Will COVID-19 make big weddings a thing of the past? Industry experts say no
TORONTO -- The pandemic may have postponed typical weddings for the foreseeable future and could usher in a trend of more intimate ceremonies, but we haven’t seen the end of the big, dramatic wedding, according to industry experts.
Splashy celebrations are a cornerstone of the wedding industry, upping the wow factor with elaborate decorations, even more elaborate menus and long guest lists. In some cultures, wedding celebrations can include up to 600 guests.
Diana Pires, a wedding planner based in Toronto, told CTVNews.ca over the phone that large weddings with more than 150 people made up 80 per cent of her business before COVID-19.
But all of her scheduled weddings have been postponed “because we are unable to host events right now.
“We’ve just had to move dates and [make] those adjustments with our clients.”
The wedding industry has been severely impacted by COVID-19. As the threat of the virus grew, health officials and governments across Canada banned large gatherings of people, and recommended individuals stay physically distant from others outside of their household.
Since the average Canadian wedding has around 120 people, according to Tracey Manailescu, co-founder of the Wedding Planners Institute of Canada, this meant spouses-to-be who were set to wed in the spring and summer soon found themselves having to put off the celebrations.
The period between May and October is “when the bulk of our weddings are,” Manailescu pointed out, making the pandemic restrictions even harder on the industry.
Although provinces have been taking their first tentative steps towards reopening, gatherings of over 50 people are still many months away from being allowed in Canada again.
But in a post-pandemic world, will we see the same amount of big, intense, invite-everyone-in-the-extended-family type of weddings as we did before?
Pires believes that after a lull in the business, the answer will be a resounding yes.
“Events are going to come back stronger than ever,” she said. “Right now there might be a little fear, but for the future, I think people are going to be very happy to be able to celebrate and commemorate with others, because we need that personal connection.”
She said that none of her clients have completely cancelled their weddings or receptions in order to regroup during the pandemic -- postponing is the big move.
“The majority of our clients believe in a celebration,” Pires said. “And so they would rather move their events so they can have that full event experience then to have a smaller function and not be able to host it the way that they've always wanted to host it.”
That doesn’t mean that the pandemic has had no effect on the way people hold weddings.
One of the interim coping measures that couples have taken is to hold a tiny ceremony on the day they’d originally planned, and just postpone the reception, in order to get the best of both worlds.
“They still want that grand event,” Pires said.
“[But} people don't want to stop their lives because of COVID. They still want to live together. They still want to start a family. And they'll do their small civil ceremonies … and then do a bigger reception in the year to come.”
Manailescu said she’s seen the same trend. She has a wedding planned for Aug. 2 that is still going ahead -- with only five people in attendance.
“It’s the officiant, it's two witnesses and the couple,” she said. “They're still going to go ahead with that … and they’re still having their 200 person wedding next June.”
Many couples will have chosen a wedding date for a special reason, she added, and are attached to the idea of getting officially married then.
But in terms of post-pandemic weddings, experts believe we’ll see two reactions: some throwing bigger weddings than ever, and others exercising more caution.
“We're going to see the people that have really felt it this year, that they're missing all their friends and family, and they're going to have a complete blowout and they might even invite more guests than [they] were planning before,” Manailescu said.
“And then we're going to see a trend coming in … more intimate and personalized with smaller weddings.”
She pointed out that sometimes with larger weddings, the inflated guest list is down to family pressure to invite every last extended cousin, and that it’s possible some people, in the wake of COVID-19, will have more control over their guest list and an excuse to trim a little.
But those who had always dreamed of a beautiful ball to ring in their nuptials are unlikely to settle, Pires said.
“When we're talking about events and celebrations and weddings, they're made to be celebrated with many people,” she said. “It's to bring back memories and to celebrate with those who have been a part of your life in many different ways.”
She believes these events will be even more important after the pandemic.
"People are going to want to hug their family members. They're going to want to be around them. That's something truly that I believe is going to happen.”
It’s hard to be certain when large weddings will be able to be held safely again. Manailescu mentioned that we have to be aware of a potential second wave of COVID-19 in the fall.
She predicts large weddings will be on hold until next spring at the earliest, because clients will be afraid of inviting older relatives or loved ones living overseas, if the pandemic is still a pressing concern.
Pires agreed that moving forward after the pandemic, people would likely be a little more wary of attending an event with a large number of people if they’re in an at-risk category, or have been feeling under the weather.
One extra complication with the vast postponement of weddings is that the 2021 and 2022 wedding seasons are going to be packed, Manailescu pointed out.
"There are already people that have booked for next year before this even happened,” she pointed out. “So now it's the people that have postponed coming into that and having to take up those extra spaces as well. It's going to be overwhelming.”
She believes the scheduling crush will necessitate more “creative” weddings -- but the big wedding is far from a thing of the past.