While wedding vendors are hoping for a brighter future as New York continues to reopen in phases during the coronavirus pandemic, recovery will likely take a while. Currently, gatherings such as weddings are limited to 50 people, according to New York State press secretary Caitlin Girouard.
“We are working on additional guidance for these types of events but as we have reiterated many times one of the best ways to prevent the spread is to always wear a mask when social distancing is not possible,” Girouard said in an email.
The shutdowns over the last few months have caused huge financial losses for businesses in the wedding industry. Among them is the Miller Place Inn, which was built in 1850 and has been a wedding site for around 100 years.
Donna Regina, co-owner of the family business, said the last time a wedding was hosted at the venue was back in March, and after months of being closed due to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) executive order that shut down businesses deemed nonessential, the staff is looking forward to a small 50-person wedding that is planned for the beginning of August.
“It’s been financially devastating to take five months’ worth of weddings off the books,” she said, adding that even without being opened they still had a $1,600 electric bill.
She said once wedding venues had to close the owners knew the calendar had to be immediately cleared for March and April. Soon after they began receiving calls from couples who had large weddings planned for May and June who wanted to postpone due to having relatives coming out of state or older family members who are more susceptible to the coronavirus. She said some events even had to be postponed a couple of times.
While many have postponed their weddings until 2021, Regina said there are still some dates available for next year. Some couples have already held small ceremonies at home and decided to hold off just the reception.
“That’s the couple that’s going to have a better time because they are going to come to have a party, because the commitment, that they already made,” she said. “Whatever they want to do, we’re behind them.”
The Miller Place Inn co-owner said planning to reopen has been difficult with no firm guidelines yet for event venues from the state.
“It’s so frustrating,” she said. “We don’t know where to turn because there is no one or no website that has factual information.”
“We don’t know where to turn because there is no one or no website that has factual information.”
— Donna Regina
Regina said the lack of guidelines can be frustrating as they don’t have enough information to guide couples. However, while many may worry about dancing at weddings, she said the Miller Place Inn has a large dance floor that will allow for social distancing. She added they are also incorporating more cleaning precautions, have installed UVC lighting and employees will be wearing face coverings and plastic gloves in addition to the cloth ones they already wear.
Photographer Ron Denenberg, co-owner of Renaissance Studio Photography in Smithtown along with his wife, Liz, said the last time he remembers a large number of wedding postponements was after 9/11. The studio has been located on Main Street since 1979.
“This is the worst,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Denenberg said he believes it will be a whole different world with weddings in the near future as more couples are planning smaller, less structured parties.
“I don’t see people planning big, big weddings,” he said. “I think people are going to be afraid there will be a second wave.”
The photographer said other milestone events have also been negatively impacted by the shutdowns and COVID-19. One bar mitzvah in March with 300 guests that his photographers were scheduled to cover, with people coming from all over the world, had to be postponed until October. He said many have also taken plans for weddings and other events and modified them to smaller occasions. Like wedding venues, there hasn’t been much income coming in for photographers the last few months.
However, the photographer is staying optimistic. He said through the years he and his wife have thought outside of the box to keep up with trends and are looking to see what people want during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We want to stay in business,” he said. “We love the business.”
One Couple’s Solution
Among the 2020 brides who are tackling the challenges of wedding planning during a pandemic is Stefanie Fisher, who grew up in East Setauket and now lives in Maryland. She and her fiancé, Bryan Costello, were set to wed this summer at the Chesapeake Bay Beach Club in Maryland with about 175 people. While they decided to postpone the big reception until next year, they have planned a smaller ceremony with 26 people at Fisher’s parents’ home in East Setauket. Despite the day working out differently than expected, the bride-to-be said there are still things to look forward to with the couple’s new plan, especially since her parents always wanted her to get married at their house.
“Think about how you imagine your wedding, if that’s not possible right now, then wait until it is.”
— Stefanie Fisher
“I think it’s really special to be able to walk down the aisle in a place where I have so many wonderful memories over the years,” Fisher said. “I was excited to have all of our family and friends come down to Maryland for the wedding, but I’m especially excited to be married in an intimate setting at a place that means a lot to me. This DIY miniwedding has given us the chance to kind of put everyone to work to make it a special day.”
Fisher said her sister’s husband will officiate while her nephews will play the wedding march on keyboard and piano. Costello’s brother, who owns the Hicksville restaurant Peppercorns, will cater and her sister’s friend will be taking photos.
“It’s a wedding that everyone gets to feel they have a part in helping put together,” she said. “My parents’ neighbor even offered to chauffeur me from Danfords in his vintage Cadillac Eldorado. This unfortunate situation has had more silver linings than I would have thought and showed me how it really does take a village, and Bryan and I are so lucky to have such amazing people in our lives that are so excited to help make this day perfect. Our story isn’t what we expected but it’s more wonderful than we ever could have imagined.”
Fisher had advice for those who may need to change their ceremony and reception plans.
“Think about how you imagine your wedding, if that’s not possible right now, then wait until it is,” she said. “We all deserve to have the wedding we’ve dreamed about since we were little girls, but sometimes we just have to wait until the time is right. Look at your partner, is that person still your best friend? Do you still want to spend the rest of your life with them? That’s not going to change whether you have your wedding in 2020 or 2021. You are lucky to have found your person and don’t lose sight of that being the most important part.”