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Courtney Wetzel, owner of Blush Bridal with locations in Presque Isle, Bangor and Portland, has taken wedding dress shopping to new heights through virtual consultations and in-home fitting rooms as she has adapted to the COVID-19 guidelines for social distancing.
Soon-to-be brides who should be looking forward to their special wedding days instead are facing absent family members due to travel restrictions, closed venues due to limitations on gatherings and coveted wedding dates up in the air as people in the industry scramble to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“All the things we do in store, we do virtually,” Wetzel said.
Wetzel sets up virtual video chat meetings with brides who had planned to visit the store in person to shop for the perfect dress. A staff member takes the bride through all of the dresses in the store, then puts the bride’s selections on mannequins for her to see how the dresses might fit.
“My priority was keeping my full-time staff working,” Wetzel said.
Brides can choose up to five dresses to try on at home while in virtual consultation with a bridal shop employee. With a deposit, the dresses can be picked up curbside, and once the decision is made, the deposit goes toward the cost of the dress. The store picks up the dresses.
“We are sanitizing and steam cleaning all of the dresses upon [their] return,” Wetzel said.
Wetzel’s first client to choose her dress using the new feature originally had an appointment with a retailer closer to her home. Tracy Taylor said her anxiety started when she found out the shop she had chosen was closed due to state restrictions on nonessential businesses during the pandemic.
“As it is now, with ordering my dress, it will be in August so I was so anxious about the timing,” Taylor said. “When I saw that Blush was offering the online consultation and allowing me to take some home to try on, it was a huge relief.”
Taylor narrowed her choices to five dresses, then connected with her bridesmaids, sisters and mom using the videoconferencing tool Zoom.
“I found my dream wedding dress,” she said. “The entire process was so easy and I cannot say enough amazing things about the staff at Blush. They were as excited for me as I was to find my dress.”
While picking out a dress in person is not an option right now, Wetzel said she’s not heard of anyone canceling their wedding. But postponing the nuptials is not off the table for many couples.
Reuben Bell, owner and president of Blue Elephant Events in Saco and editor of Real Maine Weddings, said several of his clients have postponed or canceled their short-term event plans, but so far there are no wedding cancellations.
One worry many couples face is the loss of deposits and nonrefundable wedding expenditures because of circumstances out of their control. For Blue Elephant Events, the deposits transfer to the new dates, although Bell said picking a new date can be a chore.
“There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle. Just because I can move from this date to this date, doesn’t mean the photographer can,” he said. “Planners, venues and caterers are the first ones people go to.”
Bell said that although a lot of people are calling their planners asking what to do, there “hasn’t been a lot of panicking.”
Wedding planner Nicole Mower said that because of venue and vendor bookings, some couples are having to be “flexible” with their dates.
“We’re kind of a seasonal industry so April and May weddings are being the most affected right now, and June weddings are thinking of postponing as well,” Mower said.
Some brides are postponing their weddings because they want to make sure their family and friends can be present. In 2018, a year before COVID-19 was discovered in China, Megan Daigle had the opportunity to dance with her father at her wedding.
“Having my father at my wedding was a blessing and a miracle,” Daigle said. “It’s a moment I had always dreamt of as a little girl.”
One of Mower’s brides who already decided to postpone her wedding is Jill Segal of Boston, whose original date was June 6 in Kennebunkport. Segal and her fiance have moved their wedding date to Aug. 28, 2020.
Mower advised that Segal reach out to the vendors for some backup dates, and that the couple add a link in their invitations for their wedding website for guests to keep updated on the latest plans.
After already canceling their bachelor/bachelorette parties and postponing the bridal shower in March, Segal and her fiance wanted to hold off a week from sending out invitations — then the pandemic began to escalate.
“Even if we were able to keep our date, we felt we were missing out on what was supposed to be the most exciting time leading up to the wedding — the celebrations, the food tasting, the floral mockup, etc. At that point, we knew we would need to postpone,” Segal said.
Segal added that a lot of their guests would be coming from New York where she is from, and from Los Angeles.
“Our family thinks we made a smart decision,” she said. “Our family and friends have made us feel so loved as we navigated this decision.”
While Segal’s new date is in August, wedding dates for many couples in New England are moving farther into the year. Mower said the industry has been trying to push winter weddings.
But some brides face penalties from vendors if they move their dates. And while wedding insurance covers natural disasters, insurance companies aren’t covering COVID-related issues, Mower said. Even so, most vendors are working with planners and brides, she said.
Some brides, like Elizabeth Willis, have elected to stay the course.
The Boston couple plan to get married June 27 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, while working with Maine wedding planner Mower.
“That being said, we are taking this decision seriously because we have some family members who are at high risk for the virus so we don’t want to take chances that could affect their health, enjoyment or presence at the wedding,” Willis said.
As a wedding photographer, Willis said she has been helping her own clients as they have had to make the same decisions she has.
While no vendors have canceled on the couple, Mower suggested that they send out a Google Sheet for them to enter alternative dates they are available in case postponement is necessary.
Willis said her wedding clients who have postponed have had an elopement-type wedding. Some will get married on the date they had planned and then have a reception later in the spring.
“I love that people are making an opportunity to have twice the love,” Willis said. “If we end up having to postpone, we will definitely do that and will take the opportunity to make it super personal and meaningful.”
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