'We just want to get married': Couples with pandemic 'fatigue' settle on small weddings or elopement

Couples are throwing in the towel on their dream weddings and going for intimate gatherings or eloping amid pandemic restrictions. One Oakville, Ont., bride-to-be is planning her nuptials for her aunt's backyard, with plans for a bigger party once things open up.

Couples thought they'd 'be in the clear' to tie the knot in '21 but now have hands tied, says Ontario reverend

Jenifer Boyce and Dan Ratcliffe plan to marry on May 29 in a 10-person backyard ceremony in Oshawa, Ont. They say they'll have a bigger gathering once the pandemic allows it. ( Jenifer Boyce Photography)

Jenifer Boyce and her boyfriend Dan Ratcliffe had big plans for their wedding next month. 

"We were originally planning to get married at a resort in Muskoka with between 75 and 90 people," said Boyce, 30, of Oakville, Ont.

"That's completely changed to a 10-person wedding in my aunt's backyard in Oshawa," she laughed.

Under Ontario's current stay-at-home order, 10 is the maximum number of people who can gather for an outdoor wedding.

Boyce, a wedding photographer who had worked across southwestern Ontario before the pandemic, has had her business reduced dramatically, so has relied on the Ontario Small Business Support Grant to make ends meet. 

Many of her clients have postponed their nuptials two and three times already.

"I think I've had 22 reschedules so far," she said.

Couple plans marriage now, party later

Boyce and Ratcliffe weren't interested in rescheduling.

"We just want to get married," said Boyce.

The couple still plans to host a big reception next year in Muskoka, so-called cottage country in central Ontario.

"Elopements are becoming increasingly popular," said Rev. Jodi Hall, founder of Something New Officiant in London., Ont. 

The happy couple in this Instagram couldn't wait for the pandemic to end:

"I think many couples are feeling the fatigue of planning their initial ceremonies for 2020," said Hall, referring to when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit.

"Many thought that they'd be in the clear for 2021, and now recognizing it's still not what they had imagined."

That's prompted a lot of couples to throw in the towel on their big dream weddings and elope instead, said Hall.

In some cases, it's because of the emotional roller-coaster of it all; for others, it's due to the financial struggle couples are facing in these pandemic times.

Hall officiated about 20 elopement-style weddings last fall, and has another six booked before Ontario's current stay-at-home order is scheduled to end on May 20.

"And that's changing every day," she said, adding some couples are getting in touch looking to marry within 24 hours.


Rebecca Zandbergen

Host, London Morning

Rebecca Zandbergen is from Ottawa and has worked for CBC Radio across the country for more than 20 years, including stops in Iqaluit, Halifax, Windsor and Kelowna.