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Rachael Caraluzzi drops off an order April 10 for a curbside customer. The company has launched curbside pickup in addition to catering for events like weddings to help pay the bills during the ongoing COVID-19 virus. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
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Jane Gorman said she’s always believed weddings to be recession-proof. She never thought to consider whether they were pandemic-proof.

Anna Polovin and James Huffman, of Boulder, are scheduled to get married in May, but don’t think that will happen because of the COVID-19 virus. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

“I did not see this coming at all,” said Gorman, who is a wedding officiant and owns Jane’s Personalized Weddings out of Boulder. “The whole industry is cut off at our knees, all of us, and in different ways.”

Love is still in the air, but so is the new coronavirus. As the highly contagious disease continues to spread, officials across the country have enacted gathering restrictions and stay-at-home policies that have made weddings almost impossible.

Couples have seen plans years in the making fall apart in days. Caterers, photographers and florists have suddenly found themselves without income. Venues and planners have begun the delicate balancing act of trying to reschedule weddings in a time when nobody knows when things might begin to approach some semblance of normal.

“I feel for my couples, I feel for my colleagues,” Gorman said. “This is usually peak wedding season. This is supposed to be an exciting time. But we’re in unknown territory.”

‘Everything has just kind of been put on pause’

Lisa Eimicke, of Westminster, was supposed to be married already.

“We were all set to have a wedding on the 28th (of March) in old town Longmont,” Eimicke said.

But on the weekend of March 13, things were beginning to fall apart. Eimicke’s family is from New York City, while her fiance’s was coming from Seattle, two of the hardest-hit cities early in the pandemic.

“At that time, we were talking with our families about how things are escalating in both of those places,” Eimicke said. “We weren’t even sure if people would be able to travel for the wedding.”

The couple called off the wedding that weekend, and in the next few days Colorado’s restrictions and stay-at-home orders came into place and made it official.

“It was just the smarter move, and we made that decision right before everybody had to,” Eimicke said. “We were lucky in that respect, but it certainly wasn’t an easy choice to make, at a time when I was already stressed-out.”

Eimicke said the venue offered them a few dates later in the year, and the wedding is now tentatively scheduled for August. With many of their deposits not refundable, including the venue, it was really the only option. Even if the couple had wanted to go virtual in an effort to keep the date, which was the fifth anniversary of their meeting, court closures meant many counties have only recently resumed even issuing marriage licenses.

“There was a lot of crying, there was a lot of yelling for no reason,” Eimicke said. “I felt like my back was up against the wall.”

Rachael Caraluzzi, an event planner at Front Range Catering Company in Boulder, said pushing weddings back has been the norm since the outbreak.

“What we’re seeing more of is postponement versus cancellation,” Caraluzzi said. “We just let them know we’re 100% committed to them. We’re here to stick with them through the uncertainty.”

The problem, of course, is nobody is certain how long the uncertainty will last.

“We’re moving everything to late summer as a precaution,” said Caraluzzi. “We’re still booked in June and July, but we’re playing it by ear and seeing where it all leads. Some couples went to 2021 for safety.”

But this of course leads to a new problem. The summer months are already busy, and delayed spring weddings mean a possible glut of ceremonies in the summer.

“What started happening is all my couples started trying to reschedule,” Gorman said. “Couples are asking me, ‘What do you think about July?’ Who knows? My July is filled now, but the reality is I don’t know if I’m then going to be juggling those weddings into a whole ‘nother month. It’s very challenging.”

For Eimicke, even with a new date, the uncertainty of the coronavirus and the restrictions in place mean the couple hasn’t exactly gone into full wedding planning mode.

“Everything has just kind of been put on pause,” Eimicke said. “We told everyone we have a new date, but nobody knows if that will work. At this point, we’re not really planning anything.”

Not to mention, Eimicke admitted she is still a little shellshocked following a whirlwind March.

“I’m still trying to get over the disappointment of it not happening when a year and a half went into planning it in the first place,” she said.

That disappointment was made worse when things like flowers still came in for the original wedding date. Though Eimicke said she was happy about one purchase her fiance followed through on.

“He still got me the cake,” she said. “I got to eat a lot of wedding cake the day of.”

‘We’re trying to make the best of it’

While postponement is the option many couples are going with, James Huffman and Anna Polovin are not taking that route.

“We’ve already kind of been putting things on hold,” Huffman said, noting that deaths in the family put off wedding plans last year. “We don’t really want to reschedule and keep putting our lives on hold.”

The Boulder couple was supposed to tie the knot at Boulder Creek by Wedgewood Weddings in Boulder Canyon on May 14, but they don’t think that is realistic.

“We’re pretty damn sure we’re not going to be having a wedding for 180 people in May,” Huffman said.

Added Polovin, “We don’t feel comfortable at all having a wedding event with 10, much less 50, much less 100 people.”

Luckily, Huffman said they were able to come to a resolution with Wedgewood to cancel the event.

Caraluzzi said most of the locally based businesses she has been dealing with have been trying to be flexible with couples.

“I do understand from a certain standpoint for some vendors or venues it’s little harder to make those compromises, but we do see this is affecting everybody,” she said. “Any way we can help them is all that matters right now. We’re all in this together.”

Caraluzzi said the company has looked to other ways to supplement business in the meantime, like offering curbside pickup and signing up for local programs like Feed the Frontlines Boulder.

“It’s a win-win,” she said. “It’s giving us a bit of business while giving us the ability to give back. We’re just taking a creative approach, just like everybody else.”

But even with creative solutions and if the restrictions are lifted, Gorman said she anticipates it will be a down year for almost everyone involved in the industry.

“I think 2020 is the year none of us make money,” she said.

For Huffman and Polovin their plan is to keep the wedding date but have a virtual ceremony with a new camera they bought with some of the money they got back from their scheduled wedding photographer.

After the ceremony, they hope to drive by their friends’ homes in their full wedding garb to greet them without getting out of the vehicle.

“We still want to celebrate with friends,” Huffman said. “It feels important to still have that joy while all of this is going on. It might look different, but any reason to celebrate and to show that we are not putting our life on hold.”

But Polovin admits, even with a virtual audience, she knows there will be something missing from their special day.

“It’s just sad that we can’t have a wedding, not being able to hug our loved ones,” she said. “That’s something we both looked forward to. It feels like we were robbed, that this pandemic robbed us of a lot.

“But we’re trying to make the best of it.”

‘It pulls at your heartstrings’

Caraluzzi said that is the type of attitude she has seen from most couples. But she also said many have been unable to hide their devastation.

“They’re in a little bit of disbelief, which I think is kind of how we all are right now,” she said. “It’s tough. It pulls at your heartstrings.”

Gorman said in addition to being an officiant, she has found herself being a sounding board to her distraught couples.

“All of us do become therapists with our couples, but right now we are therapists without answers,” Gorman said. “Yes, some people might say this is a first-world problem. But it’s a crazy time, and I feel bad for these couples.

Gorman also said it has been hard not just financially, but emotionally, for those in the wedding industry.

“I’m passionate about what I do, and it’s joyful for me, and to not be working is difficult,” she said.

But Gorman said the love business is a calling, and those who are in it will be there to answer those calls when they pick up again.

“We’re a tight-knit group of colleagues, and we all look out for each other,” she said. “I cannot wait to pronounce my next couple. Whenever that is, I cannot wait for that day. It will be the sweetest day ever.”

 

 

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