Nightmare wedding season continues in 2020

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) – Anyone with plans to get married in 2020 has had to grapple with incredible uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Their concerns range are on every aspect of the wedding. How many friends and family can attend? Do guests have to wear masks throughout the event? Can vendors fulfill their obligations under contracts signed in 2019 or prior?

All couples have modified their weddings in some way. For some, the wedding planning experience has been a nightmare. Tony Mastrangelo and his fiancée are planning a wedding for August 1 and are doing everything they can to ensure the wedding goes off without a hitch. This endeavor is almost impossible due to a lack of guidance from New York State.

“We’re running out of time,” Mastrangelo said. “We’re looking for guidance and want to play by the rules. We’ve stayed at home. I’ve worked at home for months. My fiancée has worked from home for months and we went to the grocery store and that’s it…We played by the rules and now that the numbers are the lowest they’ve been and we’re opening up, we were told phase four weddings would be allowed. Now, all the sudden, they’re not.”

Mastrangelo is adamant about having his wedding on his date and is taking every precaution. He wants his guests to stay home if they feel uncomfortable. He’s buying masks and hand sanitizers to help alleviate any concerns. But he wonders if he will ever get clarity from the governor.

“I know that our leaders don’t have a crystal ball, but they should be able to say our numbers are low and gatherings can go up to 100,” Mastrangelo said. “When I see Pennsylvania, which is an hour away, can have 250 people and we can only have 50? Or if you can have 150 at a graduation and 50 at a wedding? To me, what’s the difference?”

Mastrangelo also pointed at an inconsistency in mask wearing policies, specifically, if people can sit at tables without a mask at a restaurant, why can’t they do the same at a wedding?

The planning experience is possible but most have had to make last-minute changes.

 “We had to change the date,” Scott Foster, a North Tonawanda man who was married last month, said. “Luckily our venue at the time was willing to work with us at that aspect. As things progressed and more restrictions came out, it took a turn for a worse where they didn’t want to seem to work with us anymore. Luckily, my wife’s family owns a cabin so we went from a wedding with 230 people invited down to a smaller, more intimate wedding with family and the bridal party, essentially.”

Weddings cost tens of thousands of dollars for couples to organize. Both Mastrangelo and Foster lost out on thousands of dollars because of cancellations. Their efforts to get a refund from vendors have been unsuccessful. Foster even said he considering legal action to recoup money lost.

Vendors like Ashley Miller, who operates Ashley’s Culinary Creations in Lockport, said she’s offered refunds to her clients who have postponed or cancelled their events, but acknowledged that it’s hurt business.

“I thought we would make it through March, April, and May and we would get it back,” Miller said. “Every month we inch more into this, it’s concerning because I don’t want to lose everything that I’ve worked for but I don’t’ want to put me and my family hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt for something isn’t going to go anywhere. Even as events season starts up next year, we’re fully booked next year. With everything rescheduling this year…you have to truck on and make it to next year. Are people over winter going to say we don’t need to spend that money on a wedding anymore? That’s concerning.”

The pandemic came at a terrible time for Miller, who just recently expanded her business to include a storefront. She had 63 weddings on her calendar this year. Because of the pandemic, she has only been able to accommodate three.

Miller has to follow all the health protocols to ensure her business can continue, which is why she is in constant communication with the local health department. But like Mastrangelo, she is pleading for guidance from the governor’s office.

Those involved in wedding planning could get more guidance as early as this week.

“We reached out to the Erie County executive and they’re saying that July 14 they’re hoping to have more guidelines as far as weddings are concerned.” Miller said. “It’s tough because I’m being told one thing from the health department but it’s not really out there in the public. Brides and grooms are confused why I’m not allowed to do certain things when restaurants can do certain things.”

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said last week she understands how difficult this has been on businesses.

“At the end of the day, we’re going to maintain our infection rate,” Hochul said last week. “We’re going to have to ask people to follow the 50 person guidelines we have. It’s up from 10 and up from 25…We are trying to loosen things up, as the governor says ‘turn the dial back’, open up society, but do it in a smart way where we don’t have a wedding like they had in Texas where 18 people gathered and died. The groom died. We don’t want to have that happen in the State of New York and that’s why we’re being cautious.”

The incident referenced by Hochul was not a wedding. 18 people contracted coronavirus after a surprise birthday party in North Texas. The groom that died was a case in India that happened in mid-June.