Pandemic Forces Wedding Planners to Adjust as Couples Wait to Tie the Knot

Both planners and couples are navigating new territory of rescheduling the big day.

DULUTH, Minn.- On a warm, sunny April day, many scenic outdoor spots in the Northland are normally packed with a bride, groom, and large crowd, gathered to witness the marriage. But just like other events, weddings now have to be drastically changed due to COVID-19.

“This is definitely not something you imagine, you know?” said bride-to-be, Meghan Hagedon. “You plan for–when you’re going to have a wedding up the shore–rain, snow.”

“But definitely not a global pandemic.”

Couples like Meghan and Brian Anderson have had this wrench thrown into their plans–a wrench they really can’t work around.

“Things have changed a lot,” Shelbi Benson, owner of Exclusive Events said.

“Obviously things have been really, really hard. The brides, the grooms, people have been panicking, people have been really trying to figure out: ‘what do we do next?'” she said.

Wedding planners in the Twin Ports have seen almost all of their weddings for this season pushed back, or cancelled.

“We have sat on the phone and cried with clients,” said Mary Carlson, owner and lead planner of Pure Events. “The number of conversations I’ve had where both of us are in tears.”

And that has had an impact for both parties. “Right now is when wedding season is really starting to ramp up, and to not have anything in the books is really strange,” Benson said.

“We are currently working for free,” said Carlson.

But for many couples, a lot more is riding on tying the knot–it is necessary for their way of life.

“For tax purposes, for some of my clients that are very religious and can’t live together,” Carlson said. “And for other clients who may get sick with COVID, and the person that they are closest with in the world may not legally be able to  make medical decisions for them if they are not married.”

Still couples like Hagedon and Anderson couldn’t depart with their dream of a summer wedding, surrounded by their friends and family.

“It was important  for us to have a summer wedding, or a wedding around summertime,” Meghan said.

However coordinating that meant waiting a whole year to tie the knot.

“When this thing first started, when we first started dealing with COVID-19, we all were thinking the summer season really wouldn’t be impacted,” said Carlson, the couple’s wedding planner. “And now we’re looking at all summer weddings and saying, ‘I don’t know.'”

The couple managed to swing it, but it involved an intense color-coded planning system, trying to find which vendors and venues could match the same date. “When you have all of your vendors picked out already and you’re trying to re-coordinate a date that matches everybody, it’s kinda chaos,” said Hagedon.

Postponing was easier for others. Michelle Patterson and her fiance Josh Engelsjerd discussed it heavily with Carlson, who urged them to push the wedding back. “We actually feel kind of fortunate that we made the call when we did,” Patterson said.

The two were able to talk it out with their vendors and decide before the flood of other reschedules. “We kind of proactively decided maybe a month ago. We had kind of been watching the news and everything was so up in the air,” she said.

And that way, they could have the full experience with their loved ones. “We have friends and family all over the country, so just kind of bringing people together is important for us,” said Engelsjerd.

Cutting down the guest list was not an option for Hagedorn and Anderson. “Who do you choose, y’know?” Brian said. “Is it ‘we’re going to invite Aunt Sally but Aunt Jane can’t come because you don’t make the cut?’ We didn’t want to get into that.”

However, when making adjustments, Benson advised couples not to feel forced to accommodate for a really big ceremony on the special day. “It’s about the couple.”

“It’s not always about the biggest cake, and the fanciest flowers, it’s about the couple itself and celebrating the love that they have for each other,” said the wedding planner.

Meanwhile, Carlson predicts that weddings will start becoming more intimate, as couples rethink having large crowds of distant relatives and friends.

“It’s going to make the main thing the main thing,” she said.

So for now, these couples are making the best of waiting to say, “I do.”

“A lot of it is making jokes and stuff,” Meghan said. “Like, I don’t have to fit into my wedding dress straight coming out of quarantine.”

“All we can do is laugh,” her fiance Brian said.

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