Dominique Borzomati is the Event Director at Battello in Jersey City, and if I ever renew my vows, I will happily let her take the wheel. Love, weddings—and now Covid weddings—are kinda Dominique’s thing. An expert NJ wedding planner, she is an authority in her field and passionate about working for each couple that comes to Battello seeking her skills. Her bond with her clients is so reputable, that she has found herself becoming a confidant to many a weary bride. Especially in the wake of a pandemic and a shaky wedding climate. Such is the nature of Battello, whose staff consider one another not just colleagues running a business, but family. That same spirit is obvious to their loyal clientele, who keep returning.
“You get married here, you become family,” says Dominique, “People come back each year, after their wedding, to celebrate their anniversaries with us, and I still talk to many [couples] on a friendly basis. I love that!”
The pandemic brought an exciting twist to Dominique’s own wedding to Joe Calafiore, Battello’s Director of Operations and Operating Partner in September of this year. (An event that she had to replan on three separate occasions.) I recently spoke with Dominique who shared how the pandemic affected her wedding, her clients, and how in the end, nothing really matters but love and life.
Can you tell me about planning a wedding during Covid?
Yes, it was fun to do that! On top of really trying to navigate all of my own couples [wedding clients], and what we needed to do here [at Battello], it’s been an interesting year. We [my husband and I] had always dreamt of getting married in Italy, so after trips back and forth to Sicily, we settled on getting married at this vineyard estate. It was definitely not easy, even for a wedding planner, to try and plan something in a completely different country. Everything was great; we were excited and set the dates, and by the beginning of March—Covid happened.
With a heavy heart, we had to cancel our wedding in Italy. We were very lucky that our vendors there were very understanding and we got refunded. Instead, we moved our wedding date to August in Newport, Rhode Island where I had gone to school and found an awesome venue there.
So many brides would have given up and thrown in the towel by then!
Three weeks before my wedding, the venue basically called and said that I had to cut back my guest list by a quarter. So I canceled that venue, hopped in the car, drove around Rhode Island, and found Fort Adams State Park. I met with a caterer, picked a spot within the park, rented tables, chairs, tents, and replanned my wedding a third time, with only three weeks to go. All while I was juggling my couples at Battello—some of which were scheduled for September and October. They were holding on, sticking with me, with us [at Battello].
How were you helping your own clients navigate the pandemic?
I immediately jumped into “Go” mode. My clients are important to me. These couples that were getting married in March, April, May, [I started to think,] what do we do? As a Covid bride myself, I wanted to make sure that we did right by them. If they wanted to postpone, great, we’d pick a new date. If they wanted to just cancel, we gave them their money back. In March, I was telling my clients that everything would be fine by August—not realizing we’d all be sitting here in November, and at that point, I was still expecting to get married in Sicily. By June, I realized that wasn’t going to happen, traveling was unrealistic.
Still, you managed to pull it off wonderfully. The third time’s the charm!
Yes, we ended up having the most beautiful, spectacular wedding! I wouldn’t change a thing. It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t in Italy. I do feel a small sense of guilt that I was able to have a wedding when so many of my clients couldn’t. Hopefully, there are better times ahead!
What helped you cope through all of this?
It’s helpful that event planning is what I do for a living, so the process was a little less overwhelming—not that it wasn’t! I knew that in the end, I was going to pull it off. I had this mindset of there being bigger problems in the world; you can see that on such a global scale. My wedding isn’t the most important thing. So at the end of the day, even if it was a party of 125 or 10 people in our backyard, I was going to marry the man I love. We were going to have a good time, life would go on for us. We both have our health, our families are all healthy, and that’s really all that matters.
You also had a great support system to help you realize your big day.
My husband, Joe [co-owner] was the best throughout all of this. Our best man, Cory Checket, [co-owner] told me he was surprised how well I was handling everything. People tend to know me, and my need for perfection! I’m so grateful to all my local vendors for sticking with me, Fort Adams State Park, Karma Floral & Event Design, Kate Neal Photography, Pranzi Catering, Jaehee Bridal, Olivia Halpin Hair, and my makeup artist, Laura Ann. Everyone just went above and beyond, it was wonderful.
Would you say you’re an expert on Covid weddings now?
In May of 2017, Battello was forced to close so that the pier could undergo repairs. Would you say that prepared you in a way for something like Covid?
Oh definitely! The pier that Batello sat on was so old, it was crumbling. Our landlords came to us and said it wasn’t safe; we had to shut down. It was a similar situation where I had to make phone calls, postpone weddings. Sometimes weddings were scheduled for the very next day! In a way, the pandemic was easier to deal with because it was on such a global scale, and people were very understanding. So yes, I had pretty much already dealt with this.
What does the future of weddings look like to you?
I think the future of weddings looks great! I think that things are going to get back to normal and when this ends, people will want to get out and celebrate with their families. The wedding business will absolutely bounce back, but I do think for the next six months to a year, we’ll keep seeing a surge in micro-weddings—that’ll reign king for a while.
What tips do you have for other Covid-brides-to-be?
Number one, you’ve got to throw out the “rules.” At this point, you have to roll with the punches, be understanding of the vendors, the venues. From a vendor’s perspective, we’re all trying to figure this out, day-by-day. There’s no rule book, so we’re trying to navigate this the best we can. Have a little patience with us.
Next, know what’s important to you. If getting married to the person you love right now is what’s important, then go! Tell yourself: I don’t need the big wedding, I don’t need to wait a year. Know that the day after your wedding—whether it was with 100 people or 30— the next morning, you’re going to wake up married to the person that you love most in this world, and that’s all that will matter.
For more on events at Battello, visit their website.