After vaccines became more widespread and people were vaccinated in the Metro East, St. Louis area, and Illinois, wedding venues will reopen after slow days during the pandemic.
With Illinois fully reopening since June 11, wedding venues like Alton’s The Lovejoy Wedding & Events Center and Ink House – located in the former home of The Intelligencer – and the Crystal Garden Banquet & Event Center in Edwardsville are once again hosting larger weddings. although some of the effects of the pandemic can still be seen.
“We recommend that unvaccinated people wear a mask,” said Kristen Pfund, co-owner of Ink House. “We clean as much as possible, every entrance has hand disinfectant and these are everywhere, we and our employees keep as much distance as possible, lots of notifications are placed everywhere about the rules to be observed in the event of illness. We see people who come in, who wear masks and people who don’t wear them. Nobody feels uncomfortable wearing a mask, we’re very lucky with that. “
Weddings, which often went a long way off during the height of the pandemic and were sometimes questioned in some places both state and national, were often postponed until this year or next as people predicted the pandemic would subside . This creates an effect that some refer to as wedding fatigue, as this summer saw two combined wedding seasons originally planned for 2021 and postponed after 2020.
“Towards the middle to the end of 2020, future bookings increased,” said Pfund. “We found a mix of a new facility and a lot of people whose event was canceled and who had to rebook but had nowhere to go. We were a good option as we are a new venue, we weren’t available when they first went booked and we are extending the dates. We are pleased, our bookings for 2022 are going great, we have already opened in 2023. “
This spike in postponements started mid-pandemic and lasted through 2020. Both Crystal Garden and Ink House said many of the couples who were rescheduling were already married but were hosting the reception for friends and family.
“A couple had their wedding on June 25th, a Friday event. It was great, fun. The bride said it was a lot less stressful because they were already married. They came in and decorated, you never knew.” You weren’t in church to get married, “said Pound.” They had to do some of the things they wouldn’t do on a spring wedding on a winter wedding; they got everything they wanted at their wedding. “
Ink House opened its doors on February 1, 2020, a month before the pandemic broke out. This resulted in some changes to the venue as Pound said an adjustment was needed.
“It was a challenge. We could hold events, we just had to have a completely different strategy for hosting events – we introduced micro-weddings or micro-events, we could stay within the mandatory meeting number, we could create events around those numbers with different packages, created à la carte, worked worked with different vendors to develop packages, worked with these vendors to get them business. “
The Lovejoy in Alton was also a relatively new venue that was greeted early on with the pandemic.
“Most of the events were canceled last year,” said Russ Smith, owner of Lovejoy. said. “We started the year before, got through well, booked a lot of weddings for 2020 and lost 90% of them. This year we weren’t sure we would open, (but) towards the end of the year I have a couple this year but 2022 is going really well. “
Smith said The Lovejoy needed to renew its business structure and use the property’s back patio as a restaurant and bar, including a smoking area. Smith said wedding guests are welcome to use this space, but mostly the interior space made available to them.
The wedding fatigue that appears this wedding season may not be a year-long trend either. Several weddings have been postponed to 2022, including at The Lovejoy.
“We booked more weddings for 2020 before the pandemic than we had recovered,” said Smith. “Not as many in 2022 as in 2020; there is an upward trend and more and more calls are coming in. I think I’ll see more in 2022, the wedding and event business is doing well, the venue is beautiful. When the staff come back we get more attention because of the bar in the back. I am optimistic. “
Crystal Garden closed business at his wedding venue for most of the pandemic until a couple sought permission from the city.
“When we first started we had a wedding planned that closed, but the couple got tacit approval from the city,” said Bill Hatton, co-owner of Crystal Garden. “We’re big enough and the wedding was small enough, they said. We could go from there and do weddings again.”
Both venues said they had seen couples excited and grateful to finally have the chance to throw the wedding.
“They were so grateful. A lot of them had already married, they were really grateful to really have this family moment,” Hatton said.