Part one of two
It’s not unusual to find a flow of wedding invitations following spring’s arrival. This year, however, COVID-19 has put a damper on celebrating love as engaged couples continue to postpone their big days.
A Bride’s Story
Huntington’s Kim Mangels, 30, said she and her fiancé Alex Yatron, 29, were set to tie the knot July 12, a date they chose in March of 2019.
Then the mandatory shutdowns due to the pandemic began. Mangels said fortunately they were able to move their ceremony and reception to July 11, 2021. When the pandemic first hit the U.S., the bride-to-be said they didn’t think it would last so long and affect their wedding date.
“We never imagined that it would end up being what it is now, that it’s changing everything, even life, for quite a while,” she said.
In the middle of April, she said they reached out to their venue, Crescent Beach Club in Bayville. They were optimistic at the time about weddings taking place in July. Two weeks later, the venue told her if they would prefer to postpone, they had to let them know by May 15. Mangels said that’s when they decided to change the date and weren’t up charged for the change.
She said it was easier for her and her fiancé since they were still in the middle of planning, and her dress wasn’t altered yet, so it would have been difficult to finalize aspects outside of the venue. As they look toward a new wedding date, Mangels said she and Yatron are pleased that they have more time to plan.
“We’re excited to celebrate after how crazy this whole year has been and to be able to see everyone we love in one place,” she said.
Empty Venue … for Now
Lise Hintze, manager of The Bates House in Setauket, located in Frank Melville Memorial Park, said she worked with many couples who not only had to postpone due to the pandemic but also some who were unable to continue planning their weddings with various vendors. One was a bride, she said, who found out a couple of months ago that her dress wouldn’t be ready for a July wedding even if it could be held. As of now, all weddings that were scheduled for 2020 at The Bates House have been pushed to 2021.
“The loss was tremendous for the park,” Hintze said.
The venue manager said a place like The Bates House has more pieces for the couple to take care of including caterers and decorators.
“There are so many more players in the circle with you so it’s hard,” she said. “It’s really hard.”
Hintze said while at first couples who had events scheduled for later in the year tried to take it day by day, many began to postpone their receptions as they feared a second wave of the coronavirus may come in the fall. Couples have told her how they don’t want to put older guests at risk of catching the virus or didn’t want to put guests in the uncomfortable position of making the decision themselves as to whether to attend or not.
Hintze said she has done her best to give couples various options, including getting married in a smaller, socially distanced ceremony outside, even though the venue itself cannot be used. She said some couples are still getting married on the day they originally chose and postponing the big party, while others are delaying both ceremony and reception.
The Bates House, which typically holds a wedding every weekend from the beginning of May to the end of October, is completely booked for 2021 as it already had weddings scheduled and then filled the open dates with postponed 2020 nuptials. Hintze said she left everyone on the calendar for 2020 though in case the state expands the parameters for large gatherings and couples decide they still want to have their parties on their original date.
“We’re excited to celebrate after how crazy this whole year has been and to be able to see everyone we love in one place.”
During the pandemic, planning floral arrangements and bouquets has been one part of the wedding puzzle that is difficult for couples to complete as many florists have been forced to close their doors.
Amanda Hagquist-LaMariana from Village Florist & Events in Stony Brook village said that sometimes flowers are one of the last things couples consider. In addition to cancellations due to the pandemic, being unable to plan in recent months has also slowed down businesses as many couples haven’t been able to tour their wedding venue or shop for dresses and tuxedos, among other things.
“A lot of things are usually in place before they come to meet with me,” she said.
During the shutdowns, Hagquist-LaMariana would send couples a questionnaire to fill out to get a feel for what they were looking for and spoke with them via phone and Zoom. She has been able to give a few estimates based on those conversations, but it’s a process that she said isn’t as organic as meeting in person where she and customers could look over photos, especially of events the florist has supplied flowers for in the past, to ensure everyone is on the same page.
“There are so many facets of the design that we do,” she said.
With Long Island entering Phase 3 of reopening, the florist said she looks forward to meeting with customers again. The cancellations that have occurred over the past few months have been a big financial blow to the business.
She said that during the first week of the shutdowns the florist had three weddings scheduled. At that point, the flowers and greenery, many of which are shipped internationally, were already purchased and could not be returned. While the events will still take place in the future, the florist will not charge the couples any additional fees.
“That was quite a loss,” she said. “It could have been worse timing, but it wasn’t great timing.”
To make the best of a bad situation, Hagquist-LaMariana, whose last wedding was March 7, used Facebook Live to sell the unused flowers in order to make up some of the costs.
“Our heads have been turning with the different ways that people have been managing to do things.”
Brian McCarthy, James Cress Florist owner, said both the Smithtown and Port Jefferson Station locations that employ 40 full-time employees were required to shut down during the pandemic. Like the Stony Brook florist, he also has to order flowers from places out-of-state such as California, Holland and South America. McCarthy said as things began to unfold, some vendors worked with them, and they were able to cancel a few orders last minute.
“The growers have been dealing with us for decades,” he said. “They were very kind to us.”
McCarthy said there will be days in 2021 when they will need the help of drivers from at least one of their nine sister stores in other states to help with deliveries, because of the additional help, they haven’t had to turn anyone away who has rescheduled for 2021.
He said the biggest challenge is witnessing brides and grooms not having any definite answers. During the closure, shop manager Liz Guido helped couples plan future events by keeping in touch with all of them, and virtual wedding appointments are still available for initial consultations.
McCarthy said while they have had couples postpone until next year, they have also heard of couples that reduced the number of people at their ceremonies so they could still take place on the planned date.
“Our heads have been turning with the different ways that people have been managing to do things,” he said.
With seeing extremely scaled-down weddings and Sweet 16 parties, McCarthy said he thinks people are going to continue finding creative ways to have their special events.
“One thing about New Yorkers is they are as optimistic and creative as any place in the country,” he said. “They really are, and they’re determined to make sure that all these events that were planned are going to take place whatever time they can.”