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As the pandemic upends wedding plans, both couples and venues rethink celebrations

Shelly and Cory von Achen
Shelly and Cory von Achen
Shelly and Cory von Achen had to downsize their wedding from a 170-person affair in Detroit to a lake house ceremony with just their closest family.

Big celebrations like graduation parties, family reunions, and of course weddings, are looking very different this year. Some engaged couples have chosen to postpone their weddings, others have had to reimagine their ceremonies and receptions to fit COVID-19 safety regulations.

As couples are navigating the tough decisions around having a wedding during a pandemic, the venues hosting those events are also feeling pinched as they juggle new protocols and waves of rebookings. Rebekah Moser is the general manager at Castle Farms, a popular wedding venue in Charlevoix.

This upcoming weekend will be the first wedding at Castle Farms since Michigan went into lockdown in March. But in the meantime, their finances took a big hit due to COVID-19 cancellations and rebookings. Moser said they aren't sure exactly how big of a hit as there is still a lot of uncertainty about when things will be back to normal. 

“As much as it is impacting us as a business, we are feeling for our couples during this difficult time, and are happy to work with them to figure out a way to accommodate even though it is going to impact our business,” Moser said. 

Castle Farms has a postponement option in their contracts with couples, and Moser says the staff have been talking sometimes tearful couples through the process of rescheduling for next year. They've already had some couples who initially moved their April and May weddings to later in the summer, only to reschedule them for a second time once a clearer picture of the scope of the pandemic emerged. 

Shelly and Cory von Achen were set to marry this year on April 4 at the Guardian Building in Detroit. Two weeks before they finalized their wedding plans, Governor Whitmer put the state into a lockdown in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

Shelly said they were unable to receive deposits back from their venue, but they were able to reserve another day next year in April for their ceremony. Shelly said that canceling the wedding was sad, but they “were hoping for a way to still get married” and then celebrate with everyone next year.

Shelly and Cory von Achen
Credit Shelley and Cory von Acher
Shelly and Cory von Achen were finally able to obtain a marriage license in early May after county clerk's offices opened back up.

When COVID-19 shutdown county clerk offices around the state, the von Achens were unsure if they would be able to legally get married any time soon. But in early May, the clerk's office called with instructions on how to get a marriage license. Later that month, they got married at a family lake house with just their closest family present.

“It’s just nice that we can be together and be here,” Cory said. “And it did work out eventually. It wasn’t quite the way we planned it, but we pulled it off and it’s kind of a funny story to tell down the road.”

This post was written by production assistant Catherine Nouhan.

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