Bride could lose $100k: Big day ruined
Planning a wedding can be stressful at the best of times - minus a global pandemic.
With a rapidly shrinking number of people allowed at non-essential gatherings, soon-to-be brides and grooms have been left scrambling.
Amid fears of mass spreading the coronavirus, couples have been forced to make the heartbreaking decision to postpone, cancel or soldier on with what was meant to be the happiest day of their lives.
For one western Sydney couple, that decision is still pending - and $100,000 hangs in the balance.
Dina, 26, and her fiance Chafic, 28, were due to tie the knot on June 7.
The couple have been planning their nuptials for 15 months. All the vendors are booked, her couture gown just needs a few final touches and should the event go ahead as planned, the couple would be paying $48,000 for their reception alone.
"If we go through with it, the cost of the wedding and honeymoon combined would reach $100,000," says the bride.
That includes the European honeymoon of their dreams - which they've already paid in full.
"Flights, accommodation, everything. It's about $20,000 all up," said Dina.
Now caught in a tangled web of travel bans, Emirates are offering to credit their flights and the couple's travel agent has said some hotels may be willing to refund.
But at this stage, there are no guarantees.
"The majority of my vendors have been amazing. They've said we can postpone with no charge," Dina explained.
"But in terms of getting deposits back, every vendor is different. I haven't asked that question yet, because we really don't want to cancel. It's literally a once-in-a-lifetime thing that you do."
Family and friends have promised to support whatever decision they make, but Dina says it's "highly unlikely" they'll end up cancelling.
"We may lose the deposits. And then if we decided to get married later on, I'd have to plan the whole wedding again from scratch. But then the question is: how long do we postpone for? Because if we have to wait another year, I don't know if we can do that."
For this young and in love couple, their future is now uncertain.
"The thought of having to wait another whole year to get married, and to start our lives … It puts back our travel plans, it puts back having kids, it puts back everything."
Dina and Chafic had 470 guests due to attend their June wedding.
With the Prime Minister enforcing stricter social distancing measures, Dina says they wouldn't be able to downsize even, if they wanted to. "We can't have only 100 people at our wedding because our venue is huge. We'd be out of pocket $30,000. And they wouldn't book your wedding unless you have minimum 350 guests."
Aside from all of the logistics, the bride-to-be says the atmosphere at their wedding would definitely be a sombre one if they went ahead.
"It will be in the back of everyone's minds. Everyone's going to be weary, no one's going to be hugging each other or dancing. There'd be none of that.
"I'm feeling less and less optimistic, every day."
More than a dozen family members were also planning to travel to Australia from overseas (mainly from America).
Now, that's impossible to do.
In a bid to stop the spread and curb the global number of virus cases, the government closed Australia's borders to foreigners at 9pm last night.
Sydney photographer Henryk - the brains behind Image Haus - was among those who rushed to return home. He dashed back on a flight from New Zealand last night, after shooting a wedding for a couple who'd moved their date forward.
"The day New Zealand said they were going to close the borders in 24 hours, I got a call from the bride saying, 'Hey, we're either going to cancel or have everyone fly in early.'"
Henryk didn't think twice.
He and the videographer hopped on a flight the next morning. "Both of us literally, last minute, at the drop of a hat, we changed everything and flew out. I didn't have the luxury of letting down a client."
The couple's nuptials went ahead - their original guest list of 60 now whittled down to 35 - but the day itself couldn't escape the virus.
"On the wedding day, the hire car driver tested positive for coronavirus," said Henryk.
But he found the atmosphere to be pretty upbeat, all things considered.
"Everyone was still hugging and kissing the bride," he said.
"They actually had a game, where if anyone mentioned the word coronavirus or COVID-19 or pandemic, they have to drink three fingers worth of their drink," he laughed. "Everyone had fun, they had a great night."
View this post on Instagram
Alexandra & Brennan 💗 It’s been a challenging beautiful week, we flew in 2 days early last minute pre-NZ quarantine to shoot what might me our last wedding for a hot corona-minute yesterday. But what a day it was! We shared in a sunny NZ day for these two genuinely beautiful people inside & out. It was an honour. We are all in this together. We’re flying into Australia into quarantine today, straight to the editing room jeeves! #comingsoon Planning: @alexandra_lawson Venue: Rippon Winery, wanaka NZ @the_green_room_flower_company Gown: @pallascouture Hair: @purehair.studio MUA: Alex – @ElyseAmyMakeup MC: Charlie Caban DJ: @annavanriel_music (ceremony singer) & Mountain Beats Dj Co with Conan Wilcox on Sax @marriedbysoph @ripponhall @brennanlatimer @wanakahelicopters . . . . . . #wanaka #wanakawedding #nzwedding #weddinginspo #nzweddingphotographer #nzweddingphotography #royspeakwanaka #royspeakwedding #nzbride #pallascouture #destinationnz #destinationwedding #destinationweddingphotography #shesaidyes💍 #ido #weareallinthistogether #justengaged #adventurousstorytellers #adventurouslovestories
His clients' weddings usually average well over 100 guests. Still, Henryk insists: "I haven't seen a single one downsizing. They've all moved the date.
"All of the weddings I have until June are moving their dates. Everyone's trying to book September, October, November. Some people have even moved into 2021. And of course, I didn't charge anything for moving," he explained.
Henryk, who's now doing all of his meetings through FaceTime and WhatsApp, has copped an influx of bookings as couples scramble to lock in a new date.
"In the last week alone I've had four bookings. Paid and confirmed. So now, I'm starting to get Friday weddings."
His advice to couples considering postponing is simple: do it sooner rather than later.
"If you can't get your desired date, consider a Friday or Sunday wedding. And when you're postponing, start with your venue and then move quickly through the rest of your suppliers. Because dates are getting booked up so quickly."
View this post on Instagram
Alexandra & Brennan: those Tabacco tones in edit worked a treat.. @alexandra_lawson Venue: Rippon Winery, wanaka NZ @ripponhall @the_green_room_flower_company Gown: @pallascouture Hair: @purehair.studio MUA: Alex – @ElyseAmyMakeup MC: Charlie Caban DJ: @annavanriel_music (ceremony singer) & Mountain Beats Dj Co with Conan Wilcox on Sax @marriedbysoph @ripponhall @brennanlatimer @wanakahelicopters . . . #wanaka #wanakawedding #nzwedding #weddinginspo #nzweddingphotographer #nzweddingphotography #royspeakwanaka #royspeakwedding #nzbride #pallascouture #destinationnz #destinationwedding #destinationweddingphotography #shesaidyes💍 #ido #weareallinthistogether #justengaged #adventurousstorytellers #adventurouslovestories
Dresses are also a problem for some.
Brides readily shell out thousands for a couture gown from Petersham-based designer Leah Da Gloria, who has spent the last few days reassuring some very anxious brides.
"We've had three months' worth of clients having to reschedule," she said.
"For us it's more about redistributing our production schedule but everybody is still getting married. Some people are downsizing - instead of having 300 people they're now having 90-80 people. But I think the couples themselves are probably in a worse position than us.
"I've already reached out to all of my clients to ensure that they're okay, and that's my main focus."
No stranger to a large ethnic wedding, Leah Da Gloria predicts new social distancing restrictions could be an issue.
"Weddings are like people's biggest day and my clients in particular tend to have really large weddings. It's a very family-based event and they have massive families - in the hundreds - so the thought of downsizing from 500 to 80 people is unthinkable. That's not even a wedding for them. That's a Sunday BBQ."
Her advice to couples faced with a touch decision? "Postpone, don't cancel. And downsize if you can."
With virus cases growing in Australia and elsewhere, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has repeatedly warned Australians to observe social distancing measures where possible.
On Friday, the PM announced new space restrictions, saying there will be a maximum limit of "four square metres provided per person in an enclosed space".
The new measures may see weddings, birthday parties and other personal events cancelled en masse.
And in the wedding world, most vendors are already feeling the strain.
A number of major wedding venues in Australia have detailed COVID-19 policies on their websites. Industry-leading Sydney venue Navarra, which caters for weddings with more than 500 guests, have already made the decision to postpone events on the books up until April 13, 2020.
"The safety and wellbeing of our guests and employees have always been and will remain our top priority," Navarra Venues said in a statement.
"We will be contacting all of our clients individually, and we are doing our very best to accommodate our clients that have pre-existing bookings during this one-month phase."
Earlier this year, the iconic venue played host for the nuptials of this season's Married At First Sight couple Elizabeth and Sebastian.
Despite the growing number of restrictions forcing people to postpone, most suppliers remain optimistic.
"I'm hoping that it's going to be no more than a glitch; a speed bump, not a stop sign," said Leah Da Gloria.
Others are bracing for the worst.
"I think the whole world is going to haemorrhage for at least six months after this," said Henryk.
"Everyone's going to be in it together and we'll all be bleeding together. But clients, suppliers … I think it'll affect everyone."
Originally published as Bride could lose $100k: Big day ruined