It is the cusp of spring but the novel coronavirus pandemic is causing uncertainty in the Thompson-Okanagan wedding industry as the wedding season approaches.
Many brides and grooms plan their weddings months or years in advance, paying deposits to venues and wedding vendors to secure their date.
On Friday, the province’s top health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said she is seeking to formally ban gatherings of more than 250 people as part of the province’s efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Since then, hundreds of large-scale of events, conferences, and performances have been cancelled or postponed across B.C.
In Penticton, the South Okanagan Events Centre and the Penticton Trade & Convention Centre (PTCC) said it will be cancelling or postponing all gatherings until further notice.
Emily Nicole, owner of Bella Giorno Events based in Kamloops, B.C., said the mass gathering restrictions are causing uncertainty for upcoming spring weddings.
“I know that it has definitely impacted weddings, and especially weddings that do have over 250 people, which there are weddings that do have that high capacity, so it’s definitely affecting them, especially when we are in limbo, not knowing when this is going to end,” she said on Sunday.
Nicole said some B.C. venues are reconsidering hosting large gatherings, even if the threshold is under 250 people.
“There are some locations that have been calling people saying that they are not comfortable hosting large events anymore, whether it’s 250 or not, they are shutting down all of it, just for their own precautions,” she said.
However, Tammi Foster, owner of Vines and Vows wedding planning in Penticton, said she is unaware of venues in the Okanagan refusing to host pending nuptials.
“Most of our weddings are held outdoors at vineyards, so we have nice fresh air, we haven’t had any issues so far,” she said.
Given the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation, both planners encourage brides and grooms to have a “Plan B.”
“Always have another venue, possibly a private location, something that is owned by someone else that is outside, have a place like that ready,” Nicole said.
Foster said deposits are non-refundable.
“In saying that, we are willing to move the date, we are willing to … postpone it for next year, so we are hoping everyone can work within those parameters,” she said.
Foster added that international travel restrictions will make it more difficult for wedding guests travelling to B.C. from overseas, as is the case for one wedding she is planning in May.
“That one there is a lot of people coming in from Mexico and Europe so we are obviously going to have to see if we can come up the Plan B,” she said.
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Another option, Foster said, is to consider hosting a smaller wedding.
“They are willing to maybe do a smaller wedding and maybe do a celebration after. A lot of their deposits have been paid, so the show must go on,” she said.
The wedding industry also consists of many self-employed, small business owners.
“Everyone is just kind of looking into their contracts and trying to help out as much as possible, these are our clients and we don’t want to hurt them, but we can’t get hurt financially either so we are trying to do a happy medium for everybody,” she said.
Nicole encourages brides and grooms to double-check confirmations with their vendors, as some, such as makeup artists, are instituting temporary “no-touch” policies.
Popular makeup retailers such as MAC and Sephora are suspending makeup applications for the time being.
To date, 313 Canadians have been diagnosed with the new virus, said Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, on Sunday.
There are 73 confirmed cases in B.C., including two in the Interior Health Authority.