COVID accelerated the trend toward smaller weddings—like Shaua and Aaron’s pictured here, arranged by East Coast Pop Up Weddings.

Weddings and waiting in Nova Scotia's marriage biz

COVID messed with wedding travel, parties and even kissing, but people are ready to say “I do” again.

For months, fiances Ian Macleod and Matt Packman were at a standstill. Their wedding was planned for September 25, 2021. A large portion of their 120 guests, Packman’s family, would be coming from PEI, but travel was still restricted. They didn’t even know if that many people would be allowed to gather at the Halifax Club, their downtown venue. They waited to finalize things, holding onto invitations until they knew their wedding was a real possibility. And then, suddenly, the floodgates opened.

“When people really started to get their second dose, then we saw the light at the end of the tunnel,” Macleod says. “We started to order chairs and we got our suits finally tailored and fixed and paid for."

As more of Nova Scotia’s population gets vaccinated and restrictions keep loosening, it’s clear that this wedding could actually happen, though many details remain unknown: whether or not we move into Phase 5 will impact the rules surrounding masks, gathering limits and social distancing. Either way, the couple is finally able to send out those invitations and finish preparing more confidently.

“We were planning it half with the mind that it may not happen at all,” Macleod says.

Macleod and Packman aren’t alone in their experience. Wedding planner Jessica Murray, who runs Wedding Whisperer in Halifax, explains that for engaged couples, Phase 4 and the oncoming Phase 5 have been a source of hope and relief. Specifically, July 14th’s provincial COVID briefing brought some much-needed clarity for those who’ve been left in the lurch.

“Before the press conference, there was no dancing, there was no mingling, which was really difficult,” Murray said. “But now that that's been announced, I would anticipate people will be more keen to start booking again.”

It’s unsurprising that the wedding industry, which relies on large gatherings and travelling family members, has been hit hard by the pandemic. Everyone involved—from venues and planners to photographers and makeup artists—has held their breath, unsure when things might return to normal. While some couples have kept their 2021 dates, many have not, instead postponing until 2022 or cancelling altogether.

Emily Jewer and Fiona Ryan are one of these couples. The pair got engaged in 2018 and planned for an August 2020 wedding, with a ceremony at Sanford Fleming Park and a reception at Dalhousie’s Shirreff Hall. When the pandemic hit and it became clear that a 150-guest gathering wouldn’t be possible, they postponed it to August of 2021, not sure how long COVID would last. From there, things continued to fall apart: Dalhousie announced it wouldn’t be hosting events this summer; the pair decided to make it a backyard wedding at Jewer’s parents’ house; the third wave hit, and they pushed it back again, unsure if out-of-province family would be allowed to travel in August 2021. Now, they’re looking at an August 2022 date, with a much smaller guest list of roughly 65 people.

“We're kind of just starting from scratch again, it's like a whole new wedding,” Jewers says.

While the wedding planning process has been stressful, the pair both say there’s some benefit to having their plans change so many times. Namely, it’s made them reassess their priorities, ultimately planning a wedding more closely aligned with their tastes and desires.

“We kind of have more of an idea of what we do and don't want and where we're willing to be flexible,” Ryan says.

While it’s been a tumultuous time for the industry at large, it seems there’s one demographic that hasn’t been too profoundly impacted: those planning and having tiny weddings with only a few guests (if any). With fear of restrictions settling in again, it seems like small weddings will continue to be embraced by those getting married in Nova Scotia. Sara Anderson, who runs East Coast Pop Up Weddings—a company devoted to intimate, non-traditional ceremonies and elopements—says business has mostly been steady. “I was definitely seeing a shift in the industry towards smaller, more intimate weddings. And then COVID came along and kind of forced people to have to elope,” Anderson says.

Anderson also recently opened the Wolfville Wedding Chapel: a small venue in the Annapolis Valley designed for casual, fun ceremonies. The Vegas-style wedding chapel (complete with Elvis bust) has already been busy with couples. Anderson says that, with Phase 4 announcements, she’s been receiving even more queries than before.

After a tumultuous year and a half, loosening restrictions are finally bringing life back to Nova Scotia’s wedding industry. In 2022, wedding bells should finally be ringing for those who’ve been waiting for safer, surer times.

About The Author

Gabrielle Drolet

Gabrielle is a writer and cartoonist based in Wolfville. Her work, which focuses on health and culture, has appeared in The Walrus, The New York Times, The New Yorker, and more.

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