We all know what to do when life gives you lemons, but what about when life gives you a pandemic on your wedding day? It takes a lot of short-notice rejigging, whether that’s booking an elopement, streaming a Zoom wedding or cancelling your plans altogether. Here, five brides share how they handled the upheaval, and how their budgets fared through it all.


Callie Drohan and Jeyan Thiyagarajah

Callie Drohan and Jeyan ThiyagarajahRubicon

The Couple: Callie Drohan and Jeyan Thiyagarajah

The Plan: “Our pre-pandemic plans was for a 200-plus person wedding at The Westin hotel in downtown Ottawa. It was supposed to be a multicultural event with both a Hindu and civil ceremony, followed by a dinner and reception. Between the extra thought we put in for our guests – with a lot of family coming from out of town – and the personal touches we included in honour of my late mother, we were really looking forward to the unique day we had put so much time and effort into.”

The Budget: “With everything from jewellery to an open bar factored in, it was over $70,000. The biggest splurge would have been the dinner and reception itself, followed by the professional decorators we hired. For Hindu weddings, the ceremony is held on a beautiful ornate stage, called a Mandap, which includes four pillars surrounding a sacred fire. We really wanted the ceremony to captivate our guests and for them to be taken aback by the beautiful setup.”

The Pivot: “We’re very fortunate to have some incredible people in our lives and a family friend offered their property up for us to use. After a few calls with our planner, officiant, photographers and videographer, we decided to go ahead with an intimate ceremony with only immediate family in an apple orchard. In the beginning, we were planning on doing a post-COVID celebration, but at this time, we’re not really sure. We’re so sad about not having the Hindu ceremony and have talked about it being part of a vow renewal in years to come.”

The Cost: “We ended up spending around $16,000 for favours, décor, clothing, jewelry and all our vendors, plus Al’s Steakhouse dinner for the family that allowed us to use their property. Our DJ was the only vendor, besides The Westin, that we lost between our original plan and our pandemic plan; we were able to either recover deposits or pivot ones that were made to accommodate our new plans. Our biggest losses were those related to the Hindu ceremony: all of the dresses, jewelry, cultural ornaments and items to be used.”

The Conclusion: “We wanted a big day with all our cherished friends and family, and the financial wins don’t entirely ease that pain. But overall, it was an intimate, magical and beautiful day.”

Addyson and Cole Racine

Addyson and Cole RacineKaylen Van Driesum

The Couple: Addyson and Cole Racine

The Plan: “Our original wedding was supposed to be 80 people at Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse in Saanichton, B.C. They just finished building a brand-new building for events. The majority of our friends and family are in Victoria, but approximately 20 people were traveling from Ontario. We were going for a minimalist theme with lots of candles, white, and glass décor.”

The Budget: “It was approximately $20,000, paid solely by us. The biggest item was the catering, but I picked up lots of overtime and we saved money by booking over a year out and for a Thursday in April. I did all the calligraphy for the signage and stationery and sourced out all the décor on my own.”

The Pivot: “A week before, we decided to elope on our original date. Because we thought we’d have a celebration later in the year, I didn’t want to wear my ‘wedding dress.’ I ordered a dress from a local Vancouver company called Park & Fifth Co, and Cole’s custom suit came into Moores the day before they shut their doors. The ceremony was in an open industrial space at Uptown shopping centre; one of our best friends is the general manager. We had a total of eight people in attendance: ourselves, two witnesses, the officiant, photographer and two of our friends to help the ceremony go smoothly (they did the music, let me know when to walk out and made sure our dog didn’t get into too much trouble… after he knocked down our ‘altar’ mid-ceremony). We set up my DSLR camera on a stool and filmed it all.”

The Cost: “The elopement I put together maybe cost us $500. We lost about $5,000 in deposits to two vendors who wouldn’t refund them and on the first dress and décor I had purchased.”

The Conclusion: “We have now decided to not go ahead with our big original wedding. We love how our day went and honestly are so happy we didn’t spend the money on a big wedding!”

Khadija and Andrew Husbands

Khadija and Andrew HusbandsAncil London

The Couple: Khadija and Andrew Husbands

The Plan: “Initially, we planned to have a double wedding, because although I currently live in Canada, I was born and raised until age 11 in the beautiful island of Trinidad and Tobago. We intended to have a Canadian ceremony and reception on September 6th and a Trinidadian reception 20 days later. I was very excited to have Andrew meet my extended Trinidadian family, including my grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins. We’re also passionate about God and our church family, so I had plans to get baptized as a Seventh-day Adventist and officially profess my faith as a part of the pre-wedding nuptials.”

The Budget: “Our budget was $20,000, with our parents planning to assist us with a portion and we would cover the rest. My husband and I set up a joint savings account with automatic transfers from each of our accounts to ensure that we were able to pay in cash. The biggest expense would have been the venue and catering for the Canadian wedding at Peter and Paul Banquet Hall in Scarborough, Ont.”

The Pivot: “We planned a small, simple religious ceremony with our pastor, where we completed our vows and committed to each other and God so that we could start our lives together. Most government offices were closed, so we applied for a wedding licence outside of our city and my mom and I drove eight hours to get it. I ordered a simple dress online for $50 and it arrived in three days. Over 100 of our family and friends participated virtually. It was my maternal grandmother’s first ever Zoom meeting, and she dressed up and logged on half an hour early to ensure she got on. At the end of the ceremony, to our surprise, our parents planned a mini motorcade where our neighbours stood outside while friends and family drove by with poster boards congratulating us.”

The Cost: “Our reworked wedding was under $1,000. Our venues have been amazingly accommodating and we haven’t lost any money on potential refunds. My Vera Wang wedding dress had already been purchased but I’ll wear it for the reception we’re planning next year.”

The Conclusion: “The thing that stood out the most was how our parents and close friends came together in two days to plan an amazing surprise. With minimal planning and a ton of support, we pulled off a beautiful ceremony.”

Yamna Ali and Ather Mohammad

Yamna Ali and Ather MohammadLucas T Photography (www.lucastphotography.com)

The Couple: Yamna Ali and Ather Mohammad

The Plan: “Our wedding was planned to include upwards of 250 of our loved ones at Cambium Farms in Caledon, Ont., with its big red barn and towering trees. I was most excited for the ceremony, first dance and the father-daughter and mother-daughter dances. Earlier this year, my mom had a very serious illness that left her unable to talk, eat or walk on her own. She made an incredible recovery a couple months before the wedding, so I was very much looking forward to dancing and singing with her.”

The Budget: “Our budget was approximately $50,000, with florals and food costing the most. We love food and wanted to incorporate some of our favourite dishes.”

The Pivot: “COVID and illness in the family reminded us the importance of being together especially during the moments that matter the most. We came to terms with doing a very small and simple ceremony and having a bigger celebration next year. When we chatted with Cambium Farms, they offered to host us for our ceremony. We had a first look where we shared our vows. The intimate ceremony was followed by dinner from one of our favourite restaurants, and a surprise delicious cake made by one of my bridesmaids. We had our wedding party watch our live Zoom stream, and also recorded the ceremony to share with our loved ones who couldn’t be there. We had wanted to do a first dance, but due to delays with the officiant’s arrival, we weren’t able to. So, we’ve decided we will not dance together until our first dance next year! I also hope to have the pre-wedding celebrations which we call dholki, which are nights of singing and dancing for the ladies. We had a virtual dholki this year where we sang old classic Bollywood songs and I wore my mom’s wedding dress and jewellery.”

The Cost: “Our only additional costs were the arbour florals and adding on videographers so we could send video footage to loved ones who couldn’t be there. Given that we had paid for our ceremony fee as part of our package, Cambium Farms was happy to host us for the ceremony without an extra charge. We were also able to borrow three of the 11 hours we had booked with our photographer and save the other eight for next year’s event.”

The Conclusion: “We had wanted an intimate wedding, but after having to do a very, very intimate wedding and being in quarantine for so long, I’ve realized how much I also value being in the presence of all of my loved ones and celebrating!”

Naomi Cruz and Hayden Rombough

Naomi Cruz and Hayden Rombough

The Couple: Naomi Cruz and Hayden Rombough

The Plan: “We were supposed to get married on May 9, 2020 at Camp Chief Hector in Kananaskis, Alta. We picked the venue because we love the outdoors and wanted everyone to experience it with us, including having a bonfire with smores at the end of the night.”

The Budget: “Our approximate budget was $45,000 to $50,000 for about 200 guests. We found ways to save money by making our own decorations and invitations, getting an uncle to be our videographer and a family friend to be our wedding planner.”

The Pivot: “After cancelling the wedding, Hayden and I thought about it for a while and decided we only wanted our close friends and family to be with us, and thought, why not just make it into a small destination wedding in Maui! On our would-be wedding day, my little sister and her boyfriend dropped by and surprised us with the most scrumptious mini pies from Pie Junkie. Afterwards, Hayden’s mom came by to show us a video collaboration she made with so many of our friends and family in it. It made me tear up knowing people were still thinking about us on that day. Later, we dressed up for a takeout steak and frites dinner, a bottle of Japanese plum wine and ice cream from Made by Marcus, which we were supposed to serve at our wedding. We even had our mock first dance in our living room to our favourite love song.”

The Cost: “We don’t have an exact number yet, but since it will be a smaller wedding, we’re aiming for much lower than the original budget. Though Maui can be expensive, I look forward to paying for less decorations since the beaches and palm trees are more than enough décor for me.”

The Conclusion: “When I think about it, COVID has given me a second chance to redo my wedding the way I truly want it. Maybe our wedding was meant to be cancelled, especially with all the stress that it was giving me. I know our day will come soon, and it will definitely be worth the wait.”


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