Face masks, livestreaming and even board games become part of the festivities
By Raiza Giorgi
Besides being known for wine and beer country, the Santa Ynez Valley is also home to a large number of weddings. Bridal parties from all around the country as well as international flock to the valley for its picturesque backdrops of wine grapes to rustic ranch and farm scenery.
With COVID-19 restrictions in place for just about a year, wedding coordinator Chloe Redmond of Vino Vaquera and local photographer Brittany Taylor talked with the Star about how things changed in wedding country overnight and how brides and grooms have had to adapt their dream day.
“It’s hard to imagine the big giant weddings we had before COVID, with 150-200 guests and partying hard into the night,” Redmond said. “I’m sure those days will come back, but it has been almost a blessing getting back to basics this past year.”
According to the Santa Barbara County Clerk-Recorder’s office, marriage licenses issued dropped 10 percent from 2019 to 2020. Particularly in the month of April 2020, there were only three licenses issued, compared to 297 for the same month in 2019. However, civil ceremonies performed increased 12.5% from 1,549 in 2019 to 1,742 in 2020.
Average costs for a wedding in Santa Barbara County range around $33,000, according to WeddingReport.com. If all the weddings cost just the average, that equates to a $122 million industry for the county.
Redmond’s consulting company had to shift literally overnight and several of her clients’ big ceremonies planned for 2020 had to be postponed or scaled to meet the public health requirements.
“It was a scramble last March for sure, and some couples I am working with decided to postpone until after the restrictions are lifted completely,” she said. “Others said they wanted to stick with their wedding, limiting to just immediate family and friends, because they dreamed of getting married on a certain date.”
She added that several did go ahead and get married and are rescheduling their reception until bigger gatherings are allowed.
Taylor said a large majority of her clients pushed their weddings to after May of this year, but are already either postponing or moving their wedding venues to other states that have less restrictions so they can have at least have small celebrations.
“I have done a few in other states through the past several months that are allowing a limited number of guests,” she said. “I just feel awful for a lot of our local vendors that are losing business as their trades aren’t as flexible.”
Redmond said couples are doing custom face masks for their guests, as well as personalized hand sanitizers. A lot of couples are also providing a livestream of their ceremony for family and friends that cannot be there in person.
“One groomsman had on a Go-Pro on his cowboy hat which gave a really unique perspective of the ceremony,” Redmond said.
Another wedding couple asked for guests to bring board games to their reception at Plenty on Bell in Los Alamos, since dancing is not allowed.
Couples are also keeping their budgets healthy and trying to support as much local vendors as they can, which Redmond said is a great way for the industry to remain intact until the bigger ceremonies and receptions can happen.
“A lot of people have their hearts set on getting married in wine country and it might not be what they originally dreamed of, but everything they wanted in a different way,” Redmond said.
One bride she is consulting with pushed her wedding to summer to accommodate her mother being able to get the COVID-19 vaccines in time, but her mother is still even hesitant to come, which creates a difficult situation.
“She is in tears of thinking that her mother might not be coming,” Redmond said. “Hopefully we can get it worked out and several options available by that time to ensure her mother’s health and safety.”
The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department just issued new guidelines on indoor ceremonies, that they can have 25 percent of the building’s capacity for in-person ceremonies. Large receptions are still not allowed and neither is dancing.
“It almost feels like we are in the movie ‘Footloose’, where dancing was outlawed,” Redmond said.
She does have monthly meetings with local weddings and event industry professionals with the County Public Health department to get the most up to date guidelines of what they can and can’t do.