Weddings in the Age of Coronavirus: How Hollywood Is Redefining 'Happily Ever After'

Wedding - Getty - H 2020
Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images

With COVID-19 curtailing all gatherings, The Hollywood Reporter spoke with industry insiders who are reevaluating their perfect walks down the aisle.

On March 13, Kelly Kovacs, director of development for Jessica Biels' Iron Ocean Films, took to Instagram to share the news she had been dreading to write — that she and her fiancé, musician John Schroeder, made the difficult decision to postpone their upcoming March 28 nuptials.

"We decided that since our priority was having our family together, we really couldn't live with ourselves if we would ask people to put themselves at risk in order to travel or be surrounded by a large number of people. That's not how we wanted to enter into a marriage — with corona being the most unwanted guest at our wedding," Kovacs told The Hollywood Reporter.

The question of postponing or even canceling an occasion as joyful as a wedding has also affected couples like Emma Stone and Dave McCary, who had planned to marry in Los Angeles this past weekend, and producer Randall Emmett (The Irishman) and Vanderpump Rules star Lala Kent, who are moving their April wedding to July.

"Every couple needs to decide what the right thing is to do for themselves, and this is an incredibly personal decision that people have to make. It's one of the biggest moments of your life," Kovacs said.

She and her fiancé were monitoring the news hour by hour for two weeks before making the call, not trying to panic but wanting to show the appropriate amount of concern because they were so close to the date. "There were so many moving parts, and it was all lining up exactly how we wanted, and then you wake up one day and the World Health Organization says there's a pandemic. It's one of those things that you don't ever expect or could possibly predict to be the thing that uproots your whole wedding," she recalled.

Wedding and event planners in particular are trying their best to make the most of an unimaginable situation. "We solve crazy problems that you never think to happen on these wedding days and weeks," says Stefanie Cove, whose past clients include Karlie Kloss and Molly Sims. "What's frustrating is that the coronavirus is something we didn't have an answer for. Trying to come up with the best way to guide people while letting them make their own decision in an emotional time has been really hard."

Luckily for Kovacs and Schroeder, their wedding planner, Layne Kula Allen of The Penny Layne, was able to completely transplant their March wedding to early November — venue, vendors and all. "We were about to pay our final deposit, but we decided to talk to our wedding planner, who is one of my best friends, about how to responsibly talk with our vendors and venue about cancellation policies given the circumstances," Kovacs said. "And we were very, very lucky because every single vendor was flexible and we were able to just pick up our wedding and move it to a new day."

Tony Schubert, CEO and founder of Event Eleven, who has planned events for Amazon Studios, Capitol Records and Rolex, predicts that there will be a change in contracts relative to cancellation fees from both the production companies as well as from venues going forward. "I'm hearing horror stories of some venues not refunding brides during this time and other venues just simply keeping deposits regardless of what's outlined in the contract. Most standard agreements have clauses in place, but they will get more detailed," he said.

From a more positive standpoint, A-list wedding and event planner Sharon Sacks of Sacks Productions has experienced an altruistic attitude from the venue side — extending due dates, allowing dates to be changed and applying funds to those dates. "Lots of policies are changing since this is such a unique situation," she told THR. "We are currently experiencing a great attitude by big Hollywood events and clients in which they are prepaying in full now, many vendors for events that are being postponed to the fall, and venues are allowing at no additional charge for clients to move their events to an available date in the future."

Especially in light of the bans barring travel and gatherings of 50 or more people, event planners have been strategizing their events on a case-by-case basis.

"People aren't traveling anywhere, and the events in the immediate future like March, April will definitely have to be moved. Hopefully if things get better and the ban on events of 50 or more is lifted, the May and June weddings can still happen," said Cove. "But otherwise, they'll really have to start looking into postponements. I do a lot of destination events, and I have three European weddings in June. Also the idea of whether people can actually leave the United States or whether they'll have a domestic wedding or one in Los Angeles. I think in two weeks, we'll know a lot more."

Gina Wade, who counts Hulu, Showtime and Netflix as clients, noted that some of her events have canceled, but many are postponing. "Initially the conversations were about looking into some creative options for events like reducing guest counts or having smaller groups or guests come at different times. But for now, most of our clients feel that it's irresponsible to put their colleagues and guests in harm's way."

Similarly, Schubert said that "the No. 1 goal is to keep people safe," and that, aside from one event that was already in the middle of production for Event Eleven, "there isn't a choice to keep any of our projects alive at this point since the ban of large gatherings above 50 guests."

But the notion of postponing rather than outright canceling has been the name of the game, and the hope among the event planning community.

"I'm a strong supporter of postponing because I am concerned for my industry too. There are so many people in this business that were working every day and all of a sudden have zero work for the unforeseeable future, who need that work and for those events to postpone and not cancel," Cove said.

Sacks has seen the event planning industry come together and unify in this trying time. "The foundation of our work is to plan and produce milestone celebrations," she told THR. "We're confident that the industry will rebound stronger and more creatively than ever."

Kovacs commended the event planners, who are figuring out how to make this work under such novel circumstances. "We're all living through this, and none of us has ever prepared ourselves to go through something like this," she said. "What's such a testament to the event planning industry is so much of what their job entails is creative problem-solving and catering solutions that fit other people's needs. This is really a moment for vendors all across the board to really band together to help support their client's vision."

Most of all, Cove has seen that many of her clients are happy to wait. "They are so happy to be postponed and not canceled. As crappy as it is for my clients who are having to push their dream wedding back or not even know what to do with their wedding, everybody's realizing that there's a bigger picture here," she said. "People want to get married. They're always going to get married. And because we're all stuck inside and many of us are going a little crazy, I think there will be a lot to celebrate once this is all over."