Nfld. & Labrador

Nixed nuptials: N.L. brides-to-be cancelling, changing their plans due to COVID-19

Couples who started planning more than a year ago are now having to alter the dreams for their big day after new physical distancing rules have limited weddings in Newfoundland and Labrador to five people.

Province limiting wedding ceremonies to 5 people, including officiant

Rebecca Jenson, right, and fiancé Aaron Dillon were planning to hold their wedding in the Dominican Republic in May. (Submitted by Rebecca Jenson)

It was a day Rebecca Jenson had been planning for the past 14 months.

The 27-year-old from Placentia had all the pieces in place for her wedding to Aaron Dillon, her 22-year-old fiancé from Bishop's Falls.

The happy couple and 30 of their family and friends were set to travel from Newfoundland to Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic, for their wedding in May. 

They would later fly back home for an "I Do Barbecue" celebration in central Newfoundland with 200 guests.

Brides are usually concerned about what flowers to pick, and what decor, and what shoes to wear with their dress, and now brides … are worried about people's health and survival.- Rebecca Jenson

So when the COVID-19 pandemic became more serious, Jenson realized her dreams for the big day were being dashed.

"Right now, our wedding is cancelled," Jenson said.

It's a situation she said no one was expecting, and it has brought about a lot of stress.

"Brides are usually concerned about what flowers to pick, and what decor, and what shoes to wear with their dress, and now brides recently — including myself — are worried about people's health and survival [during this] worldwide pandemic," she said. 

As a backup, the couple had been planning to keep their wedding date of May 11 — Jenson's father's birthday — with a small ceremony in a living room. It's a far cry from their "fantasy deluxe" package at the Dominican Republic resort.

But on Monday, Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province's chief medical officer of health, announced weddings are limited to no more than five people, including the officiant.

That's a problem — their bridal party alone is 14 people.

"We are not sure when that number will change, but as of right now, we couldn't even have us, an officiant, and our parents, which is very important to us," Jenson said.

"I'm a little devastated. I really had my heart set on that date.… It would have been special."

Jenson said her fiancé is also disappointed they won't be able to have the wedding they had planned.

Dillon proposed to Jenson in Montreal in February 2019. (Submitted by Rebecca Jenson)

"He's been really supportive and positive about it all, and he's like, 'We'll get married wherever, as long as we're getting married,'" she said.

While they now have two years to use their flight credits, Jenson said she's unsure about the money they spent for the ceremony and hotel.

"They haven't been responding to us, because the resort is closed down," she said. 

The couple doesn't have a new date, but Jenson said they hope to get married sometime this summer.

"We still obviously want to celebrate with our friends and family, and I want to be able to wear my dress, and take pictures with everyone," she said.

Celebrations in Conception Bay North

Holly Crane, coincidentally, had planned her big day for the same week as Jenson's.

On May 15, Crane and Bradley Barrett, both 23, were going to get married at a ceremony in Green's Harbour, followed by a reception at a banquet hall in their hometown of Spaniard's Bay with 300 attendees.

But last week, after a year's worth of planning, the couple had to make the tough decision to put everything on hold.

"At the first of it, we were kind of hopeful that maybe everything would be blown over by the time May came," said Crane.

"[Now], we're realizing that, 'Oh my God, we're actually getting hit pretty hard' and … we don't really have anymore options. We're going to have to change it."

Holly Crane, left, and fiancé Bradley Barrett spent about a year planning their ceremony and reception, which were set for May 15 in Conception Bay North. (Submitted by Holly Crane)

Crane said it's been a difficult time.

"It was stressful as it was trying to plan a wedding. And now just to see all of this coming about, it's really sad, and then such horrible timing," she said.

"We're just trying to be as positive as we can and just try to move forward."

Crane and her fiancé have since chosen a new date at the end of August — though she said there wasn't much choice in the matter.

"It was the only date I could get that most of my vendors could work with," she said. 

"I still lost a few vendors, but it was the best we could come up with."

Crane said she was lucky to either keep her vendors, or get refunds from them. But she wasn't so fortunate with some items that she had purchased for her big day — items that can't be returned.

"We had favours — we had coasters and stuff like that purchased for our guests, and we had a number of gifts for our bridal party and for our parents and grandparents, all with the date and whatnot engraved on them," she said. 

"We're going to have to throw it all away now."

About $1,000 worth of items, she said, wasted.

Advice for other brides-to-be

Crane has some advice for other near-future brides who are struggling with the reality of the pandemic.

"Try to stay positive and try to sort out what you can," she said. 

"Get talking to your vendors and maybe they'll be willing to help you out. Some of mine have been really good to deal with … so hopefully they'll have the same experience and everyone can get married and be happy."

Jenson also has some advice that she's been heeding herself.

"Take it one day at a time," she said. "With so many uncertain things happening right now, you just have to go day by day."

Jenson said if you feel like you need to postpone your big day, just do it.

"Don't feel guilt or shame about it," she said.

"Everyone that we've talked to has been really understanding.… [We're] just trying to keep everyone safe." 

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