Since getting engaged in the fall of 2019, Aubrey Stiene and her finance, Tyler, had been planning their dream wedding at Newmarket’s Holland Marsh Wineries on July 3, 2021.
However, as the pandemic worsened and Ontario locked down again last April, that day started looking a lot different.
“Obviously it was a bit of an emotional roller-coaster, especially in the spring,” Stiene said.
“We kind of gave ourselves a deadline of four weeks out. If we didn’t know what we could do then — what we were allowed to do — (then) we were going to change the plans,” her now husband Tyler added.
In the end, they went with their original date and venue, but dropped the guest list from 130 to 50 people at the ceremony, with just the couple’s parents and siblings staying for dinner.
“The 13 of us sat for dinner and sent the rest of our guests home with a takeout dinner and some wine,” Tyler said.
They said their caterer agreed to make the exact same meal in to-go form with reheating instructions so guests could still share in the meal.
The couple also moved speeches and the first dance into the ceremony so more people could take part.
For them, postponing was never really a consideration.
“With a wedding date booked two years out and considering how long we had been together, we were just kind of ready to be married already and wanted to move on with the rest of our lives,” Stiene said.
“We know we were still going to keep a Saturday, we know we’re going to be at the venue we wanted to be at — they were positive to work with — so we opted to just stick with the day and do what we’re able to do,” Tyler added.
It was a different story for Adrianna Pritchard, who was originally supposed to get married on June 27, 2020 at Alton Mill in Caledon, but had to postpone it to the following year when the pandemic first hit that spring.
“At that point, I was still adamant that I’d have my big wedding that I’d always wanted, so we made the decision to postpone it in April,” she said.
However, as winter rolled around the situation didn’t seem to improve, Pritchard said she began getting very stressed about what their wedding would look like.
“I started to kind of dread the wedding planning — it wasn’t fun anymore, I just was not having fun with it at all,” she said.
That’s when she originally decided they would do a backyard wedding with just 50 people, but after planning for that for a few weeks, she said she was still stressed and ultimately they decided to elope.
“With that came a lot of money lost — with all the deposits we had sent over you also sign a non-refundable deposit contract,” Pritchard said, but added she didn’t ask for money back because it was no one’s fault. “We kind of just took it as this is our loss, there’s not much we can do.”
Even though the couple decided to elope, she said they wanted to make sure the day was still special.
“I didn’t just want to go to city hall locally and get it over with. I still wanted something that was significant for our day. If we’re going to scrap the idea I needed something that was cool and fun and adventurous so that’s why we decided to go to Banff,” she said.
On July 27, 2021, Pritchard married her now husband in a mountainside ceremony in Alberta with just her parents, the officiant, and the photographers there to witness it.
Both brides worked with Newmarket-based wedding planner Michaela Straatsma, who has been operating her business, Michaela Elizabeth Creative, for five years, and who has seen a major shift during the pandemic.
She said as people have been forced away from big parties, it brought her back to the original intent of weddings.
“Those intimate weddings, I think they’re going to be a trend that sticks around for a while actually,” she said.
Anita Donato, a Newmarket planner who has been in the industry for 15 years, agreed.
“(The pandemic) forced us indirectly to see that you can have everything you want and don’t have to spend a whole bunch of money. So it has really changed the way people are looking at things,” Donato said.
One boutique event venue in Newmarket is catering to couples who want to do just that.
In response to the pandemic, EVENTMRKT at Riverwalk Commons partnered with other local vendors to offer all-inclusive micro-wedding packages.
It includes the venue, cocktail hour, and dinner from EVENTMRKT, planning and day-of-coordination from Claudio & Co., flowers from Sweet Stem Florals, DJ services from Motion Sounds Entertainment, and an officiant from A Little I Do.
Venue manager Samantha Crossman said the packages have been a hit.
“People are loving that they don’t have to think about a single thing,” she said.
The popularity has meant that the venue is booking up quickly.
“It has really taken off for us this summer,” Crossman said. “We literally have a micro-wedding every Friday, Saturday, Sunday now until basically like the end of November.”
She said they had to hire another coordinator just to help manage all the inquiries and events.
The back-to-back bookings are not unique to EVENTMRKT as the entire wedding industry is seeing a bit of a boom.
Straatsma said she thinks this is happening right now as this is “the most open they’ve been since the pandemic started. There are some restrictions but there’s a lot of lee-way.”
Donato agreed and said there are different rules for different venues depending on whether it's outdoors or indoors and the size of the space.
“The protocols are in place to protect everyone and you would hate for something to happen at your wedding, you would never forgive yourself,” she said. “Now as a normal thing as a wedding planner, I’m bringing a box of masks because you never know if someone’s just going to be like ‘I’m not bothering’, you want to make sure everyone feels safe and is protected.”
However, both wedding planners said they have also noticed a lot of people booking now for 2022 and even into 2023.
“I have brides now moved to 2023 because you don’t really know,” Donato said. “You’ve got some people who just want to hold on because they want to have a big wedding.”
Straatsma said that between postponed weddings and newly engaged couples, there’s a lot of interest in 2022.
“I think people are ready to celebrate, they’re ready to get married, they’re ready to do the big wedding again and they’re feeling comfortable that next year’s going to be the year for it,” she said.
However, because of that vendors are booking quickly and she said people may need to get creative with what they want.
“If you are looking for that traditional wedding, I think it’s going to be a lot harder to start planning if you are hoping to get married in 2022.”
Instead, her suggestions include looking at newer vendors, considering a different day of the week, opting for a brunch wedding, or waiting one more year.