GREENSBURG, Pa. (AP) — After their August engagement, Greensburg couple Gregory Mertz and Janelle Stayt planned a dream wedding.
They were going to marry March 21 in Montgomery County, host their reception at Stateside Vodka Bar in Philadelphia and then depart on a European honeymoon.
As the fast-spreading coronavirus raced around the globe, the resulting restrictions and closures turned their plans into “a nightmare,” said Mertz, 35.
Montgomery County was among the first and hardest hit by the coronavirus in Pennsylvania.
“I’m a very optimistic person. I kept saying, ‘This is going to get better,’ ” said Mertz, a Greensburg city councilman.
The couple worked with the Diocese of Greensburg to plan a small ceremony Saturday at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral. Their guest list diminished from 70 to 35, then to 10, as gatherings of more than 10 people were discouraged.
“We are Catholic,” said Mertz, adding that it is important to them to get married in a church and have friends and family attend. “Now, we might be able to have just family.”
The couple was disappointed older family members who live in the eastern part of the state and friends could not travel to attend their wedding.
He credited the local community, from the diocese to the florist to the photographer, with helping as best they could.
They received a refund for their reception venue and hope to re-book their trip this summer.
Dream wedding on hold
Sherri Crock saw her dream beach wedding plans start to buckle just a few weeks before she was to exchange vows with fiance Brian Clise in Key Largo, Fla. The couple planned to fly to Florida with several family members for a March 24 wedding.
They considered driving before coronavirus-related closures finally convinced her to cancel.
“I don’t want a wedding where I have to be afraid. My parents are in their 70s. My grandma is 96. She didn’t want to miss it. It’s been so stressful,” said Crock, 50, of Unity. She and Clise, 44, are both marrying for the second time.
Some of her co-workers suggested Key Largo, and she spent a year making plans.
Most vendors have been accommodating, she said, offering refunds or trying to make plans for another date. She is waiting to hear about refunds for the $4,000 in airline tickets she and her family purchased.
Crock said she chose March for her wedding to try to avoid hurricane season.
“It’s hard. You’ve been waiting for this day. We’ve put so much, a lot of money, into this wedding. I wanted my dream wedding on the beach. We don’t know what we’re doing yet,” she said.
Vendors try to help
MB Bride and Special Occasion in Greensburg is among the many retailers ordered to close by the state. A recorded message provides direction for customers planning to pick up their dresses or keep planned alteration appointments.
Store manager Jenn Mason said many customers are postponing their weddings. “They are calling and asking, ‘What do I do with my dress?’ We will go with the flow,” Mason said.
Assistants were helping prom customers before stores were ordered to close, and finding it difficult to practice “social distancing,” she said. “We have to measure them. We can’t throw a dress over the door and say, ‘Here you go.’ Our hearts just go out to them.”
Mason said the store is still receiving inventory from Europe and Asia.
Weddings still will happen, however modified, she said.
She anticipates more outdoor and park settings as many fall brides already have booked area venues. “It’s just one of those things where you have to ride out the storm,” Mason said.
Plans on hold
Trish Derry owns Pop Up Pittsburgh Wedding Co. and Vintage Alley Rentals.
She recalled the recent unexpected closing of Noah’s Event Venue and some of her clients scrambling for new venues.
“This is such a different circumstance,” Derry said. “I feel like a lot of people in the (wedding) industry, restaurants and hotels, we don’t know what our futures are.”
Brides planning larger weddings are trying to lock in new fall or early winter dates.
Derry’s wedding inventory — furniture, ceremony decor, cookie table displays, centerpieces — can rent for hundreds or thousands of dollars.
“Some people are out of work and can’t pay. It’s a case-by-case basis, that’s my approach,” she said.
Her next pop-up wedding is scheduled for May 29 at West Overton Village in East Huntingdon.
“Ultimately, that will be a venue decision,” Derry said. “I’m not going to give up on that yet. I’m really trying to do everything I can to work with couples and do the best I can.”
Savannah Beegle and Tanner Cupari are partners in life and in Pittsburgh’s North Arrow Photography.
Weddings make up the largest part of their business, Beegle said. “We have had a lot of discussions in the last week of back-up plans and other ways to make money.”
The couple also shoots maternity portraits and family photos. New bookings have slowed, and April and May brides are calling with concerns.
“People seem to be waiting and considering postponements,” she said.
The business has wedding bookings into May 2021, Beegle said.
She suggested that brides who are postponing, but who want to marry this year, consider Friday or Sunday dates. They also are likely to find more vendor availability in the winter months, she said.
Shannon Squires, 24, of Irwin plans to go ahead with her March 28 bridal shower.
Instead of holding the event for 51 people at a local winery, she will will celebrate with a Facebook Live event at her home, topping the guest list at 10.
She anticipates rescheduling her April 24 wedding at the Sunset Room in Elizabeth, planned for 200 guests, to later this year. The Antigua honeymoon she and fiance Tyler Roberts, 23, also of Irwin, is postponed. Most fees were waived.
“Every vendor is really willing to work with us, which has really been amazing,” Squires said.
Squires said she noticed numerous fitness businesses offering classes via social media and decided to hold her shower the same way.
She already has her gown, is making her own floral arrangements and has a family member on standby to bake her wedding cake.
“With everything going on, we didn’t want to not do anything,” she said. “There were a lot of emotions the first couple of days. You have to make the best of it. I thought, it’s time to plan.”
(Not) going to the chapel
The Diocese of Greensburg has canceled some events and “modified” others, asking that people planning funerals, baptisms and weddings make “an effort to scale back attendance to immediate family.”
Heinz Memorial Chapel in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood — so popular a venue that couples are limited to 75 minutes for the ceremony and photography — canceled all events through May 31 in response to coronavirus concerns.
The decision impacted 33 couples, who were offered full refunds or the option to reschedule, University of Pittsburgh spokesman Kevin Zwick said.