Couples are vowing not to let COVID-19 stand in the way of love — even if their vows at the altar are being delayed indefinitely, or almost entirely scaled back.
By Alyssa Morlacci | @alyssamorlacci
March 22, 2020
In February, Charlotte Fedun, 26, and her fiancé Aaron Foglio, 27, were in Tuscany tasting cakes. But, their trip would be cut short. On Feb. 27, the couple scrambled to board their flight back to the US just as Italy announced a nationwide lockdown, and President Trump banned incoming travel from the European country. All the while, they had to call friends and family to let them know their destination wedding was canceled due to the coronavirus crisis.
Here, Charlotte Fedun models a wedding gown, but the dress she planned on wearing when marrying fiancé Aaron Foglio won't debut down the aisle since the couple had to cancel their May destination wedding in Italy. PHOTO CREDIT: Molly Repetti
The couple planned to marry on May 27, 2020, two years after they first crossed paths at a café and Aaron penned in his journal that he’d met a “beautiful barista.” Now, after laying out $11,000 in deposits to the planner, caterer, photographer, and venue, the couple say that they will lose the majority of that money, and that vendors have so far only given them a few hundred dollars back. Meanwhile, the venue is threatening to keep Charlotte and Aaron's $5,000 deposit if the couple doesn't send the remaining balance due — $12,000 more — by March 27.
This has been an equal source of aggravation for the wedding's 50 guests, some of whom were planning to make the journey from countries as far afield as Taiwan and had explicitly planned their vacations to coincide the couple's nuptials. They won't be reimbursed for flights. “It’s frustrating nobody’s willing to have a conversation and be reasonable,” Aaron says.
The wedding industry, estimated to be worth $53 billion in the US, is yet another casualty of the coronavirus’ onslaught on American life. With the pandemic arriving at the outset of “wedding season,” COVID-19 is causing engaged couples to postpone their vows, with little clarity in sight of when their visions of married life may become a reality. What’s more, venues and vendors are already booked for the upcoming year, meaning couples will either have to wait, or trade their dream weddings for a visit to the courthouse—if it’s open.
“This is uncharted territory for couples and vendors because it’s just not a matter of, ‘Oh, is it going to rain that day? Do we have to cancel?’” says etiquette educator Karen Thomas.
Thomas says that now is the time for businesses to practice compassion, regardless of the toll that benevolence might take on their bottom lines. An added bonus of being generous: These businesses might actually benefit by giving customers a break in the long term—avoiding damaging reviews and press—rather than demanding payment to alleviate their own financial strain during the crisis, Thomas says.
“We all have to come together in a civil mind and think not about the money, because everyone is in the same boat,” she says. “I want to advise businesses to stop and think about what their argument is going to be if they ruin their reputation because they need that money so badly that they might hurt a client. You really have to weigh the effect of that.”
Couples who are unsure of what to do about their upcoming spring or summer weddings should take immediate action to check the verbiage on all contracts and inquire about what the venues and vendors can offer, Thomas advises. If they decide to move forward with the wedding, she says couples should ask the venue when the last possible date is to finalize their RSVPs. From there, they should set a deadline seven days before the venue’s deadline in order to budget enough time to garner responses from all of their guests.
With social distancing in full effect and warnings for Americans to cancel all non-essential travel, some invitees may feel uncomfortable attending because of the virus, or may simply not be able to get there due to travel restrictions. Nevertheless, they should still be accountable for both RSVPing and sending a gift, she says. Couples should be proactive about communicating with their invitees, as well.
“The couple needs to somehow, verbally or written, say to their guests they're still going on with it, they’d very much like for the guest to attend, but with the [virus], they understand if the guest may not want to attend.”
This is a conversation Regina Woloshun, 26, and her fiance, Dan Delellis, 26, are preparing to have with the 120 friends and family invited to their spring wedding in western Pennsylvania. Regina picked the date of May 1 because it’s her birthday, and her mother married her father on her own birthday 40 years ago.
“If the courthouses are closed and we can’t get married legally, it’ll still be me, Dan and the priest, and we’re getting married,” she says, undeterred.
To say she’s waited for this day long enough would be an understatement. Regina and Dan met in kindergarten. By second grade, Regina says the whole class knew about her crush on Dan. They didn’t date in high school, though they sat next to one another at graduation in the top of their class (“He was after me — that’s the important part,” Regina notes). Afterward, they went off to colleges in different states, the two finally reconnected four years ago, suddenly putting Regina’s master plan since age 6 into action.
But now that dream, two decades in the making, is in peril. Across the nation, businesses shut down this week in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and a May 1 wedding seems like more of an impossibility with each passing day.
“It’s amazing how it can feel like everything’s been pulled out from under you in four days,” Regina says. “Now I look at my wedding countdown and, instead of looking at it with excitement, I just look at it with complete dread.”
The couple started taking dancing lessons in March to prepare for their early May wedding. Now, they aren’t sure who will see their first dance, though they stay determined not to move their wedding date. PHOTO CREDIT: Lisa Marshall
It’s often said that the first year of marriage is the hardest, but for these couples, just getting down the aisle will be enough of a challenge. Thomas urges couples, wedding industry professionals, and guests alike to approach every situation with as much grace as possible.
“In these uncertain times around the world, everyone needs to be polite, patient and kind,” she says, “and we will all come out of this much better people.”
Until then, Regina is facing the uncertainty and finding small ways to stay positive. “It’s going to be okay because we still love each other,” she says, “and coronavirus can’t stop that.”