“Take advantage of it now, while you are young, and suffer all you can, because these things don’t last your whole life.” — Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera
The virus is strong. But love is stronger.
The romantic in me believes in that. After all, people still get married in this time of the pandemic. Although it is a super downsized wedding, it is still a celebration of love, a promise of forever.
Like how my three brides and grooms promised their love for each other before God and man during their recent separate church weddings in Metro Manila. One wedding was supposed to have 800 guests, the other one with 400, and another one with 300. But with the guidelines and protocols for events during the pandemic, each wedding had 10 guests — and that included the photographer. Floral arrangements on the church’s aisle were minimal to none. And yes, social distancing was observed in the church, with facial masks on. Receptions were held at the couple’s residence where the guests in the church were also the guests at home.
A promise of a much bigger celebration will commence once the pandemic is over. I can only hope it will be over real soon.
For now, that’s what is in the wedding scene.
As a nation that loves to celebrate, Filipinos will take advantage of any occasion to get together. My job description as an events planner for over 27 years is to create, plan and implement the best possible celebration for anyone needing my services.
For the three weddings I did in July and this month, guests and suppliers were informed beforehand and constantly reminded and monitored of the following: no face mask, no face shield, no entry at the church. Suppliers needed gloves and pre-accomplished health declaration form. All guests were also scanned with non-contact infrared thermometer. Alcohol and sanitizers were given out to all guests.
Were these very small weddings any less memorable? Definitely not. They were more special, more appreciated and treasured because they were done despite an existing real situation of fear, anxiety and at times, hopelessness. It reminded me that love truly prevails at any time, anywhere.
But gone were the ‘actual’ events
After March 14, 2020, practically all celebrations, gatherings and events disappeared. Gone were the everyday meetings, preparations, planning. Gone were the actual events that gathered hundreds of people in one venue. The health pandemic was worse than a tsunami wipe-out.
Pre-pandemic, I used to do six to eight big weddings a month. This was practically reduced to nothing. I am hopeful, though, that before the year ends, I will be doing three more super scaled-down weddings.
Life as we know it in the event’s industry is still at a standstill. To make matters worse is the fact that we are not considered an essential industry. The billion-peso events industry just came to a crashing stop with no magic solution in sight.
When the country embraced the lockdown, the first order of business was to reassure all clients that we are still here, we’ve got your back. Next was to facilitate any and all changes needed by them to adjust to the new situation (change of date, revise contracts and, of course, online meetings).
Then we did (and still do) continuous monitoring of the pandemic situation here and abroad so we could give sound advice to our clients in the Philippines and overseas.
In this new normal, all our communications with our clients and suppliers have gone virtual. In the absence of face-to-face encounters — oh, how sad — we now fully focus on e-mails, online meetings and chats.
“ Event suppliers — from venues, photographers, event stylists, cake makers, lights and sounds providers, etc. — went out of their way to reassure that there would be no added charges to any postponements. There was such an understanding and accommodation among those involved that this situation is unnatural, unplanned and not anyone’s fault. ”
Now we are just waiting, waiting, waiting in a state of limbo. We wait for the time we can start again like we used to execute big affairs. We are refreshed by the pandemic experience. And we’ve grown so much wiser. We are still thankful because we are given the chance to believe in tomorrows.
Our motto and hashtag at Rita Neri Event Planners is #loveprevails.
For as we meet, discuss and plan our events with our clients and fellow industry suppliers, one thing really stands out... love prevails amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown. Event suppliers — from venues, photographers, event stylists, cake makers, lights and sounds providers, etc. — went out of their way to reassure that there would be no added charges to any postponements. There was such an understanding and accommodation among those involved that this situation is unnatural, unplanned and not anyone’s fault.
I am quite proud to say that in particular, the wedding industry suppliers outdid themselves in reaching out to all the soon-to-wed couples to reassure and accommodate their situations.
“ Love is potent. Love is strong. Love always prevails. ”
Having said that, my heart bleeds for other suppliers. Some of those who are on a per-project basis remain jobless. Others with entrepreneurial skills rose to the occasion to sell puto and kutsinta. The musicians have no gigs. The lights and sounds men, the florists and other per-event suppliers are either waiting for a job or farming in the nearby provinces.
And as to our other couples, they who had so long dreamed of their special day, it was particularly heartbreaking that the total uncertainty brought about by this pandemic did lower their morale but in no way did it lessen their resolve to continue planning for their day of happily ever after. They had no hesitation at all in telling me that their dream wedding is pushing through though there is a little hiccup of a change of date to a later time when it would be safely allowable to implement a big-scale event. We are ready to implement safety measures and precautions and other required guidelines when the time comes.
Love stories will continue to unfold even during difficult times and I am happy to share in the celebration.
Love is potent. Love is strong. Love always prevails.
Edited by Büm Tenorio Jr.