Ten minutes after Pennsylvania moved to limit indoor gatherings to 25 people — that includes staff — Jacklyn De Jesus received a call no bride-to-be wants to imagine.
The wedding venue had to cancel De Jesus' reservation, just 10 days before she was set to marry her fiance, Alexis Roman.
While the restaurant industry gets the bulk of the attention for how coronavirus restrictions are stifling recovery, one could argue events businesses have had it even worse. (Though, to be clear, this isn't a contest and nobody is winning.)
Venues, caterers, photographers, florists and entertainers are among the many businesses that were not only shut down when Berks County was in the red and yellow phases, but continue to navigate ever-changing regulations that can render their services essentially inoperable.
And customers who either can't or don't want to postpone a special occasion are often left scrambling as a result.
"We were scheduled to have it at one venue, and I pretty much stuck to my guns and stayed there," said De Jesus. "Then that announcement came with no warning."
Fortunately, the Maidencreek Township couple's story has a happy ending, thanks in part to the quick thinking and actions of some of those very businesses impacted.
After De Jesus posted an emotional message to social media about her wedding being ruined, Heather Pasko of LEO Design Gallery in West Reading decided to intervene.
"I wrote her personally and said, 'Hold on a second,'" said Pasko.
First, Pasko contacted Cindy Rowlands, president of the Green Valley Country Club board of directors, which took over management of the Chateau Tent at Green Valley earlier in 2020, but had yet to reopen the Lower Heidelberg Township venue, with eyes on bookings beginning in the spring of 2021.
Renovations to the space were nearly complete, however. A new floor was already installed — all it needed was a bathroom remodeled and some landscaping, and De Jesus could have her wedding there.
"Heather reached out and asked if there was any way we could open early," said Rowlands, who raced to have the work completed. "She saw this post from a bride, and at that point they thought they were losing all their money, so I donated the space."
Because the Chateau Tent is technically an outdoor venue, it can accommodate up to 250 people including staff under Gov. Tom Wolf's order.
That was more than enough.
Yet, as Rowlands alluded, it wasn't strictly about the opportunity for De Jesus and Roman to get married in front of their friends and families. There was also the matter of the goods and services that were purchased in advance.
"When the new mandate came down July 16, it went into effect that evening," said Pasko, who also donated some of LEO Design's services, such as decorations and an additional tent. "People having their weddings that weekend and the following week, a lot had already paid for everything.
"We knew what was at stake for brides for the next month and beyond. I understand the mandate, but was devastated for them."
There's quite a bit at stake as well for the businesses depending on couples having weddings — in this case, Boscov's A La Carte Catering, Unique Desserts by Chef Anne Louise, JAdames Photography and DJ Junior Rivera.
The trickle-down effect can be easy to overlook, but is very real.
"So many said, 'Our business just came to a screeching halt, so we appreciate any work we can get,'" said Rowlands. "They were grateful to still able to accomodate the wedding."
Chad Zerbe of Dave Zerbe Photography in Reading put the impact of COVID-19 shutdowns and restrictions in stark context.
"Most of our wedding season was postponed," said Zerbe, who took promotional portraits for the Chateau Tent. "I had 25 weddings scheduled for this year. I think I have eight left. All the rest had to reschedule."
Despite everything that's on the line for these businesses, going above and beyond so the show can go on is what these people do.
For De Jesus and Roman, who waited 20 years to have their wedding day, it was perfect, in no small part thanks to those vendors.
"10 days to revamp your entire wedding? That was pretty crazy," said De Jesus. "They said, 'We're going to make this happen for you.
"They expressed how awesome it was I let them be a part of it, even came and visited at the end of the night to make sure it went well.
"Everything was flawless."
As for the businesses involved, good deeds and good reviews can go a long way. Rowlands said the Chateau Tent at Green Valley is already booking into 2022 after the wedding went off without a hitch.
"We were just doing it to be helpful," said Rowlands. "I never had any kind of plan that anything would come out of it, but it blossomed so quickly."
Who knows if COVID will still be a thing that far in the future. Yet, given some of the horror stories brought on by the pandemic, it makes sense customers and vendors alike would continue looking at ways to adapt their events businesses to outdoor venues.
"Everything is so restrictive right now," said Rowlands. "It's survive being innovative or doing something else, or you're just gonna go under."