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In 2020, Canada’s wedding industry lost more than $ 1.6 billion as couples scrambled to postpone, cancel, or downsize their big day. According to insurance platform Hellosafe.ca, Ontario had the biggest hit, losing $ 780 million, followed by Quebec ($ 257 million) and British Columbia ($ 158 million).
“Our sector has been cut off at the knees,” says Tracey Manailescu, co-founder of the 8,500-strong Wedding Planners Institute of Canada. “Wedding venues have gone bankrupt, decor rental companies have sold their inventory and shops closed, and hundreds of people, almost all self-employed, have been made unemployed. Now we all hold our breath to see what happens next. “
At the start of a new wedding season, vendors across the country share how they’ve handled the past 15 months. The result is a snapshot of resilient, creative people who have survived by changing gears.
The pandemic forced a wedding settlement. Many couples have responded with a simplification
The politics of a pandemic wedding
Owner, Powerful Moments Events, Vancouver
Power opened their event planning firm in January 2020 to serve BC’s Fraser Valley – perfect timing to capitalize on what many have been anticipating for a record year for weddings. Three months later, her wedding colleagues desperately postponed or canceled the wedding while she tried to figure out how to stay relevant when she had no clients, let alone future prospects. “As a brand new company that only had a handful of inquiries before COVID-19, I had to turn very quickly.” Power chose editorial footage that enabled her to show potential couples the quality of her work, choreograph photos of brides with beautiful bouquets of flowers in elegant locations, and then use them as advertising on social media and provider websites. She booked 10 small weddings in 2021, with many more inquiries for 2022 and 2023. “With these stylized shots I was able to show what I can do. Almost every request that comes in now is because of them. “
Owner, Catherine Langlois Bridal Design, Toronto
Whitney Heard photo / handout
In early 2020, Langlois was working on a collection of bespoke dresses to be shown at New York Bridal Fashion Week. She hoped to attract international attention to open a wholesale business overseas. The wedding show that was due to take place in October came and went. Today she is struggling to repay thousands of dollars’ worth of extra fabric that she ordered. “I bought four times my normal inventory to fill future orders,” says Langlois, who has been in her business for 20 years. “I thought 2020 would be my breakout year. Instead, my business has fallen by around 90 percent. She gave herself a month to “feel sorry for myself,” then spent her free time setting up a Shopify website – “something that popped into my mind for a long time,” she says. Now she’s on the same hold as her clients, waiting to see when the locks can be lifted and weddings can start again. “The difficult part will hang around until then.”
Event Coordinator, A Taste of Class Catering and the Bella Vista Event Area, St. John’s
On a typical year, this family run business, one of the finest caterers in St. John, is involved in 90 weddings from June through October. Last year they did 10. “We had pretty much all of our weddings postponed to 2021,” says Williamson. “We fired almost everyone and hired them on a call-back basis when an event was coming up. We lost a full season, which really hurts. “They also own the largest venue in town, which typically hosts 30 weddings with an average of 240 people. In 2020 there were 50 guests here, and no dancing was allowed, which required strategic thinking. “No couple wants to leave at 9:30 am after dinner has been cleared. That’s why we hired magicians, live bands and comedians – all to make the evening more entertaining.” Current provincial regulations allow weddings of 100 guests, but Williamson says many couples are still waiting for the day when the number isn’t restricted. “A lot of brides are very nervous about COVID because they have so many guests out of town. My standard line for everyone is: No matter what the situation, there is always a solution. We’ll find out together. “
Owner, Jennifer Boyce Photography, Oakville, Ont.
Boyce loves her job. She especially loves taking pictures of people on one of the happiest days of their lives. She usually does 30 weddings in a season and by the beginning of 2020 she had 28 in a row. But when locks came, went, and came back, most of her clients postponed their weddings, which meant Boyce could keep the deposit so she could pay the bills. She ended up shooting 11 weddings last year, the smallest, most intimate affairs that she describes as “incredibly romantic and special because everyone was so relaxed.” This stress-free atmosphere inspired Boyce so much that she canceled her own 80-person wedding at a resort in Muskoka and instead decided to get married in a tiny ceremony in her aunt and uncle’s backyard in Oakville later this month. The biggest challenge as a photographer was the inconsistency of the regulations. “You can go to a wedding and take photos, but once I get paid to do it, it’s against the restrictions. Many photographers say: “Then just invite me as a guest.”
Co-owner, Black-Eyed Susan, Toronto
When Hanley and her partner Barb Goode bought the existing flower shop seven years ago, they kept the business model: their income came from the lavish bouquets of flowers they had delivered to office towers across the city center, with a few small weddings. The deal broke up last March. “We anticipated the worst and then the unexpected happened,” says Hanley. “Everyone started sending each other flowers to cheer each other up.” In addition, the demand for bouquets and boutonniers from couples who advocated the micro-wedding concept continued to grow. “Couples have been extremely creative. They spend more on the perfect bouquet or the most beautiful arbor because they don’t have to decorate an entire wedding venue. “We recently had a wedding in a local park. The only thing this bride wanted was a giant corolla we made with hydrangeas, large dahlias, and curly willow. She didn’t want to wear anything. Her goal was to be as low-key and comfortable as possible. That seems to be a recurring theme at COVID weddings. It’s refreshing. “