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Island wedding vendors feeling impact of COVID-19 as season could be halted or lost

Marsha Weeks is a wedding commissioner in P.E.I.
Marsha Weeks, a wedding commissioner in P.E.I., was gearing up for a busy season before the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) hit. This year marks her eighth season in the wedding industry. - Contributed



Cayley Aylward of Caley Joy Photography says 70 per cent of her income comes from wedding photography. - Caley Aylward/Special to The Guardian
Cayley Aylward of Caley Joy Photography says 70 per cent of her income comes from wedding photography. - Caley Aylward/Special to The Guardian

Opening up her scheduling app, Caley Aylward makes yet another change to her calendar. 

Since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) pandemic Aylward has taken calls from clients who are cancellling or postponing their weddings. 

Weddings make up about 70 per cent of her yearly income, with tourism and commercial work being the second most.

"(The wedding industry will) feel the ripples of this for a really long time. It's disheartening, it's scary and it's really stressful."

"(The wedding industry will) feel the ripples of this for a really long time. It's disheartening, it's scary and it's really stressful."

Her first wedding was scheduled for June 6.

“And so far we are trying to sit tight and see what will happen, as it's hard to know how long we will be in total shutdown mode,” says Aylward, who has been working full time as a photographer for four years.

The recent weeks have been stressful for her and her wedding clients as everyone tries to stay positive and not make any drastic decisions about potential wedding postponements until more information is available from health officials. 

"You develop such amazing relationships with your clients while planning their weddings, sometimes over a year in advance, and you just want the best for them. You want them to have the day they always dreamed of, and you want to do everything you can to take their stress away," she said.

"One thing we have to remember is that it is one of the biggest days of our clients' lives, but in a lot of cases, it's also the vendors' whole livelihood, so the stress is two-fold."

Aylward says P.E.I. is a destination spot for weddings with various businesses associated with the industry and couples bringing 100-plus people with them to the Island for days or even a week. 

“The money that weddings generate is crazy – from airport travel, rentals, hotels, restaurants, shops, to the actual wedding day venues, caterers, photographers, rental companies, videographers, planners, florists, officiants, musicians, hair, bridal boutiques, decorators, the list goes on. It will be a huge loss if we miss our season."


Getting married on Prince Edward Island

The Licence:

  • Before getting married on P.E.I the couple must have a P.E.I. Marriage licence. Then after the marriage takes place and is officially registered with Vital Statistics, a couple can apply for either a certified copy of registration of marriage or a marriage certificate, which are legal documents for proof of marriage. 
  • A marriage licence is valid for three months. 

Changing your name: 

  • If a person plans to change their surname for marriage they can change the surname on their identification documents (passport, driver’s licence) and most bank and insurance documents using the marriage certificate.

Getting married in provincial parks:

  • The P.E.I. government requires people to obtain permits at least two months in advance of any special events held on provincially owned land, this includes weddings. 

Jamie Caseley, the general manager of Caseley's, which operates a tent and party rental business and a bridal boutique, agreed. 

"For some vendors, this is only part of their business. For others, it's their entire income. We have been fortunate to be in business for years, but for some companies, they might have difficulties sustaining after the loss of the season." 

Caseley said his business is operating on a day-to-day basis. 

"We closed our doors on March 19, but we didn't start to feel the postponements and cancellations for another four to five days. Most clients have opted to postpone for now until about September/October, others into 2021. It's been the main choice since the couples have plans made with other vendors."

To prepare, Caseley said they changed their cancellation and postponement policy. 

"We have couples from across Canada, the U.S., the United Kingdom and New Zealand reaching out. Everyone is in a unique situation."

A newly wedded couple runs down an Island red-dirt road following their nuptials. - Caley Joy Photography/Special to The Guardian
A newly wedded couple runs down an Island red-dirt road following their nuptials. - Caley Joy Photography/Special to The Guardian

In response to the pandemic, Caseley and Aylward said vendors and key players in the industry have been part of weekly confabs to stay up-to-date, motivate each other and work together to meet the needs of clients and couples. 

Caseley is also part of a committee that works to promote the Island as a destination site. 

"Obviously, this will impact the destination tourism side of P.E.I. We don't know how long the restrictions will be in place, but as long as they are in place, it's a complete shutdown. But with continued planning and marketing, there will be some hit, but there should be the ability to bounce back." 

Marsha Weeks, a self-described hopeless romantic who is entering her eighth season as a wedding commissioner on P.E.I., was gearing up for a busy season before COVID-19 hit.

"I think it would be fair to say that there wouldn’t be a Friday or Saturday from May to November that I wouldn’t be officiating multiple weddings. I have also grown an elopement business and I have people come from all over the world come to be married on P.E.I."

By late March, she started receiving "what if" emails from couples. Now it's a daily occurrence. 

"Many of my May/June couples have moved their date either to the fall or until 2021. Others have downsized their wedding to an elopement style ceremony and are hopeful that some of the restrictions on social gathering will be relaxed in the months ahead to be able to obtain a marriage license. There have been couples who are taking the 'wait and see' approach to see what things look like a little bit further out before making any decisions."

Weeks said it breaks her heart to see her wedding couples face the stress and uncertainty of the pandemic. 

"Planning a wedding is hard work – there are so many moving parts – it’s a huge financial, emotional and time investment for a lot of couples and they’ve been planning this day, for in some cases, years. A number of my couples have picked dates that have special meaning to them while others have planned a destination wedding in P.E.I. to bring all the people they love to our Island. For them, trying to postpone and co-ordinate all of the same details is like re-planning your wedding over again. My heart really goes out to them." 

Like Aylward and Caseley, Weeks predicts the coronavirus will have significant impact on the wedding industry. 

May and June couples are weighing their options and Weeks said this could mean a busier September and October and possibly winter season. 

"With the travel restrictions in place, even if P.E.I. is able to flatten the curve, I think a lot of those destination weddings will be looking at their options based on health authority directives and government restrictions. For example, I have a couple from Australia that were coming to P.E.I. this summer to elope, however, now they are uncertain as to when they will be able to travel." 


Twitter.com/modernmillee 

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