B.C. COVID-19 restrictions leave wedding industry reeling

Ally Collinson and Colton Harrison got engaged almost two years ago.

The pandemic meant postponing their first wedding date.

Now, COVID-19 is forcing them to change their plans again.

“(It’s) really stressful and scary and we’re just worried about what if in six months we rescheduled (and) this is still going on,” said Harrison, explaining what it was like to hear their upcoming wedding reception was now banned because of new health restrictions.

The couple had only been planning a small event with 30 people.

“It makes no sense to me how I can sit in the food court at a mall with more people than would be with me at my wedding and that’s totally OK,” said Collinson. “People can’t be with their family but they can be with strangers in a mall.”

The couple’s event planner, Tracy Byron of Cinderella Slip-Ons Event Rentals, is doing what she can to help, even as the losses to her own business keep adding up.

“(It’s) a little bit upsetting, to say the least,” said Byron of the new restrictions.

“This is number three for all of us in the industry, not just us.”

This time around, Byron has had six weddings, a wedding show and private events wiped off the calendar.

The latest rules are another blow in her long list of COVID-19 cancellations.

“As soon as COVID 2020 hit, I had 230 weddings either cancel or reschedule or they weren’t sure what they were going to do,” she said. “I have clients who are moving their dates three and four times over.”

She diversified her business to make ends meet and, fighting back tears, says she her company only survived “with huge support from family and friends.”

She says the new rules are confusing.

“You can go to a Canucks game with 9,000 people but you can’t go to a wedding with 30 people,” she said.

Bookings for wedding photographers are also in limbo.

“It’s meant really like a last minute loss of work,” said wedding photographer Amanda Coldicutt.

“We have weddings planned and then all of a sudden, they’re cancelled,” she added. “It’s been a constant rollercoaster of up and down … I like to think that (the rules are) there for a reason and it’s what we need to get by, but it’s definitely hard for small business owners.”

Florist Alyssa Ryan says a couple she was working with got married last year but hoped to have a large celebration this year.

The rules have just changed that, and now she’s left with flowers she ordered months ago.

“So now I’m stuck with a bunch of product that I’m going to have to try and make money off of because they don’t need it anymore,” she said.

B.C.’s Ministry of Health said in an emailed statement that health officials “know how challenging” the restrictions are for businesses forced to close.

“Funeral services, weddings, and religious services within a funeral home or faith centre are not affected by this order,” the ministry’s statement reads. “It’s the celebration of life, it’s the wedding reception afterwards which will need to be postponed for this period of time.”

As for Collinson and Harrison, the couple will forego the party for now and say “I do” in a private ceremony on New Year’s Day.