It’s been a difficult year trying to help couples celebrate one of the happiest days of their lives.
“It’s kind of been a nightmare,” wedding planner Laura Seguin said. “The biggest obstacle has been surviving and being able to pay our bills and getting people to start booking again.”
Seguin is the owner and lead planner of Moments 2 Memories, based in Jacksonville and California. Her business experienced an 85% drop in sales within one quarter in March 2020. This year, there is still a 50% to 60% difference from her pre-pandemic numbers.
The wedding industry was among the most affected by the rise of the coronavirus, forcing couples to reschedule or change their plans completely.
Reflecting on this year’s booking season, which is January to March, Seguin said she booked two clients over the three-month period, as opposed to her average of at least eight per month.
“Although I haven’t booked a whole lot of new clients, I’m finally able to execute the weddings for the clients I’ve had for two years now,” she said.
Seguin is optimistic about the upcoming wedding season, which is from June to September.
“Things are at an upwards swing. The vaccine is making it very promising. Venues are reopening. People are feeling a little bit more safe to get out there,” she said. “It was tough but now I finally see a light at the end of the tunnel.”
At Keith Watson Events in Gainesville, owner Keith Watson expects to see more bookings for the fall, winter and the beginning of next year.
Watson said most of his events from last year were rescheduled, some were canceled. As a result, the majority of his employees were furloughed.
The weddings that he was still able to do were small, socially distanced and outdoors.
“2020 was dismal for the entire specials event industry,” he said. “We were able to cut our expenses as much as we could and we were thankfully able to take advantage of the PPP loan.”
CEO of Aristocratic Events Markesha Fuller saw the pandemic as an opportunity to adapt.
“It did put me and other entrepreneurs in a position to learn how to pivot instead of coming to a complete stop,” she said. “I won’t say that it was a bad experience at all because I do believe everything happens the way they are designed to happen.”
Aristocratic Events, located in Jacksonville and Georgia, had 13 reschedules and no cancelations. Requests for virtual events was a common trend.
“We were having to be virtually and readily available knowing the virtual platform that we were using or that the client wanted to use, and being able to bring in the resources to make that event work,” Fuller said.
She said in-person weddings picked up in January and she expects to be back to normal by next year.
“It’s already very busy and we’re ready,” Fuller said. “We’re treading lightly, making sure that we are taking on the projects that are good for us and our staff, but it’s definitely coming back to normal.”
In Gainesville, owner of Essence Events Erma Sams said she focused on advertising online on well-known websites such as Wedding Wire and The Knot.
“We are putting ourselves out there more electronically than we had before,” she said.
Similar to Fuller’s experience, Sams did not have any cancelations and put a lot of focus on virtual ceremonies.
“We found ourselves doing more Zoom consultations versus in-person consultations,” she said. “I had a client that not only Zoomed her wedding for her guests, but she also droned in so they could get a more of an in-person feel for those that were not able to travel.”
Sams thinks couples who got married during a pandemic made them more appreciative of the ceremony.
“I think the pandemic has given our brides a better eye as to what the importance of the wedding itself is,” she said. “They are scaling back on the guest list, they are spending more time on the menu, spending more time on things that really count to them. They are taking time to look deeper into what it really means to them.”
In anticipation of this year’s wedding season, Sams believes business will begin to pick back up.
“I don’t think the numbers are going to remain the same as pre-pandemic numbers. I think there will be more in-person weddings, I anticipate more brides that are looking for a destination, and some are looking for an intimate feel.”