Coronavirus diaries

Coronavirus diaries: Fort Worth bride forced to cancel wedding at the last minute

Coronavirus diaries: Fort Worth bride forced to cancel wedding

Holland Sanders wedding
Holland and Mike cut the cake at their bridal shower. Photo courtesy of Holland Sanders

Editor's note: Today we kick off a series about how people in Dallas-Fort Worth are adjusting to the new realities of living amid the coronavirus pandemic. Holland Sanders, CEO of Holland Collective communication and public relations firm, is a bride-to-be whose wedding was to take place on March 21 in Fort Worth.

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Postponements and cancellations aren’t unheard of in the business of planning a wedding. Hell, that’s why they make you purchase $1 million worth of event insurance. But what happens when an uninvited guest breaks in and holds your wedding hostage? In the time of Love and COVID-19, relationships are put to the test.

That's exactly what happened to my fiance, Mike, and me. After months of planning, we had to make the heatbreaking choice to postpone our March 21 wedding in Fort Worth. And while we are disappointed we won't have our day as planned, we know it was the right decision. Here's how we came to our decision and advice for couples faced with the same dilemma.

A day 10 years in the making
A wedding represents the culmination of months or years of love — and a whole lot of planning. When it comes to Mike and me, this celebration was 10 years in the making. Mike and I took these precious years to build and work toward an honest partnership that we know can last a lifetime.

That was our feeling as we celebrated a new decade. As 2020 rang in the new year, we, like all of our friends, were sure that this marked a new chapter in prosperity and success — including our wedding. January started with what seemed like longer-than-normal days and a strange energy that no one could really define. I think we all chalked it up to excitement and anxiety of seeing all of our big plans and grand ambitions come to life.

Then, in mid-February, the strange, undeniable pulsing of the unknown had a name — COVID-19.

Signs of trouble
As the news began to spread as fast as the coronavirus, we knew the stress and strain of its weight would hit us and change all the plans we had so carefully laid. There was a choice to make. 

Our wedding was set for March 21, 2020 — “3 ... 2 ... 1 ... go” as we lovingly referred to it in the lead-up. A build toward excitement and achievement in our hearts.

But as the days became weeks and the coronavirus moved into the borders of the United States, our lead-up was halted. We couldn’t avoid the reality of what was unfolding. Our dream might have to be postponed.

The moment of decision struck us when our wedding photographers, A Sea of Love, expressed their concern 14 days out from the ceremony. We realized in that moment, it wasn’t just OUR day. So many people, including our guests and our vendor partners, would have to make a difficult decision to see our wedding come true. One that we ultimately felt was unfair to ask of them.

Making the choice
We took a moment to outline the options with a bottle of wine and a list of pros and cons. It began with our family. From our bridal party alone, two of our closest friends would have to journey across the country, another from across the world, and one (my brother) would potentially not be able to attend at all due to an autoimmune disease.

They all were willing to face the danger of flying and possible quarantine because they love us and have been on this adventure with us for years. On the other hand, they wouldn’t know what they were encountering and bringing into our wedding celebration.

Beyond that, we looked at the real reason for the gathering. In our hearts, we didn’t need a ceremony to prove our devotion. We were planning a day to celebrate with abandon among the people who have seen us all these years work to create something special.

How would a day filled with fear and void of human connection really be a wedding at all?

So we asked. We called our parents and walked them through our options. We each sent texts to our respective bridal parties in our group threads — mine aptly named The REAL bridesmaid crew. I checked in with our wedding planners at the Greenhouse 817 to see if they had heard any other concerns on their industry threads.

Their thoughts were all the same — follow your gut.

For us, that was it. After three days of asking and listening to everyone and three nights of wine, whiskey, and conversation between Mike and me (plus, experiencing my final dress-fitting filled with tears of joy and pain) we had made a decision: There was no joy in a wedding that couldn’t include all of our loved ones celebrating life and love.

We postponed our wedding until the fall. The choice was difficult, but immediate for us. We made it together and without regret.

The sentiment that Mike and I have held at the center of our planning is a quote by Jorge Luis Borges: “Being with you and not being with you is the only way I have to measure time.” We are partners building a life of experience and love that is only measured by us and those we hold most dear. We will create the timeline for our happiness and make sacrifices to ensure that being together is always on our terms.

Advice for other couples
Mike and I haven’t canceled our wedding celebration, we have only postponed it. We could look at that as another negative in the endless line of daily bad news, but instead we are focused on the future. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you are a couple finding yourselves in a similar situation. 

1. Be fair to your vendors
I am so grateful that the local vendors I chose — from The Greenhouse 817 for flowers and planning to Salsa Limon for our food, to Melt and Loft 22 for our dessert treats and Weston Gardens for our venue — are all willing to move their services to our new date at no additional cost. In this moment, don’t ask for a refund if you don’t have to. These businesses are hurting, too. So if you can, ask for a credit instead.

2. Communicate with your guests
We know that our friends and family were as ready for the big day as we were, but they will understand if you communicate. We wrote an email to all of our guests to tell them we were postponing. We didn’t have the new date yet (don’t feel like you have to have that to send out the first update), but told them we would be following up ASAP. We worked with Byrd + Bleecker owner Jenny Davis, who handled our initial invitations, to figure out a new, low-cost invitation package to send to our guests for our future date. Ask your vendors for their suggestions and expertise. Oh, and don’t forget to update your website.

3. Follow the large events
When rescheduling your wedding, look to the large events to determine the best dates. All of the large festivals and events are rescheduling to the fall (not late spring or summer), so Mike and I followed their lead.

4. Give yourself a little extra gift
If you were like us, by the end of the planning period your budget was maxed out and you had to make hard decisions on things you could live without. Now you have a few extra months, give yourself an extra gift. Whether it is buying yourself something you couldn’t afford before or doing the DIY project your timeline wouldn’t allow, budget this extra time to treat yourself to something special.

5. Double the fun
Upon the news of the postponement, so many of my great girlfriends asked if we could plan another bachelorette party. This thoughtful sentiment showed me that my friends wanted to make sure the excitement wasn’t lost with the delay. Let your friends love you in the ways they can. Plan another little shower, wine night, or party as you get closer to the new date.

6. Celebrate the day in a different way
In our hearts, March 21 will always be a special day — with or without the ceremony. So Mike and I are going to celebrate. We’ve saved a bottle of champagne and plan on making a little meal to take a moment to acknowledge our day. Plan a little something that will bring joy to you as a couple.

7. Enjoy the love
You’ve got some time to build. The planning can take over the day-to-day conversations and the fun of being engaged. So now, you have time to get back to building your bond. We’ve decided to do something fun by writing a letter to each other once a month from now until the wedding. Find something you and your partner can do to sweeten this extra time.

8. Acknowledge the disappointment
This week, the week of the wedding, has been hard. Tears have flowed as we have received all of our last-minute packages: our initial logo cups for the bar, my shoes, Mike's tux, my bridesmaid gifts, and even my wedding lingerie. Every day, we've received a new package — another reminder of the event that won't be happening. We are packing everything up to save for the new date and look forward to the joy of unpacking them again.

9. Stay positive
There is so much stress and anxiety out there right now. Don’t let this important decision stress you out more than it has to. You have a partner to share the burden and lighten your mental strife. Your big day isn’t a big day until you say so. If the date has changed, find the good in what can become of this opportunity.

Holland would love to help other brides navigating the same situation right now. DM Holland on Instagram at @hauteholland.

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