Couples Adapt as Coronavirus Scrambles Wedding Plans

Couples are dealing with many factors, including the health of their loved ones

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Early spring usually marks the start of wedding season, but the global spread of the coronavirus has forced couples around the country to make drastic decisions about their nuptials.

With the Trump administration telling Americans to avoid groups of more than 10 people and the elderly to stay home, wedding planning has been thrown into chaos.

Robert Pierce and Sara Green were originally planning to travel from Houston to the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania, to get married in April, but they made the decision to reschedule after seeing a CDC warning Sunday night.

"We knew it was up, we had to do it," he said.

Most couples face stress as they move toward their wedding day, but making changes during a pandemic adds another layer.

"Over the last two weeks we kind of got the feelings that things were going to have to be pushed, we’d already started reaching out to our guests and talking to our venue," Pierce said.

Thankfully for Pierce and Green, they had a month to change their plans, let guests rearrange their travel and rebook their venue. The couple acted quickly and was able to move the event to October without incident or extra costs. 

"The earlier the better, don’t wait, rebook," Pierce said. "Everyone else is scrambling to do this...It’s terrible for everybody, but we’re all kind of in it together."

Colleen Corbitt and fiancé Shawn Ferris.
Bill Irwin, Irwin Photographics
Colleen Corbett and fiancé Shawn Ferris.

Colleen Corbett got engaged to Shawn Ferris while on vacation in Costa Rica.

The couple planned their wedding for nearly two years, and it was set for March 21, in Brooksville, Florida, where they would be surrounded by 100 friends and relatives. Corbett is from Maine, so most of the guests would be traveling from New England. Cancellations started to roll in the weekend before, as Florida was declared a high-risk travel state.

"As I checked my emails it was cancellation after cancellation, including the family friend that was going to perform our ceremony and my own sister, who were both told by their jobs in Maine that if they came to Florida they would have to be on unpaid leave for 14 days following the trip to quarantine themselves before they could return to work," Corbett said.

The decision to postpone, for both couples, was made in consideration of high-risk family members.

Corbett was able to rebook her venue, for the one Saturday they had available this year, with no financial penalty, her vendors could accommodate the date without extra costs, and guests were issued travel vouchers for the canceled flights.

"My family friend that was supposed to ordain us even said 'It’s for the best. On your wedding day you want all the attention to be on you, not the guy coughing in the third row,'" she said.

With the stress of wedding planning amplified this year, the wedding industry is accommodating changes. Wedding Wire has launched a 24-hour hotline to help couples answer any last-minute questions about how to shift their plans.

A study by The Knot indicates that the average wedding in the U.S. costs around $33,900, and the wedding industry in the U.S. generates nearly $60 billion a year. Lottie Fowler with Grit and Gold Weddings in Dallas said the wedding industry has been preparing to handle changes.

"No one really had a manual for something like this, so we’ve been piecing it together as we walk through it," she said. "For my clients we identified everybody through the end of May and sent out a letter of concern…I recommended our clients look at Fridays and Sundays because the likelihood of getting all of our vendors on a new Saturday is next to none."

She told NBC people have to be proactive and move quickly to change things around, but there has been some financial loss for clients when it comes to either venues or catering being unavailable on the new dates.

"Our goal is to push it out far enough and not have them lose money when they can," she said.

Contact Us