Coronavirus can’t cancel love: How Vermonters are adjusting wedding plans due to COVID-19

Wedding bells are ringing. Just make sure they’re disinfected. 

Couples are adjusting to the new normal of COVID-19, a disease related to the coronavirus that initially impacted people in China toward the end of last year. Travel restrictions and social distancing to mitigate the virus might have dampened some lovebirds’ spirits — the ones who planned lavish ceremonies, ordered mass catering and booked venues months in advance. But others managed workarounds to wed their significant others. 

Burlington stopped issuing marriage licenses after Gov. Phil Scott issued the stay-home order and suspended non-essential services, according to Amy Bovee, assistant city clerk. Bovee said could be exceptions to the rule for an end-of-life or health insurance issue.

“Certainly there’s lots of sadness and tears,” Loretta Jay with the Justice of the Peace Association said of the changes in light of COVID-19, but sadness isn’t all there is underlying the altered plans. 

“It’s love that is driving their decision.” 

Las Vegas or the Green Mountain State? 

Eloping to Vermont and Vegas aren’t that different for David Hamel, 62, and Terry Wisun, 70. 

The Massachusetts couple met on eHarmony, a dating website, after Wisun’s husband died and Hamel got divorced. They hit it off and realized they made a perfect match after meeting in October 2018. They got engaged the following May and considered big wedding plans, like a cruise, but things got complicated. 

“Let’s just elope and we’ll deal with everybody’s feelings when we get back,” she said. 

COVID-19 jumpstarted their decision to get married as government buildings started to close. 

The two could still wed in Vermont, so they made the drive and got married in the Forever Young Treehouse in Burlington on March 18, a ceremony that was magical for them, even if it was just them and the officiant. 

It might be an illusion, but there’s a greater feeling of security for Hamel. He’s a hospice nurse and worked a shift after they got married. In general, the two are staying home and safe during this period, though Wisun acknowledged her husband still has to go see patients. 

“Amongst all this horror that’s going around, the one bright star I have is being married to David,” Hamel said.

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Just how it was meant to be

Bri Lippitt, who goes by they/them pronouns, and their partner, Liz, originally planned to get married on March 29.

The couple, both in their early 20s, received word from their officiant that there could be a possible stay-at-home order in the works, so they adjusted accordingly. The only major change to their plans was the date, since they wanted a smaller ceremony with close relatives regardless. 

The two married in Windsor on March 25, the same day the stay-home order went into effect. 

They might gather a group of loved ones in September, but an email from Bri Lippitt indicated they were happy with the first round. 

“It was perfect! Exactly as we had hoped it would be. Small, private, and special just the way we originally planned.”

A month early in Cabot 

The stay-home provision threw a wrench in the plans for a few couples, like Justin Squizzero and Andrew Haggan. 

The Newbury couple, both in their early 30s, started dating in late 2018 after meeting on OKCupid and moved in together a few months later. When marriage became a topic of conversation, they planned a small gathering at their house with family members on April 26. 

Then the friend officiating their wedding told them about the stay-home provision. The two didn’t know if anyone would be able to travel for their ceremony. 

Additionally, Haggan’s job offers benefits and Squizzero doesn’t have health insurance.

It didn’t seem like it was worth waiting any longer, Squizzero said. 

The two ended up at their friend’s farm in Cabot a month early, which wasn’t a real burden on either, since the wedding didn’t require heavy preparations in the first place. 

“The event itself wasn’t really important,” he said compared to actually being married.

The couple could still orchestrate a get-together on their original wedding date in April —if people can travel by then.

Contact Maleeha Syed at mzsyed@freepressmedia.com or 802-495-6595. Follow her on Twitter @MaleehaSyed89

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