Coronavirus pandemic jeopardizes wedding vows

Posted July 14, 2020 3:44 p.m. EDT
Updated July 14, 2020 8:00 p.m. EDT

— Coronavirus has disrupted so many milestones – graduations, reunions, birthday parties. A local bride-to-be fears it will tarnish the day she has dreamed about for most of her life.

Once upon a time, a little girl pictured her handsome groom, their first dance, the pageantry of loved ones and friends.

"I've been planning this wedding since I was 5 years old," said Emily Purcell.

Bride and groom kissing

Purcell, of Raleigh, is now 23.

The big day is September 12 -- even with COVID-19 in the picture. Purcell and her fiance, Hunter Schappell, began planning on Sept. 12 as their wedding date back in February 2019.

"At this point, there are about 100 people who are relying on this happening, on this day, in September," added Purcell. She has already slashed her guest list by half.

She's considered postponing: "Then it's a new date, new invitations. It's planning from scratch and it's half my budget, since my budget is being taken by vendors who won't return the funds."

COVID-19 has been quite the wedding crasher.

Elana Walker is a wedding planner in Raleigh. She says couples should not feel financially wedded to their original date.

"Photographers, planners, DJs -- everybody is on the same page to transition the money to another date versus charging anything extra," said Walker.

At the Leslie-Alford-Mims House in Holly Springs, owners said they had 54 weddings scheduled from March through June -- only six happened.

They say nobody who rescheduled or downsized lost their money.

What exactly does the state allow? A mass gathering indoors cannot exceed 10 people, but there are exceptions for religious services, which include wedding ceremonies.

Receptions, however, must stick to the 10-people-inside rule, unless they're at a restaurant -- then it's half capacity.

Wedding planners WRAL News spoke with say they're urging couples who are unable to keep their ceremonies small to re-schedule. But they say they would like more specific guidance from the state about what is and isn't allowed for weddings.

Charles P. Gilliam, Wake County Register of Deeds, released Wake County vital statistics for the first six months of 2020. Notable for 2020 was a decline of 16% in marriage licenses issued.

"It has profoundly impacted the wedding and event and hospitality industry. We have all suffered from weddings and events being canceled and rescheduled," Jennifer Viscosi, owner of Jennifer V. Events in Raleigh, said.

"I have told a lot of my clients, including one who's hoping to get married at the end of July, to alleviate some of that stress, reschedule it, and hope that whenever this clears up, you're going to have a better attendance," said Viscosi. "When the time comes, they'll be able to celebrate and it'll be an even more special event."

For Purcell, location shouldn't matter: Receptions are part of the same picture. They're getting married at a venue they do not want to disclose, but it is not a restaurant -- only a wedding venue.

Purcell added, "As of now, it's still happening with some restrictions -- or a lot of restrictions."

"It has been something my whole heart and soul has been thrown into," said Purcell.

And she's saving the date for her happily-ever-after.

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