Brides forced to postpone nuptials as virus spreads

The day Lauren Hinkle and fiancé Chris Clay officially told friends and family their wedding would be postponed due to COVID-19, they received the finishing touches in the mail — all with their original April date.

A few weeks ago, Lauren Hinkle was worried her wedding dress might not make it in time for her April wedding. This week, though, Ms. Hinkle — and brides across the state — are postponing their nuptials as COVID-19 forces large-scale events to halt.

“We have family members coming from all over and flying in. With a lot of our guests being over the age of 60, we just realized it’s not safe for people,” Ms. Hinkle, of Smyrna, said. “A lot of guests had reached out feeling concerned. We just didn’t want to be selfish.”

With cases of COVID-19 on the rise in Delaware Gov. John Carney declared a state of emergency last week calling for the cancellation of non-essential gatherings of at least 100 individuals, including weddings. He beefed that up in the following days until eventually, residents were asked to stay at home except for essential trips for food, medicine and health care. A public health emergency was declared Monday and all schools are closed until May 15.

Ms. Hinkle’s wedding was set to be near Chestertown, Maryland, which is also under a state of emergency.

Ms. Hinkle said she reached out to the venue on Friday, March 13. On the following Monday, she was told that they could still have the wedding at this point, “but we have over 200 guests and so within the near future she foresaw it not being able to happen,” she said.

Ms. Hinkle said, according to the venue, other couples slated for April and May weddings had already called to see about rescheduling, so Ms. Hinkle did the same. She and her fiancé, Chris Clay, are looking to tie the knot in October now, on Halloween.

“At the end of the day we realized we’d have to celebrate without a lot of important people and we just didn’t want that to happen,” she said.

After planning her wedding for more than two years, Dover resident Holly Moore never anticipated having to postpone it.

Originally scheduled for March 28, Ms. Moore’s wedding is now set for the end of May at her Delaware venue.

“We had family members and friends that were not comfortable coming anymore and we really wanted them to be there,” she said, noting that it was the couple’s decision to pick a new date.

When it came to reaching out to vendors to reschedule, she said it was fairly easy, though she has heard that others are facing more difficulties.

“We actually were very, very lucky that all of our vendors were free that day that we chose,” she said.

The couple’s families have likewise been supportive.

“They had been trying to help us for the last week to make a decision anyway,” she said. “They told us, no matter what we decided to do, that they would have our backs and support us in our decision.”

Elizabeth Butterly, who is originally from Milford, was set to get married in the Dominican Republic, where her fiancé, Leandro Castillo, is from. She said she was likewise forced to postpone her date.

“At first the decision was due to outside influences because no foreigners would be able to come, but now we do not even have a choice in the matter,” she wrote in an email. “Right after the U.S. canceled all flights to and from Europe, the [Dominican Republic] did too.”

Similar to how many governments are reacting, she said the Dominican Republic has placed restrictions on the island beginning last week, which included closing all businesses except supermarkets, restaurants to go, some banks and gas stations.

At first, Ms. Butterly thought they could have a Domincan-style-party — consisting, she said, of cooking “a whole pig, sancocho (Dominican stew), everyone bring[ing] their own drinks,” which she said would be a “very casual style of wedding.”

But as the country faced tough restrictions due to the virus, the couple decided to get married through the court and have a ceremony later. That came with its own difficulties.

“I also want to ensure the marriage paperwork is done properly due to immigration so we were going to get married in the court before the wedding anyway,” she said last week. “We just got the paperwork for our marriage from our lawyer yesterday, but now I think the courts are closed for at least two weeks so we will see when we can actually get married.”

The couple got engaged in October, and they elected an April 4 date to be married relatively quickly for immigration reasons, Ms. Butterly said.

“My fiancé is Dominican so he is unable to come to the U.S. without a visa even just to visit,” she said, adding they had been denied four times. “They basically said unless we are engaged or married, he will not get into the U.S.”

When she reached out to her venue, she said her $500 deposit is nonrefundable, and the couple is deciding if they will reschedule the wedding at the same venue.

“I think venues are easier to obtain here than in the U.S. so that is at least easier for us,” she added.

Right now, they have a tentative date rescheduled for November.

“But a lot can change between now and then,” she said.

The three couples already have their honeymoons planned.

Ms. Hinkle, a teacher, said they were waiting until July for their trip to Iceland. They haven’t yet decided if they’ll proceed with the trip, she said.

“We’re just going to be doing things out of order,” she said, laughing.

Ms. Moore’s honeymoon is scheduled for November, which (“knock on wood,” she added) hasn’t been affected.

For Ms. Butterly, their honeymoon, scheduled for April, was impacted by the restrictions.

Back in the U.S., cancellations of weddings affect more than just the couples and their families — it touches venues, caterers, photographers and more.

At Maple Dale Country Club in Dover, the venue has been reaching out to couples to tell them the club is closed, per the governor’s order.

“We had 24 weddings booked for the season. If dates are available, they’re rescheduling for those dates,” said Chris Aulita, manager for the country club. “If they’re not available, that will be up to them.”

Two weddings were coming up for the country club, Mr. Aulita said. He noted that if the couples decide to reschedule, their deposit stands. If they decide not to reschedule at Maple Dale, the venue will refund their deposit.

“It’s uncharted territory; it’s new to everyone,” he said. “All you can do is try to work with the brides and hopefully come to a great conclusion on rescheduling.”

Monique Walker of Sweets & Treats in Dover has two wedding cakes that will now hit the oven a little later.

One wedding was scheduled for the weekend of March 20 and the other for early April. Ms. Walker is working with the couples to reschedule, and said the change wasn’t too big of an impact for her business.

She’s currently facing larger difficulties, with Gov. Carney’s mandate that restaurants and other hospitality establishments use take-out and delivery methods only.

“I’ll do my best to accommodate [the couples], because this is supposed to be a special day for them,” she said.

Ms. Hinkle acknowledged that vendors throughout the state are feeling the impact on their livelihood.

“I’m just happy all of the vendors are really reaching out and we’re trying to do everything we can because that’s their livelihood, too,” she said. “I feel badly that most of them, for the month of April and maybe May, they’re going to be losing that income.”

With all of their deposits paid, she hopes that will help during this time of uncertainty.

“Between our venue and our vendors, we were very lucky and grateful that they were all so flexible and understanding,” Ms. Moore said.


Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage

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