Thu Nguyen and Allen Gross stopped at the Bexar County Courthouse in downtown San Antonio Monday to pick up their marriage license. I caught up with them right after and — given the current pandemic — stood as far away as my microphone would allow. They did get the license, but the moment isn’t a happy one.
“I admittedly almost cried when we got our marriage license because I don't know whether or not it's going to happen,” Nguyen said.
Cities across the country are clamping down on large gatherings and the CDC is recommending no more than 10 to a group. Weddings in the era of coronavirus are being canceled as a result. Couples and the wedding industry are glued to TVs and Twitter for the latest news and how it impacts them.
“Fielding questions is a little bit different these days. It’s not about food restrictions or if my kid can come to your wedding. It’s ‘Are you thinking about postponing because of his pandemic.’ Stuff like that,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen’s mother lives in Houston where she and Gross are scheduled to wed later this month in a catholic ceremony. At each Mass, her mother's monitoring how the church will handle the situation.
“I talked to my mom last night and she texted me this morning,” Nguyen said.
Most of their family would need to fly and many are elderly. And Gross says they’ve already had 20 cancellations.
“To be safe we know we have a lot of people traveling, they have to get on the plane. And, you know, our elderly relatives too. So it's really about safety,” he said.
They had been planning for a year but — in the end — the decision was made for them. A few hours after the interview, the county barred gatherings larger than 10 people.
It was devastating for the couple, but not much more than those who made the decision themselves.
Jessica Elizarraras and TJ Skrodzki were just 20 days away from their wedding when they pulled the plug and postponed. In a video conference with their wedding planner Jordan Maney, they talked about next steps.
“How are y’all?” said Maney.
“Uhhh — I’m so tired,” said Elizarraras, crumpling, lowering her head to the table.
“Yeah, It’s a lot,” said Skrodzki.
The two have event insurance and it wasn’t a big party to begin with, but now they basically have to plan it again.
“Do you still want to keep that within 2020?” said Maney
Skrodzki was adamant they do.
“I mean it’s hard because we don’t know how long this is going to last,” said Elizarraras, “So we can say ‘May’ and in April if it doesn’t look any better, we’re still in the same shitty boat.”
The couple may still lose deposits because of the reschedule, but Maney says vendors are being flexible.
There’s insurance, venue, florists, caterers and they have many other details to iron out in coming weeks.
And to keep it in 2020, they may need to book on an off day like a Thursday or Friday. They aren’t crazy about the idea, but in the end they just want to be married.
As they sign off with Maney, Elizarraras lets out a groan.
“That was a lot,” she said
“I’m glad we have a planner though,” said Skrodzki.
“Can you imagine trying to call all the vendors ourselves? In tears.”
After the call, the two reflected on the past few weeks.
“It’s all just happenings so very, very quickly,” said Skrodzki.
The U.S. went from 1,000 to 4,000 confirmed infections in less than a week – at the same time waking up to the dangers of the virus. And that’s why they postponed, to be responsible — but on your special day, isn’t it supposed to be a little about you?
“Obviously we have to take care of everybody and we have to think of ourselves as a society, but it’s hard to not be a little selfish about this event being canceled,” Skrodzki said.
Cellist Christina Trangone warmed up for practice with her band later that day. I was able to meet up with the musician who depends – in part – on weddings for her livelihood. She is one of many musicians in San Antonio and across the U.S. feeling the pinch.
She books musicians as part of her business Cello Vida and performs at around 200 weddings a year. If COVID-19 persists, it will hurt.
“Well that can definitely be several hundreds of dollars lost. It’s definitely troublesome because that's money we use for paying bills,” said Trangone.
She was upbeat despite the cancellations. She said musicians like her often have diverse offerings like teaching and gigging elsewhere. She can teach her courses with video conference calls, but cities in Texas are making weddings impossible and closing down venues. It isn’t clear how they will make up that revenue.
Americans spent $54 billion on more than 2 million weddings last year, according to theweddingreport.com. That number is collapsing in real-time, adding to the wreckage of any number of industries across the U.S.
But for couples it’s about far more than just the money.
“I know for me, the main thing that I want is, for us to be married,” said Skrodzki. “And then we we can figure out the other part — you know the party, ceremony — later.”