Nora McCormack is a wedding videographer in Maine. She poses for a photograph at her home in Newry. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Love in the time of COVID-19 is shaping up to be a complicated proposition for the state’s wedding industry. As summer lurches into frame, many industry professionals are trying to find ways to remain optimistic.

Nora McCormack of Newry, owner of SP Films, a high-end company that videos weddings and corporate events, said she’s poised to lose about 25 percent of her annual income between 2020 and 2021.

Usually, she fills her off-season with videoing corporate events and helping local business’ design and implement digital advertising campaigns. That revenue has dried up.

“That has certainly come to a screeching halt,” McCormack said. “All of my corporate gigs have been canceled.”

And her early summer weddings have already been rescheduled. Normally, she has six months to schedule out weddings and events. This year, she’ll have four whirlwind months to fit in six months worth of work. 

My schedule is getting pushed back to July,” she said. . . . “I have to make my entire year’s income in four months as opposed to six months. I have one weekend where I have three weddings back to back, spanning from Cape Cod to Maine.”

She’ll likely have to hire extra help to deal with the logistics of the crazy, packed weekends ahead.

Barbara Fogarty, owner of Maine Wedding Barn and Event Center in Minot, poses in front of her venue. She said brides have been calm and understanding about postponing their weddings. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

She also has a sister brand that offers budget options for couples in a lower price-range. She was planning on axing that offering this year, but said she’s had a large uptick of interest in it.

“I had a lot of inquiries for that brand . . . I think we’re going to see more of a need for videoing,” she said.

McCormack thinks that even when gathering restrictions are lifted, there will still be a sizable number of people unable, or unwilling to travel. 

“It might be a great way to share memories for your friends and family who might have been there if not for this ugly virus,” McCormack said.

Misty Coolidge owns Coolidge Family Farm in New Gloucester. She said her couples booked for spring and early summers are actively looking to reschedule, as well as a few fall bookings.

“Not only are my spring and my early summer couples nervous, but I even got a call from an October wedding (asking) ‘what are we going to do if we can’t hold our wedding?'”

Coolidge said the simple answer is to reschedule. Her venue is heated, and can offer bookings in some months that unheated venues can’t. She said rescheduling to an off-season date, or a Thursday or Sunday, is easier for everyone involved, from couples to vendors.

“It’s all about love, because that’s what’s most important,” Coolidge said. “You’re still going to get married we’re going to make it happen, we may have to do a reduced headcount, or off season, or during a Sunday in the summer.”

The key phrase is that wedding industry professionals are going to “make it happen.” And, according to Coolidge, if couples want to keep the money they’ve already paid vendors, they don’t exactly have a choice.

“If they (couples) want to cancel, they will probably lose their money . . . we can’t return the money that’s been spent,” Coolidge said. “We’d lose our homes. Let’s work together and pick another date, because you can’t get your money back. Once a payment is made, it’s nonrefundable. We want to maintain positive, you’re still going to get married.”

Barbara Fogarty, who owns Maine Wedding Barn and Event Center in Minot with her husband, John St. Hilaire, said the key to a happy wedding in the wake of COVID-19 is flexibility. Couples usually opt for a Saturday wedding. But, in these unprecedented  times, other weekdays are looking mighty fine.

“Fridays are looking pretty nice,” she said. . . . “Sundays are looking wonderful.”

Misty Coolidge of the Coolidge Family Farms in New Gloucester, has found that couples have been postponing their weddings, but not canceling them. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

And, of course, a wedding has many, many moving parts and vendors working to make the day flow smoothly. She said most of the vendors she’s talked to have been completely open to being flexible.

“The wedding industry is just an incredible industry to be in, because every single aspect, from the cake person to the flower person . . . whether they come in and drop off for ten minutes or are there the entire day . . . they are all interested in having that function, in hosting that wedding and will do whatever it takes to do this,” Fogarty said.

Dennis Boyd Jr., choir director for Oxford Hills School District in Paris and music teacher at Oxford Hills Middle and Oxford Hills Comprehensive High schools, moonlights as a wedding DJ in that region. He said he recently had his first COVID-19-related cancellation, and has lost almost all of the prom dates he had booked.

“That’s 700 bucks a pop, minimum, that I’m losing,” he said. 

Boyd said it’s hard for him to be flexible. He can’t exactly stay up for weddings on school nights, and he said the schedule he’s committed to works for him. He said he’s concerned for the DJs and professionals left out, eating the loss of four or five expensive gigs a month.

I work from June to end of October, and I’m super happy,” Boyd said. “It’s all I want, it’s what I can handle, and I can take care of my clients . . . there’s some people that do at least four or five events a month, and those are people I’m terrified for,” he said.

Fridays and Sundays, that would be the only way I could make it work, which I would offer in a heartbeat to take care of a client,” he said.

Jordan Rowe and her fiancee, Richard Barrett, were planning to get married May 23 at the Public Works, a relatively new venue in the Bayside neighborhood of Portland.

In recent months, they watched the news of COVID-19 escalate in severity, and made the difficult decision to postpone their wedding until later in the summer.

“We decided to pull the plug before it got worse, and before every bride was looking to reschedule this summer,” Parker said. “We decided to re-book while we still could before every bride decided to re-book.”

She said rebooking was actually less stressful than the anticipation of waiting to see if the situation would change for the better by mid-May.

But for professionals losing out on work because of the pandemic, a lot is still up in the air. When will things open up from self isolation? When will it be safe to start hosting large events again?

For McCormack, she said she takes a little comfort knowing that everyone is in the same boat.

“Knowing that everybody is in the same boat has been nice . . . everyone has been so understanding. We’re all in this together,” she said. 

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