Video ceremonies and cancelled honeymoons: How COVID-19 is impacting Nova Scotia weddings

From cancelled honeymoons to work visas, Nova Scotia couples set to tie the knot in the next few months are navigating the impacts of COVID-19.

The province is under a state of emergency  and gatherings of more than five people are banned. Social distancing rules are keeping everyone at least two metres apart in order to limit the spread.

Some couples have postponed their wedding when they can keep to their original plan, while others might have a small legal ceremony soon and a reception later on.

"Everything was going so smoothly, and it's just something you never would think would happen," said Caitlin Siegers of Halifax, whose wedding was set for May 9. "Like it's so out of the realms of imagination."

Siegers had about 45 people coming from all over the world, including her home country of the United Kingdom, South Africa, and all across Canada.

However, in recent days, Siegers and her fiancé realized they should have a backup plan and secured a date at the same New Brunswick venue in September.

Work visa

Although Siegers didn't have a lot of decorators, bakers and other vendors to deal with rescheduling or cancelling because the wedding is small, one of her bridesmaids and their preferred photographer can't make their new fall date.

The couple will have their ideal wedding later this year, but Siegers's work visa runs out in August so they still need a legal ceremony before then to keep her permanent residency application on track.

But Siegers also doesn't have a marriage licence in hand yet and it's unclear when she will be able to get one.

Access Nova Scotia has announced in-person service is unavailable at its offices until further notice. But, people can check if there's a deputy issuer in their community and see if that is an option.

Given the restrictions on inter-province travel and physical distancing, it will likely just be themselves and a justice of the peace, but Siegers hopes their parents can call in over video.

"Maybe I'm still in denial," Siegers said. "I've been quite good at staying positive and trying to see the silver linings and just get a plan in place, but I do feel it starting to crack a little bit.

"My fiancé got quite upset the other day. It is quite emotional, it's just a lot of decisions to make when you don't feel like you have all the information, and a lot of stress."

Woohae Cho/Getty Images

Laura Leah Matthews of Hammonds Plains has also pushed her April 18 wedding at the St. Mary's Boat Club in Halifax to late August, with no extra fees for rescheduling.

However, the couple-to-be hasn't been so lucky with the honeymoon.

They spent more than $4,000 on a Sunwing trip to Mexico. Now, the company is only offering the money as credit for another trip in the next 24 months.

"Things are changing drastically, so, you know I probably just don't want to use it, and at this point I need the money more than anything because … we're both not working," Matthews said.

Matthews is now hoping to get the money back through her credit card company, and said she thinks the company is "taking advantage" of people in this confusing time.

In response to Matthew's situation, Sunwing said in an email that while the company initially offered customers a choice between a travel credit valid for 12 months and a cash refund, after the federal government announced the non-essential travel advisory they adjusted their policy to align with other Canadian airlines and tour operators.

All customers booked on their flights will now only be offered a future travel credit, which they have extended to two years "as a further gesture."

The last couple of weeks have been a "roller-coaster" for Katie Matheson of Dartmouth and her fiancè, who were set to marry on May 9.

But she said her Nova Scotia vendors have been accommodating to ensure no one loses money.

Crystal Kearley

Matheson said St. Mary's Boat Club has given them another date for this November, and everyone from their justice of the peace to the decorator has waived rescheduling fees due to the circumstances.

"Nobody has come back and said, 'Too bad, so sad,' you are out of luck," Matheson said. "Everyone has said, "If you wish to cancel or postpone, we will totally work with your decisions.'"

That is exactly what wedding planner Stephanie Brown has been hearing from the dozens of florists, decorators, catering companies and other vendors around Nova Scotia dealing with a flood of changes to spring weddings.

Brown said most are waiving fees and returning deposits if need be. But the industry is calling on engaged couples to postpone plans rather than cancelling completely, since that would leave businesses out thousands of dollars.

At this point, Brown said they are all expecting May weddings to be scrapped, which is usually the kickoff to Nova Scotia's lucrative wedding season.

'Try to keep things in perspective'

Brown works with couples whose weddings range from $25,000 on the lower end to lavish $100,000 events. Even in the last five years, she's seen a major spike with people from outside the province coming in to hold destination weddings.

"We bring a huge portion of funds into the province with weddings alone," she said.

Although Brown knows this will be a stressful and unusual year for the industry and engaged couples, she's encouraging people to reach out to her for advice and support even if they're not a client.

"I know this is a really scary time for everybody, but try to kind of keep things in perspective," Brown said.

"If rescheduling your wedding is the worst thing that happens and you have to eat a couple thousand dollars, it's OK. It's all going to work out in the end."

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