BY FRANK WILKES LESNEFSKY

When photographer Julie Jordan looks through her calendar of weddings, the impact of COVID-19 is immediately apparent.

“If I open up my calendar, it would speak for itself,” she said. “I note next to weddings that it has been canceled or rescheduled.”

So far, 18 of her clients have rescheduled their weddings until 2021. For a photographer who primarily shoots weddings, that’s a problem. Jordan isn’t alone, though. COVID-19 brought the wedding industry to a grinding halt, hurting a wide range of businesses that thrive on matrimony.

Wedding professionals throughout the area are unsure of when and how weddings will resume. On March 30, the 11-county, 118-parish Diocese of Scranton announced that all scheduled weddings would be postponed until further notice, though churches could still hold open dates of scheduled weddings. Whether a wedding could take place depends on when restrictions are lifted — something Lackawanna County likely won’t see in the near future under Gov. Tom Wolf’s reopening guidelines.

Normally, Jordan would already be booked into 2021, but that has slowed as she tries to keep her calendar open for current clients to reschedule.

“My heart goes out to all of these couples. It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “They’re doing the right thing because they don’t want to put family or friends in danger by gathering, even for such a jovial event.”

Cindy Condella has worked in the wedding industry for about 25 years and has operated her own wedding planning firm, Condella Consulting, for the past six or so years.

As many as 15 of her weddings had to be canceled or postponed, with some clients moving their weddings to next year, some waiting to see what happens in the fall and others canceling altogether, she said.

“It’s been chaotic,” she said, calling it a challenging time for the industry as a whole.

She believes most will postpone their weddings until 2021. But with 10 or more vendors all collaborating on a single wedding, the challenge becomes finding available dates, Condella said.

As 2020 weddings are pushed back to 2021, it also means people who intended to get married next year may have to wait until 2022, she said.

“Now, we’re also losing that revenue for potential 2021 weddings,” she said. “It’s going to have a couple-year impact for sure.”

Larry Nicolais Jr., owner of Dunmore-based Constantino’s Catering and Events, which also offers its own wedding venue in Clarks Summit, had more than 90 weddings booked for 2020. At least 50 of them have been postponed to 2021. The remaining 40-plus weddings are scheduled for August through October as some hold out hope, but he’s effectively lost all of his business until Aug. 1.

Nicolais is prioritizing his current clients until Wolf moves Lackawanna County into the green phase of his three-tiered reopening plan by allowing them to keep a 2020 date while also holding a 2021 date.

He has a plan in place to reopen, including sanitization and safety precautions, but lacks guidance from the state on how weddings will resume.

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As 2020 weddings are pushed back to 2021, it also means people who intended to get married next year may have to wait until 2022.

 

He’s offering options for smaller weddings and guest counts without knowing what crowd sizes will actually be limited to.

“The numbers we’re giving … we’re just making them up because we don’t have real numbers from the state yet,” he said.

Cindy Fisch, owner of Tunis Bridal Shoppe in Scranton, has run her shop for 33 years. Even when Lackawanna County moves to the less-restrictive yellow phase, she wondered how her business could operate.

“How do you keep social distance when you’re measuring people and altering (their dresses)?” she said.

Normally, she would be preparing gowns for up to 60 weddings a month for her busiest months of September and October. Now, business is dead, though she hopes business will double next year with weddings postponed until 2021.

As a bridal shop, it can prepare gowns for 15 weddings a weekend, unlike a venue limited to one wedding.

For Central Park Flowers in Olyphant, at least 80% of its business comes from weddings, owner Dorian Butovich said.

“It’s been a disaster for us,” he said.

About 20 of their weddings have been postponed or canceled through the summer months, he said. Most have been postponed until 2021.

Like other industry professionals, he noted the possibility of couples competing for dates in 2021.

“Who knows what next year is going to bring?” he said.

Contact the writer: flesnefsky@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9100 x5181