For Cassandra Tally and her fiancé, James Lovaglio, postponing their wedding for a fourth time was not an option.
The New Jersey couple initially planned to get married in April 2020, but they postponed their nuptials due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The couple first pushed back their wedding, scheduled to take place at the Stonehouse in Warren, New Jersey, to last September and then again to March 28. But during those months, Lovaglio’s uncle, grandfather and friend died from health complications, causing them to realize that they no longer wanted to wait to be married.
“Who knows what’s going to happen tomorrow … It’s very important. A lot more important [that we get married] in the last year since we’ve lost so many people,” Lovaglio, 32, said.
Covid-19 cases have progressively declined in the United States since the post-holiday surge, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says small gatherings among vaccinated individuals are OK, but the pandemic is far from over. But while the CDC is still urging social distancing and even double-masking due to the spread of several variants, NBC News’ Social Newsgathering team spoke to six brides who’ve decided to move forward with their wedding plans.
When Rachel Rothstein, 29, planned her 260-people New York City wedding slated for October 2020 back in September 2019, she never thought her wedding day would be derailed by a pandemic. But as the date grew closer, she and her fiancé, Sean Goldstein, 30, realized they would have to postpone their special day until sometime in 2021.
In late December, Rothstein decided she would reschedule the wedding to April. And she slashed her invite list to 60 people.
“My fiancé and I decided that through all this craziness, it’s just really important that we get married, and we move forward with our lives,” she said.
Brides Tally, 29, and Rothstein are not alone — 47 percent of couples who planned to get married in 2020 postponed their weddings to 2021 or later, according to a survey poll conducted by The Knot, an online wedding planning company that surveyed 7,600 respondents.
In early February, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced that indoor wedding venues would reopen March 15. In New York, they can open at 50 percent or up to 150 guests, and in New Jersey at 50 percent capacity with a religious ceremony, or 35 percent without a religious ceremony or 150 guests, as long as guests follow proper safety precautions, such as wearing masks and social distancing.
Venues are working with couples to develop the best ways to administer Covid-19 tests to wedding guests in the days leading up the ceremony.
According to a poll conducted on The Knot’s Instagram account, 36 percent of couples plan to require their guests to get tested ahead of the event. In addition, almost 1 in 5 couples plan to require their guests to be vaccinated.
At gatherings of more than 100 people in New York, guests are required to show a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours or a negative rapid test taken within 36 hours. Guests who are 14 days or more past the final dose of their vaccination can show their vaccination card.
Billy Lodato, the general manager at the Heritage Club located on Long Island, said they plan to hire security guards who will be on-site collecting negative tests, and will then match the names with a guest list previously provided by each client.
Lodato said his venue is researching “testing trucks” couples could rent that would administer on-site rapid testing to wedding guests, but he urges couples to have their guests get tested beforehand.
Sami Gottlieb, 28, is getting married on her originally planned date of April 24 at the Harbor Club in Huntington, New York. She and her fiancé, Zach Feuer, 28, had planned to invite 240 guests but have reduced that number to 80 people.
Initially, New York guidelines stated there would be no dancing allowed due to strict social distancing guidelines, but the state has since changed that and is now allowing ceremonial and socially-distanced dancing. For Gottlieb, this was one compromise she was happy she did not have to make.
“[I’m] so thankful that now we can celebrate the way I imagined,” she said.
Venues are requiring that masks be worn at all times unless guests are sitting down at their table and safety continues to be at the forefront on the majority of couples’ minds.
“According to The Knot 2020 Real Weddings Study [COVID-19 Edition], nearly all couples (96 percent) who planned to wed in 2020 altered their original wedding plans to accommodate evolving conditions of the pandemic and keep health and safety top of mind,” The Knot Worldwide explained in a press release.
Jeanne Cretella, the president of Landmark Hospitality, which owns multiple venues in New Jersey, described Covid-19 wedding planning as “one that I pray we never have to face again.”
She and her staff have been in constant communication with their thousands of brides and despite all the changes, she said it has still been rewarding.
While their special day may not be exactly what some brides had in mind, the Covid-19 pandemic caused them to realize what mattered most.
“A year ago, I was stressing about tiny little details and now, I don’t want to say that I don’t care about the tiny little details, but I definitely [think] the bigger picture is there and as long as I marry James that day, I don’t care about the programs [or] the flowers,” Tally said. Her wedding will now have fewer guests, distanced tables and a mandatory mask requirement.