The season of canceled weddings: What it's really like to change your plans because of coronavirus

"We have a grandmother who's 99 years old, and she's been waiting for this wedding."
Courtesy of Amina Smith

For couples planning that perfect day, everything seemed to come to a screeching halt on March 12 when the CDC recommended that all large gatherings should be postponed until the COVID-19 outbreak had subsided. As would-be wedding season begins in full swing, we asked three couples to share what it's really like to cancel the day they have dreamed of for years.

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To postpone or not?

Amanda Fusco, a 30-year-old banker, and her groom-to-be, Robert Tammaro, a 32-year-old firefighter on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis in New Haven, Connecticut, learned in mid-March that the pandemic would force them to make a difficult decision. It was a combination of factors that brought this couple to the conclusion that things weren't going to start looking better in the coming months. Fusco shared, “Because our wedding was scheduled for Friday, May 22, it just was too close for comfort.” The thought of all their friends and family attending was definitely worrisome. As of right now, Fusco and Tammaro hope to celebrate their wedding in late August of this year.

Fusco and Tammaro pose for engagement photos earlier in the wedding planning process.

Amina Smith, a 28-year-old host for the network Watch Stadium Sports and her fiancé, Deon Bush, a 26-year-old safety for the NFL Chicago Bears, knew things were getting serious when the NBA shut down. At first, their wedding planner encouraged them to hold out, but then they finally sat down together and had a heart-to-heart conversation. To complicate the planning process even more, the couple had to take the NFL calendar into account when selecting a date. This made it impossible to push their planned nuptials back a couple of months. Smith told us, “Thank God we have a wedding planner that can keep us sane in the middle of this craziness. We rode it out for a while and once we knew it was not going to get better, we made the decision to push our date back to 2021.”

Marie Dugo, a 31-year-old marketing director in New York City, and her fiancé, Jake Dilemani, a 34-year-old political consultant, learned three months before their special day that the church in which they planned to hold their wedding service backed out due to the coronavirus.

“This was pretty devastating because this is my faith and it was supposed to represent the spiritual piece of this,” Dugo shared. The couple held onto the hope that this virus would pass and they would still be able to host a celebration as planned. Once a virtual Zoom wedding was considered and decided against, they soon realized that a cancelation seemed the only reasonable choice.

What hurts the most?

For Fusco and Tammaro, the most disappointing piece was the years of preparation and the effort it took to get to this point. So much time, emotion and money had been invested. Fusco shared, “May 22 had great significance for me because that is my grandmother's birthday.”

For Dugo and Dilemani, the image of guests wearing masks at their cocktail hour was too much to bear. “How do you drink, eat hors d'oeuvres and have fun while you're wearing a mask?” questioned Dugo.

For Smith and Bush, the hardest part to cope with was the time they'd spent planning to this point. The two got engaged in 2018. Smith confessed, “I think the most disappointing part for both of us is that we waited two years to plan and we put so much emotional effort in getting so close to the altar.”

Reschedule, reimagine or pivot?

For Smith and Bush, the current plan is to reschedule their date with the same guest list for the spring of 2021. “We have a grandmother who's 99 years old, and she's been waiting for this wedding. We have to do this, Nana is waiting,” Smith joked. The couple noted that if they get to 2021 and there are still restrictions on large events, they will be flexible and just include immediate family.

For Fusco and Tammaro, it's really a guessing game. Since they are hoping to celebrate their special day this summer, there is still a great deal of uncertainty. For now, all systems are a go for August 28. Fusco added, “I don't foresee us being able to have as big a guest list as we had originally planned, but then that's what we'll have to do.”

Back in New York City, Dugo and Dilemani have taken a different route. As remnants of their special day lay around their apartment, they are not as hopeful. Too many unanswered questions like "Are we unsafe until there's a vaccine?" are driving their ultimate decision to cancel the celebration and not set a new date in stone. The couple is considering using the money reserved for the wedding toward a down payment on a house or for throwing a housewarming blowout later. A small June ceremony at their apartment with just a few close family members may also be on the horizon. Dugo concedes, “Planning a wedding is super fun, but I don't really know if I feel like going through the rigmarole of wedding planning again.”

Is there a silver lining?

When Dugo and Dilemani finally shared their decision with their wedding guests, there was a sense of relief.

“It had been so stressful to wake up every morning and wonder if that was going to be the day when Governor Cuomo shut down the state," Dugo said. "I was waking up every day bracing for impact, waiting for something to fall apart.”

Talking about it has helped her come to a realization that this happened and it’s OK. The support of Facebook groups like Floravere Brides has also helped Dugo to connect with other women going through the same process.

Dugo and Dilemani celebrating their engagement.Courtesy of Marie Dugo

As for Fusco and Tammaro, Fusco welcomes the extra time to plan both logistics and finances and has found the Facebook group Connecticut Wedding Swap and Advice to be a fantastic outlet to share information with other couples dealing with this dilemma. Trying to look at the glass half full, she hopes that “our day will even be more perfect than originally planned.”

Smith may have summed it up best when she realized that by giving yourself the grace to be flexible, especially when the outcome doesn't look like what you were expecting, you’ve succeeded.

She explained, “I’m grateful for the fact that I have somebody to share that moment with because some people don't get to have that.” Keeping what's most important in perspective, Smith reminds herself that at the end of the day she will get to marry her best friend.

“I have my health, I have my job. These are things that I think people tend to overlook. Sometimes I feel a little guilty worrying about my wedding, knowing that there are people out there who don't have jobs or money to put food on the table. For me, that's the silver lining.”