Andrew Harmon’s dream of a lavish wedding in Philadelphia was dashed when the coronavirus pandemic upended his plans for a November ceremony.

It would have been an elegant, black-tie affair with a red carpet at the entrance of The Lucy, a ballroom located in Philadelphia’s famous Avenue of the Arts cultural district.

“We were in a panic and sick to our stomachs,” says Harmon, 30, who works in regulatory operations at Vanguard. He and his fiance, Evan Garbayo, a 28-year-old recruiter at Insight Global, were just a week away from taking their save-the-date engagement pictures in March when their plans were turned upside down.

“Being gay was significant,” Harmon says. “We wanted to celebrate our unique love with our friends and family in a big, amazing way.”

But their wedding vendor couldn’t guarantee that guests could dance or that they’d be free of face masks. It also planned to charge the couple an extra $5 for each of their 200-plus guests if they pushed their wedding to 2021. That fee was on top of the $185 they were already paying for each guest. Keith Hickey and his fiance Alex Lindsey, high school sweethearts, were scheduled to be married March 28, 2020. The wedding has now been moved to late July. 1/13 Hide caption After much deliberation, they chose to forgo their $5,000 deposit for the venue and use the rest of the $40,000 they had budgeted for their big day for a down payment on their dream home.

They quickly realized they were lucky.

The new house, with a back yard, was a happy upgrade from their 700-square-foot apartment, Harmon says, especially with COVID-19 forcing them to spend more time at home. They are also in the process of getting a Goldendoodle puppy.

“The pandemic really put everything into perspective for us,” Harmon says, adding that they plan to hold a small wedding at a later date once the pandemic subsides.

“We already had a chunk of money saved that we could have been putting toward building a home together, but we had been planning to use it for a one-day event that in the grand scheme of things isn’t that important.”

Rethinking living spaces

Wedding bells won’t be ringing for many couples this summer after the pandemic forced Americans to cancel or postpone their nuptials. But some, like Harmon and Garbayo, who were able to preserve most of their wedding fund, are using the money to purchase a home, while others are applying it to alternative ways of living.

Emily Whalen, 29, and her fiance, Joe Duschinsky, 30, who reside in Chicago, also decided to pull the plug on their large wedding in September after the pandemic changed their priorities.

“We had this crazy moment where we just looked at each other when we realized the final cost of the wedding,” Whalen says, who had budgeted $50,000 for the event. “My fiance joked that we should just buy an RV instead.”The couple, who had been planning their nuptials for a year, felt suffocated in a 600-square foot apartment […]