Vail Valley wedding business mostly on hold through 2020

Some couples have had to slash invited guests, many have simply postponed nuptials until 2021

Todd Mitchell and Megan Carmichael held their Vail wedding in March. Most other weddings this year have either gotten much smaller or have been postponed until 2021.
Marshal Snead Photography | Special to the Daily

For many couples, the happiest day of their lives either has to wait or include far fewer loved ones.

Event planner Brynn Swanson’s First Look Events had 38 weddings booked earlier this year, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Swanson said this week that her company is doing its first wedding in August, with only 20 people in attendance.

Longtime local wedding planner JoAnn Moore said she’s recently had to pare back the guest list of a wedding she’s planning for a Front Range location. Actually, the guest list has been slashed — from 150 people to 40. The people crossed off the invitation list included a number of older guests. One of the couple’s grandparents wasn’t having it.

“She was defiant,” Moore said. But these days, no means no when it comes to older people attending events.

“I’d be devastated if I learned a super spreader was in the crowd,” she said.

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‘Dreams have just imploded’

The good news is that even small in-person events can be shared.

“Ten years ago it could have been a disaster,” Moore said. The coming wedding, will be live-streamed, with 110 guests viewing the event remotely.

Weddings are a big part of the business at Vail’s Donovan Pavilion. Business has taken a hit this year.

Laurie Asmussen, who managed the pavilion, said a lot of events have been postponed until 2021.

“I’ve talked to a lot of brides, and 2021 is going to be strong,” Asmussen said.

Restrictions on gatherings has reverberated throughout the wedding and event industry.

Moore said the pushback is affecting companies from caterers to musicians. Moore said she recently heard that a band hired for a postponed wedding has had to disband due to lack of work.

“It’s breaking my heart every time I hear something like that,” Moore said.

Some couples are now into the second postponement of their nuptials. Moore said she recently heard from a couple who had first moved their wedding from July to November. That event has been pushed to March of next year.

That wedding was going to include a number of people from outside the U.S. Given travel restrictions, both current and possible, it just didn’t make sense to even lock down a date in late fall.

“It’s been like shock and awe for so many people,” Moore said. “Dreams have just imploded. People wanted their big wedding, that top band, the incredible cake… it was just gone in an instant.”

Big weddings on pause

But, Moore said, she’s seen local governments and planners, especially in Colorado, working hard to ensure the safety of even reduced-size events.

For those events, no detail is too small. The wedding that had to scale back to 40 people is being held outside. Bottles of hand sanitizer will be everywhere, and doors to the adjacent building will be propped open so no one has to touch a doorknob.

Big weddings “won’t happen for a while,” Moore said, adding that industry events have also been affected. A national conference set for November has been canceled, with educational seminars going to state-by-state Zoom meetings.

Moore lives in Northern Nevada these days, and works in a number of states. The good news, she said, is that Colorado, and the Vail Valley, are taking safety seriously.

“I’m so proud of this state,” she said.

The good news is that when what Moore called “the monster called COVID” is beaten back, she expects a stronger industry to emerge.

“We’ll say (in coming years)… ‘That was hard, but we did it,’” she said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at

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