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Government, Politics & Issues

Fewer Walks Down The Aisle: Coronavirus Is Sending Couples Scrambling

Sam Wise and Kelli Williams
Dwyane Spangler
Sam Wise and Kelli Williams will have a small wedding Saturday that abides by Missouri's 10-person limit on social gatherings. They had to postpone their larger wedding event, with 200 guests, until next year because of the coronavirus outbreak.

At the beginning of last week, when St. Charles County had capped social gatherings at just 50 people to slow the spread of coronavirus, Megan Prescott was still considering trying to make her wedding work. 

She initially thought about spreading her 181 guests across different buildings at her wedding venue, the Stone House of St. Charles, to work around the limit. Then, as it became obvious that the restrictions might become even tighter, she decided to move her wedding scheduled for Saturday to a different date. 

“Half of this afternoon has been about being able to get a hold of people to tell them not to come to the wedding,” Prescott said during an interview last week. 

It turned out to be a fortuitous decision. By Saturday, Gov. Mike Parson had limited almost all social gatherings to no more than 10 people across Missouri until April 6. 

Some local governments have enacted even more restrictions in the face of the coronavirus outbreak. The city of St. Louis, and St. Louis, Jefferson and St. Charles counties are requiring residents to stay at home unless they need food, health care, household essentials or are otherwise required to go to work.

The limitations sent couples who had weddings scheduled in March, April and May scrambling to postpone — or at least reconfigure — their nuptials. In most cases, they don’t have a choice. Wedding venuesare no longer allowed to have more than 10 people to congregate in one place. Many have shut down for the next few weeks. 

St. Louis County is trying to offer some accommodation to engaged couples. The county marriage licenses are only valid 30 days after they are issued, but the county is currently offering to draw up new marriage licenses at no additional charge to couples who don’t end up holding their wedding because of the coronavirus outbreak. 

Natalie Collora, a wedding planner and owner of Natalie’s Brides, said six of the weddings she was working on for April have been moved. Most of the couples have postponed to July, but a few decided to reschedule for a similar date next year, she said. 

Those who have moved their weddings to July are having to schedule them at unusual times. Typically, venues, caterers and photographers are already booked with other weddings on the weekends in July. So, couples are having to hold their weddings on weekdays in order to use their planned venue and caterers, Collora said. 

Collora and other wedding vendors will likely have to work two or three weddings in a row during some weeks in July to accommodate everyone, she said. 

Many local vendors are trying not to charge people who have to move their wedding because of the coronavirus outbreak, but moving weddings to 2021 could cause vendors to lose out on money. If weddings from 2020 get moved to 2021, it could make it harder for vendors to book other jobs with new clients next year.

Wedding photographers Jeremy and Melisa Keltner, of Your Story Photo & Cinema, said they have been able to accommodate couples who want to move their wedding to next year at no extra cost for now. But, that could change if the restrictions on social gatherings last a few months. Then, it would start to affect the couple’s ability to schedule new wedding clients and maintain their income next year.

“If restrictions get extended through the summer or the fall, that’s when we would get into a really tight spot,” said Jeremy Keltner.

The Keltners said they also believe the coronavirus outbreak could affect their business beyond the restrictive period of the next few weeks. They are already getting fewer inquiries for 2021 dates than they had a couple of weeks earlier. The Keltners had always considered wedding photography to be recession proof, but the coronavirus outbreak is bringing economic pressures they haven’t seen.

“Before, we always thought it was a pretty safe form of photography to be in,” Melisa Keltner said. 

Not every couple with an upcoming wedding is postponing. Sam Wise and Kelli Williams still plan to get married this Saturday, with an officiant, their parents and possibly the best man and maid of honor present. They won’t go over the 10-person cap, Wise said.

Yet they plan to have a larger ceremony — the one with 200 guests and 10 wedding attendants that they had originally wanted — on their one-year anniversary next year. 

Among other things, Williams’ parents bought them a brick for Christmas commemorating their wedding on the St. Louis Blues’ Champions Walk, scheduled to be installed this summer. They have a copy of the brick on their mantle, and the inscription includes their current wedding date. 

It’s also important to Wise and Williams that people who can’t make their smaller wedding this Saturday still be a part of the overall celebration. Wise’s childhood rabbi, who lives in Texas, was supposed to marry the couple initially, but now he’s unable to travel this week because of coronavirus concerns. They hope he will be able to participate in the ceremony next year. 

And even when they have their larger wedding next year, they intend to at least give a nod to the original plan. They already have wedding favors engraved with this coming Saturday’s date on them. They want to pass them out in 2021 so people don’t forget what was supposed to happen. 

Wise and Williams said they are trying to make the best out of a bad situation, but it hasn’t been easy.

“I think that has been the most frustrating, that this has not been any of our choice. It was forced upon us,” Williams said. 

Follow Julie on Twitter: @jsodonoghue

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