Amid reopens, couples are hoping for bigger weddings


  • Paper envelopes for face masks are on display for potential customers at Walden. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune / TNS)

  • A wedding rehearsal takes place in Walden, in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood, on April 29, 2021 (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune / TNS)

CHICAGO – When Nicole Bowles and Hosein Heidari sent out invitations to their August wedding, postponed for a year from the original date, Bowles couldn’t bear the thought of reducing the guest list to less than 50 people.

Bowles, 33, of Albany Park, therefore sent out invitations to the entire group of 120 and was hopeful that Chicago’s COVID-19 capacity restrictions would be eased. Those hopes were given new impetus when the city announced it would no longer count those vaccinated against the limits.

She plans to speak to her family and friends about their immunization status closer to the event, but many have already let her know that they have received their vaccine, she said.

“I feel like my doubts are slowly disappearing,” she said. “I keep my fingers crossed, we’re not backing down.”

This year’s weddings will always be different, but advances in vaccine rollouts and moves to ease restrictions offer a path to weddings that would have been banned last year, when couples who did not postpone s ‘are bound to micro-marriages, minimons and runaways.

Some couples have already started adding a question to their RSVP cards asking if guests are planning to be vaccinated, said Alexis Alvarez, CEO of Lillian Rose Events. She advises including a ‘prefer not to answer’ option and asks guests to provide copies of their immunization cards in advance so that she can bring a binder with their records to the wedding in case the health department. would show up.

Requiring vaccines, rather than simply asking clients to share their status, is a more delicate matter.

Wedding planners have said most of their clients don’t need vaccines, although some encourage it. A client from Second City Stationery is sending notes with the invitations asking those who would not be vaccinated by marriage to quarantine themselves in advance or test negative for the virus, owner Savannah Whitlock said.

Clarisa Czekajlo, 28, of Madison, Wisc., Who tried on dresses at Bella Bianca Bridal Couture in Chicago, said she didn’t want to make vaccinations mandatory. “I think it’s a personal choice,” she says.

Czekajlo and her fiancé Tony Paccello, 31, who got engaged in 2019, are waiting to tie the knot next summer, near the Paccello family in Colorado. Czekajlo is a perfusionist, operating heart-lung machines during surgery and worked in a COVID-19 unit.

“Being in the thick of it made me a little more worried and cautious, would we be ready in 2021?” she said.

Taryn Goodge, 27, of Park Ridge, said knowing that her friend’s wedding in September would be mandatory for vaccination made her feel more confident to attend, even though she was yet to know details of the event, such as the number of people attending.

“I’m low risk and vaccinated, but I don’t know 100% that I can’t pass it on to anyone else,” she says.

The changes precede what is shaping up to be an unusually busy wedding season. Some couples with May and June weddings have postponed or canceled their celebrations believing the 50-person limit would remain in place, especially those who had already had small ceremonies last year, said Susan Cordogan, owner of Big City Bride.

But many are moving forward with weddings planned for later this summer and fall. Among couples who had a wedding date set in 2020, 32% had the ceremony in 2020 but postponed the reception to a later date and 15% were postponed entirely, according to a survey by wedding planning website The Knot in February. Meanwhile, many couples who got engaged during the pandemic have set dates for 2021.

Jordan Cloch, 27, and Taylor Hoch, 28, visited the venue for the Walden event on Thursday, just weeks after getting engaged. They don’t plan to tie the knot until fall 2022, but believed there would be competition for wedding dates delayed by a pandemic.

“We wanted to start right away,” Hoch said. .

Businesses in the wedding industry have said couples appear optimistic about bigger events.

Natalie Bauer, who co-owns Bella Bianca Bridal Couture and a Bella Bridesmaids store, said she sees groups with eight or nine bridesmaids.

At ECBG Cake Studio in Edgewater Glen, owner Erin Martin said people planning fall weddings started asking for four- and five-tier cakes, after a year when most wanted only ‘one or two.

Stationers and planners, meanwhile, say many couples order invitations for everyone they hope they can attend and send them out in stages.

“It’s kind of like The Hunger Games… if someone refuses, you invite the next person on the list,” Alvarez said.

Even though weddings may be bigger, planners and couples continue to come up with creative solutions to overcome restrictions that can change at any time. Wedding planners have said they are encouraging couples to share plenty of information about how they handle COVID-19 precautions on frequently updated wedding invitations and websites.

It helps people who are still cautious decide if they are comfortable attending and warns those who may be more cavalier about masking and social distancing of what to expect, said Lauren Kay, editor-in-chief of The Knot.

The couples are also considering hiring someone on-site to help monitor the masking and distancing so the couple don’t feel pressured into confronting their friends and family, she said.

– Tribune press service

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