The ring bearer in Bruce and Haley Sharp’s wedding was fascinated by the bright red ring box.
Wearing a snappy bow-tie and suspenders, the toddler’s cuteness filled a spot originally intended for two older nephews.
“He wasn’t born yet when we initially planned the wedding,” Haley Sharp said.
The little ring bearer was an infant when the Sharps’ original wedding date came and went in April of 2020.
“A year later, he was able to do it,” Haley Sharp said of the youngest member of her wedding party.
The little boy’s steps down the aisle with his mother’s help came after a year laden with pandemic challenges as many weddings in the Grand Valley and across the nation were postponed and re-planned, guest lists changed and shortened and restrictions navigated.
In the Grand Valley, spring 2020 weddings became late summer or early fall weddings for some couples as restrictions eased during that time.
R&R Events and Design packed in 23 weddings between July 4 and Oct. 17, said owner Tonja Kueper-Rinaldo.
The dire outlook that came with the shutdown and postponements turned into a boon later in 2020 and at this point, especially with the availability of vaccines, “we don’t really see anything going in a negative direction,” said Kueper-Rinaldo, who began regularly meeting and coordinating with other Grand Valley wedding planners during the pandemic.
BUSY, BUT CLOSER TO NORMAL
Her wedding planning business has 27 weddings on the books for 2021, which is shaping up to be “a normal to kind of crazy year” with multiple weddings each weekend, she said.
April Arnold, owner of April Marie Events, is even busier with more than 40 weddings on her 2021 schedule. Some are weddings postponed from 2020, others were intended for this year.
“I love it,” Arnold said, pointing out that it’s a wedding planner’s job to be able to handle the chaos. “This is where we thrive.”
However, guest lists are staying lower, about 80–90 people, instead of the previous average of 120 people. Many couples are being conservative and some people still don’t feel comfortable traveling, which has contributed to fewer guests at weddings, she said.
That looks to be changing with some bigger weddings in late summer, and by fall things will be picking up with out-of-state clients again, Arnold said.
Couples who want weddings with 200 or more guests seem to be waiting for 2022, she said.
CLARIFYING WHAT MATTERS
One of the things Arnold noticed during all the wedding changes and re-planning of the past year is that more couples are being clear about what is important to them and what’s not.
“They are doing things that are a little more personal and special to them,” Arnold said. They are focused on what they want for their wedding “and not worrying about who they will upset.”
Arnold was the wedding planner for the Sharps, who had to reschedule their wedding twice and sent out invitations three times.
Haley and Bruce Sharp originally selected April 25, 2020, as their wedding date because the orchards would be in bloom for photos and the Saturday worked with their work schedules. Haley Sharp is a physicians assistant and Bruce Sharp was then a second-year resident in St. Mary’s Medical Center Family Medicine Residency program.
About 150 guests were invited with family coming from Texas, where the Sharps are from, and other guests set to arrive from North Dakota and Minnesota.
Haley Sharp was returning from her weekend bachelorette party in Houston in mid-March of 2020 when things started shutting down because of COVID-19. The following Monday she got a call from Arnold.
The Sharps’ choices were to elope with a reception later or to postpone. They postponed, picking a wedding date in August. It wasn’t what they wanted, but there were so many unknowns with the pandemic, that they were OK with the decision, Haley Sharp said.
“When it came to postponing it the second time, that was hardest,” she said. They knew they would be ruining guests’ travel plans again.
However, “it wasn’t a good time,” she said. “We had some family in the hospital with COVID. We were nervous about people traveling, specifically Bruce’s grandparents and they were determined to come, anyway.”
MARRIED AT LAST
The couple chose to return to a spring wedding and this time the date stuck. The Sharps were married April 30 with a ceremony at Grand Junction Church of Christ and a reception at Orchard River View in Palisade.
“It was a great day,” Haley Sharp said.
“There were still some people who didn’t come,” she said. “We still had about 80 people there. … Pretty much everybody was vaccinated.”
While her six bridesmaids were able to be come, two of Bruce Sharp’s groomsmen couldn’t.
His older brother was going to officiate the ceremony, but he and his family were not able to be there because of health concerns, so a groomsman was bumped into the role of officiant.
Two nephews who were to be ring bearers and one of two nieces who were to be flower girls also were not able to come. “The younger (flower girl) grew during the year, so she just took the dress from the older one,” Haley Sharp said.
When it came to her own dress, Haley Sharp noticed the difference a year can make as well. She tried on her wedding dress right after Christmas, and “it was kind of snug,” she admitted. “I started being really diligent with my exercising.”
Except for changing her mind a bit about the flowers, much of what the Sharps originally wanted for their wedding happened. Their honeymoon, however, had to be entirely re-planned.
They were to go to a Sandals resort in St. Lucia and “I was excited about that,” Haley Sharp said. “We got a refund when we had to cancel.”
For their 2021 honeymoon during the first week of May, the Sharps still were able to go to the Caribbean, but to a resort in the Dominican Republic as the travel requirements related to COVID-19 were easier to manage, she said.
Despite the date changes and other challenges, “everything turned out really well,” she said, crediting Arnold with making many of the adjustments.
Haley Sharp has friends who also are going ahead with their weddings later this year — “I think they’ll be OK with the vaccinations,” she said — but also knows of some who have postponed. “I think they were just nervous,” she said.
Another couple she knows of decided to have a small ceremony with a big reception in a year.
“I think the thing that stands out the most is that everybody is having a lot of grace with everything,” Kueper-Rinaldo said.
That goes for venues and caterers, photographers, florists, area hotels and more, she said.
“A lot of businesses have really taken the right precautions,” she said. Guests are coming to the Grand Valley, staying in hotels, going out for dinner and playing golf.
When it comes to weddings now, “let’s go,” she said.