2021: a busy wedding season post COVID-19

Julya Barnhurst and Chandler Turner were sealed and civilly married at the Oquirrh Mountain Utah Temple on May 13, 2020. (Heather Neilson Photography)

BYU grad student Julya Barnhurst and Chandler Turner were engaged on December 20, 2019. By early 2020, they had already booked a place for their wedding reception in Sandy. When COVID-19 hit, Barnhurst and Turner had no choice but to cancel their reception.

The newlywed couple Julya Barnhurst and Chandler Turner pose in front of the Oquirrh Mountain Utah Temple with their family members for a picture after being sealed and civilly married on May 13, 2020. (Heather Nielson Photography)

They were civilly married and sealed instead on May 13, 2020 at the Oquirrh Mountain Utah Temple, but were unable to have a wedding reception and a big celebration for their matrimony.

According to Deseret News, since March 2021, “time-only marriages” or “civil marriages” are not performed anymore at LDS temples.

“We did have a small reception just for our immediate family right after the sealing, including my siblings, our parents, and my husband’s family,” Barnhurst said.

She said the main reception for friends and family had to be pushed and rescheduled to the next year, 2021.

Their experience is not unique. Many couples who had planned on getting married or having receptions in 2020 were forced to either push back their weddings or get civilly married first. Some chose to either cancel a big reception, while others decided to have their reception for family and friends in 2021.

An increase in weddings in 2021

According to The Knot 2020 Real Weddings Study (COVID-19 Edition), 47% of couples who had planned to wed in 2020 postponed the ceremony for a later date. Approximately 32% still legally tied the knot in 2020, and 15% decided to postpone the entire wedding altogether, with the majority setting their sites on a date in 2021.

The wedding industry saw a 34% decline in revenue in 2020, according to an IBISWorld report. However, it’s also expected to see a 20% to 25% increase in weddings this year and into 2022, Knot Worldwide executive editor Lauren Kay told Time Magazine.

Photographer Lolo Orji photographs a couple on their wedding day at Walker Farms in June of 2021. (Lolo Orji Photography)

BYU clinical lab science alumna and Utah-based wedding photographer Lolo Orji is well-known on Instagram with over 16,000 followers. Orji said out of the eight weddings she has done so far this year, five of the weddings were planned for last year but were pushed to this year because of COVID-19.

Orji said with the weddings planned last year being pushed to this year, it’s been the busiest year for her so far as a wedding photographer.

“Brides are just excited that they can finally get married this year, so I would say it has been my most busy year so far,” she said.

Photographer and BYU student Kiana Bates said she understands why people waited and pushed their weddings off until the next year.

“Weddings are a huge deal, you dream about it for your whole life and you’re spending tens of thousands of dollars on a wedding, so you want it to turn out the way you have it in your mind,” she said.

Bates also said there has been an influx in weddings this year because of restrictions being eased recently in the state of Utah.

She said there are lots of weddings that have been booked, especially this summer. Bates will be taking photos for a couple in California, and there are three weddings that are booked that day at their venue, so she said the timeline will be crazy.

“The hotel has booked three weddings, one right after another,” she said.

Unexpected wedding plans

Barnhurst said not having a stereotypical huge reception for family and friends on the day she was married was less stressful and both her and Turner were not tired at the end of the day, unlike most couples who are usually exhausted after holding big receptions.

Julya Barnhurst and Chandler Turner slice their cake and celebrate their wedding in June 2021 with a large reception with their friends and family, almost a year after they were sealed and civilly married in 2021. (Heather Neilson Photography)

“The temples were reopened on Monday and we got married on Wednesday, we got to be civilly married in the temple as well, which was really nice as we didn’t have to do two ceremonies,” Barnhurst said.

A year later, in June of 2021, Turner’s mom helped Barnhurst and Turner hold a reception for everyone who couldn’t make it to their small family reception in 2020 after their wedding and sealing.

“His mom loves parties and she wanted to hold a reception for us. She planned out the whole reception and held it for us a couple weeks ago,” she said.

Thinking back on how her entire wedding spanned out, extending over two years, Barnhust said “we just felt that it was the best thing that could have happened.”

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