Originally published by Pittsburgh Magazine on August 12, 2021. Click here to read the original article.
As we approach the time of year that would normally be wedding season, the pandemic has left brides and grooms wondering what to do about a 200-person, prepaid event.
For Pittsburgh couples, what was an exciting time of preparation has now been shadowed with uncertainty. But even though social distancing may have kept some from having the wedding they dreamed of in the near future, that doesn’t mean there is no wedding to be had at all. The local wedding industry has banded together to show couples they don’t have to abandon celebration altogether.
As a wedding photographer for 12 years, Leeann Marie Golish has witnessed firsthand the power of love. When the pandemic struck, she knew that love was tough enough to withstand something of this magnitude. She started Small Weddings Pittsburgh, a blog where industry professionals give advice and inspiration on how to have a small wedding as well as a list of resources.
“I’m never one to just give up, and I know that there are lots of couples out there that are the same way,” she says. “Everyone who is listed [as a vendor] is really looking forward to finding creative new ways to approach weddings this year.”
This website helps those committed to being wed navigate which vendors cater to smaller guest lists. This process is often time-intensive, so Golish found caterers, bakers and florists to list with their contact information easily accessible.
“It’s my hope that the website helps make the planning process easy for couples who want to tie the knot this year,” Golish says. “Any way that two people in love commit their lives to each other is a celebration, whether that is big or small.”
Victoria Deardorff, founder and editor of Burgh Brides, quickly recognized that as life as we know it changed, so should her blog content. Deardorff and her team are writing special articles for 2020 weddings on topics such as having a Sunday versus Saturday wedding.
“We are listening to the questions that we’re getting asked, and we’re writing content that addresses those issues that we are hearing most frequently,” she says.
In early May, Deardorff hosted a Zoom discussion with industry professionals that allowed readers to join and ask their COVID-19 questions.
“We’re connecting vendors with brides and grooms who might need advice or planning assistance,” says Deardorff. “We’re just trying to gather as many resources as we can to help make this process a bit easier on these couples.”
The Year of the Micro-Wedding
For some, the solution is micro-weddings. From backyards to corners of parks, couples are still finding ways to commemorate their connection with an intimate celebration.
Trish Derry, owner of Vintage Alley Rentals, says she felt helpless between thinking of how to sustain her business and help her clients. When she caught wind of couples using their backyards to get married, an idea struck.
“Let me throw it out there and see if people want me to ‘beautify’ their backyards,” Derry says about her experiment.
It has been well received, and she now has two stress-free, cost-effective packages for couples to choose from. After the couple sends her pictures of their backyard, Derry can install chairs, a welcome vignette, a backdrop for the ceremony and more — all in a no-contact fashion — and takes it all down at the end.
“Brides are telling me, ‘I’m excited about my wedding again,’ and that has been really great,” says Derry.
The hashtag #posponedontcancel is trending for a reason. Shari Zatman, founder and event producer of Perfectly Planned by Shari, says postponing is the best option because people can still have the event they dreamt of and vendors can stay in business.
“I really hope that the people that I’m working with [won’t] have to make real compromises in a way that they feel like they’re not getting the experience they hoped for,” she says. “To save our industry, we’re really hoping and encouraging people to still have celebrations and life cycle events but to postpone them rather than completely canceling.”
Zatman’s day-to-day is a lot of speculation. But, she is working seven days a week to be available for those who were supposed to have gotten married and future couples still in the midst of creating their special day.
“What I’m doing is… planning anywhere from two to three to four scenarios for every event, because I feel like it’s my job as a planner to think ahead, although I’m in this unique situation,” she says.
An Industry United
Between interpreting state guidelines and anticipating potential restrictions for fall, Zatman says she is so appreciative of the cooperation she has received from her community. From accepting backup dates to looking ahead to 2021, vendors and planners are trying to make the process easier for everyone.
“I have not met with any resistance,” says Zatman. “It’s kind of that saying, ‘We’re all in this together.’ We really are.”
“Among the professionals, it was sort of this rallying cry where we all started to rack our brains and really get creative and innovate and think, ‘OK, how can we still serve these couples during this time?’,” says Deardorff. “I think, as an industry, we all kind of got behind one another and just came up with different ways to help these couples out.”