COVID-19 presses pause on Long Island’s wedding industry

The coronavirus pandemic has put a hold on nuptials and the whole wedding industry struggles to stay afloat. Photo Courtesy of Janelle Brooke Photography.

By Cece Cruz

Jessica Morin and her fiancé Andrew Cocuzza were set to get married on Saturday, March 28, but when New York banned gatherings of more than 500 people on March 12 due to the rapid spread of COVID-19, one thing was clear to them: after planning their wedding for a year and a half, their save-the-date had to take a raincheck. 

“I cried,” Morin said. “We made the decision on the 13th of March [to postpone the wedding], and so by the next morning, we had started calling all the vendors and the first one we called was, of course, the venue.”

Couples, makeup artists, live entertainment and other professionals in the wedding industry are being highly impacted by the pandemic. Their jobs are all about providing in-person experiences – experiences that cannot be had from a 6-feet distance or through a Zoom call.

There are over 250 venues on Long Island. On average, Long Islanders spend around $27,000 for their venues alone according to 2017 data from The Knot, an online wedding planning website that serves 15 countries worldwide including Italy, Spain, France and the U.S, the top four countries with the highest coronavirus cases to date. The survey showed that weddings on Long Island are the third most expensive in the metropolitan area, following Manhattan at number one and North and Central New Jersey at number two. At $61,113, Long Islanders spent nearly double that of the national average, which was $33,391 on their weddings in 2017.

Vendors who rely mainly on weddings may be losing up to two years of revenue, husband and wife, Marie and Stu Freeman, the co-publishers of Long Island Bride and Groom, said.

“They’re having to take all the weddings they were expecting to do in 2020 and move a lot of them to 2021,” Stu Freeman said. “It really hurts all the people that have their livelihood in the wedding industry, which is probably thousands of companies on Long Island.”

Over 95 percent of couples around the globe are postponing or rescheduling their upcoming weddings, according to The Knot.

Reverend Nicholas Montanino, an ordained minister for 23 years normally does around 200-400 weddings a year. This year between March through May alone, he’s had to reschedule about 70 weddings.

At the rate that weddings are being rescheduled this year, vendors are running out of availability on traditional wedding days like Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 

“We’re doing weekday weddings,” Montanino said. “A lot of Mondays and Thursdays.”

However, Morin and Cocuzza were able to secure a Saturday 8 months later for November 28.

Vendors like Crossing Midnight Entertainment, who provide a variety of entertainment services like Bands, DJs and photo booths are accommodating their clients who are rescheduling without it affecting their deposit or charging them a cancellation fee. 

‘What I am doing is asking them to put a little bit of money down on what they already owe,” Rudy Valme, owner of Crossing Midnight Entertainment said. “So we can lock in the new date and also at least I can have something to continue to keep the doors open.”

 In a 2018 survey, WeddingWire found that engagements are usually more common around the holidays in the U.S., from Christmas until around Valentine’s day. This means new inquiries increase around January for vendors when couples start planning their wedding. 

“On average, between January or February till about the end of May into June, is where we would have like a serious top – a huge amount of meetings,” Valme said. “Right now, we don’t have any at all.” 

New inquiries are also down for Gretchen Nevins, the owner of Love Crush Beauty, a bridal hair and makeup team based on Long Island. Nevins has had around 38 postponements through the first week in July.

“There are waves of cancellations and then there are waves of inquiries again,” Nevins said. “Because every time [the government] make[s] a new announcement [regarding social distancing and PAUSE guidelines], there are more weddings being postponed and then more being rescheduled where their vendors can’t make it. So, they’re calling other vendors.”

When New York state eventually unpauses and she’s able to meet with clients again, Nevins says she has a plan to keep them safe and prevent further spread of the virus.

“I’m thinking of using disposable brush sets too, instead of just disposable mascara wands and lip brushes, which are standard,” she said. “A makeup application may take almost double the time… if we’re doing everything with disposable brushes, because we can’t re-dip brushes into press powders or pigments anymore.”

Social distancing guidelines have also prevented photographers from photographing weddings. 

In the meantime Janelle Brooke, owner of Janelle Brooke photography has been focusing on editing and creating photo albums for weddings and other celebrations that she shot before COVID-19 hit New York.

 “We’ve been doing contactless delivery albums,” Brooke said. “Essentially, we can ship everything. But, if someone is in the area and wants to swing by our studio and pick up their albums they can do that.”

Wedding venues, Windows on the Lake and The Beach Club Estate in Lake Ronkonkoma are owned by brothers Anthony and Bart Pellegrino. Together, the venues host between 150-200 weddings a year. Since COVID-19 started spreading in New York, they’ve had to reschedule around 35 events. 

But even if they see this through, Pellegrino worries that weddings and his business will never go back to normal.

“Given the rules that we have – if capacity is 300 people,  I bet we can only do about 150 people,” Anthony Pellegrino said.  “I don’t know if it’s going to be a law or anything, but how are we going to be able to afford our rent? Our prices are going to have to compensate.”

 Amanda Lynn and her fiancé Gil Montalvo had everything set for their wedding when New York announced its first case of COVID-19 six weeks prior to their April 18th ceremony. The couple had to change their date twice in order to keep most of their vendors.

“The more we started to contact other [vendors] we were running into some conflicts,” Lynn said. “So, a couple days after that, we were like, ‘let’s just see if one of the other dates is available.’ Luckily we were able to get most on board.”

A new option for couples in New York this year are virtual ceremonies. On Saturday April 18, Cuomo announced he was issuing an executive order that will allow brides and grooms to obtain a marriage license remotely. But some wedding officiants are confused by the new guidelines.

“I don’t know how they’re going to do that,” Montanino said. “When you’re signing a marriage license, you normally sign it for the town or county that you’re in. But if we’re doing a virtual wedding, I could be anywhere, and the bride and groom could be somewhere else – where are we signing the marriage license? Where is the legality going to be?”

In California, brides-to-be Amanda Liguori and Jenelle Landresse are waiting until May 12 to decide whether they will postpone their wedding that is set for July 12.

 “A concern that we have is that a lot of our guests are traveling,” Liguori said.  “My parents and siblings all live in Vermont, my grandma, my aunts and cousins all live in Texas or Vermont if rules do get lifted, will people still want to travel?“

Something Blue Floral Events in Sayville, and North Fork Bridal Shoppe in Wading River, both had to lay off all of their employees. 

“I would say 99% of my business is weddings,” Marion Terwilliger, the owner of Something Blue Floral Events said. “I don’t have retail to make up for it.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to about 35 percent of postponements and one cancellation so far. 

“The one wedding that did cancel, I had already ordered my hard goods two months before and I definitely lost money on that,” she said. “ I lost money and the time that I had put in creating.”

In the span of a month, North Fork Bridal Shoppe had around 100 appointments rescheduled or cancelled. However, Lindsay Finter, the owner,  began to see the potential impact COVID-19 could have on their industry as early as January. 

“A lot of our dresses do come from overseas,” she said. “So, in January [and] February when everything was going on in China, there were some shipping delays.”

Despite the delays, Finter says she doesn’t want brides to worry. They’re still receiving shipments regularly and their vendors are prioritizing wedding dates that are approaching.

“They shouldn’t stress, ” Finter said. “If they ordered a dress, it will come. If you have your dress already, all the bridal shops are going to fit the alterations in, they’re going to fit your day in. Your day is going to happen.”

About Cecilia Cruz 6 Articles
Hello, my name is Cecilia “Cece” Cruz. I’m a Junior at Stony Brook University. I’m currently majoring in Journalism focusing on broadcasting production with a minor in Political Science. I am also the President/Editor-in-Chief at Her Campus- Stony Brook Chapter, a national online magazine for college women.