Elopements, ‘micro weddings’ give way to more traditional affairs

Special Reports

(NEWS10) — Get ready for a lot more weddings, not that they ever really went away. The latest state guidance allows 150 guests, all of whom must test negative for COVID-19 or fully vaccinated in order to attend.

At the height of the pandemic, the noise of the ICU drowned out wedding bells for a newly engaged nurse and her fiancé. 

“Just the thought of even having everyone I love in the same area was overwhelming because I just couldn’t imagine potentially putting people at risk,” said Tori Strock, a nurse at Saratoga Hospital.

But now, she had her husband-to-be Colin Campbell are comfortable forging ahead with their 150-person wedding set for September.

Love is patient, but some couples couldn’t wait.

“They would rather make it official than over the top,” said Rev. Ronald Hunt, a Life Cycle Celebrant. 

When the strictest orders were lifted, his tiny one-stop-wedding-shop was open for business. He tracked down two clerks still issuing marriage licenses. Word got out, and couples traveled from all over to tie the knot at Blessings Chapel on Jay Street in Schenectady.

“To be able to give someone a dignified wedding at $225, it’s not going to break anyone’s bank,” he said.

Others took their vows to the mountains. A Brooklyn couple defied wedding norms on Mount Defiance in Ticonderoga.

“The really important thing was, we just wanted to get married and there was no end in sight to COVID,” said Rachel Goodfriend.

Their photographer captured the intimate moments as she and Gary McGaha opened gifts from family members who couldn’t be there.

“The income and stuff wasn’t great, but the tradeoff was getting to see these couples, who absolutely adore each other, say their vows in front of you so personably,” said photographer Melissa Seabury.

It was a peak experience that their hiking officiant, Valerie Epstein, says is a good alternative to postponement.

“Some are postponing them into 2022 because there is still so much uncertainty and they don’t want to have to keep changing their wedding dates,” she said.

But true wedding venues are adjusting to the ever-changing state guidance. Stone Bridge Farm Hospitality in Schuylerville was the backdrop for the Hanchett’s re-scheduled 50-person bash last September.

“As long as who’s there that you want and it’s what you want, you’ll have a good day,” said Dan Hanchett. 

“And it’s just less stressful to coordinate, it lets you enjoy every moment,” added Cristina Hanchett.

The former thoroughbred training facility’s stables have been transformed into an event space. 

“There’s a lot of open-air, people can be in, they can be out,” explained Stone Bridge Hospitality Director Stephanie Mattia.

The barn space opens to a massive, 300-person capacity arena that will safely accommodate the state’s 150-person max. But there’s one thing all this space can’t solve.

“As far as age dancing goes, these are people’s licenses and livelihoods that are under the gun,” said Mattia.

Each table of same-household guests must only dance in their assigned 6 by 6-foot zone—not on the main dance floor.

“You could use the dance floor, perhaps, just for the bride and groom and their immediate families,” said Mattia. 

Despite this, Tori and Colin say they’ll be dancing on air on their wedding day.

“Nothing in life is certain and love is really one of the only things we have so we decided, whatever the capacity guidelines were, we’re going to do it,” she said. 

Finalizing a guest list with their wedding planner is impossible, as much of Colin’s family lives beyond the closed borders of Canada.

“That’s a hard, hard thing to have to deal with,” said Letizia Mastrantoni, who owns Events to a T. 

The wedding planner has been guiding couples through the complexities of the state’s COVID guidance. 

“The wedding planner has been the one to really coordinate— whether it be data collection, contact tracing, ensuring that guests have been vaccinated and/or tested before the event, depending on the headcount,” said Mastrantoni.

Frustration among wedding vendors has given way to optimism. Stone Bridge Farm is booked nearly every weekend of the year. 

“I think the industry is very resilient. I don’t think we’ll see people stop getting married and I’m very thankful for that,” said Mastrantoni.

The pandemic is delivering a blow to business and bending traditions, but it’s not breaking the bonds of love.

“Being able to lean on each other has been priceless,” said Strock

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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