When 'I do' quickly becomes 'you can’t' | Community | Chicago Reader

When 'I do' quickly becomes 'you can’t' 

How engaged couples and wedding industry professionals are coping with corona-related cancellations.

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click to enlarge Patryck Kowalick and Kane Quilos

Patryck Kowalick and Kane Quilos

aj abelman photography

Kane Quilos and Patryck Kowalick met on Tinder, and are not ashamed to admit it. They had a low-key proposal filled with lots of giggles at their favorite Mexican restaurant. When planning the wedding, the hardest part was trying to whittle down the guest list to fit their budget. Other than that, the lead-up to their May 16 wedding date was fun and easy. But as gatherings of a certain size started to be discouraged and restrictions on travel threatened a large portion of guests flying in from the Philippines and from other cities across the U.S., they realized they needed to postpone the wedding. "We have been engaged for over a year, a year and a half by our original date," Quilos says. "We just want to be married already!"

For Katie Hutches and Andy Horigan, the COVID crisis was yet another stressor added to a building pile leading up to their now-canceled April 3 wedding. In addition to planning the wedding, in the months leading up to it Hutches was commuting two hours a day to work long hours as a teacher and finishing classes to get her master's. Her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and her cat needed surgery.

"I have been anticipating this culmination of everything stressful to just be over—the master's classes, my mom's treatments, the wedding planning—it was all supposed to be over very, very soon," Hutches says. "The biggest disappointment for me was just grappling with, It's not over yet. And, Oh my god, I have to do a lot of this over again."

But that feeling quickly went away because of how supportive venues and vendors have been. There are, of course, some disappointments along the way. Quilos and Kowalick can no longer get married in the church they regularly attend because of how the rescheduling worked out, and Hutches and Horigan now have the challenge of keeping 400 succulents alive through July, when their rescheduled wedding will be. In normal circumstances, couples would have to pay additional fees for rescheduling with each vendor or venue and, depending on the contract, would be out any amount they'd already paid depending on rescheduling availability. But because of allowances for these unusual circumstances by venues, caterers, photographers, DJs, florists, and others involved, neither couple has lost a significant amount of money.

The same can't be said for the vendors making those offers. Wedding photographer AJ Abelman runs her own one-woman business, and a majority of her income comes from weddings booked between April and October. (Full disclosure: she is a close friend.) This year, eight of her clients have weddings that have been postponed or canceled because of COVID concerns so far, and if those couples don't rebook she anticipates losing at least $30,000.

"That amount of money would absolutely destroy my small business," Abelman says. "Rescheduling is the best option for me, and it's what I'm seeing most couples do, but even that comes with its own set of problems." The ripple effect of couples rescheduling for 2021 means either fewer available days for new business or working back-to-back-to-back weddings to make up the difference. She is currently selling prints online and brainstorming other virtual ideas to make up the difference without putting her clients out more money, but it gets tricky when the entire industry is about physically gathering together.

Quilos and Hutches both say going virtual is not an option for their big day. They've joked about Zoom celebrations, or a digital "party" on the original wedding date, but ultimately they want to wait until everyone can responsibly be in the same place again. While we're all fighting uncertainty, they agree that they don't want to make it about themselves or be in a position where anyone feels sorry for them.

click to enlarge Katie Hutches and Andy Horigan - AJ ABELMAN PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Katie Hutches and Andy Horigan
  • aj abelman photography

"Yes, we had to postpone a wedding and that sucks, but it's so much more important to us that our friends, family, and community stay healthy and safe right now," Horigan says. "We will celebrate with friends and family when the time is right, but for now, we want everyone to do their part to help stop the spread of the virus."

In the meantime, both couples are learning how to really live together before they say, "I do"—Quilos jokes that this is the world's way of testing how they'll do in their marriages. While in isolation, she and Kowalick have been having date night every night, cooking and drinking together, and trying to share their individual interests. Quilos is all about getting her husband-to-be to join in on her yoga classes, and if things get too serious, they just have a living-room dance party.

Hutches and Horigan are glad to be isolated together rather than apart, spending their days doing new things like making pasta from scratch and playing lots of board games. Mostly, Hutches says, this time has been a preview of what awaits on the other side of the COVID crisis. "I think the isolation has really just confirmed for both of us that we've made the right choice of who to spend the rest of our life with."   v

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