CAMPERDOWN couple Laura Stevenson and Josh O'Dowd have rescheduled their wedding twice due to COVID-19 and are hoping "third time's a charm" when they tie the knot this Sunday.
Ms Stevenson said the further easing of restrictions for weddings announced by the state government on Sunday was a bonus.
"We've been hanging off those pressers that Dan Andrews was doing just to see our fate really," she said with an exhausted laugh. "It's been challenging to say the least."
The couple were originally set to be wed on March 28, then the event was postponed to October 16, and then again to December 13.
"We'd attended a wedding in Melbourne the weekend before ours was supposed to be, so if we'd held it a week earlier we would have got it in.
"Then the Sunday before the wedding was when all the heavy lockdowns started to unfold, we ended up missing out by a couple of days.
"You can't help but think of what it could have been like if we'd scheduled it a week earlier - not that we could have been able to foresee the future - but if I had my time again we would have done that.
"Then we tentatively rescheduled for October and a couple of weeks out we realised it wasn't going to be a goer either - restrictions were still at 10 people which would have been a bit miserable.
"We thought, let's try for Christmas, hopefully by Christmas things will start opening up.
"We had to work around the dates of the vendors and their availability so there were very little dates to pick from - hence why it's on Sunday and on the 13th.
"It's an unlucky number for some but hopefully it will be lucky for us."
"A week ago we didn't really have a wedding planned, so we're very lucky it's coming together."Laura Stevenson
Just when the couple thought their troubles were over with a date and venue finally set, the latest restrictions dealt them another blow.
They were meant to be married at Dalvui Historic Homestead, near Terang, when they were told it was classified as a private residence, and therefore they would only be allowed to have 30 people, instead of the 80 they had planned for.
Instead they will be married at the Camperdown Botanic Gardens and hold their reception in a marquee by Lake Bullen-Merri, which is classified as a public space and therefore attendee caps don't apply.
"That was another curve ball, the wedding looks a lot different than what we had originally planned, but we got there.
"It was very last minute, a week ago we didn't really have a wedding planned, so we're very lucky it's coming together in terms of no masks, caps and a dance floor."
The new easing of restrictions haven't been welcomed by everyone in the wedding industry.
Grand Events Hire and Styling Warrnambool co-owner Jess Griffey said the restrictions impeded regional couples, many who wish to be married on their farm properties.
"They're still peeved because they can't do marquees at their property and can only have 30 people, most of our marquee weddings are on private properties," she said.
"Now instead of having their wedding on their farm they have to go to a venue, it's not the best.
"Then dance floors can only have one person per four square metres - if you have a small marquee or venue that means only seven people on a dancefloor at a time. What wedding is going to have only seven people on a dancefloor?
"It's some easing for venues but for the ones doing marquee events they're still struggling.
"I don't think it makes much of a difference if you have the unlimited attendee cap but density limits on a farm in the middle of nowhere or at a wedding venue which is just a different wedding space."
Lockdown saw Ms Griffey lose all of her business.
"From March to October we were closed, we didn't have 30 per cent business loss we had 100 per cent loss," she said.
"The only thing that saved us at the end has been this outdoor dining getting marquees up at pubs and restaurants, thank god.
"All of our events have been cancelled until next season pretty much - our peak is now - things like Sungold Field Days, Wunta, Generations In Jazz have all been shut down.
"The weddings just aren't what they were, people don't know about restrictions and it's hard to change a wedding."
Many of her staff were backpackers and seasonal workers, a market which was also wiped out by COVID.
"We went from a massive crew to not even 25 per cent, a lot were of backpackers or hadn't been with us long enough to be eligible for Job Keeper.
"We're open by appointment now, we can't afford a receptionist.
"If people could book plenty of home parties, whatever they can, that would be a huge support to businesses like ours."
Lush Events Terang owner Vicki Whiting said everything "dried up overnight."
"Even weddings I've had booked in for October, November and December have been all postponed and pushed back further, a lot have had number issues and international family and guests.
"They're pushing back for late next year hoping international travel will have resumed and we'd have some sort of normality.
"I've been in the business for a long time, I own everything I have so I'm very lucky in that situation that I didn't have any outgoing costs, we just sat it out.
"Before COVID we were extremely busy from October to April, every weekend we would be doing a wedding. Come March everything stopped."
Despite the challenges of the year, Ms Whiting said there was much to be positive about.
"We're lucky we got the wedding season prior and it didn't hit earlier. We still got 90 per cent of the 2019 to 20 wedding season.
"We're also lucky to be in the position we're in in Victoria to be able to have the numbers we have, we're blessed to be looking forward to something positive."
Warrnambool wedding celebrant Joanne Moon found herself faced with helping couples who were stressed and anxious, far from the usual happy and excited emotions that come with organising a wedding.
"There was a lot of jumping for joy at Sunday's announcement," she said.
"I think this virus isn't going away and we're going to have to live with the fact it's part of our world now, and in my role, finding that balance for couples to celebrate the way they want to while making sure their guests are carrying masks and following the guidelines.
"It's made many people reassess putting together a wedding, even with the easing some are still looking at having an intimate ceremony but a bigger reception. It will be interesting to watch it unfold.
"It's been crazy and heartbreaking, I've learnt a lot about myself as a celebrant. Usually people are in such a good mood when they're planning a wedding and now I've found myself supporting people through what's been a rollercoaster of a year.
"Hopefully we've all grown from it and see different approaches to putting a wedding together in a way that still feels right for the couple.
"I would like to remind people to check in with their celebrant and venues - every place still has slight restrictions."
No-one wants to see this virus back - we're all coming out the other end smiling and businesses are getting each other back on our feet.Joanne Moon
She said many couples had been frustrated by the seemingly Melbourne-centric rules.
"It's been quite frustrating, we've had lengthy discussions with politicans and the COVID-19 hotline because when you exit the ring of steel it's not that isolated or unique to have a wedding on yours or a friend's 80-acre farm or a paddock space.
"We wondered if the consideration is there for regional Victorians but we just have to ride along with it - we can't change it as much as we've jumped up and down and tired .
"No-one wants to see this virus back - we're all coming out the other end smiling and businesses are getting each other back on our feet.
"I encourage people to shop local, we've got such amazing wedding vendors locally and access to so many things here so it would be great to see people looking closer to home for their weddings."
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