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The woes of planning a wedding during a global pandemic

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Planning a wedding can be stressful, even under the best of circumstances. But what happens when your wedding falls through during a global pandemic?

Cortney Wesela and Sam Renstrom, who live in Madison, are expected to get married this summer in Dane County.

"It's like an emotional rollercoaster," says Wesela, who's been trying to plan her wedding since getting engaged about a year and a half ago. "We thought we'd have all this time, and at this point, we're three months out."

The couple started planning their wedding shortly after their engagement by immediately setting a date and booking a venue in Madison.

However, they booked at Noah's Event Venue, which suddenly closed in Feb. 2020 after filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

"We lost that money when they went bankrupt," said Wesela. "Which - you know- was devastating."

The couple quickly moved forward with another date and venue - then the COVID pandemic hit Wisconsin.

"We cut over 100 people right away," said Renstrom. "My biggest fear would be having a wedding and finding out someone got sick [with COVID-19]."

Renstrom and Wesela's concerns are shared by many other engaged couples who've been fearful of the virus spreading at their weddings.

"I've been on a lot of late-night calls with brides while they cry and get their frustrations out," says Madison area photographer Brittany Post.

Post, who runs Phoenix & Rose Photography Co., missed out about half of her income in 2020.

"It's been difficult for business," said Post. "We've already had most of our weddings for the Spring cancel or postponed."

Jessica Wartenweiler, who owns The Tinsmith in Madison, tells 27 News the pandemic has resulted in "devastating losses" for their business.

"This has been quite honestly the most difficult year of my life," said Wartenweiler.

The Tinsmith opened in June 2020 after Wartenweiler and her partner spent nearly two years renovating an old steel building on the city's east side.

"We were booking [weddings] all through construction," said Wartenweiler.

However, Wartenweiler, says as the pandemic continued throughout the Summer and Fall, those weddings were either postponed or canceled.

"My business has been shut down to keep people safe, for about a year now," she said.

Since May 2020, Public Health Madison and Dane County (PHDMC) Emergency Orders have limited crowd sizes at private venues, like The Tinsmith, to no more than 10 to 25 people, when food and drinks are offered.

However, on March 10, Dane County will loosen their restrictions - allowing gatherings inside to be limited to 150 individuals where food or drink is offered.

"The increased rate of vaccinations, falling hospitalizations rates, and the new order give us great hope that our wedding couples will be able to safely gather with their friends and family to celebrate one of life's greatest moments," Wartenweiler told 27 News Wednesday morning.

However, the constant change in countywide restrictions, due to the rise and fall of COVID-19 cases, continues to leave the couples' wedding plans uncertain.

"We've made four different guest lists at this point," says Renstrom. "The worst-case scenario coming out of [our wedding] would be a bunch of people got sick because they came to celebrate with us."

However, Cortney and Sam feel a lot more certain about the newest order saying, "we're just really happy to be able to move forward now with finalizing plans for the day. "

Nick Buffo

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