Fairbanks couples, wedding industry adapt to changes for summer 2020 season

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska. (KTVF) Couples can take years to plan a wedding and many couples lately have had to change their plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

(Latitude 64 Photography)

As the summer 2020 wedding season begins, couples and businesses are adapting to how weddings are changing due to precautions from the COVID-19 pandemic. Business owners involved in the wedding industry say couples are opting for elopements or small weddings instead of the large traditional ceremony.

Stephanie Barney, a bride in Fairbanks, says she and her fiancé canceled their big wedding.

"I think I went back and forth. My original plan was to elope and then we were like ‘no we want to celebrate with all our friends and family,’ and so going back to our original kind of thoughts it was an emotional thing back and forth but in the end, we just want to be married, so that’s what matters," said Barney.

In June, they will be eloping on Mt. Healy, where her fiancé proposed.
Barney is also a wedding photographer, and as weddings have canceled and rescheduled, Barney has been filling in business with other types of photoshoots, such as elopements and engagements.

“I think a lot of people got engaged during quarantine, because I've had the most amount of inquiries for engagement photoshoots like at one time this month than I usually do. Also, just family photos, I think being stuck at home you look at photos all day long and maybe people are wanting more photos taken to remember what is actually important in life,” said Barney.

Businesses around town are noticing couples adapting and being more relaxed about their weddings. Sarah Smith, manager at Frank's Menswear, says they do not have everything in stock as they normally would.

"In years but past if we couldn't get something especially in time, then people would get pretty upset about it because it was the biggest deal in their life. Now they're able to just quickly pivot and change to something else that they know will work and look good and it doesn't have to be the Instagram perfect wedding," said Smith.

Steve Taylor, recreation superintendent with the Fairbanks North Star Borough Parks and Recreation department, says that while the Birch Hill Recreation Area wedding venue has seen cancellations, some couples are still holding out hope.

"In the summer, another thing is a lot of the weddings are outside, a lot of people use the lawn outside of the venue so I suspect weather permitting a lot of the events will want to utilize that space as well," said Taylor.

He says it will be a quiet summer at the venue due to cancellations and construction projects in the summer that will close the venue.

"The revenue from the weddings is going to be way down this year, so that will certainly impact the bottom line, yeah, it's going to be a pretty thin season up there for sure," said Taylor.

Erin Chalstrom, owner of Your Story Wedding and Event Planning, says they are still planning traditional weddings for the summer but she expects there will be more spacing between tables and more outdoor activities.

"This is the first time any of us have gone through any of this, so our plan is to just work very closely with our vendor partners and take into account the bride and groom's vision, tell their story for the day and also keeping in mind that we want to keep all our guests safe and healthy," said Chalstrom.

Chalstrom says they are also working on providing audio and visual

"We don't know what changes will happen that will stay, but we do know couples will still get married, celebrations will still occur, gatherings are going to happen. Our goal is that Your Story and the team behind me will continue being there for our clients and couples to guide them through whatever changes we see coming through," said Chalstrom.

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