It wasn’t the big wedding they’d envisioned, but Katie Haywood and Steve Ayrheart still managed to get married during a global pandemic.
The newlyweds tied the knot in the backyard of Haywood’s aunt’s central Sarnia home on May 16, with a few socially distanced family members in attendance.
“My dad couldn’t walk me down the aisle, and there was no reception of course,” said Haywood, a 30-year-old childcare worker.
Not the church wedding with 121 guests and eight attendants she’d dreamed about. “But it was still worth it,” she said. “We had said May 16 would be our special day and we didn’t want that changed.”
The Ayrhearts had obtained a marriage licence from City Hall before everything shut down. They switched things up to fit the emergency protocols and found an officiant willing to oversee the service.
But they’re the exception. Most couples have chosen to postpone to next year, which has left the entire wedding business in tatters, said local planner Victoria Sebben.
Each of the 13 couples that hired her to assist with their weddings in May, June and July has hit the pause button.
“In August, I have a couple of brides that are going to have a small wedding, and four others who are on the fence,” Sebben said.
Wedding venues are empty. Catering businesses are closed. Photographers are sidelined, and floral shops and bridal boutiques sidelined during the most lucrative of seasons.
“It’s just heartbreaking. I was so busy and then overnight, boom. Nothing. This is my livelihood and I have no idea when it will return to normal. It’s just crushed the industry,” Sebben said.
Brides are understandably upset. “But they’re also very understanding,” she added. “We’re not going to let their dreams die; just postpone them.”
Rev. Allan Farris of Laurel Lea-St. Matthews Church performed the Ayrhearts’ outdoor ceremony. It was the farthest he’s ever stood from a bride and groom, he said.
“We held the rehearsal and it was all about what safety measures we’d take,” he said. “We did our best to meet the protocols.”
He’d worked with the couple since last year preparing for a full-on church wedding.
“My (late) grandmother used to go to Laurel Lea-St. Matthews with me,” said Haywood. “Being married in that church is important to me.”
As a result, the couple intends to repeat their vows again when it’s safe for church services. They’ve rebooked everything, including a reception at the Royal Canadian Legion.
“If the pandemic is still going in November we’ll have to postpone it again,” Haywood said. “I just hope that this reopening is slow enough and that everyone is smart about it, so we aren’t having another (COVID-19) wave in November.”
Rev. Farris said he understands why a bride and groom who already exchanged vows would do it again in a church.
“Weddings aren’t just for the couple. They are for the whole community and to bring family and friends together, so we’ll do another service,” he said.
The pandemic is revealing our need for social interaction and how much it’s missing right now, Rev. Farris added.
“We had been taking our face-to-face community for granted. Not having it is very difficult.”
Though weddings are still legal, licences have been tough to come by.
But as of Monday, City Hall began offering marriage licence services again, by appointment only.
Additional details are online at: https://www.sarnia.ca/covid-19-information-2/
City Hall said staff cannot provide advice on the number of guests allowed to attend a planned wedding. For information on physical distancing guidelines, consult the Provincial Emergency Order.