Laura Perez and Arlind Limani thought in September that the coast was ready to plan their big wedding at The Mansion at Oyster Bay in Woodbury. Gone were the most intense COVID restrictions on big festivities, so the couple happily set the date for January 8th.
But then came déjà vu, says Perez.
“We started planning the wedding and I think we booked in October,” says Perez, 41, about himself and fiancée, formerly Hicksville-bo Limani, 31. “We thought things were about to reopen, and everything looked good, and so omicron kind of came out of nowhere. “
Perez and Limani are among many Long Island residents who were set on tying the knot when omicron hit, discovering that something they thought was old has turned into something new again. They say things feel uncomfortable like the confusing and stressful days that characterized the peak of the more deadly delta variant. These couples encounter dwindling guest lists and increased health concerns, which some say are likely to be a new normal.
OMICRON CHANGE PLANS
Before omicron hit the United States, about 160 guests had accepted the invitation to Perez ‘and Limani’s wedding; so by the end of December, the list began to shrink. People who expected to be a part of the wedding either got the fast-spreading variant themselves or were afraid of being exposed to it, Perez says.
It did not help when the groom got COVID in the first week of January and the bride came down with it the next week. The wedding is now set for February 19, but the first week of January, the guest list had gone down to about 120.
“It was a sinking ship that finally sank when I was positive” for COVID, says Perez, who lives in the Bayside neighborhood of Queens. “It’s been a nightmare.”
Steve Kirschbaum is the Catering Director of the Lessings Hospitality Group. The company owns The Vineyards at Aquebogue along with many other Long Island wedding venues, including The Mansion at Oyster Bay, Chateau at Coindre Hall in Huntington, Essex Club in Brentwood, The Barn at Old Bethpage and Estate at the Three Village Inn in Stony Brook. He says there have not been many cancellations across Lessing’s properties, but he says omicron has been a significant factor in wedding planning.
“[W]I’ve had some postponements, “Kirschbaum says.” The postponements are not like in the beginning when everyone moved their wedding date to next year or canceled. “However, he adds that” absolutely “omicron has been an issue.
Kirschbaum says couples really started worrying about omicron over the Christmas holidays.
“People got worried, or the bride and groom both had COVID, so they had to procrastinate,” Kirschbaum says. “We have been working with brides to find new dates, but they do not want to postpone until the end of 2022 or until 2023, they will have their wedding ASAP – like the end of February or March.”
Alanna Goldman, 30, of Commack, and Grant Ryan, 33, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, were to get married on Jan. 14 in the River Room in New Orleans, where they will have the ceremony inside the venue and then take the party outside. Goldman says their wedding is getting smaller day by day.
“We invited 130 guests and were supposed to have 100 (coming), but the number keeps dropping and now we are at 87,” Goldman said a week before her wedding. “It’s been a nightmare the last two weeks.”
There is always going to be something to change things, she said.
“A bridesmaid – my best friend from childhood – had COVID, my aunt from Smithtown did not want to come because the trip scared her.” She added: “Everyone tests before they come, but I’m worried because I have a 3-year-old and a 2-year-old and I want them and everyone to be safe.”
And masks should definitely be a thing at her wedding.
“I need masks on the dance floor,” Goldman said. “It’s a lot … I can not cancel because the wedding is paid for – if I could I would consider it – but there will always be another variant.”
LOOKING FORWARD TO LATE 2022
Heather Malone, 35, marries his fiancée, Corey Wilcox, 36, Aug. 21. The couple lives in the Bay Shore and will have their reception at The Vineyards at Aquebogue. She says the couple is not worried about omicron as they are planning their wedding because the wedding would only be this summer.
“August is so far out and it looks like we are in good shape in terms of restrictions,” Malone says.
Malone says that when her wedding is held, most of her guests will likely have been vaccinated, and she adds The Vineyards have outdoor areas where some wedding events can be held and there is a ballroom with sliding glass doors that can be opened for ventilation.
So far, the original number of about 160 guests remains stable, but Malone says that even if that number drops, “we will get married on that day – except for a hurricane.” She says the pandemic could last at least a while.
But omicron still affects one thing – the couple’s honeymoon.
“We were planning a Switzerland adventure and then going to St. Lucia, but St. Lucia has so many restrictions,” says Malone. So the couple plans to postpone the Swiss part of their honeymoon until maybe spring 2023.