Fighting off black flies and looking out over the lakes below, Karley and Jeff Durocher said “I do” following a two hour hike up The Crack, a popular destination in Killarney Provincial Park.
With two witnesses and an officiant, the small ceremony looked very different than the 130-person wedding the Sudbury couple had originally planned.
With a large wedding impossible under COVID-19 restrictions, and uncertainty over just how long it will be before large gatherings are permitted once again, the couple decided to scrap their plans, but keep their wedding date, and “do something that we love doing for our big day,” Karley said.
While many couples are rescheduling, some, like the Durochers, have decided instead to re-imagine their weddings — meaning a very different wedding season ahead for those who work in the industry.
“This is the first time I’ve worn pearls with a bug jacket,” said Caroline Hallsworth, who officiated the Durochers’ wedding.
Effect on businesses
Hallsworth originally had 17 weddings booked for 2020, not including the Durochers’. Eight have postponed, and two couples with weddings in the fall have yet to make an official decision. The other seven, however, are going ahead.
Four of those weddings were already planned to be small, and therefore “COVID-compliant,” Hallsworth said, while the others have decided to go ahead on a much smaller scale.
“One of the things that’s interesting in COVID is that the gathering rules absolutely mirror what is required for a wedding,” Hallsworth said.
“A wedding requires five people. It’s the couple, their two witnesses, and the officiant. So throughout the whole pandemic, weddings — the core of the wedding — has always been COVID-compliant in terms of social distancing and gathering.”
Starting Friday, gatherings of up to 10 people will be permitted throughout the province.
But while weddings can go ahead on a small scale, many are not — meaning a big hit to the industry.
At Flower Towne in Sudbury, shop owner Carole Charbonneau says her business usually does arrangements for one wedding a week throughout the summer months — accounting for about half of her business. This year, she has no bookings.
Meanwhile officiant, wedding planner, MC and DJ Bill McElree says of the 35 weddings he had booked for 2020, none of the couples have decided to downsize. Just eight are still booked, for later in the season, though he expects that will likely change.
“My entire income stream is dependent upon the assemblage of large groups of people. That’s not going to happen any time soon,” McElree.
He is, however, expecting a very busy season in 2021 — as is Hallsworth.
‘Way less stress’
As an officiant, Hallsworth says there is something special about being part of small, intimate ceremonies, where she often takes on a larger role, with “little beautiful involvements,” from pinning boutonnieres to adjusting a tie.
She also says for some couples, smaller weddings amid COVID can help free them of certain expectations.
“The couples that are choosing to go ahead are keeping the things that are important to them,” Hallsworth said.
“I’m starting to hear conversations from people about this changing expectations that we can, we don’t have to follow a set script, that we can do the wedding the way we want to do the wedding.”
For the Durochers, they say they plan to find a way to celebrate with family and friends sometime down the road.
“If things are okay and we’re allowed to do so, we’re probably looking at a pretty big backyard party,” Jeff said.
“A little bit of a celebration with way less stress,” added Karley.