This month we’re going outside with the best drinks for the garden, the beach and beyond. In Take it outside, let’s explore our favorite local spots and far-flung destinations that make summer the ultimate time of year for upscale drinking.
Erin Ambrose, event manager at RGNY, a winery and winery in Riverhead, NY, has been busy. She is receiving three times as many requests for weddings at the Long Island Wine Country property than usual.
The demand is so great that Ambrose is in the process of creating more event space to keep up. She expands her team by hiring an assistant to help deal with emails and phone calls, as well as managing smaller events. And in order to make the work on the many events more attractive for the service staff, as there is currently a very shortage, she has increased the remuneration.
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Ambrose is experiencing what is known as the wedding boom as couples book their venues quickly everywhere, including wineries and vineyards with function rooms. The pandemic has postponed about 1.6 million weddings due to coronavirus restrictions on social gatherings, according to the Wedding Report, and many of those couples, as well as the couples planning to get married this year and next, are demanding everyone have their big days on as soon as plan possible.
Photo credit: Christian Oth Studios
Calendars go crazy. The Knot saw wedding websites published on the platform increase 48 percent in June year over year, and gift purchases on its registers doubled in just a few months. It signals that couples are increasingly confident that they can celebrate safely.
For wineries and vineyards across the country, this meant hectic days for the employees, but also a refreshing change from an uneventful year. It’s a much-needed increase in sales to make up for some of the 2020 losses. (The Wedding Report estimates the wedding industry lost a total of $ 47 billion in revenue due to pandemic restrictions.)
“We joked that the boom was like a fire hydrant on our faces, where we regularly take short breaths to survive,” said Stephanie Cole, chief planner and co-founder of Cole Drake Events, based in Napa. Calif. “But it was welcome. We are very pleased that our industry is making a strong comeback. “
Cole and her business partner Sarah Drake are the go-to places for couples looking for wedding venues in Napa Valley and Sonoma County. Many of the chosen venues are wineries, vineyards, and hotel properties that bump into the iconic wine ranks. From March 2020 to April 2021, social gatherings such as weddings were not allowed anywhere in California. Even when Governor Gavin Newsom gave the green light to wedding receptions, there were caps on the number of employees. Only recently did weddings start to look like a version of their former selves.
To that end, Cole sees nearly two years of events over the next six months; 2022 is packed with events for new customers who got engaged during the pandemic. Couples still vie for the traditional Saturday, but Sunday and weekday weddings are also on the rise.
Credit: Clane Gessel Photography
The real stress, however, comes from the “last-minute” customers who request appointments – and planned, full-length weddings – in four months or less. These couples realize that a version of their original dream wedding is possible, but want it to happen right away. For comparison: pre-pandemic couples booked their wedding dates an average of 14 months in advance.
“Our winery partners work just as hard, if not harder, than we do to meet all of the wedding requirements,” says Cole. “We managed to stay on track, and maybe with an occasional glass of wine during the process.”
Emily Forrest Skurnik, director of communications at Zola, a wedding planning and registration company, stated that wineries and vineyards have seen a surge in popularity simply because of the fact that they are outdoors. A recent survey by Zola found that 67 percent of wedding providers expect outdoor locations to be a top wedding trend until at least 2022, if not beyond. Zola tracked winery event bookings two years ago, Skurnik says.
The Gloria Ferrer Winery in Sonoma, California is 50 percent slated for weddings in 2022, with books closed for all of 2021 at this point. The team handles 40 dinner and wedding requests each week. General Manager Mayacamas Olds explains that due to staffing issues, they actually needed to be more selective in the events they host, a challenge facing the entire hospitality industry.
“Although we are facing a high staff shortage, many of our preferred providers also offer limited services,” says Olds. “If a rental company is short on staff, this in turn affects our construction and dismantling.”
It was helpful to book outside of peak hours and limit the number of wedding guests to 75 people. It helped ensure that your team had sufficient planning time as well as the staff required to prepare and carry them out.
Photo credit: Shannon Stellmacher Photography
Cole adds that while the wedding pros in the wine country have fewer staff, they still host the same high quality events – the staff only work twice as hard to reach them. That is not sustainable in the long run.
Another unique hurdle for California’s wine country is the loss of two top locations as a result of the 2020 forest fires: Meadowood Napa Valley and Calistoga Ranch. Cole calls it “devastating”. While the properties are to be rebuilt, their weddings not only had to be postponed due to the pandemic, but also had to be relocated to nearby locations for the celebrations.
Wineries and vineyards are nowhere near the most sought-after wedding venues – this award goes to banquet halls and farms and ranches – but in saturated wine-producing areas like California, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, and New York, wineries are hugely popular wedding choices of a couple. As more couples seek beautiful, exclusive, and personalized outdoor spaces for outdoor events, wedding insiders believe wineries could grow in popularity. After all, wine is made in every state.
“The weather is great, the scenery is incredible, and we have wineries, resorts and estates that each have something unique to offer their guests,” added Cole of the future for winery weddings. “Why don’t you want to host a wedding in the wine country?”