arts   |   coronavirus

'A little heartbreak': how COVID-19 affects Monroe County weddings


Briana Tomlinson and Garrick John pose for an engagement photo Nov. 1, 2019, in Broad Ripple, Indianapolis. Tomlinson and John had to cancel their wedding after being informed that their guest list did not fit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regulation of 50 people or less. Courtesy Photo

It’s no secret that the coronavirus affects daily lives, but for some, it affects one of the biggest days of their lives.

Social distancing and pandemic-related travel anxiety has caused couples to postpone weddings, trim guest lists or elope.

Unionville, Indiana resident Briana Tomlinson said she was first concerned about her wedding at the beginning of March when cases started to increase in the U.S. and her older family members began to cancel their plans to attend.

Tomlison said she and fiance Garrick John canceled their April 4 wedding after their venue, Hoosier Harvest Church in Martinsville, Indiana, informed them the number of guests did not fit Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regulations. The CDC had recently limited gatherings to 50, but the guest list was about 114, Tomlinson said.

Courtney Sinclair Rose, a Bloomington resident and wedding photographer, wrote a post on her website titled “Getting married during the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

In the post, Rose suggested trimming the guest list, moving the wedding to later in 2020 or 2021 or eloping.

The post was written when the CDC recommended gatherings of 50 or less, Rose said. She said she wanted clients to consider postponing or trimming the guest list, but most of her clients were not willing to trim the guest list and instead postponed.

“A lot of these people have just at least a hundred friends and family members that they want to be there,” Rose said. “The thought of not having half of those people there was just not going to happen.”

Tomlinson and John considered trimming the guest list but decided against it, Tomlinson said.

“We kinda felt really bad to trim anybody who did continue to RSVP because it was a really close family,” she said.

They prepared to elope without the traditional wedding. They decided to invite around 40 guests this time, but President Donald Trump announced a 10 person limit the next day.

Tomlinson and John rescheduled their original wedding for July, but Tomlinson said venues informed her even that was risky.

“I’ve been pretty chill about it, because honestly we can’t help the circumstances we’ve been given,” Tomlinson said. “But now that it’s nearing my wedding day, I’m getting just a little bitter, just a little heartbreak feeling.”

She said if the July wedding does not work, she and John will likely have their officiant marry them with a witness.

“I wasn’t too upset about it,” John said. “I’m more upset that my fiance is not getting what she wants with everything.”

IU has weddings venues such as Alumni Hall or Beck Chapel, but due to IU's closing, IU weddings during the spring semester were canceled, IU spokesperson Chuck Carney said.

Carney said IU is uncertain about wedding plans in the summer. He said couples who scheduled their IU wedding later in the summer have a better chance of avoiding coronavirus effects.

"We're closely monitoring the guidance from our state and national leaders," Carney said. "For the moment, it's uncertain."

Perry Fowler, one of the owners of The Barn on Maryland Ridge, a Bloomington wedding venue, said there has been one cancellation and a couple postponements. Before CDC recommendations limited gathering to 10 people, he said some couple considered trimming their guest lists.

He said for the time being, couples have been rescheduling their April and May weddings.

"We'll get through it," Fowler said. "We'll get back on our feet, but I think we just need to stay positive."

Tomlinson and John offered advice to other couples in similar situations.

“Just enjoy what you can,” Tomlinson said. “And know that you will get your day to be the beautiful bride you wanna be.”

“Things happen that are out of your control, but just make the best of it,” John said. “The only thing that matters is how much people love each other.”

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