When the pandemic put their dream wedding at RGNY on hold, couple tied the knot during impromptu ceremony

The onset of a global pandemic has put many North Fork weddings on hold — but that hasn’t stopped some couples from saying “I do.”

Alyssa and Evan Carpenter had planned to marry March 28 at the Baiting Hollow Boy Scout camp where they met. That afternoon, a reception for about 120 friends and family would follow at RGNY Winery in Riverhead.

The Virginia residents are both Nassau County natives, but the “natural, simple” style of their wedding made the North Fork the perfect fit, Ms. Carpenter said. 

As nationwide concerns about the COVID-19 coronavirus grew, she was in constant contact with her vendors. When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended gatherings of no more than 50 people, she knew the wedding had to be called off for the time being. 

“That was kind of the nail in the coffin for all of us. We decided it was best to postpone,” she said. 

Ms. Carpenter notified family, friends and followers of their wedding website of the cancellation and was able to reschedule their reception for September 2020.

But the Virginia teacher said the couple simply couldn’t wait.

On Wednesday, March 18, the couple snagged a marriage license in a nearby town, found an officiant and tied the knot in a Harrisonburg, Va., park with local friends as witnesses. The bride’s best friend, present at the ceremony, FaceTimed family members so they could watch the ceremony. 

Alyssa and Evan Carpenter were married March 18. (Courtesy photo)

“There were lots of tears at first when we realized we were going to postpone, and we were worried about money,” Ms. Carpenter said. “But once vendors helped us out to reschedule, and now that we’re officially married and don’t have to wait six more months — we’re very happy.”

It’s not an unusual plan of action for some other brides who scheduled their wedding prior to the pandemic. 

Widespread cancellations mean the multimillion-dollar local wedding industry may also take a hit. Working from home, RGNY events manager Erin Ambrose described a whirlwind of uncertainty as health officials continue to update and issue restrictions governing events and gatherings.

“[Couples] have been working hard for this one day and all of a sudden are going to have to wait,” she said. “Planning a wedding is hard enough without throwing a pandemic in the mix and really messing with their plans, so it’s been challenging.”

Ms. Ambrose said she’s been able to successfully reschedule nine events, primarily weddings, that were originally scheduled through mid-May. With the situation largely out of their control, she said, the best thing event planners can do is remain accessible and flexible for their clients.

With many moving parts, Ms. Ambrose said that throughout the event industry, vendors are putting their heads together to collaborate as they reschedule dates. “Everybody has been very, very open and communicating because nobody wants to leave someone high and dry on such a big day,” she said.

Russ Moran, who is the general manager at The Vineyards in Aquebogue, echoed those thoughts. He and his sales team have worked to reschedule weddings for 12 couples over the next eight weeks. All have been rebooked for new dates, most of them later this year, at either the Aquebogue venue or a different Lessing’s Hospitality venue on Long Island, Mr. Moran said. 

“People are nervous,” he said, even beyond the initial shutdown. “It’s been a tough few days, but we’re not penalizing anybody.”

In terms of newly engaged couples inquiring about booking a wedding, Mr. Moran said it has been a bit quiet, and he’s seen a sharp decline in the number of couples visiting in-person to tour the Aquebogue catering hall.

However, planning a wedding remotely is no sweat, he said. Amid the outbreak, his team has created a new virtual tour on YouTube to help couples who may be using their quarantine period to plan their wedding. Mr. Moran said he’s also available to help via email and Skype, which is how he’s been able to help plan weddings for members of the military or couples from abroad in the past.

Other popular wedding venues have also suspended in-person tours. Brecknock Hall in Greenport, which is located near the entrance to Peconic Landing, has suspended all site visits and any new 2020 event bookings.

A wedding in 2018 at Kontokosta Winery in Greenport. (Credit: Tara Smith)

For Greenport-based event planner Ashley O’Neil, the outbreak presents ever-changing challenges. “It’s changing every day, as everything else is,” she said.

Her first wedding of the season isn’t until June at Bedell Cellars, so tentatively, it’s still on. 

Still, Ms. O’Neil fears the delays will stretch beyond May — and all of those moving parts, including the caterer, the tent company, the florist, the photographer, the band, could be in high demand come August.

That could lead to a peak in less popular, unconventional wedding days, she said. Think Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays.

For her first client with a June event scheduled, fingers and toes are crossed. “It’s been pretty tense but we’re still holding on to hope that it will work well and they’ll still be able to have it on time,” Ms. O’Neil said.