For the rest of his life, Konstantine Diamaduros will remember the inspiring, beautiful words his father said to him on the morning of his wedding day.
“Get up,” his father, Pete, said. “We’re going to Home Depot.”
It wasn’t how Konstantine had expected to start his wedding day, but after the chaos of the previous week, he’d learned by now to just go with the flow. So he got in the car with his father, and off they went to buy bags of mulch, decorative rocks, sod, plants and anything else they could find to make his parents’ backyard look as nice as possible. Some of Konstantine’s groomsmen stopped by, and together they spent all of the morning and most of the afternoon sprucing up the backyard at a rapid, sweaty pace.
After all, today it wouldn’t just be a backyard — it was going to be a wedding venue.
He and his fiancé, Megan, had spent months planning the perfect wedding, and now here he was, laying sod as quickly as he could, before running inside to shower and get dressed in time for the ceremony.
“I guess nobody can forget being woken up to lay mulch and do landscaping for hours on the day of their wedding,” Konstantine said. “But at least now, whenever my friends tell me their wedding planning is stressful, I get to be that guy who says, ‘Sure, but have you ever planned your wedding during a pandemic?’”
Yard work notwithstanding, the last-minute style of Konstantine and Megan’s wedding has become far more normal in recent weeks under the cloud of COVID-19. As Gov. Henry McMaster’s stay-at-home order remains in place through at least the end of April, couples in South Carolina are canceling or postponing their wedding dates at a historically unprecedented rate.
Last year, the average wedding in the state cost about $31,000, according to the wedding planning site The Knot. With nearly all weddings canceled or postponed in March through April, and possibly even into June or later, the loss of that business is leading to industry-wide layoffs, on top of a crippling backlog in scheduling.
Couples that had planned to get married in 2020 are now pushing dates into 2021 in droves, according to the consensus of local wedding vendors. That means those vendors — including event spaces, caterers, bartenders, florists, musicians, hair and makeup stylists, photographers, videographers, transportation workers and others — are only getting paid once for two bookings.
Other couples are forced to cancel outright due to sudden financial strains. Nearly 150,000 South Carolinians filed for unemployment benefits in the two weeks between March 22 and April 4. In Greenville, 10,000 people filed for unemployment in just the seven days between March 29 and April 4.
“Either the bride of groom have lost their jobs, and they don’t feel like they can afford the wedding they had originally planned,” said Velda Hughes, who runs the event space Avenue in downtown Greenville.
At Avenue alone, 15 weddings have been canceled or rescheduled so far, with more postponements or cancellations likely. Hughes said they’re seeing more couples opt for smaller events, including more casual Thursday or Friday nuptials, or brunch-themed weddings with only a few guests. And that’s hardly unique. Other vendors, like Greenville-based Ten Oh Eight Company, which handles hair, makeup, videography and photography for weddings, has 12 rescheduled wedding bookings so far, with more expected.
“It’s definitely tough on the vendors, but just on an emotional level, it’s especially hard for our clients,” said Ten Oh Eight co-founder Erin Frost. “You plan a wedding for a year or more, wanting it to be the perfect and most memorable day, and then at the last minute you find out you have to cancel.”
Frost understands the anxiety particularly well. Her business partner at Ten Oh Eight, Sean Eads, is also her fiancé. The two plan to get married in late July.
“It just the angst of wondering, are we in the safe zone or not?” Frost said.
And in health
For Konstantine and Megan, the cancellation of their wedding ceremony was especially sudden.
Their wedding date was on the calendar for Saturday, March 21. In the weeks before, the couple had been keeping their eyes on the news about the coronavirus threat, but they still thought they were early enough to hold the ceremony before the virus affected the Upstate.
More than 200 people were invited to attend their wedding ceremony — a large crowd, Megan admits, but she sort of expected that when she agreed to marry into a Greek family.
Those plans all changed the Sunday before the wedding, when McMaster issued his “strong suggestion” to limit public gatherings to 100 people or fewer.
What followed were “a lot of phone calls, a lot of Facetimes, a lot of meetings,” Megan said. In hindsight, it was both a blessing and a curse that they were caught so off guard — a blessing because they were still able to hold some kind of event, albeit smaller, before the more stringent social gathering restrictions were announced, but they still had little time to prepare.
They decided to move the wedding date up to Friday, holding a smaller ceremony at the Poinsett Club, which the couple had already booked for their rehearsal dinner. After two more stressful days, during which they worked with vendors to plan what was essentially an entirely new wedding, the dangers posed by the virus grew more alarming.
“It became obvious to us that even the Friday event was going to have to be canceled,” Megan said.
Rather than wait, the couple decided to move the wedding to the backyard of Konstantine’s parents. It was smaller than they’d initially planned — about 30 people attended — and it required some flexibility from the families.
“My dad’s that type of guy who’s always been a stickler about his yard looking good when people come over,” Konstantine said. “This is the first time there’s been a wedding in his yard, so you can imagine his response to that.”
But even though Konstantine had spent all morning working to get things ready, when the time came to stand and watch his bride-to-be walk down the aisle, it all seemed perfect: the intimacy, the relaxed atmosphere and of course the landscaping.
He said he and Megan would’ve gotten married in a kitchen with just their parents and a priest if they’d had to, but this, they both knew, was more memorable than they could’ve imagined.
“I can honestly say, looking back on it, that it was everything I ever wanted,” Megan said.
When she showed her wedding photographs to her friends and family in the following days, one image in particular stood out: a close-up shot of a bottle of hand sanitizer on the bar counter — no explanation needed.