Last month, a friend sent me a text out of the blue: “You need to think about your work, love. Delta isn’t going anywhere and you haven’t been OK for a long time”. I blinked at my phone and turned the words over a few times in my mind. I felt the memory of shuddering fear set in, the same fear I felt each time I sanitised my hands and got in the car to drive home after a wedding.
Like many small business owners, I have worked through the pandemic where possible. As a civil celebrant I’m well acquainted with the ups and downs of seasonal income.
In the spaces between lockdowns, freedom of movement is pounced on by party goers. All wedding guests dutifully scan QR codes on arrival and hand on heart promise to engage in social distancing. I see the building desperation to have a break from the vigilance of pandemic life win over, as reality is cast aside for one perfect day. Guests mingle unmasked with drinks in hand, trays of canapes swirling around people so relieved to connect and be together. They gather in close for selfies and tell me to be in the photo, only to be dismayed when I say no.
With great empathy for that desire to blow off steam, it’s different for me. I have an autoimmune condition which means I need to choose my actions carefully. Even though I’ve had two Pfizer injections, the greater risks associated with the COVID-19 Delta variant keep me up at night. Weddings are my workplace, and for me to be safe is to be the big stick in the mud. I waltz in with my COVID Safe document, recording the names and phone numbers of all present. I tick all the boxes and do my due diligence, but it doesn’t feel like it’s enough when facing such an unknown entity. Drunk uncles and misplaced cufflinks are easy to deal with, but avoiding a contagious invisible killer wasn’t on my list of notable skills until now.
Along with the privilege of creatively satisfying work, I need to accommodate my health.
When the pandemic hit in early 2020, people scrambled to have their weddings before lockdowns were enforced. Large guest lists were slashed for intimate elopements in parks leading to catering, venues and party hire companies losing significant income. As the one element that made the wedding legal, I never stopped to think about whether I wanted to continue, I just went to work. As the pandemic dragged on I ensured there was ample time for a panic attack on the way to the ceremony, arriving with a cold knot of fear in my stomach and the hope that this time I would emerge safely.
“Weddings are my workplace, and for me to be safe is to be the big stick in the mud.”
I am no stranger to changing circumstances – like most people in the wedding industry I thrive on getting it right under pressure – but COVID introduced new levels of adapting and reacting. Not all of us have made it through with our businesses intact.
In the latter half of 2021, workers in the arts and hospitality are shifting in droves to more sustainable careers that are both pandemic proof and creatively satisfying. One person I know has opened an ethical floristry business; others are studying law. I know of a celebrant who recently got her dog grooming qualification.
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