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Planning, and re-planning, weddings during COVID crisis

  • Morgan Carpenter (left) and Eliot Pelletier pose for engagement photos in Peterborough on Jan. 19. At that point, the couple wasn’t concerned about the coronavius pandemic inteerfering with the Aug. 8 wedding. That isn’t the case now. BEN CONANT/ Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Morgan Carpenter (right) and Eliot Pelletier pose for engagement photos in Peterborough on Jan. 19. At that point, the couple wasn’t concerned about the coronavius pandemic interfering with the Aug. 8 wedding. That isn’t the case now. BEN CONANT / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Monitor staff
Published: 4/14/2020 3:44:44 PM

When Morgan Carpenter and Eliot Pelletier picked Aug. 8 as their wedding date, they pictured a big summer celebration full of family and friends.

That was in January, before the coronavirus clamped down on the world and made all large gatherings unsafe. Now, Carpenter and Pelletier are trying to picture what their wedding might look like with 10 people or less standing six feet apart, or if they can reschedule their summer celebration for next year.

“We’re very worried,” Carpenter said. “Mostly we’re really unsure.”

That’s the case with many couples who are planning weddings this year. They don’t know when it will be safe to gather in groups, so they are uncertain if they should reschedule or even what date might be safe to pick if they do want to shift plans. Those that are choosing to change dates are faced with the prospect of losing deposits and vendors, which could threaten their dream wedding.

“Right now, it feels like a gamble to reschedule regardless of when you reschedule to because there really is so much question about the future,” said Amanda Teune, a wedding planner based in Concord. “This is so unprecedented in terms of scale of people needing to move their weddings or even just canceling, so I think a lot of people are just treading water and waiting to see what they should do and how they need to adjust.”

Not everyone has the time to wait, however. One of Teune’s clients had her wedding planned for May 10, Mother’s Day, to honor her mother who passed away four years ago. But with New Hampshire’s stay at home order in effect until May 4, the couple decided to move their wedding to September after a tear-filled decision-making process.

Courtney Torre, a wedding planner based in Deerfield, has 10 weddings on her books for the rest of this year. The next one is scheduled for June 13, but that seems very much up in the air.

“She’s really not sure what she wants to do,” Torre said of her June 13 bride. “She’s waiting to see if more information comes out this month and we’re going to resume talking in May and see what her thoughts are. She did scale down her guest list to 50 people from 120, but then when they reduced the number (of people allowed in a group) down to 10, she went into full panic mode.”

Teune is taking a similar approach to rescheduling June and July weddings for her clients.

“This is a really anxiety-inducing time for people planning weddings, so the way I’m trying to help couples with June or July weddings is to just stay focused on right now because there’s not enough information to make actionable decisions,” Teune said. “I’m telling them that we can make more decisions and come up with a Plan B in mid to late April when we have more information.”

Couples that were thinking about getting married this year but weren’t too far down the planning road seem to have stopped in their tracks.

“Inquiries have fallen to zero since about mid-February, and that’s much slower than previous years,” said Jerry Penberg, a Justice of the Peace based in Contoocook. “Officiants are usually one of the later picks when people are planning weddings, so some people have probably made plans and then stopped. I can only imagine what they stand to lose in terms of deposits and payments, or what the sites and other vendors stand to lose themselves in terms of cancellations.”

For couples that have already planned and booked everything needed for their wedding, like Carpenter and Pelletier, rescheduling is a major undertaking. They have to find a new date that works for them and their loved ones and won’t be affected by the current health crisis, and they have to make sure that new date works for all of their vendors. That list can include a venue, caterer, photographer, florist, DJ, band, hair stylist, makeup artist, party supplier and on and on.

All of those vendors are scrambling themselves as they deal with coronavirus upheaval, but they are also coming together to help each other and their clients. Carpenter said her photographer, Lauren Somero, has already said she will honor her deposit even if the date is changed and that she will be flexible with any rescheduling that needs to happen. Torre said she is not taking on any new clients for 2021 so she will be more available for any of her 2020 clients who want to reschedule to next year.

“I think a lot of vendors are trying to figure out how to help each other and there’s actually a lot of camaraderie out there,” Teune said. “I’ve seen vendors giving each other shout-outs via social media so couples know that there are other options, which is awesome. So right now it’s community over competition and everyone has the same ultimate goal as vendors which is for couples to have an excellent wedding with excellent service no matter who the vendors are or what it looks like.”

If couples are less worried about what their wedding looks like and are open to being creative, there are still ways to get married now. They can have a virtual wedding using a service like Zoom with everyone online at different locations. They can have a 10-person event with everyone staying at least six feet apart. If there’s a practical need for the marriage (getting on a spouse’s health insurance, for example), they can just legally marry and save the full-scale reception for next summer (or whenever they feel comfortable setting that date) to celebrate their marriage with all of their friends and family, planners said.

Carpenter, whose parents and brother live in Seattle, is hoping everyone can travel to New Hampshire for her Aug. 8 wedding, as planned. If that can’t happen, she and Pelletier are still going to get married and will have the reception next summer.

“It’s been really upsetting. I’ve been dreaming of this my whole life and I always pictured a big wedding and a big beautiful dress with all the people I love there,” Carpenter said. “That would be a symbol of our love and commitment to each other, but I think another way to show love and commitment is by keeping the people you love safe, so that’s how we’re looking at it.”




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