Canadian couples advised to postpone weddings amid COVID-19 outbreak
(Jeremy Wong / Pexels)
TORONTO -- Wedding season is fast approaching. For many couples looking to tie the knot this year, planning their big day has been a long time coming. But as the novel coronavirus continues to spread across Canada, some may find their plans in jeopardy.
As doctors everywhere recommend staying home and social distancing, those hoping to say ‘I do’ are left wondering if they’ll make it down the aisle after all. For Toronto wedding planner Diana Pires, this has left many of her clients emotionally drained.
“There’s a lot of fear in their eyes,” Pires told CTVNews.ca via telephone on Wednesday. “They’re hosting events that are such memorable experiences while facing the unknown.”
In response to the continued spread of COVID-19 across Canada, Pires and her company, Diana Pires Events, have postponed all weddings through to the end of May.
Others like Evelyn Clark have done the same. The Calgary-based wedding planner says not only has she moved upcoming weddings to a later date, but new requests are now few and far between. The current nuptial drought, combined with a potentially packed schedule in the months to come, have her worried.
“Being a small business, this means our income is suddenly getting spread out in a different way,” she told CTVNews.ca Wednesday via telephone. “It’s concerning.”
Wedding venues across the country are also feeling the effects of coronavirus, though different locations have taken varying approaches to try to limit its spread. Popular destinations like Nita Lake Lodge in British Columbia and the Canadian Museum of History in Quebec have closed for the time being. Others, like Elk Ridge Resort in Saskatchewan, have chosen to remain open, instead taking measures to better protect the health of staff and guests. This includes increased sanitation of high-contact areas and access to more hand sanitizers.
Over the last week, almost all of Canada’s provinces have declared a state of emergency or a state of public health emergency in response to the coronavirus outbreak. On Monday, British Columbia health officials announced a ban on organized events and public gatherings of more than 50 people. Since then, provinces like Alberta, Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador have done the same.
Despite these announcements, Ontario funeral homes and private banquet halls are currently exempt from the ban, according to a statement from the province’s ministry of health sent to CTVNews.ca. Pires says statements like these make it harder to do her job.
“I want it to be clear from the top,” she said. “If it’s a ban, it should be a ban across the board.”
This confusion, she said, only adds to the lack of direction from authorities. While she understands the uncertainty surrounding the virus and its spread, Pires said she’d like some advice from the government on how to proceed with planning events in the future.
“We have weddings coming up in the next few months,” she said. “Does [the government] recommend we postpone events in June and onwards? We need to know what’s being recommended.
“Just some guidance would help us – I want to make sure we protect our clients and ourselves.”
Even with the mixed messages, Danielle Andrews, president and co-founder of the Wedding Planners Institute of Canada, said there’s only one solution for couples looking to get married in the near future.
“The number one piece of advice that I can give couples right now is to postpone [their wedding], don't cancel,” she told CTVNews.ca on Tuesday. “The ideal option is to elope and have a small ceremony now, and a big celebration later on.”
She and other wedding planners have noticed the willingness of vendors, in general, to sympathize with clients during these uncertain times, with many allowing couples to postpone their events at no cost. If they cancel, on the other hand, they’re likely to lose their deposit.
Clark is advising her clients in Calgary to also be flexible.
“I’m letting them know they can still get married, it just might look a little different.”
For now, Andrews recommends that planners and clients everywhere err on the side of caution and do what they can to limit the spread of germs at their events. She shares some tips on how to do that:
- Leave more distance between guests than usual (seat four people at an eight-person table, for example)
- Serve plated meals instead of opting for a buffet
- Ensure common touch points are constantly cleaned
- Avoid handheld and wearable props if you have a photo booth – a nice background is all you need
- Livestream the event for guests who aren’t able to attend
In the meantime, she suggests keeping a close eye on the news and following the advice of medical professionals.
“The best thing is to follow what the government directive is,” she said.
Right now, that’s to stay at home as much as possible.