Saying ”I do” in the midst of a pandemic has presented challenges never dreamed of in the fairy-tale world of wedding planning. Since March, spring and early summer nuptials in the North Central Connecticut area came to a virtual standstill until just recently.
“All our spring dates were cancelled,” said Cathy Stephens, the director of catering at The Starting Gate at GreatHorse in Hampden, MA. The venue, which came out on top in the North Central News 2020 “Best Place for a Wedding” Poll, did not host a wedding – after the late March coronavirus shutdown — until the end of July, with only three or four others occurring since then. “And they’re not like they use to be,” added Cathy.
For the COVID-19 time being, celebrations that bring together one hundred and more family members and friends for cocktails, dinner, and dancing have been replaced by smaller, more intimate, outdoor gatherings, minus the bar and dance floor, to comply with social distancing regulations. And the wearing of masks is required (except when eating) to lessen the spread of the illness.
“The Starting Gate has started offering ‘micro-weddings’,” said Cathy, referring to four packages to suit weddings for two and celebrations for up to 30 guests. Each includes a ceremony officiant, photographer, wedding garden and banquet, flowers and piped music.
The couples marrying this fall at The Starting Gate are all postponed weddings from earlier in the year. Most of them will share a ceremony with a small number of close family members and friends for now. Looking ahead to more healthful times, they hope to have “a bigger and better celebration next year,” according to Cathy, when they plan tol renew their vows and stream a video of their original ceremony during cocktail hour.
Usually The Nutmeg, a smaller, popular restaurant in East Windsor, has a number of weddings booked for every weekend throughout the fall –the busiest wedding season of the year. This fall – not one has been scheduled – as the management awaits news on a “Phase Three” for opening in Connecticut that will allow more than 25 people to gather for an indoor event.
At La Notte, an East Windsor wedding and banquet hall, wedding celebrations have started up again and continued every weekend in July and August – thanks to a 3200 square foot tent that has been part of the venue’s summer and fall landscape for years. Up to 100 guests can attend an outdoor function during this, Phase 2, of Connecticut’s reopening plan.
“We’ve been very lucky with the weather,” said a La Notte employee who hopes Mother Nature continues to cooperate for the weekend weddings scheduled through the fall. “It’s a lot of work to do weddings in a tent.” Buffet dinners are not allowed. Servers must wear masks and gloves.
La Notte, a wedding and banquet venue in East Windsor, recently started hosting outdoor weddings every weekend in its 3200 square foot tent (Photos courtesy of La Notte).
By Laura Hayden