Like most engaged couples, Turlock residents Natasha Anderson and Joseph Silva painstakingly planned every last detail of their upcoming wedding so that their special day would be perfect. The pair thought June 13 would be their anniversary for years to come, but their plans to celebrate in the rolling hills of Sonora on that day were shattered due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Brides and grooms across the globe are suffering the same fate as Anderson and Silva — venues, caterers, florists and photographers all booked, only for the big day to be postponed as shelter-in-place orders confine people to their homes and restrict large gatherings. The impact has trickled down through the wedding industry, not only spoiling the day of matrimony for couples, but devastating those whose livelihoods depend on helping those set to be married make sure their events take place without a hitch.
Anderson was attached to her original June wedding date, she said, even purchasing her fiancé a necklace with the date engraved on it for Valentine’s Day. He’s worn it every day since. Now, the couple will be married in September — they hope.
“A couple weeks ago I started noticing other couples with dates later than ours were all starting to postpone. So, I kept an eye on the news and called all my vendors and came up with a backup date if need be,” Anderson said. “On April 22, we finally made the decision after talking to family and friends that everyone would feel more comfortable with a September gathering, when hopefully things have calmed down a bit.”
Anderson said she and Silva considered canceling their wedding altogether and getting married at the courthouse instead, but ultimately decided that having a wedding was special to them and decided to embrace a new date for the ceremony. There were over 15 vendors Anderson had secured for her original wedding date, all of whom were easy-going and willing to make the change at no additional cost to the couple.
“I have connected with other 'corona brides' who have had to move their dates, and we all feel the same way, wishing we could have kept our original dates but embracing our new date,” she said. “It’s hard because of the uncertainty — will everything be okay by June 13? Maybe, but I'm not taking any chances and that date is getting closer and closer. Once I actually moved the date, I did feel relieved to have just made the decision and get everything moved over.”
For wedding vendors like Turlocker Heidi Williams, who is self-employed through her floral business Heidi Hearts Flowers, their main source of income has been affected drastically. Between mid-March and June Williams had previously booked 17 weddings, 13 of which have luckily been postponed rather than cancelled, and others that will now be smaller, intimate ceremonies with direct family members.
Williams said she worries about both the current impact of the pandemic on her business as well as the potential implications moving forward.
“Being in the wedding and event industry, it was unsettling to learn about the stay-at-home orders and felt as though I was living in an alternate reality. Then the flower markets began to close and millions of dollars of flowers were simply thrown away,” she said. “I was heartbroken thinking about the ripple effects this was going to have for clients, designers, markets and even the farmers. If the demand for florals was going to stop, my fear was that these farmers would not be able to bounce back, and where would I get my product for these events? As much as I fear all these things, I also believe the virus is real and dangerous and just want everyone to be safe and healthy.”
While Williams is thankful that she’s been able to work with couples to postpone their weddings, she worries about the gap in income during these months. To try and make ends meet, she’s shifted her business to focus more on gift card sales, bouquet subscriptions and floral deliveries through her website, www.heidiheartsflowers.com.
“It is definitely a start, but I know it is going to take a lot of work to make up for the loss of income. This month I celebrated being in business for two years, but at least once a day I wonder if I'll get to celebrate the next two,” Wiliams said. “I will say, despite all the challenges, it's been really sweet and rewarding to deliver to people's loved ones that they aren't able to see. It allows me to feel like my role in this time is to bring joy to people through flowers and remind them that they are loved and thought of.”
One of Turlock’s most popular wedding venues, Pageo Lavender Farm, has been hit hard as well. Not only have nuptials at the site been postponed, but so have the countless other events the business would typically host during this time: their annual Mother’s Day luncheon, graduation parties and even bus tours from other California cities.
The social distancing measures meant to curb coronavirus spread can feel like an endless waiting game when your business is on the line, Pageo co-owner Patty Kapor said.
“When we first heard about it, we felt it would probably go through April and we weren’t that concerned,” she said. “First we heard you could have something with under 150 people, then it was 50 and then it was 10. It was changing from day to day, almost hour to hour.
“Now, it looks like it’s going to last into May and maybe even June in California...We didn’t realize how devastating it would be.”
Kapor said she feels terrible for the couples who have had to cancel their weddings.
“Everyone’s affected by it, but the brides...this is their day and the most important day of their lives, so our hearts ache for them.”
Pageo has sustained somewhat of a business model during this time, allowing for online orders that are left outside the venue’s gift shop for pickup. Soon, Kapor plans on opening the shop with social distancing measures in place for customers looking to purchase one of their lavender soaps or nursery items.
Thankfully, Pageo was approved for aid through the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, which will offer relief for the farm’s employees.
“We’ll be okay,” Kapor said.