Pittsburgh Area Weddings are booming masks and all
When wedding planner Meg Van Dyke called a limousine company earlier this month, a staff member couldn’t help asking her a question: “Are you as busy as we are?”
Over much of the past year, weddings have been largely shut down, with those who did get married holding extremely small ceremonies under ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
Now, weddings are back.
“In the past month, every single vendor in the wedding industry is like, ‘Oh, my God, it’s happening’ — and it’s insane,” said Danielle Cain, director of catering and events for the Big Burrito Co.
Joshua Walker, a Moon-based DJ, usually books between 50 and 60 weddings per year. This year, he has already booked 78.
“We’re just incredibly busy doing basically two years of work in one year,” he said. “There for a long time, I was not booking weddings for a month, and now it’s not uncommon for me to book numerous weddings in a week.”
But even though business is booming, holding a wedding right now isn’t exactly simple. Occupancy limits are still in effect until Memorial Day, as are some face mask rules and social distancing requirements. Even the cookie tables are complicated.
When Carolyn Jack gets married this Saturday, her reception at Heinz Field will have a cookie table, just as she has always envisioned. But the cookies will be behind plexiglass and guests will pick the ones they want by informing an attendant, who will package them into a closed plastic take-out container.
For Ms. Jack, of McCandless, wedding planning has been a leap of faith.
“We kind of just needed to go ahead as if everything will be OK come May 2021,” she said. ”It was just so unsure as to what is actually going to happen — what is the world even going to look like?”Adding to the inherent drama of marrying into a family of Cleveland Browns fans at Heinz Field, there were questions of whether they would be allowed to have a dance floor, how to manage the cookie table, and whether stadium tours would be permitted. Not to mention planning during a time period when the stadium was being used as a vaccination site.
“My biggest thing was just the unknown of everything,” she said. “This is my original plan, but I still needed to figure out Plan B, Plan C and Plan D.”
Because of COVID-19 rules, outdoor weddings have been extremely popular, even in the Pittsburgh climate.
“We spend a lot of time now in tents and barns,” Mr. Walker, the DJ, said, “because the restrictions are so much less for those kinds of venues.”
At ceremonies during the height of the pandemic, couples found creative ways to celebrate. Dr. Janice Valko and Eric Mayhue, of Ohio Township, got married at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium on October 24, when indoor gatherings were limited to a maximum of 25 people. They had 13 guests in-person at the ceremony, which they streamed on Facebook to about 100 people watching online.
“It actually was really beautiful,” Dr. Valko, a pediatrician, said. “Things were just streamlined — there was not a lot of fluff. It just really made us commit to what our main priorities were, and our main priority was to get married.”
They were thankful that the day was warm enough to take pictures outside, unmasked, and that, in hindsight, they got married when they did. In December, the zoo shut down entirely and didn’t reopen until March.
Brides and grooms also had to navigate mask rules. Dania Cruz, owner of the One White Lane Bridal Gallery in Avalon, offered her brides the option to make them a mask that matched their bridal gown, often using extra lace and fabric from the dress itself. Weddings that took place in churches and other religious venues could often skirt mask rules during the ceremonies by using religious exemptions.
Mr. Walker did DJ one wedding where the bride and groom and their guests were masked virtually the entire time.
“They only took them off to kiss,” he said.
Some who got married in small ceremonies in 2020 are choosing to still have larger gatherings similar to traditional weddings this year, billing them as vow renewal or one-year anniversary parties instead.
Ms. Van Dyke, who owns the wedding planning company Yinz Getting Married, thinks that the small wedding trend forced by the pandemic may continue for some drawn to an intimate ceremony. Others, like Ms. Jack, are excited to use their weddings as a way to reunite loved ones in person.
“I am so excited to be able to provide my friends and family this opportunity where they can come and be together safely,” said Ms. Jack, who will have about 165 people at her wedding. “You talk to everybody that’s vaccinated, and they’re ready to be set free.”
Other engaged couples are looking farther ahead to a time when weddings might be restriction-free.
“I am getting a lot of requests for 2022,” Ms. Van Dyke said. “The hope is that there will be no restrictions by that point, and they are OK with waiting a year to have their dream wedding and not have any restrictions.”
Kingfly Sprits in the Strip District, which opened as an event space in 2019 and hosted its first wedding in July of that year, is still working to reschedule the many weddings that it had booked for 2020.
“It’s been awesome to have such flexible clients that are willing to just totally re-imagine their event,” said Francesca D’Appolonia, an events manager.
Ms. Cain, at Big Burrito catering, has dealt with many couples who had 2020 weddings booked and sought to delay their celebrations. One couple who had originally booked a wedding for October 2020 asked first to reschedule for October 2021. They recently got in touch again with a question about a new plan.
“Can we use the money toward our baby shower?” they asked.