When Kate MacGowan sat down to create a guest list for her wedding, slated for August 2021, she ended up making four.
She has an ideal roster that includes 120 guests, one with 50, one with 25 and her last represents the “worst case”: a runaway.
“It’s the only way to sleep at night, is to know what the day is like, I have a version of it in my head,” she told CBC.
For the first time this year, wedding receptions with more than a handful of guests are back as Montreal moves to a green zone.
This is a great relief for many couples who have spent months planning their wedding, anxiously watching the vaccination rate rise as their date draws near.
While the rules state that 250 guests can attend a wedding ceremony inside a place of worship, with masks and distancing, only 25 of those people are allowed to attend an indoor afterparty. If held outdoors, that number jumps to 50.
MacGowan said she knew planning a wedding during a pandemic would be complicated.
âI’ve said it from day one, I didn’t want the wedding planning to get ugly and stressful. So I said I never wanted to reschedule, even if it just meant we were both running away. “
Two months away from his big day, MacGowan is still waiting for his meeting place to confirm and find out how many people will be allowed to attend.
She said that with all the uncertainty, it was an opportunity “to focus on what’s important. It’s a wedding. So if at the end of the day you get married, you got it right. . “
“It’s just a party – the lifespan of the marriage that follows is what’s really important.”
Natasha Launi, who is getting married on September 2, is also facing problems reserving a venue.
She had to postpone her wedding, originally scheduled for July 2020, and said many places are asking couples to sign non-refundable contracts to ensure they will be paid even if the government cancels some of its reopening plans.
Launi said that under the current rules, she “is not willing to spend the money it costs to organize a wedding for 25 guests. To spend the money on linens, the tables and decor and everything, you’re looking at thousands of dollars per person. “
Launi, who works as a wedding photographer, said she understands why vendors are being cautious.
“They don’t want to lose money, for an industry that has already suffered so much.”
She believes the reception rules don’t match some of the other relaxed restrictions that allow larger groups at festivals and stadiums.
“The reopening plan that the government has proposed does not make sense and it is not at all in favor of the event industry,” she said.
“You have churches and synagogues with 250 people, but halls covered with 25. So they’re killing the event industry.”
The events industry “devastated”
Leilani Baja, director of operations for Windsor Ballrooms in downtown Montreal, told CBC she believes her industry was left out in the plan.
âWe feel like we’ve been forgotten,â Baja said, saying spaces like his that exclusively host big events have been âleft out of the equationâ.
She said that since 250 guests are allowed to attend a ceremony at a place of worship, she has received many calls from people who believe the same number would apply at the reception.
âIt’s been a tough pill to swallow,â she said. “We have a lot of newlyweds who are hoping things will change in the coming weeks.”
While it is possible to host an event in ballrooms for 25 people, Baja said the fixed room rental overhead costs are the same whether you have 25 guests or 250.
WATCH | Three brides reflect on the challenges of planning a wedding during COVID:
In a normal year, Baja said the venue would be booked every weekend in the summer. Since the pandemic, revenues have plummeted.
She said she is keeping her team on hold in case the government loosens the rules even further in July.
“We have already lost most of our year,” she said, adding that the closures had “had a devastating impact on the industry.”
At Club Forest and Stream in Dorval, small wedding receptions are taking place next weekend.
While the club can host an outdoor event for 50 guests under the new rules, sales manager Eric Paquet told CBC that renting a tent for it could add up to $ 4,000 of more to a couple’s budget.
âA lot of sites don’t have outdoor options,â Paquet said, adding that people who go this route will also be governed by the same rules as indoor parties.
“No one can dance right now. No one can stand too.”
This means that people will have to factor in the cost of not only the dinner-to-plate service, but also the waiters delivering drinks and canapes to seated guests.
Like many in the industry, Paquet is hoping that over the next few weeks the rules for event spaces will be relaxed even more.
Giovanna De Capua, co-owner of the Ivoire bridal boutique in Outremont, said she has noticed a change in the way her customers are feeling now that the wedding ceremonies have resumed.
âIt’s almost surreal to them, they can’t believe it’s finally happening,â she said. “I have brides who have had to postpone twice. So they have tears in their eyes. It’s so nice to see them happy and positive.”
De Capua said she has been busy in recent weeks with many people planning for next fall or summer.
“Now they are coming, many of them at the last minute as well, they don’t want to wait any longer,” she said.
“You are getting married once in your life and you want the wedding of your dreams.”
For Lorraine-Noelle Pellicone, who is planning a wedding in September, the decision to postpone her wedding to May has been disappointing.
“It was a sad decision, but it was a necessary decision.”
Pellicone said now that things were starting to open up, she had to prepare at the last minute.
âWe couldn’t meet the caterers until the restaurants were open,â she said. “We’re doing things in a month and a half that probably would have been done in eight.”
Despite the challenges, Pellicone said it’s clear people in the industry are motivated to support their customers.
“It’s already hectic planning, COVID makes it eight million times more hectic, but I really feel like everyone is doing their best to make things happen.”
“Three seasons of marriage in one”
Caryn Lim, a designer who creates wedding flower arrangements, told CBC that many of the couples she works with are “super stressed.”
âInstead of being excited about their marriage, they just want to be done with it. It’s really sad talking to my wives,â Lim said.
She said since the announcement of the reopening she has received many calls, with couples hoping they will be allowed to have bigger parties as the vaccination rate continues to rise.
Lim said that with so many couples postponed, next year will be “essentially three seasons of marriage in one,” with everyone trying to get married in the first season without COVID.
Nicole-Natassha Goulding, founder and wedding planner at Chic by Nicole, said the majority of her clients had already given up by the summer of 2021.
While some are trying to plan small events for the fall, others are booking for next year, or canceling and going the run away.
Beyond the headaches of changing plans and postponing events, Goulding said she also needed to help her clients navigate rules that weren’t always clear, both in Quebec and Ontario.
âIt’s been double, triple the work and I would say a huge amount of extra stress,â she said.
While this season may be salvageable for some, Goulding said she expects a scramble on serves once things get back to normal.
“I’m full for next year. I have people contacting me for 2024 at this point because they know the demand is so high.”