PINELLAS PARK, Fla. — Ever since their engagement, Lana Debastos and her fiancé, Jesse Rappaport, have been dreaming of their big day.
Then came COVID-19 coronavirus.
“Just to plan such a big event for so many people and then all of a sudden you’re forced to postpone or cancel it takes a toll on you,” said Debastos after postponing her April 11 wedding ceremony in St. Pete Beach.
About 150 guests were scheduled to travel from New Jersey, Indiana and even out of the country. The decision to cancel ultimately came down to Debastos' father, who was unable to fly from Portugal.
“When I was putting everything away, it was hard,” said Debastos talking about her dress and all of the decorations they’d prepared.
But it’s not just the brides and grooms in distress. Bay-area wedding business owners are hurting, too.
“We had brides rushing in for their May and June weddings and now those weddings are coming to a halt," Shantel Juarbe said. She owns Bearer of the Bling Bridal and has a store filled with dresses.
“We’re hurting,” Juarbe said. “We’re going from the best year we’ve had yet, to now not sure if we’re going to be able to cover our bills in a month from now.”
The business has slowed so much, her Pinellas County showroom is now open for appointments only.
“The wedding industry has come to a halt," Juarbe said. "No one can do business right now.”
Anna Coats is a wedding industry expert and editor of Marry Me Tampa Bay. She’s spent the fast few weeks fielding questions from devastated couples.
“You want to enjoy this and not just get through it,” Coats said. “We’re actually seeing some couples having a very small, intimate ceremony and then planning a big one year anniversary next year.”
Lana and Jesse are taking their setback in stride pushing back their wedding back to April 2021.
“We would have been more upset if we would have had the wedding and our family wasn’t there,” Debastos said.
Despite having to wait longer than expected, since everything is now done, there will be much less stress next year. The couple is also excited about their new and memorable wedding date: 4/3/21
Lana and Jesse say they were able to avoid losing any money by postponing their wedding rather than canceling. That also helps the businesses survive.
Experts warn if you’re thinking about booking a wedding in the future, don’t wait! Dates are filling up fast as couples rebook for later in the year and into early 2021.
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