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COVID-19 has Disruptive Domino Effect on Local Wedding Industry

By Lindsey Goubeaux
Journalism student

People across the country are grieving all kinds of losses, and while wedding events may strike some as relatively low-stakes, the ripple effect of Covid-19 is taking a heavy toll on the industry.

Those planning a wedding know how many puzzle pieces must fit together to make the event happen. Dozens of separate pieces — from the food to the florist — must coordinate together to pull it off. With so many spring events being postponed or canceled—according to WeddingWire, 845,000 weddings worldwide are scheduled each year from March through May—the pandemic has caused a domino effect of disruption.

“We are absolutely having to move our weddings back now. I have lost several events who have canceled entirely,” said Jean Abrams, owner of Castle Hill wedding venue in Oxford. “I have postponed four weddings and I am losing numerous customers.”

Paris-Yates Chapel on the Ole Miss campus is a popular wedding spot for many Oxford couples.

“We did have to cancel a late March and early April wedding once the University began to work remotely from home,” said Linda Spargo of the Chancellor’s Office. “My goal was to get them to discuss it with their families and begin to think about it so that they were proactive and had control over the outcome. This is one of the most important dates in their lives, and I just wanted them to have a plan if they needed it.”

Caterers are having a hard time rescheduling their clients as well.

“We had some weddings around Double Decker time that have had to be indefinitely [postponed],” said Sierra Dexter of City Grocery Catering.

Venues and caterers require the couple to sign a contract, oftentimes with a deposit before their date to ensure their reservation. It is difficult for businesses who have had to cancel their service to give back their deposits because the impact of the coronavirus pandemic was so unexpected.

“It really depends on how close to the event you were. If you are past two months, we are giving a full refund. But, if the date was pretty close, we were having to do a 50 percent or so refund,” said Dexter.

Most businesses that are rescheduling rather than canceling are just applying the deposits to a new date.

“Anybody that wants a cancelation, we are offering a full refund,” said a manager of Magnolia Rentals. “We really have not had that many, only a handful, so it hasn’t been that devastating. I don’t want to hold people’s feet to the fire, so to speak, with all this in hoping they will return once they figure out, ‘Okay we can do this.’ I understand that and it’s not their fault, so we have basically offered a full refund on that.”

Castle Hill is also offering a full refund to their customers. In addition, they are offering dates other than just weekends to host a couple’s celebration.

“I would move the date to a weekday if somebody needed me to. Fortunately, the four that I have I was able to reschedule to a different date. We had Saturdays available for them. If there was another bride looking for a venue, I would be open to do it whatever date she wanted to,” said Abrams.

Weddings take many months of preparation and many brides opt to use a wedding planner to help with their big day. Ellen Thomas, a wedding and event planner, said she has been very busy rescheduling weddings the past two months.

“Basically what I do is contact the bride and say, ‘Hey, maybe you need to think about postponing. I would like you to give me three dates, like No. 1 date, No. 2 date and No. 3 date. Then I will contact my vendors, and whoever is available the majority of the date is who we go with,” said Thomas.

“By the grace of God, I don’t know how, but I have only had one wedding who did not have the venue available,” Thomas said. “If the venue or the band cannot work out that weekend, we will have to pick a different date just because it is so hard to get those people. It is easier to swap a videographer or a photographer.”

Future brides and grooms are having to switch up their original caterers and photographers due to lack of availability on their new dates.

Even if their wished-for company can still fulfill their role in the wedding, it may look different than expected based on the time of year. Menus, decor and flowers all differ based on when the wedding date is.

“I had a June wedding that is postponed to November. Now we’re having to think about the flowers they picked out for June. They are probably not going to be available in November. It’s not that big of a deal but it is for sure going to be different,” said Thomas. “It’s going to be little changes, with a different style.”

Thomas worries that it will be a long time before the wedding industry will be in full swing again.

“People may be wanting to save money and scale back for their wedding because of the limited work right now,” Thomas said. “It is going to be interesting to see… weddings are expensive!”

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