Bianka Garcia has been dreaming of her perfect wedding day since she was a little girl. After a two-year engagement and careful planning, everything seemed in place for her to realize that dream. With her colors of navy and blush pink picked out, her white gown purchased and altered, her jewel-covered bouquet of roses put together, and invitations sent out, the San Antonio bride was ready to walk down the aisle next month.
“I always loved the springtime and I feel like April is just a great month for a wedding,” Garcia, 24, said. “I always had a thing about imagining my wedding in the spring.”
When news of the coronavirus emerged earlier this year, Garcia remembers thinking her wedding would be fine. It was on the other side of the world and hadn’t reached the U.S. yet, much less Texas or San Antonio. It wasn’t until mid-March that the young bride began to worry.
On Monday afternoon, Garcia said she was still hopeful. Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s declaration on Monday restricting gatherings of more than 50 people was only for San Antonio city limits. Garcia’s wedding was set to take place at a venue in Helotes, a small city just outside of San Antonio on the Northwest side of Bexar County.
Her mother, Cathy Garcia, said that, with loved ones already set to come into town, everyone was hoping for the ceremony to go ahead as planned.
It’s hard to keep up with all of the coronavirus news in San Antonio. Sign up for our evening newsletter, The Curve, and let us help with that.
It wasn’t until Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff issued an executive order Wednesday limiting venues within the county to a maximum of 50 people that Garcia’s wedding was affected.
Garcia received a call Thursday morning from her venue coordinator with the news. Her wedding would either have to be reduced to under 50 people, or moved to a new date. Having invited around 200 guests, Garcia was heartbroken.
“There’s no way I can choose just 50,” Garcia said. “If I’d wanted 50, I would have had it at a house, I’d have invited just 50.”
The venue offered several new dates for Garcia to choose from. She checked the dates in September and October to find them all mostly booked. Garcia chose the closest Saturday she could to the end of the summer, Aug. 29, hoping it won’t be too hot.
While she always envisioned a spring wedding, Garcia said she is understanding of the situation. With many elderly people in her own family, she recognizes the need for precautions.
“I’m just ready to be married,” she said.
Garcia is just one of many brides across the city that’s had her wedding crashed by the coronavirus. Eloise Cortez-Lara, director of facilities at San Fernando Cathedral – a popular San Antonio wedding venue – said all March and April weddings at the cathedral have been rescheduled, with May weddings on standby.
Many venues host two to three weddings a week, she said. With about 145 wedding venues across the city required to adhere to new restrictions, couples are left scrambling to rearrange plans.
Receive updates on the local impact of coronavirus in your inbox every morning.
Some brides, like Samantha Pittman, agreed to cut their guest lists down in order to keep their scheduled dates – a task made easier by the fact that many people have canceled travel plans in the midst of the pandemic.
Set to get married in Gruene this weekend, Pittman, 32, said she and her fiancé only had about 85 guests invited to begin with before cutting the list down. However, Pittman received a call from her venue coordinator Wednesday, requesting she pick a new date. Pittman said she and her fiancé chose a date in November – a special month for the couple, as it’s the month they first met.
Weddings aren’t the only family gatherings being affected. Funeral homes are also accommodating fewer guests in efforts to maintain social distancing and follow CDC recommendations.
While funeral homes were exempted from the mayor’s declaration of public health emergency issued Wednesday – which ordered all non-essential businesses to close – many are still taking measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Guadalupe Delgado, owner of Delgado Funeral Home near downtown San Antonio, said that, while he’s leaving it to the families to decide how many people they’d like to invite, his business is limiting a chapel to 10 loved ones at a time during a service.
Burials are facilitated through the churches, which the funeral home partners with, Delgado said. He added that most funerals are being held during the day rather than at night to help keep the number of visitors lower.
Ricardo Sanchez, managing director of the Castle Ridge Mortuary and Rodriguez Funeral Home, said following the proclamations by the mayor and Gov. Greg Abbott, their funeral homes have reduced visitations from two or three at a time to one. They have also limited the amount of visitors to follow the CDC’s recommendations.
“Everyone has been really understanding of it for the visitations,” Sanchez said. “A group will go in and pay their respects and, when they’re done, the next group goes in. Everyone’s been very courteous.”
Following the death of her brother Justin Ellis last week, Flora Ellis Gonzalez said she and her family took special precautions at his memorial service of 50 people Thursday morning. Gonzalez said she and her family spaced chairs apart to limit contact and livestreamed the service to allow family members the option to stay home.
After the service at Churchill Baptist Church, Gonzalez said very few members of the family gathered at her mother’s house, rather than having a full meal or reception.
“It was probably less hugs than normal at a time like this, but it still felt like we got the closure we needed,” Gonzalez said.