Bride To Be, But When? How The Coronavirus Cancelled Wedding Season

May 1, 2020

Susie Pouliot recently got engaged and she and her fiancé wanted to have the ceremony as soon as possible. That's because her dad is terminally ill.

"So our thought was all about, 'what can we do in this shorter time frame to include my dad,' knowing that when we have our actual wedding he likely will not be able to be there" she said.

Susie's father has cancer and she doesn't know how much longer he has.

"It's his fourth round with cancer," she said "And he has been fighting like crazy for the past five years."

Treatment was no longer an option and her father went into hospice care. So Susie and her fiancé chose a date, April 18, and started calling vendors. Weddings are a lot of work to plan; designing invitations, getting a dress, scheduling a venue. But Susie managed to do it all in just a few weeks. She and her fiancé both come from big families and getting them all together was not easy. But somehow they managed it. And then things took a turn.

"It became more and more like 'okay, this could be a risky situation,'" she said.

So they canceled the ceremony which broke Susie's heart.

"The part that was very important to me was to have pictures of my dad walking me down the aisle, knowing that that was going to be our only opportunity to do that," she said.

Susie Pouloit (left center) and her family sit together at a family meet-up.
Credit Susie Pouliot

Having to cancel or reschedule a wedding affects everyone involved. Vendors lose their source of income. Families don't get to come together and celebrate. And couples miss out on what is supposed to be a once in a lifetime experience. For Susie part of the healing process is acknowledging that her feelings are valid.

"This heartbreak, it's a loss of a dream that I had of having my dad walk me down the aisle," she said "And that's no greater or lesser than somebody else's heartbreak when they're worrying about how they're going to sustain their livelihood."

Susie may never get those pictures she dreamed of because one thing she had to cancel was her wedding photographer, Janelle Rose. Rose explained that at the start of the year things were really looking up for her business.

"We looked at 2020 as one of our biggest years. It's a very catchy year. We had a lot of couples booking early, and our dates went really quickly," she said.

Then suddenly those same couples had to cancel or postpone. And it was scary.

"It does affect our business big time and it worries me," Rose sighed.

And there's good reason to worry. Wyoming's wedding season is relatively short, with just a few short months of good outdoors weather But with about 4,000 weddings jammed into it a year, many people make their living off them. For Rose, the loss is about so much more.

"We make little slideshows of each wedding day and it's just painful to look through some of that right now," she said "You see so many people touching and being together and celebrating. We're having to grieve what's lost, and what we took for granted."

Kelly Renee said she agrees. She's a bridal hairstylist and makeup artist in Jackson, a really popular destination for weddings in the state. And because of Wyoming's long and unpredictable winters, most weddings happen between late May and September. A summer of canceled weddings could be financially devastating.

"Summer is my bread and butter financially, I make most of my income for the year within about a five month period," Renee explained. "It definitely affects being able to pay bills. I mean, usually summertime is where I can get ahead. I can put some money back and save and then that way during my slower season, that kind of carries me through."

But some people are still trying to keep a positive attitude. Kate Denissova was supposed to tie the knot on March 28 in Jackson, but had to cancel everything at the last minute. She and her fiancé were going to get married then celebrate in style.

"My fiancé bought a tuxedo, which was several sizes too big to put over his ski gear. I bought, [an] extremely, like poofy 80s style wedding dress. I got a veil to put on my helmet. So we're going to dress up and ski in our wedding costumes," Denissova said.

Since they were stuck inside on what was supposed to be their big day, they made do.

"We dressed up in our costumes and had a nice dinner at home and took pictures. And came up with a new relationship status called almost married," she said.

Denissova said that being stuck at home together with nothing to do is good practice for when they're older.

"We're doing things backwards. You know, we're experiencing retirement first and then the wedding," she joked.

And she's really trying to make the best of a bad situation.

"I think the best you can do is just laugh," she said.

Kate and her fiancé have decided to postpone their ceremony until things stabilize. So for now the future is uncertain. But there's always light at the end of the aisle.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Megan Feighery, at mfeigher@uwyo.edu.