weddings

"I feel guilty about being heartbroken": Women on how COVID-19 has affected their wedding plans.

As a woman in her early thirties, I’m part of that specific age bracket where there’s a wedding to attend every other week.

Many of my girlfriends have spent the better part of a year planning theirs; wrangling guest lists and suppliers, coordinating travel and accommodation, footing bills and squeezing in fittings.

The boxes are ticked, the celebrants briefed, the gowns hanging neatly in garment bags: their time has finally come.

Except it hasn’t.

According to easyweddings.com.au, March is the most popular month in Australia for weddings. Now, thanks to COVID-19, countless couples are having to reassess, delay or cancel their big day entirely.

When it comes to celebrating love with one’s nearest and dearest, it really couldn’t be worse timing for a virus that thrives on human contact.

Engagement ring trends through the decades. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

A close friend was set to marry her fiancé in Greece this July. When we received the invite last year, without hesitation, my partner and I booked flights and accommodation to attend their epic celebration in the Greek Islands. Just us, our friends and 400 of their closest family members.

Now, with the news from this morning’s press conference that international travel could be in question for up to six months, they’ve made the call. The wedding is off.

At the very least, my friend mentioned, the announcement has given them some certainty. For weeks, they’ve sat in a sort of pre-nuptial limbo – waiting to see just how far this thing spread; for more definitive direction.

First it was a ban on crowds of 500 (even my Greek friends slid in under that number). Now, it’s gatherings of over 100. The average wedding these days has 120 guests – so unless you’re prepared to do some awkward last-minute culling, this makes things difficult.

And sure, a wedding might be a “non-essential gathering”. But for those in the final throes of planning one, that’s not the frame or scale of reference they would use.

No one I spoke to for this article was under the impression their big day was more important than managing the spread of this virus. But that doesn’t mean facing up to the costly and emotional reality of the situation doesn’t hurt. A lot.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I just cancelled my wedding that’s this weekend,” Alex shared with me. “We are still having a very small ceremony in front of our immediate family – I’ve lost weight to get into the bloody dress so I have to wear it before we get locked down and I eat all the carbs in my house.”

Fran is also due to wed this weekend. With a guest list of 90, she just fits under the government’s new rule.

“My dad and a few other guests have illnesses that may prevent them from coming. On top of that, my partner is a nurse and he is currently in isolation. He gets his test results back on Thursday so if he tests positive we will have to cancel.

“He works in the ED at North Shore Hospital (in Sydney) and has treated several COVID-19 patients, so his boss recommended he get tested as a precaution with the wedding coming up.”

On Mamamia Out Loud, Mia, Holly and Jessie have a family meeting about coronavirus. Post continues after audio.

The travel ban issued this morning has also meant that for many of the couples I spoke to, crucial guests would be unable to attend – and that’s become their deciding factor.

“My fiance and I were due to get married in early May,” Tara shared. “The travel ban is the reason we’re cancelling. My Maid of Honour and his Best Man are both coming from America, and my extended family and childhood friends are coming from Hong Kong.

“To us it would be devastating to go ahead with the wedding without some of the most important people in our lives there to celebrate with us.

“We also didn’t want to risk the health of elderly family members, and the earlier we tell everyone we’re cancelling the more likely people will be able to get their travel refunded.”

Tiffany, an Australian who has been based in Toronto for two years, was set to marry her British partner in April. Their wedding would have been the first meeting between their immediate family members.

“We planned to have less than 65 people with about half flying in for the occasion,” she says. “Due to the 14 day self-quarantine rule, our overseas guests won’t be able to attend. It breaks our hearts that our loved ones won’t be present so we’re looking into postponing.”

And with international travel being banned for the time-being, those with weddings overseas have had to move quickly to shift the date out or cancel, many losing a staggering amount of money from vendor deposits in the process.

Laura is in the midst of trying to negotiate with her venue in Edinburgh, Scotland.

“We’re meant to be getting married there in July with 30-plus people flying in from Australia. Because the UK isn’t in lockdown, all our suppliers and the venue aren’t willing to reschedule or cancel. Wedding insurers aren’t issuing any new policies either.”

ADVERTISEMENT

While the financial fallout for couples is devastating, it’s clear that the impact of this situation on the wedding industry is equally profound, and could be severe. While suppliers are doing what they can to support clients, at the same time, they have contracts for a reason: to cover themselves in the event of cancellations.

COVID-19 has been unprecedented. I’m getting married in November, and I can’t see any stipulations in my venue contract regarding pandemics. So I guess we’re all set to limp through this together.

Bride and groom
Those with weddings overseas have had to move quickly to shift the date out or cancel.

But for many brides who shared their thoughts, it's the emotional stress that has taken the biggest toll. Dresses can be altered, flights can (hopefully) be changed, but the one thing they can't get back is the excitement and anticipation for this experience. An experience that's now been tempered or taken away, through no fault of anyone.

"A few weeks ago I was messaging my friends saying how scared I was to potentially get a pimple on my wedding day," says Bronte, who was set to wed in New Zealand in April. "Now that seems so ridiculously silly, because we might not even have a wedding.

"I feel guilty about being so heartbroken because this is bigger than just a wedding, but at the same time, I was so excited... now I feel hopeless, stressed and depressed. I have watched my friends get married; I was really excited that it was finally my turn."

Compounding that stress is the need to field a barrage of questions from well meaning family and friends. Where once a Save the Date and a formal invitation would have sufficed for key information, brides have been forced into crisis comms.

"I can't even look at my phone right now," Jess, who made the decision to postpone her wedding today, shared.

ADVERTISEMENT

Of course, while it's a shitty situation, the upside is that come the end of the year - or when all of this is over - people will be well and truly ready to celebrate. Those postponed parties are going to be well deserved.

A friend of mine from college, Adam, was in a position to move forward with his wedding in early April - but he and fiancé Rob have shifted it to mid December.

"Rob and I had been engaged for a year before the plebiscite," he says, "so getting married was a big f*cking deal for us. We wanted the wedding to be a massive, positive, queer community party that really celebrated our relationship and united all of the people that loved and supported us."

Last week, their guests started getting understandably uneasy. On Friday, the pair sent out an email saying they were still going ahead under the advice of the relevant authorities.

But by Monday this week, all their international guests - including Adam's brother, his bridesmaid and his best friend from Istanbul  - had pulled out.

"Eventually the event transpiring but just getting too far from what we wanted. We wanted our families and chosen families together with us. And we wanted to be able to hug and kiss each other. Social isolation is NOT in the spirit of a fabulous gay wedding!"

Now, he's resolute about the call they made and working towards their new date.

"To be honest I feel relieved to have made the decision... It is what it is. We literally cannot control a pandemic."

Adam also wants to implore people to support the creatives that will no doubt be heavily affected this year.

"Luckily enough our new date was available and all our amazing floral artists, photographers, drag queens and the venue are down to party... My main takeaway is to support your local artists: they will need us."

In the end, being isolated will provide all the more reason to come together and celebrate. That will be different for every couple affected. Who knows what it will mean for my partner and I as we nervously sit on our next steps...

Bri, a marriage celebrant based in Sydney, says the situation has cast new light on her line of work.

"I have found huge comfort in couples recognising that they want to get married more than having the big wedding," she says. "This really fills my heart, because there is absolutely room for love amidst the chaos of this outbreak..

"It's such a tough time, but hopefully everyone will get their happily ever after."

Has COVID-19 affected your wedding plans? Let us know in the comments.

Feature image: Getty / Supplied

 
00:00 / ???