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Weddings reimagined, venues reopen as couples say 'I do' during pandemic

Event planners and wedding venues are gearing up for a busy summer full of changes.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — In the age of coronavirus, walking down the aisle will undoubtedly be different. Event planners and wedding venues are gearing up for a busy summer full of changes.

Wedding bells haven't rung at Angelo's Garden since mid-March.

“We've had a total of two weddings this year,” Uche Onyeyiri, owner of the Mayflower wedding venue, said.

That number will soon grow now that indoor venues can reopen in Arkansas under new guidelines.

Angelo’s Garden will host its first wedding since closing due to the pandemic in late June, followed by 22 weddings in July.

“It's going to be the busiest period ever of my business life,” Onyeyiri said.

And it will be a period filled with new protocols and procedures.

“My number one thing is safety,” Onyeyiri said. “If I can’t guarantee the safety of guests or my employees, we're just not going to open.”

Angelo’s Garden will increase cleaning, require masks for staff and vendors, and add hand sanitizing stations. Events will be limited to 100 guests, or about one-third of the building’s capacity.

Guests will be spread out. Receptions won't have self-serve buffets, and the dance floor will operate differently.

“We're trying to come up with creative ways to keep people on the dance floor but maintain distance,” Onyeyiri said.

Justin Hoadley, chief creative planner for TLF Event, said the last few months have been “stressful” for couples planning their big day.

“The best thing we can do is just work with what we know and try to do things that allow them to still have the best version of their day,” he said. “Are they still going to have a wonderful day? Absolutely. Is it going to look different than what they thought? Probably.”

Hoadley said every vendor he works with has helped accommodate couples forced to change their plans. 

“Our vendors are bending over backward to make themselves available,” he said. 

As couples plan during a pandemic, some are looking to reschedule while others explore live streaming options. Hoadley and Onyeyiri agree innovation is key.

“We’re going to get as innovative as possible to ensure that we can do this,” Onyeyiri said. “We’re going to be in this for a long time, so if we don’t figure it out now we’re just never going to figure it out.”

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