Island weddings will have to wait

Event planners, florists, and performers face a season of uncertainties.

Weddings around Martha’s Vineyard are getting pushed due to restrictions surrounding travel and large gatherings. — Courtesy Carly Michelle Photogra

Like the majority of other businesses on Martha’s Vineyard that rely on off-Island visitors as their primary source of income, the wedding industry is facing an unprecedented situation as many couples postpone their celebrations.

Emily Coulter, owner of Morrice Florist in Tisbury, said the floral arrangement industry is going to be “hugely affected” by the lack of spring and summer visitors. 

She said all weddings on her list that were planned for May are already postponed, and many June weddings are leaning toward postponement as well.

“Lots of things are really up in the air. Florists all around Martha’s Vineyard are in the same boat, we are just trying to be accommodating and meet the needs of our clients,” Coulter said. “As long as the couples are relatively flexible about what flowers they want, we should be able to serve all those events.”

Coulter said Morrice Florist usually orders flowers from its suppliers well ahead of the wedding season, “but this season we are going to have to wait and see when all the weddings are pushed to.”

Performers that would normally be gearing up to provide entertainment at weddings are also being affected. Jerry Bennett of The Sultans of Martha’s Vineyard, a premier private party band, said the postponements for the next couple months have been “pretty much across the board.”

“It seems like no one has any confidence that June is going to be salvaged, but July is looking like it could be possible,” Bennett said. 

He said The Sultans take deposits as part of their business policy, so they are confident that any event they had planned for June or July can be rescheduled to a later date.

“I have a feeling everything’s going to be alright, most of these are just rescheduling, not cancelling entirely, so that is promising,” Bennett said. 

According to Bennett, approximately 90 percent of his prospective wedding clients up until the month of June have pushed their celebrations late into the summer, or into the fall.

“That’s exciting because we know it will be a good fall, although it will be one hectic wedding season,” Bennett said.

The Sultans normally sell out their season, so they said they will be doing first come, first served for those who have already planned and scheduled their events.

“Everyone has been great and very sensitive to the fact that we are a small business and we need their work,” Bennett said. “I think our clients have faith we are going to do everything we can to make the necessary adjustments.”

Although Bennett said this situation has put great stress on the wedding and events industry, he said he is confident that The Sultans will be able to have a great season, when it arrives.

“We are going to be taking seven or eight months of work and cramming it into about three or four months, but I know we can do it,” Bennett said.

Jim Eddy, owner of Big Sky Tent and Party Rentals, said his company provides tents, tables, chairs, glassware, dance floors, and band stages to around 150 weddings per season. Now, Eddy said most of their scheduled weddings in May and June have been postponed.

“Our season tends to fill up fast every year. It is going to be very challenging to try to find space later in the season to handle these,” Eddy said. 

Eddy said he is more concerned about how the wedding venues will be able to handle such a high concentration of weddings later on in the season, without the seasonal help that is normally available. 

“This is all new to us, and we are taking it one day at a time. We haven’t seen anything like this before,” Eddy said.

Kristen Gosselin, owner of KG Events and Design, said the restrictions on travel and the pleas from the Vineyard community for tourists and seasonal visitors to stay off the Island for the time being has hit everyone in the wedding industry.

“We might be one of the last to get back to business as usual,” Gosselin said. 

Gosselin said her company’s first event of the season was supposed to take place in April, but they are now working on moving all their events and making sure their vendors pencil them in for later in the year.

“We are finding ways to work with all our clients without disrupting too much of what has already been planned,” Gosselin said. “We are trying to keep vendor teams intact, and are ultimately giving clients the choice on when they want to move to.”

When the Centers for Disease Control issued guidelines and restrictions for social gatherings, Gosselin said it was an easy direction to follow.

“We normally have 75 to 100 events per season. That includes beach parties, birthdays, family reunions, and weddings,” Gosselin said.

And KG Events and Design is now looking to condense those events into a fraction of the time span they would normally have. 

“It will be tight, but certainly not impossible. It will be important for the event community as a whole to get on the same page with flexibility of accomodations,” Gosselin said. “I am grateful that we have the staffing to serve the sort of volume that we see each season on a shorter timeline.”

After some of the restrictions are lifted, and visitors are again welcome on the Island, Gosselin said she and others in the wedding and events industry will be working closely with the boards of health.

“Once everything is all opened up again, we will have to consider things and focus on areas that we maybe didn’t as much before

Jackie Kane of Vineyard Elopement said so far, weddings in June are “on standby” and she is hoping to go forward with a “one day at a time” mentality.

“I am all for what is best for the community, my clients, and my employees,” Kane said. “For clients with bigger weddings, when you have 100 or more people attending, you need to be cautious and safe.”

While Kane said she knows this season will be filled with caution and relative unease (rightfully so), she said she hopes things will return to a sense of normalcy in the future.

“Although I don’t know if anything will ever be the same, I hope that in the near future we can all get together and celebrate love without having to worry,” Kane said. 

Randi Baird of Randi Baird Photography said she is dealing with “a lot of unknowns” but said she is hopeful. “I don’t think this issue is going to be resolved all at once, it is going to take some time,” Baird said.

When it comes to weddings, Baird said it is difficult for couples to postpone something they have been looking forward to with great anticipation.

“People don’t want to wait to get married, they don’t want to wait to celebrate their love for one another,” Baird said. Just like wedding planners, Baird said wedding photographers are encouraging couples to consider a fall wedding on the Vineyard.

She said that if clients choose to push their weddings to next summer, that season will be “really crowded” with the volume of two seasons pushed into one.

“I want to listen to my clients and be understanding. This is such a hard time for everyone and there is so much fear,” Baird said. “I think once this is all over, people are going to want to escape back to their beautiful getaway and have a wonderful wedding on the Vineyard.”