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Stories and information in our region on the COVID-19 pandemic.

When The Happiest Day Of Your Life Gets Bumped By A Pandemic

Laya Barak

Laya Barak and Gil Adler had a camping theme planned for their Memorial Day weekend wedding. Their venue is a sustainable Jewish retreat next to a lake in northwestern Connecticut. That Friday, there’d be a Shabbat dinner; Saturday, everyone would hike or hang out by the lake; and Sunday would be the wedding. 

“We just wanted to be outdoors in a beautiful setting for our wedding with all of our family and friends,” Laya says.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced last month that the stay-at-home guidelines would extend until the end of April. Gil and Laya remember that was the moment they began to prepare – their May wedding might have to be postponed. Then, the retreat center notified them it would stay closed until at least the end of May. 

“We could sit around and cry about it and be really upset, or we can pick ourselves up and say, ‘Listen, we have our health, we're happy, the two of us are together,’” Laya says. 

Thousands of couples who planned to say “I do” this spring now face the reality that their wedding day might not be what they imagined. Couples have a few options when it comes to wedding celebrations in the era of social distance. 

Sarah Parlos owns the Avon-based wedding planning company One Fine Day. Dozens of her clients are in the exact same position as Gil and Laya. She says the perfect wedding day takes months of planning. 

“It's such an emotional and financial investment, it's not just the money you're putting out, but your heart is so attached to this day,” Parlos says.

Wedding venues typically book weekend dates a year in advance. That means there’s hardly any 2020 dates left, so Parlos has rescheduled some of her weddings to weekdays. 

“A lot of our clients are left with just remaining Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday options,” Parlos says. “And so they are taking those dates because of course many of our clients don't want to wait 12 or 18 months.”

Parlos says the first thing to do is lock in the new date with the wedding venue and sign a new contract. Then, notify the guests. 

“There's no need for you to get on the phone and spend hours repeating the story to every person,” Parlos says. “It’s going to be emotionally draining. My advice is to send it out on social media.”

Next, it’s time to talk to the other wedding vendors about the new date. For some couples, the list is pretty long. There’s the officiant, photographer, DJ, florist…

Kristen Maxwell Cooper is editor in chief at The Knot, a popular wedding planning website. 

“It's going to be like putting together a puzzle,” Cooper says. “But one thing that we really recommend our couples do is try to be flexible during this time.” 

Cooper says many wedding vendors are small business owners, and they’ll work with couples because they need the business.

“Vendors know this is out of the couple's control, the couples know that this is out of the vendors control,” Cooper says. “And what we're seeing is that both sides just want to make this happen.” 

Rabbi Jay Rosenbaum, the spiritual leader at Temple Israel in Lawrence, Long Island, says couples don’t have to wait to take their vows. Social distance means only the party has to be postponed. 

“Reciting the blessings that brides and grooms have recited for 4,000 years, that they are sanctified one to the other for all time – that's what marriage is all about.” 

Rabbi Rosenbaum says he’s already officiated at a few virtual ceremonies. 

Gil and Laya understand that the pandemic is out of their control. But that doesn’t make it easier.  

“It's a little bit sad just knowing that I now have to wait longer to get married to Laya,” Gil says. “I really want to marry her, so it’s a little bit sad.” 

“It’s a lot sad,” Laya says. “I mean, it’s our wedding.” 

Laya’s advice for other couples who have to put their wedding on pause: stay calm. 

“If you really love each other and know that you're spending the rest of your life together, then this is a small period of time in what is the rest of your life.” 

Gil and Laya don’t have a new wedding date yet, but they’re still hopeful they can celebrate this fall. 

Read the latest on WSHU’s coronavirus coverage here.

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Desiree reports on the lives of military service members, veterans, and their families for WSHU as part of the American Homefront project. Born and raised in Connecticut, she now calls Long Island home.
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