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One Small Hitch: How COVID-19 Is Shaking Up Idaho Wedding Season

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Ann Delaney
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Some couples who have had to reschedule their 2020 weddings are sending out "change the date" cards to let guests know about the new date.

Karen Duran met her fiance at the University of Idaho four years ago. Last March, they got engaged and set the wedding date for August 1, 2020. Leading up to the day, her dress was ready, the cake was ordered and the DJ was booked. Then, the pandemic hit.

 

Duran, who was born in Peru, began hearing about restrictions and closures from family members back home.

“They closed all the borders. They closed the embassy. My family was supposed to come and they were planning on applying for a visa," said Duran. "But all of that was closed.”

Duran’s wedding party was made up of international students she met in college. So, now her bridesmaids were facing travel shutdowns.

“I have my friends from Malaysia and Brazil and Iran. And we are getting news from there telling us that I don't think it's going to be possible," said Duran.

In a survey of more than 470 couples, 96% are rescheduling their weddings.

Ultimately, Duran and her fiance decided to postpone. 

And they’re not the only couple adapting their 2020 summer weddings. 

In a survey of more than 470 couples by the wedding planning website the Knot, 96% said they were rescheduling their weddings. 65% of those couples are pushing their weddings to later in the year. The rest remain undecided or are waiting until next year.

 

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Credit Lacey Daley / Boise State Public Radio
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Boise State Public Radio
Weddings as far out as September are getting postponed due to fears and restrictions around COVID-19.

These decisions don’t just impact couples. Businesses like wedding planners, wedding photographers and even wedding DJs are taking a big hit. 

“The biggest change has been just the uncertainty and not being able to have all of those answers that we normally can either get or have through experience," said Brandi Reiland, owner of the wedding planning business Soiree Weddings & Events in Boise.

None of the weddings she’s working on have been cancelled, but nearly all have been postponed. And even pushing back the ceremonies until fall offers little certainty.

"Like to know if there is gonna be another wave or will our guests feel comfortable even in a September wedding instead of a June wedding?" Reiland said.

In response to changing guidelines and travel risks, Reiland said many couples are cutting down guest lists. 

"They're realizing that even with the postponement, their wedding is probably going to be more of a micro wedding now with around 30 people," said Reiland.

And some are even opting for something smaller than a micro wedding.

“A lot of couples, about half of them are opting to elope on their original date," said Macarah Wright.

Wright and her husband run the wedding photography business Thistle & Pine Creative. 

Nearly all of the couples they’ve been working with have postponed, and many are eloping.

Like one couple she photographed whose wedding became a simple boat ride on Redfish Lake. There, the groom phoned his best man on FaceTime who was still dressed up for the occasion.

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Credit Macarah Wright/ Thistle & Pine Creative
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Couple Julia and Mac at Redfish Lake for their hiking elopement.

“Pretty much every single wedding there is FaceTime or Zoom calls of some sort," said Wright.

Zoom elopements and virtual ceremonies are now part of business wedding packages. Simply Eloped, a Boise business co-founded by Janessa White, has adapted, but doesn’t think these changes are here to stay. 

“I really foresee that being kind of like a flash in the pan just as a result of people not being able to go into a city hall or leave their home," said White. "So as markets continue to open back up, I think that the virtual ceremonies will just be dropped by the states as a legal option.”

Photographer Macarah Wright said her schedule is booked for next year, but she’s still worried for her business.

“I just hope it doesn't come back again," said Wright. "Because if weddings get cancelled again, like, what are we going to do? We're just trying to, I guess, adapt right now and figure out if there's another form of income we can be doing besides weddings.”

Right now, Bride Karen Duran said she and her fiance are thinking about having a very small ceremony this fall with friends living close by.

“Maybe in a few years, when everything is back to normal, we might be able to have a bigger celebration with everybody," she said.

Couple in Sun Valley, Idaho
Credit Adelaide Smithmason / Simply Eloped
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Duran said the support of her friends and flexibility from wedding businesses like photographers and venues has made all the difference. 

“From being sad and devastated ... I became very thankful and grateful to be in this community," said Duran.

The ceremonies may be different for now with some extra hand sanitizer and a few more FaceTime calls. But that’s not stopping people from getting married. Pandemics, however painful, are temporary. Marriage, we can hope, is forever. 

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