The Rustic Mama Retreat balances physical activities like yoga and high ropes with crafty pursuits such as sign painting. /Photo by Richard Briant

Weddings in the time of coronavirus

By Sue Tiffin

Published May 26 2020

Faye Adamson and Ryan Mortell were coworkers and friends first before starting a six-year partnership in a manner befitting these times of physical distancing: through a window between their adjacent offices.
“I used to write jokes on the back of sticky notes and stick them on the window” said Adamson.
The Minden pair have been engaged for almost a year and planned to get married on Sept. 12 at Ganaraska Forest Centre in Campbellcroft. Instead with 121 days to go and a pandemic affecting events around the world Adamson and Mortell told guests they had cancelled their venue booking.
“Since the start of the pandemic I have been consciously not thinking about the wedding” said Adamson. “There are so many unknowns and etceteras and avoidance is a strategy that comes easy to me. Ryan however has been slowly thinking about it more and more and we both hate to have an unmade decision floating around so we had pretty much come to the conclusion that we were wanting to cancel the venue mainly due to the massive expense.”

A lot of thought and effort had been put into imagining their celebration said Adamson and long before the spread of COVID-19 detailed invitations had been sent out early in part because her extended family lives in England and would need to plan travel.
Adamson said she has been calling the many considerations of wedding planning during a pandemic “the etceteras” because there are so many.
“Will international travel be a thing by September? Gatherings? Of how many? And how much notice would everyone have for all of these things?”
Though venue and gathering plans have now changed Adamson and Mortell still plan to be married and celebrate in whatever way is possible this fall.
“We plan to get married with however many people is sensible/legal” she said. “It will likely be a backyard bring your own wine glass affair but no matter what it turns out to be we will be there so it will be epic. And I am sure there will be many a celebration in the future if we can’t celebrate with everyone on the day.”

For those who offer services in the wedding industry their summer isn’t going as planned either.
At Bonnie View Inn Andrea Hagarty said she had closed during the winter knowing she had seven weddings booked for this spring in the months of May and June. Due to the novel coronavirus outbreak and public health guidelines in place that limit social gatherings five weddings have been fully cancelled and two are postponed until 2021. This summer out of four weddings two have cancelled and two have reduced their guest list from 100 or 200 to five people. And calls have already come in from weddings booked this fall – seven of them – questioning Hagarty about possibilities in this time of pandemic.
“It was my whole focus just because I knew weddings would book the whole place for the whole weekend I wouldn’t have to worry about advertising because I knew I was full” said Hagarty. “I already knew how much staff I would need how much it would cost me how much I was making. Weddings are such a for-sure awesome business for small inns like me.”
Weddings have supported Hagarty’s business with typically guaranteed bookings in a business that relies on favourable weather conditions to ensure tourists travel.
“If it’s going to rain on the weekend all of a sudden everybody cancels or there’s no snow all of a sudden nobody wants to come do sports but a wedding happens rain or shine” said Hagarty.

Cancellations and postponements during the COVID-19 crisis have occurred for different reasons said Hagarty some because one or both of the betrothed had lost jobs and financial situations had changed some because guests were coming from far away and many because of the limitation on gatherings.
“A lot of it is that people were flying in a lot is that they just can’t afford it and a lot of it is that they don’t want to ask their family and friends to pay to fly in anymore when they know their family is going to be in trouble wherever they are as well or even just to drive up even just to come to the wedding” said Hagarty.
“[They said] ‘We just can’t afford it we’re going to cancel for now and figure it out later.’ The other one said can we switch it to 2021 our parents are coming from out of the country and now they can’t. And then it was just like dominoes.”

One wedding planned for 120 guests considered reducing their list of attendees to four – the bride and groom and their two kids but with limitations on the number of people who can gather Hagarty said it is still unclear if that can happen.
“Everything for me right now I guess as it is for everybody it’s a waiting game” she said.
The same is true for many of the guests including brides and grooms who Hagarty said are disappointed in the change of their plans but who have still continued to be “lovely.”
She anticipates there might still be weddings at the inn happening this year that have adapted to the public health guidelines – perhaps one by boat with guests in surrounding boats. Adapting to whatever comes her way isn’t new to Hagarty who worked at the resort long before owning it.
“I’ve been in it almost 30 years now and every couple of years there’s a big – this is the biggest adaptation of them all – but I did go from no computers to computers to having online there’s such change.”

As for the hospitality industry she said she has experienced worry and stress but that there could be hope when the health situation in the province is more stable especially if residents support local business and industry.
“If everyone stays local in Ontario we’ll be OK” she said.