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Brides say yes to the dress, even as pandemic disrupts wedding plans

By Katie Park, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Fashion Daily News

PHILADELPHIA - Once Alexandria Maurizzio and her fiance got engaged last November, they wanted to be married within a year. Even if a pandemic got in the way.

So this November, Maurizzio, 28, and Philip Thomas, 25, plan to go forth with their outdoor wedding in Bucks County, where they hope to see at least 150 of the 200 guests they invited.

"People have their opinions," she said, "but our immediate family's been incredibly supportive."

As the coronavirus strangled a flood of nuptials planned for the spring and summer - 78% are usually scheduled between May and October, according to the Knot, an online wedding platform - many couples have chosen to downgrade and postpone their weddings to at least next year.

"Right now, it's a little Wild Westy, so to speak," said Susan Norcross, owner of the Styled Bride in Philadelphia. "We've never faced this as an industry before."

At her wedding, Maurizzio, of Aldan, said guests can decide whether they want to wear a mask and show the level of social distancing they want by wearing various colored wristbands.

"One color of a wristband means they're keeping their distance," she said. "Another could say high-fives are fine."

Brides have said the pandemic disrupted virtually every step of wedding planning, ranging from vendors who canceled out of safety concerns to the logistics of hosting a socially distanced reception. Many have vented their frustrations in groups dedicated to COVID-19 weddings, such as "Four Weddings and a VIRUS - Pennsylvania."

Yet, couples are still getting engaged.

"Girls are still getting married," said Kathy Hart, the owner of the Philadelphia bridal shop the Wedding Factor, "for which we are very, very grateful."

In early June, Hart and her business partner, Stacey Veeraraj, hadn't been sure how much business they would get when they reopened. Then, women began to call for dress appointments.

But at the shop - soon to move from a small spot with a leaking roof on South Street to a bigger space in Old City - the routine changed as a safety precaution. Just one bride was allowed in at a time, and she could bring only one guest.

If the pandemic was going to dash brides' original dreams, Hart said, some would dress to meet the change.

"A bride getting married next month changed her plans," she said. "She got a jumpsuit for a City Hall wedding, and she's meeting with just family in a fabulous dress."

Despite flexibility from some couples, widespread delays and cancellations have unsettled the $74 billion U.S. wedding industry and its 1.2 million employees.

"I think people were sort of waiting to see what happened," said Norcross, lead wedding planner at the Styled Bride. She began rescheduling several brides' weddings in July.

This year, Norcross and vendors at large have taken on an additional and novel responsibility for those who intend to go ahead with their original plans: Keep weddings as safe as possible from the coronavirus.

In addition to wearing masks and social distancing, Norcross recommended eliminating the dance floor except for parents and the couple in an effort to reduce the chance of spreading the virus through heavy breathing; seating fewer guests at a table; having ample hand sanitizer; and placing the tables at least six feet apart in a pod-like setup she likened to a box seat.


"Sort of your home base," she said, "so everyone's distant and comfortable." Masks ought to be on at all times save for eating and drinking, she said, but she noticed they sometimes came off as guests danced and drank.

The majority of vendors she worked with performed temperature checks on employees, she said, and some signed waivers stating they had not traveled to other states or otherwise put themselves in situations where they could have contracted the coronavirus.

Other measures, she said, included collecting the names and email addresses of wedding guests in case vendors needed to perform contact tracing. As of late August, up to 25 people, including vendors, were allowed to be at an indoor social event in Philadelphia; 50 outdoors.

Despite safety precautions Norcross said she could put in place, 28 clients chose to reschedule, mostly for 2021.

"The entire industry is being as accommodating as possible," she said, "but a lot of deposits are nonrefundable for any reason. Even though we're in unprecedented times, a cancellation is a cancellation."

A few, she said, decided to forgo a big celebration and have an intimate gathering.

"A lot of people have been getting creative," she said. "Use the deposit in lieu of another event - a birthday party or anniversary - instead of a wedding."

A dramatic change in plans didn't mean a bride had to change the vision of how she wanted to look, said Ivy Solomon, owner of Lovely Bride Philadelphia.

"I think a wedding gown is such a special piece of the wedding," she said, "and girls still want to be able to wear a wedding gown and feel really special on their day. Venue doesn't matter as to what they wear."

Now three months out from her wedding, Maurizzio said she will soon have her dress after manufacturing and shipping delays caused by the pandemic.

And on the day of, her guests will go home with a coronavirus-era wedding favor: hand sanitizer.


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