Wedding planners

Small businesses like Milestone Memories & Events in Killeen, which decorated this past wedding scene, are staying busy preparing their businesses for the future during the downtime.

The coronavirus seems to be affecting everything these days — including delaying one of the most romantic days of many people’s lives: their Wedding Day.

The governor’s executive order that was announced on Thursday bans gatherings of more than 10 people, well under the number of guests at weddings. Even prior to that, all weddings effectively were pushed out to mid-May after the release of guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The guidelines, released a week ago advised that “large events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. via travelers who attend these events and introduce the virus to new communities.”

Weddings, of course, were among the examples of large events.

Killeen-area wedding planners have been directly affected by COVID-19 mitigation measures, as have their clients.

“We’ve cried alongside some of our brides these past few days,” said Stacy Harris, sales manager at The Vineyard at Florence, a popular wedding venue near Killeen. “But then after the initial shock, all of them have come to the realization that they’re happy and healthy and will get to marry the person they love eventually.”

Harris has been giving advice to brides and grooms who were on the verge of their nuptials.

“Take a deep breath. Remember what’s important,” Harris said. “Once you take a breath and give it a minute you can get some perspective and remember that it’s not so much about the date as it is about being with the one you love.”

One local wedding and event planner has been posting reassuring articles and videos on her Facebook page and website blog.

“Let’s use this time to rejuvenate, refresh and breathe...” advises wedding planner Geri Schwartzman, the owner of Milestone Memories & Events in Killeen, in one of her Facebook posts. She has been a wedding planner for nine years.

“I haven’t seen a whole lot of disappointment in my clients regarding changing their wedding plans; they kind of shrug and say ‘okay,’” she told the Herald. “But I feel that I can attribute that to my relationship with them because we’ve been working on their plans for several months, building a trusting relationship. So, when things of this nature happen, together we find a solution and keep moving forward.”

The Vineyard at Florence is rescheduling all weddings into the middle of May at the earliest.

“We have some couples who want first available date, and others are waiting a full year to stay in the same season,” Harris said. After all, spring—a time of rejuvenation and new beginnings—is a popular time of the year to get married.

Milestone also is rescheduling weddings. “We can’t necessarily downsize the guest list—after all, everyone is still invited—they just have to stay 6 feet away from each other, and that’s not going to happen!” Schwartzman said.

Effects on business

The wedding business, including the myriad of vendors that can be involved, has been affected by cancelations because of the coronavirus.

“It’s been interesting; it’s such an unprecedented situation,” Harris said. She said that she was in the hospitality industry during 9/11.

“I’m leaning on that experience to deal with this, but it’s been a challenge,” she said. “In the hospitality business we’re trained to do everything we can for the client, but then our hands are tied.”

Schwartzman is thankful that her wedding and event planning business diversified into other areas more than a year ago, such as renting items such as tables, chairs, linens, backdrops and even a red carpet, but it hasn’t been easy.

“The event industry has been hit extremely hard,” she said. “The moment we heard about social distancing was the moment that all event execution went out the window for both social occasions like weddings and quinceaneras and corporate events like mixers and meetings.”

However, Schwartzman pointed out that much can be done using technology, including planning for events.

“It’s my job to coordinate a postponement with all of their vendors including the florist, caterer, venue, music provider, and videographer, just to name a few,” she said. For couples without a wedding planner it can be challenging to negotiate postponements and cancellations.

“We offer hourly rates to help couples navigate through this murky-water time,” Schwartzman said.

Schwartzman also said that business owners can use the downtime productively.

“There’s always a huge to-do list of things to help your business grow,” she said. “I urge all business owners to take this time to work on the business of their business. We need to prepare now for the influx of work after the COVID-19 scare wears off, and I’m confident that it will.”

In the meantime, Schwartzman has a few key strategies to stay sane.

“I’m staying calm, positive and hopeful,” Schwartzman said.

She thinks that after coronavirus mitigations end the industry will be better than ever.

“I’d say that after experiencing these tough times together, all business relationships will come out stronger and wiser—at the very least we’ll all have super-clean hands!”

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