JACKSON TWP. Jessica Pitcher said she and her fiancé aren’t waiting for a final end to the pandemic to get married.

“Because who knows when it will be normal,” said the 26-year-old bride from Plain Township. “It’s an interesting time to get around all COVID restrictions and make sure we have people there and still can stay safe.”

But she advised couples, “Don’t wait for normalcy.”

Pitcher and her fiance are due to get married in May.

She has already chosen her wedding dress. And they booked a North Canton church for the ceremony and a banquet hall in Massillon for the reception, with plenty of space for social distancing. The venues don’t limit the number of attendees, she said.

“After we figured out where we were going, surprisingly, there were still many dates available,” said Pitcher.

Pitcher was among the hundreds of brides attending the 24th Annual Belden Village Bridal Show at the Belden Village Mall on Saturday. There was a fashion show there with models wearing masks and sponsors’ wedding clothes, a “Price is Right Game Show” and an “Almost Newly Married Game.” The free show continues at the mall today from 12pm to 6pm. Those wishing to attend today are asked to pre-register for certain times using links on the Belden Village Bridal Show’s Facebook page to ensure there are not too many people in attendance. Participants must wear masks and are asked to keep a distance of one meter from other people.

Saturday’s fashion show drew a crowd from Macy’s into the mall, making social distancing more of a challenge and leading the mall’s safety to encourage people watching the show to spread out. The mall on Saturday afternoon was full. The vast majority of buyers wore masks.

The pandemic killed much of their spring and summer wedding business last year. But the show’s title sponsor, Canton Chair Rental, and several local wedding vendors, including reception rooms, a bridal clothing store, wedding cake makers, photographers, wedding planners, DJs, travel agents like J. Sullivan Travel, who specialize in honeymoons and florists, had tables and areas which are set up in places around the shopping center to showcase their products and services. Sponsors also included the Lavender Bridal Salon, American Commodore Tuxedo, Colwell Flower Shop, Flash and Sound Events, Glenmoor Country Club and La Place Events Banquet Hall

Dayna Yurkovich, the owner of Event Day Marketing, has been organizing the wedding show for the past six years.

“The bridal industry was hit very hard during the pandemic. Many companies had all events canceled for almost a full year,” she said. “They were able to add some of the business to ’21, but some just lost them entirely. So the salespeople are now trying to rebuild … So they’re just in some kind of doldrums. It’ll be a year or two before the bridal industry is somehow supported. “

She said wedding vendors are now very familiar with organizing events to meet social distancing guidelines and state capacity limits.

She said that many brides are no longer willing to put off their wedding planning.

“Brides on the other hand, they’re just excited to plan. A lot of brides have been cut short with what they had to do last year. They don’t want to postpone the marriage. Because that’s why you get engaged,” said Yurkovich. “But now you can be excited again and somehow plan and dream a little more. Instead of just doom and darkness.”

Yurkovich said at least 300 people had pre-registered for the weekend wedding show.

Katelynn Fleming, 28, of Ravenna, who attended the wedding show on Saturday, got engaged in October. She and her fiance have set a wedding date for a Friday evening in November. She said the venue, which they booked for about 100 guests, told them, “For now, with guidelines, as long as they can keep everyone socially distant, there is really no (limit to) number of people.” But “everyone has to wear masks.”

However, the venue is unsure whether the state will allow dancing and use of the dance floor until November, she said.

“We hope it changes,” said Fleming.

She said when she called wedding salespeople she was told, “A lot of people have moved from last year to this year so many dates are fully booked.”

She said by booking a Friday night with the wedding rehearsal on Thursday, she avoided the greater competition for wedding venues on Saturday.

“I didn’t have any problems because most people don’t get married on a Friday,” said Fleming. “And it’s cheaper.”

Dennison’s Leigha Maurer, 20, who was at the show, and her fiancé have set a wedding date in September 2022 if they hope the pandemic will be long over by then. And they won’t be limited by how many people they can invite.

She said planning a wedding this far in advance was a challenge. Because potential guests may not know now if they will be available. She also wants to bring more friends when buying and choosing a wedding dress. However, this is not possible due to the capacity restrictions for bridal shops. The couple have already chosen a Harrison County wedding venue.

Models wearing masks showcase wedding attire from Lavender Bridal Salon during the 24th Annual Belden Village Bridal Show at Belden Village Mall on Saturday afternoon.  With the 2020 pandemic disrupting many wedding plans, many locally engaged couples are eager to prepare for weddings this year or 2022.Models wearing masks showcase Lavender Bridal Salon and American Commodore Tuxedo wedding dresses during the 24th Annual Belden Village Bridal Show on Saturday afternoon at Belden Village Mall.  With the 2020 pandemic disrupting many wedding plans, many locally engaged couples are eager to prepare for weddings this year or 2022.A masked model shows off a wedding dress provided by Lavender Bridal Salon during the 24th Annual Belden Village Bridal Show on Saturday afternoon at Belden Village Mall.  With the 2020 pandemic disrupting many wedding plans, many locally engaged couples are eager to prepare for weddings this year or 2022.A masked model shows off a wedding dress provided by Lavender Bridal Salon during the 24th Annual Belden Village Bridal Show on Saturday afternoon at Belden Village Mall.  With the 2020 pandemic disrupting many wedding plans, many locally engaged couples are eager to prepare for weddings this year or 2022.Brides and shoppers watch the fashion show at the 24th annual Belden Village Bridal Show on Saturday afternoon at Belden Village Mall in Jackson Township.

Contact repository author Robert Wang at (330) 580-8327 or robert.wang@cantonrep.com. Twitter: @rwangREP.