There is a creeping sense of defeat when Rhianna Saj thinks about planning one of the happiest days of her life.

Saj and her fiancé, who were planning to get married in August 2020, decided to put their wedding back a year when COVID-19 first surfaced in Manitoba in March last year.

“Many of our friends and family have been made redundant or live outside the province. Asking them to come during this time is a financial burden on them, too,” she said. “We just didn’t feel like it was a medically or financially responsible decision.”

At the time, a wedding in August 2021 seemed like a real possibility.

Fast forward almost a year and Saj remains uncertain. Under current Manitoba public health regulations, the guest limit for weddings is only 10 – and no one can predict what lies ahead.

Saj is not alone. Wedding venues and planners across the province are busy figuring out what they can offer couples who have deposited thousands of dollars on weddings that cannot go ahead as originally planned.

At The Gates on Roblin, event manager Nadine Magne had to completely rethink wedding planning because of the ever-changing nature of the pandemic.

“We make so many plans for the same couples that we have a plan A, a plan B, and a plan C,” she said. “And that was really difficult for us, where we have to work three times for the same couples.”

Wedding contracts at The Gates are currently being adjusted within a 10 week period so changes can be made if the restrictions change.

While The Gates is not currently collecting new deposits for future weddings due to the uncertainties of COVID-19, deposits already made are non-refundable – just as they were before the pandemic.

“We’re not monsters, we try to work with the couples,” said Ray Louie, owner of The Gates. “But we have to adhere to some form of contract if we revise it based on what is happening in the world to protect our business and pay our overheads.”

Saj, who wanted to get married at the Heritage Arts Center in Stonewall, where she grew up, is already expecting a new schedule.

And she’s not even sure if she could book for next year as future bookings are already taking those places.

Rhianna Saj, with fiance Rob Hopkins and dog Walter.

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Michelle Elizabeth Heppner Photo

Rhianna Saj, with fiance Rob Hopkins and dog Walter.

“In March last year, I didn’t really feel weird because it was only going to be a year,” she said. “But now it’s like I’m not getting married this summer and not getting married next summer – what if these people go out of business?”

Saj suspects the couple made deposits between $ 8,000 and $ 10,000 and believes it is “inevitable” that they will lose at least some of the money, adding that they are the business owners who are concerned at the moment struggle to stay afloat, show sympathy.

“I’m optimistic about the numbers, but I have no idea,” she said. “I think we’ll have to wait a few more months to see what happens.”

Louie criticized the province’s reopening strategy.

“Nobody is consulted about these rules. The consultation that is often talked about is a right of untruth in broadcasting the actual statement,” he said. “I’m a member of the Chamber of Commerce, I’m a member of the restaurant association, and we know that if they openly say they consulted with the industry, we haven’t been consulted.”

A local company created a survey for engaged couples to see what they hope the province has about wedding rules.

“The wedding industry has been put on its side on these rules being published by the government, and I just feel we need to get their attention,” said Linger Ann Aragon, owner of the event and wedding planning firm Ann + Co.

The survey has already received more than 500 responses. Aragon recognizes that weddings are not a # 1 priority during a public health crisis, but hopes the survey will help in some way.

“(Respondents say) ‘We don’t care so much about the rules, we just want them to be consistent. If they are consistent we can lead our couples right,'” she said.

According to a Winnipeg mom, not every planner has been so accommodating.

Angie Kazubek, of Charleswood, said she feared she lost $ 2,000 after paying a local caterer for her son’s wedding, which was originally scheduled for August 2020.

Kazubek said she was unable to discuss a possible refund or rescheduling with the business owner, but admitted that she did not sign a contract prior to paying the fee.

She said she never expected this to help her son plan a wedding.

“For me personally, I feel robbed,” she said.

malak.abas@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: malakabas_