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Wedding industry hurt by pandemic, planners trying to adapt

Wedding bells aren't ringing for many couples across the First Coast, forced to postpone their nuptials due to COVID-19. And it's hurting the wedding industry, too.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — It's wedding season, and usually churches and chapels are busy and event planners are making dreams come true.

But COVID-19 has interrupted the wedding season with cancellations and postponements. 

"As of right now I've had three cancellations," event planner Lisa Presnell said. "I am only a small business, but I've had several postponements."

Presnell has been in the even planning industry two decades. She is located in the Amelia Island area and said the impact of the pandemic is crippling.

"There are a lot that have already not survived this," she said. "Will I survive? Absolutely."

It has forced wedding planners to break from traditions. Last weekend she did a virtual wedding for a couple who were eager to tie the nuptial knot.

"They met online and they were ready to get married. It was just super special for them," Presnell said.

There is another side of the pandemic never anticipated. She said some clients have been so disappointed, they are demanding a refund of all fees already paid: fees that were non-refundable to begin with.

"We hold dates for you. We do work for you. Those are retainer fees. You don't get those back," Presnell said. "We're having people demanding money back from us, and if you don't get them back they're threatening to go to social media." 

She said the pandemic has had an impact on everyone.

"It makes me sad and I am not the only one, and I want to speak for my industry," she said.

Presnell said those who are disappointed that their dreams are now on hold need to work with their event planners; the focus should be on solutions.

"I understand plans have to change, but we can help you work through them," she said.

It may result in a smaller event or even a livestream event.

Presnell said there are many players in the wedding industry, and the days ahead filled with uncertainty.

"What is the future? I don't know, I don't know," said Presnell.

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