Wedding planners are being stretched thin as the pandemic fades into the rearview mirror and couples clamor to walk down the aisle, and the industry is a microcosm of the headwinds of soaring inflation and supply chain snarls battering the economy at large.
When COVID-19 began causing businesses to shutter across the country in March 2020, wedding and event planners were left scrambling to figure out what to do. After a bumpy 2021, which featured smaller weddings and ceremonies battered by restrictions, 2022 is proving to be a banner year for the industry.
Kate Edmonds is the founder and president of Kate Edmonds Events, which has been in business for more than two decades.
The Manhattan-based wedding planner told the Washington Examiner that her phone has been ringing off the hook this year as couples look to tie the knot. After months of patchwork restrictions and changing guidance, a sense of normalcy is returning to the industry, and people are rushing out to get married.
“And we cannot accommodate them all and do a really high-level job,” Edmonds said of the deluge of planned weddings, noting that demand is outpacing the bandwidth of her business. “It’s a very high-touch profession where every nuance counts — every conversation, every choice.”
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“People have not celebrated together with friends and family in so long,” Edmonds said, noting that couples are going “all-out” this year.
About 2.5 million weddings are expected to take place this year, the highest number of ceremonies since 1984, according to the Wedding Report, an industry trade group. That is nearly double the number of weddings that took place in 2020 and half a million more than last year.
The present moment of high demand for weddings was a long time coming.
Gallup polling showed that around April 2020, about 90% of people in the United States said they wanted to avoid events with large crowds. That number slipped to 60% a year later and, as of March of this year, is down to 41%.
Melisa Imberman, president of the Event of a Lifetime, described her job as the pandemic wore on as “part triage, part therapist,” as plans crumbled and the coronavirus swept across the country.
Those frenzied first few weeks of postponing and reshuffling soon turned into months of no business at all, explained Imberman, whose business is based in Chappaqua, New York. Everything came to a standstill as many venues and vendors for weddings went out of business.
A year into the pandemic, as vaccines started to go into arms and the warm weather of summer 2021 set in, business started picking up because outdoor venues were available for weddings. Planners still encountered logistical problems, though. For instance, guidance for how many people could congregate at once changed quickly and caused guests to be cut at the last minute.
“We were just putting up tents everywhere — in peoples’ backyards, in peoples’ friends’ and relatives’ backyards, in public places, just everywhere,” Imberman told the Washington Examiner about weddings last year.
Now, as COVID-19 restrictions are over, the real wedding boom has set in. Even with the influx of new marriages, it has taken wedding planners months to clear their slates of weddings that were postponed, in some cases several times, during the worst of the pandemic.
It has taken nearly two years, but Edmonds said her business just recently finished its last wedding, originally booked in March 2020, that had been postponed by the pandemic.
While a return to normalcy has been welcome, some things have changed and might remain that way for years to come.
For one, technology has allowed for more people to take part in marriages without physically being there. From work to play, many events during the pandemic were moved to Zoom and other virtual spaces, leading to the technology’s institutional acceptance.
Some of the weddings earlier in the pandemic leaned heavily into the technology so that friends and family, whose appearance might violate various states’ limits on event attendance, could still be part of the ceremony.
That virtual component may stick around because it has allowed people who live too far away to attend a wedding or people who are ill to still see the events unfold live. Because of the general acceptance of the technology and the know-how on the part of wedding planners, many weddings this year will have some form of virtual element to them.
Another change as of late has been the country’s blistering inflation. Consumer prices increased 8.3% in the 12 months ending in April, near the fastest pace since 1981. The rising prices are making it less affordable for people to attend weddings.
A survey conducted by Bankrate found that nearly a quarter of adults who have attended or are attending celebratory events this year feel pressured to spend more money than they are comfortable with. Despite the explosion of weddings, fewer people report attending or planning to attend celebratory events this year.
“The cost of fun can be a budget-buster, especially with inflation running rampant. It’s important to come up with a good plan before committing to these types of events,” said Ted Rossman, industry analyst at Bankrate.
Edmonds said that while the demand for more extravagant weddings by the hosts has increased, the average size of weddings has decreased. She said before COVID-19, a normal wedding for her business might have included 250 to 300. Now, many have just 75 to 150 guests.
Weddings are also affected global supply chain snarls, particularly with respect to event products sourced from China, which is facing its most severe lockdowns since the start of the pandemic. Wedding planners additionally report that paper and fabric shortages are causing problems and increasing costs.
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Another problem is a lack of workers. The people working at the events themselves have been harder to come by. Thus, wages for those workers have increased, further putting pressure on the price of a couple’s big day.
Despite the challenges and obstacles, millions of couples are expected to plow ahead and tie the knot this year in venues that are finally free from the confines of masks, guest restrictions, and other hindrances.