Instead, it was “the worst day of my life,” Barillas tells The Post.
Her spring wedding — like many others across the country — was an early casualty of the coronavirus.
“Three of our American guests were sitting on the plane by a passenger who came from Italy who tested positive for COVID-19,” says Barillas, 42. “On the day of our wedding, we decided to cancel.”
It turns out the 27-year-old infected man was Guatemala’s first confirmed case of the coronavirus, local outlets reported.
Hundreds of New York City couples are facing a similar fate and are being forced to pull the plug on, or postpone, their big day in the upcoming months as businesses shut their doors and social distancing rules intensify.
“Couples are mourning the loss of the wedding day they’ve envisioned and planned for months, if not years,” says Jessica Bishop, who runs the wedding planning website Budget Savvy Bride. “They could be looking at a loss of thousands of dollars in deposits and payments . . . [It] has been devastating, to say the least.”
Wedding planners, vendors and venues are also struggling to stay afloat.
“If you’re not the owner of a company, odds are in the next
But Barillas thought she was in the clear and didn’t need to cancel “because Guatemala had zero cases of the virus at the time,” says the Chelsea resident.
The nightmare unfurled the morning of March 14, when Barillas’ fiancé (now husband), Charlie Sandlan, answered a call from a guest who had just arrived in Guatemala the night before from New York City.
“She was crying and saying that the police, a doctor and the hotel owner were at the door,” says Barillas. “They somehow found through surveillance cameras that she [and two of her friends] were in very close proximity with a person with the virus.”
The women were immediately put on lockdown and ordered to board the first plane back to the US.
Her wedding vendors, on the other hand, urged the couple to carry out the nuptials as planned.
“They were like, ‘It’s so much money, you can’t cancel,’ ” says Barillas.
So the bride still put on her gown, did seven rounds of makeup because she “kept crying it all off” and did a “first look” photo shoot with her beau.
“I could barely hold it together,” she says.
At 5 p.m., Barillas made the decision.
“I was holding my dad and just said, ‘We’re not doing it,’ ” she says. “There were so many old people who were supposed to come, I knew I couldn’t live with myself if we did it.”
Forgoing the opulent venue they’d planned on, Barillas and Sandlan held a small ceremony “right there, on the patio in front of our hotel room,” she says. The couple read their vows in front of a small group of about 20 close family members.
“We did the best we could in the worst circumstance,” she says.
Upper West Side couple Sarah Diver and Justin Hebenstreit had a little more foresight about their March 21 wedding in Brooklyn. They were planning on having a friend marry them — and that would-be officiant is based in Milan, Italy.
“Because we were getting all this info from him, we were kind of ahead of the curve and saw the shelter-in-place coming,” says Hebenstreit, 36. “We were worried the cases were going to explode in New York City.”
The pair were also getting a flurry of panicked cancellation emails from their guests in early March.
At that point, “We were coming to grips with the fact that the wedding wasn’t really going to happen,” says Diver, 28.
On March 13, the couple notified their guests that their celebration, which was supposed to be at Brooklyn Winery, was off. They were able to reschedule the big day for Feb. 13, 2021.
Disappointments aside, “We’re relieved that the day itself will likely be far enough out that the presence of [the] coronavirus will be a faint memory . . . hopefully,” says Diver, who still celebrated on the original “wedding” date with her fiancé and a bottle of champagne.
Meyer and other city wedding planners are encouraging their clients to postpone instead of cancel their nuptials in order to still give couples their dream day.
“We’re all operating from a place of compassion and really coming together to try and help these couples in the best ways we can,” says Meyer, who is working with his clients to find them new dates without losing money. “A lot of us are waiving change date fees . . . We’re not here to try and get one over on anybody.”
Others, like Union City, N.J., couple Colleen Canyon and Gerard Skennion, are holding virtual weddings instead.
“We said, ‘Damn right, we’re gonna do something about it.’ We’re gonna mark this day . . . and we’re not letting go of that,” says Skennion, 58.
So on March 21, the date of what would have been their wedding reception at Los Charrito’s in Weehawken, the couple invited their 61 guests to join them on Zoom.
“It really felt like we were together,” says Canyon, 53. They read their vows, toasted with white wine, ate cake and held a “rockin’ dance party.”
“We didn’t let this take away our joy.”