Crystal Lemieux and her fiancée Mark Rapada were planning to get married on May 16. But Rapada is stuck on a cruise ship in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as a citizen of the Philippines, it’s uncertain when he’ll be allowed to come to Canada. (Contributed)

COVID-19: Vernon bride-to-be may be forced to postpone as fiancé stuck on cruise

Vernon wedding planner is offering free services to couples getting married in the next 12 weeks

It’s not easy making future plans in a pandemic.

The global spread of COVID-19 has led to closed venues, cancelled events and restricted travel. For some, this means postponing the day that’s meant to be the happiest of their lives.

Vernon resident Crystal Lemieux’s wedding date is set for May 16. The main problem is, her fiancé is stuck on a cruise ship somewhere in the Arabian Sea.

Lemieux’s fiancé, Mark Rapada, is a citizen of the Philippines with a 10-year visitor visa to Canada.

Rapada works as a crew member on the Ovation, a luxury cruise ship owned by Seabourn Cruise Line. The couple met on a Seabourn cruise in 2016, when Lemieux also worked for the company.

She recalls meeting him on her birthday, April 16 of that year.

Now, with countries around the world taking precautions against the spread of the novel coronavirus, Rapada has been stuck at sea.

“He was supposed to originally get off in Muskat, Oman, but the country’s not letting them out so they just keep going to different ports to see who will let them out,” said Lemieux, who has been able to keep in touch with her fiancé sparingly using WhatsApp Messenger.

The Ovation hasn’t had guests on board in a month, but the crew is still working on board. Rapada works as a chef, making sure the crew stays fed.

Lemieux says the ship is set to arrive in Athens, Greece on March 28, but there’s no telling if they’ll be allowed to get off there either.

“It’s all just a waiting game just to see when the border is going to open,” Lemieux said.

Canada has agreed to temporarily close its border with the United States to all non-essential travel. The federal government also closed the country’s borders to most non-citizens on Wednesday, March 18.

“We will be denying entry to Canada to people who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced March 16.

This leaves Rapada on uncertain ground.

Though he’s been to Canada several times while on his visa, he has not yet obtained Canadian citizenship.

“I was going to sponsor him once he got here, to be a Canadian, so it’s just annoying that only Canadians and permanent residents are allowed,” Lemieux said. “I would consider him to be under my immediate family.”

Lemieux hasn’t given up hope for a May 16 wedding, but she knows it won’t be the wedding she’s planned for a year and a half.

Her father’s side of the family lives in Ontario and Quebec and have understandably cancelled their plans to travel to Vernon, and she’s not sure if the venues she booked for the ceremony and reception will be available given current restrictions on public gatherings.

“I haven’t decided to postpone it yet because it all just depends on when he can get here,” she said. “But it’s looking like it’s probably going to have to get postponed.”

Fortunately, one Vernon event planner is looking to help couples in Lemieux’s position.

Michelle Leckie is the owner of Okanagan Event Planners.

In light of COVID-19, she’s decided to offer free wedding planning services to brides and couples getting married in the next 12 weeks.

“We’re definitely offering any free planning services to them, whether it’s choosing a new venue, reviewing contracts, helping them contact vendors to reschedule,” Leckie said.

Leckie spent all morning Thursday speaking to small venues, many of which agreed to step up and offer discounted rates to brides.

Pure Wedding stationary offered to re-do invitations for free and a few photographers were also willing to discount their packages.

“The industry itself is definitely suffering, especially the bigger venues,” Leckie said. “But at the same time they’re also really willing to work with brides.”

A few hours after posting a video to Facebook Thursday morning, Leckie heard back from about 60 brides in the North Okanagan.

“We just want to spread the word. I know there are brides who are not sleeping. People are losing their jobs,” she added.

Couples who now find themselves re-planning their wedding in a pandemic are invited to contact Michelle Leckie at 250-306-2828 or info@okanaganeventplanner.com.

READ MORE: Downtown Vernon graffiti upsets heritage building owner

READ MORE: Irregular migrants to be turned away at U.S.-Canada border: Trudeau


Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
Email me at Brendan.Shykora@vernonmorningstar.com
Follow us: Facebook | Twitter

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