking now even though you’re 12 to 18 months out,” he stressed.

“You’re definitely putting two year worth of weddings into one year,” Yeagle agreed, although she added, “I think the new normal is going to be Friday and Sunday weddings also.”

“Friday weddings were becoming popular anyway. We were doing Friday weddings anyway, and they were a lot of fun. It was no different than a Saturday wedding feeling for any of us. They have those options,” she said.

Winters said he feels that brides will begin to take a look at their guest lists to try to trim them to accommodate whatever guidelines are given by the CDC.

“Most of our weddings are between 150 and 250 people. About 40 percent of our weddings, by the time the people invite 250 only about 80 percent of the people invited will come,” he said.

With the pandemic still around, he said he feels that even more people won’t show up.

“Especially the older folks that are very concerned about being exposed to a crowd of 100 or 150 people,” he stated. “They don’t want to take the risk.”

Then there are people who may not want to fly in from out of the area. Because of the pandemic, they may not have the funds or the desire to fly.

“I suspect the guest counts will be down significantly,” Winters said.

Yeagle said brides need to remember that even though the wedding might not be exactly what they had originally planned, it’s still going to happen.

“The most important thing is you still want to get married and you want your family and friends with you. So, if it’s not going to be this date, it’s going to be another date and it’s still going to be wonderful,” she said.

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