A declining number of brides-to-be are walking down the aisle this spring, and it has stoked the anxiety of wedding vendors across Rhode Island.
Following calls from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – soon after echoed by governors across the country – to limit gatherings to 10 or fewer people to stunt the spread of the coronavirus, weddings in April and May are getting postponed and canceled. Photographers, makeup artists, videographers and others are feeling the ripple effect.
Paul Spetrini, a Warwick resident who runs his own eponymous photography company, said he lost $4,000 in the last week alone. Despite that hit, he said he considers himself “extremely fortunate” compared to other vendors.
He said his first four brides of the year have decided to move their ceremonies, and he has lost two gigs in the process.
“I have lucked out. My losses financially are minimal compared to a lot of my colleagues, but I lucked out in that most of the weddings were starting in April,” Spetrini said in a phone interview as he was rescheduling a client’s wedding. “I’m busier toward the back half of the year. God willing they won’t hit me as hard as they’ve hit some of my colleagues.”
Spetrini said “the worst part” is the uncertainty surrounding how long the social distancing directives will remain in place. The camaraderie among vendors is strong, as brides who are forced to push their dates to later in the year are put in touch with other photographers or makeup artists, for example, who are available for the new day.
Spetrini has already referred a handful of dates to other photographer friends of his, and he expects the same to happen in reverse as well.
“It varies from a little bit of optimism for some of us to downright panic for others,” Spetrini said. “There’s not a vendor I know that has not been hit hard by this already. Wedding season hasn’t even started yet and a majority of our wedding season is from May to November. To see people impacted financially, it’s not a good time. It’s definitely not a good time.”
Warwick-based videographer Justin Murray said that both he and his spouse own small businesses, and that it’s a “nerve-racking time.” Murray said the economic shutdown in Massachusetts is what spurred the cancellation of his weddings, but he said the latest he’s seen thus far was set for May.
“Obviously with Massachusetts being in a state of emergency, pretty much everything in April is wiped out, I’m starting to get cancellations for May,” Murray said. “Every inquiry I get is some kind of damage control … It’s definitely taking a big toll on everything.”
Though his company Visual Memento is based out of Rhode Island, a vast amount of his weddings take place in Massachusetts. All he and his employees can do right now is wait.
“We’re just kind of hunkering down at this point,” Murray said. “We’re actually are in the early stages of expanding our business and bringing more people on to the team, but we’re pumping the brakes on that. So it’s delaying our expansion a little bit.”
Melissa Barra, who runs her own makeup business, said she has seen brides from all over New England panicking in various Facebook groups. She said she has been forced to cancel makeup trials, including one that was slated for March 28. One bride has already changed her date to late August, while an April bride is still waiting to make a determination.
“I’m hoping whatever they decide to do, I’m available,” Barra said. “I’m going to have another bride in May that is strongly leaning toward changing the date of her wedding … It’s been a very big impact. When it initially came out, when Boston first announced it was canceling all events over 50 people, that’s when brides in the New England [Facebook] group started to panic.”
She said a follow-up announcement from President Donald Trump that current guidelines could last into July or August had a “tornado effect” on brides-to-be.
Barra said she’s seen the effects within her family as well, as her cousin’s June bridal shower is up in the air. She is supposed to walk down the aisle in September, and Barra is hoping weddings that far down the line aren’t impacted.
“Fall is big right now, too,” Barra said. “The spring is very busy, I would say April, May and June. I’m booked every Saturday and then it dies down in July. August, it picks back up and then August, September and October – I do back-to-back weddings Saturday and Sunday. The majority is April, May and June, then August to October, are mainly when it’s nonstop. Weddings every weekend, traveling every weekend.”
Despite the heightened anxiety, Spetrini encouraged his fellow vendors to take stock of what means the most in life.
“Honestly it’s just for us to kind of take a step back and evaluate what’s important,” Spetrini said. “Weddings will continue, big life events will come back but for now we have to get through this as it is. It won’t be easy – nothing ever is – but we’re a pretty resilient group.”
WEDDING SEASON ON ITS WAY: Warwick-based wedding photographer Paul Spetrini shot the nuptials for Jason and Allison Storm, who held their reception at Warwick Country Club. Spetrini said wedding season tends to heat up around April, and the coronavirus pandemic has forced several brides to move their ceremonies around already (Photos courtesy of Paul J. Spetrini Photography)