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July 5, 2016: Fear of Zika Virus Is Changing the Destination Wedding Landscape

Alison Leigh Cowan from The New York Times reports “Fear, if not the reality of the Zika virus and the mosquitoes that carry it, has not only cast its shadow on the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August, but is upending the carefully laid plans of couples who have long wanted a wedding in an exotic tropical locale.

“Now, no party in paradise can proceed without the host taking precautions against the disease-carrying pests. Conscientious brides-to-be are scrambling to have rooms sprayed with insect repellent before guests arrive, pack extra bug spray in all formulations for guests who may not bring any, circulate newsletters with the latest advisories from government agencies and, if they really wish to set a good example, wear long sleeves and pants.

“And that assumes that the guests, many in their childbearing years, are going to these events at all. Many of the most popular wedding destinations in Central and South America, Mexico and the Caribbean are also where the Zika virus has been most active.

“Contracts with wedding vendors tend to be ironclad, requiring deposits and payment deadlines. When booking a wedding at a resort, many require guarantees of a certain number of room bookings on top of the ceremony and reception costs.

“Some couples have sought travel and wedding insurance, to guard against the unforeseen. But it is unclear how many of these contracts anticipated or will cover the various ways the Zika virus is now impacting couples and their weddings.

“Hayley Hines, a 30-year-old Arizona resident, was expecting to be married in Cancún, Mexico, on June 18, with 110 friends and relatives in attendance at a beachside resort. She and her fiancé, Bryan Ahearn, had attended friends’ weddings in that area and wanted the same experience.

“The event was booked and practically paid for. Then a guest who was trying to become pregnant backed out; she was concerned that Mexico had reported some cases of Zika, a virus blamed for birth defects. “We’re at the age where people are having their first or second child,” Ms. Hines said.

“In February, the bride-to-be discovered that she, too, was expecting, and would have to bow out. Becky Gillespie, the travel consultant who had spent months arranging the wedding, remembered thinking, “Oh, this is going to be a lot of work for nothing.” She spent weeks jumping through hoops with American Airlines, United Airlines and Sandos Cancún Luxury Experience Resort until she was able to return every penny of the $15,300 Ms. Hines and her guests had already paid.

“The vendors “did not like it but they understood the situation,” said Ms. Gillespie, who operates For Love of Travel, an agency in Nevada City, Calif. She was “surprised that they let more than just the bride get their money back.”

“The virus is of greatest concern to anyone who may be pregnant or may plan to have children after exposure. If saying your vows in a Zika-affected country means “you’re going to lose your sister because she’s pregnant and can’t go, that’s a problem,” said Annie Lee, a wedding planner. Some couples are keeping the CDC’s phone number, 800-232-4636, next to those of their wedding planner and caterer.

“The virus can be transmitted via sexual intercourse as well as by insect bites. Doctors have advised pregnant patients and couples planning to conceive to avoid affected areas or take other precautions to ward off bites.”

Source: The New York Times

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