Wedding Photographer

COVID-19: Vendors Respond to Wedding Receptions in British Columbia

It’s a conversation Jordan Maxey has had on several occasions over the past 21 months.

On Tuesday, the co-founder of North Vancouver-based Smitten Events spoke to three clients who were set to tie the knot on New Years Eve. The couples were told their wedding reception would not take place, given the Recently announced public health ordinance banning organized gatherings indoors of any size. The order will expire on January 18th.

“It’s a bit of a punch,” says Maxey, who runs the business with his friend Devon Dunn. “We have been working very carefully under the restrictions for almost two years now. As a small company in the event industry, we have been hit very hard by anything related to COVID.”

The entrepreneur tells Glacier Media that the couples have a certain amount of time to determine their next step – either postpone to 2022, 2023, or cancel outright.

Uncertainty is a sentiment all salespeople and bride and groom share, she says.

“Behind every marriage there are 10 to 15 salespeople who are all small businesses and we’re just trying to get things done so that we can do our jobs.”

The order “is difficult to understand as a small business,” adds Maxey.

“You can still watch a Canucks game with 9,000 people, which is 50 percent capacity. It doesn’t make sense, ”she said. (Due to COVID-19, a number of NHL games involving crossing the Canada-U.S. Border have been postponed this week.)

Melissa Sinclair, owner of Natural Touch Wedding and Events in Kelowna, hadn’t booked any weddings for December or January.

“I think everyone is scared [to have a wedding right now], to tell you the truth, ”she said of the ever-changing situation.

In a year without COVID, Sinclair has between 20 and 23 marriages. Since the start of the pandemic, she has had two. That’s a drop of over 90 percent in business.

“It’s been a huge financial blow,” she says, adding that she has a secondary trucking business that she relies on for her income. “It doesn’t seem to be getting any better.”

Besides the financial blow, Sinclair says the pandemic has taken an emotional toll on her.

“I’ve been doing this for 11 years and then it was taken from us … [You’re] struggling emotionally to understand all that you have built and worked so hard for, here we go. “

Victoria-based wedding photographer Hattie Root echoes similar sentiments.

“It sure sounds like a roller coaster,” she said of the latest order from provincial health worker Dr Bonnie Henry.

Root works with a couple who had planned to tie the knot in January. She called Tuesday’s announcement a “familiar feeling of disappointment,” noting that wedding vendors are typically booked 12 to 24 months in advance. COVID-19 has changed all of that, she says.

“I feel like we’ve been here before, we’ve been through it before, and we’ve developed tools, both personally and in our business, to make sure we can keep going.”

For Root, that means looking at commercial and lifestyle photography. One of the bright spots, she says, is that she has been able to further promote this aspect of her business. This is due to a small grant she received from the province.

On Thursday, the province announced that businesses ordered to close – such as gyms, bars, nightclubs and event venues that can no longer host events – are eligible to receive a new one-time relief grant. up to $ 10,000.

The government must prevent

In an ideal world, Maxey says she would like the BC government to give her industry a few days’ notice before implementing new orders.

Without it, she says, vendors have no idea and can’t plan for it.

“We asked for it [communication] for months and months, ”she says. “There are people who are so closely affected by every decision the province makes. A collaboration would be really useful. “

Maxey would also like the province to update its public health orders online at the same time, if not soon after, the media briefings. She tells Glacier Media that a lot of times customers come to her and tell her they heard Henry on TV say, “X, Y and Z.”

“It’s like, well yeah, maybe, but we have to wait and see the actual PHO again because maybe that’s what she says but maybe it’s not exactly like that [interpreted]. “

In an emailed statement to Glacier Media, the Department of Health said “public health does not make these decisions easily.”

“The temporary closure of businesses is a measure to protect our hospitals from overflows, ensure the safety of people and stop the sudden and rapid spread of the virus,” a ministry spokesperson said.

“We have to remember that this is only temporary – a four week period – and we encourage all companies to review their COVID-19 security protocols and ensure that staff and customers remember the protocols in place – such as wearing a mask and proper physical distancing. ”

Glacier Media asked the ministry the following questions but received no response:

  1. Does the government contact the BC wedding industry before making any PHO announcements? If so, who is notified? If not, why not? Are there any plans to open the lines of communication with wedding vendors in the future? If so, what does it look like?
  2. What is the government’s reasoning for updating the PHO a day or two after press conferences? Are there plans to better align the two?
  3. What is the reasoning of the ministry for canceling weddings while allowing events (concerts, sports games, etc.) at 50% of their capacity?

Diversification is the key to the pandemic

Jeremy Stone, an assistant professor at Simon Fraser University and former director of the university’s community economic development program, predicts some wedding vendors will close in the coming year.

“Just because there have been two solid years of disruption of events and event planning, and it can only last for a long time… you cannot just keep going through this and live personally on the sidelines.… You You can’t plan for the future and you’re still trying to pay your rent or your mortgage, and pay your staff, ”he says.

“It’s just too much for people.”

To become more “pandemic-proof,” Stone says businesses need to diversify their services, as well as access to those services.

“Some really innovative people might take this opportunity to create weddings online.… Make people think, ‘OK, we can’t be together but we just want to get married and we’re going to make this event online. , and it will be fun and we will have [Zoom] subcommittee rooms, ”he laughs.

For a wedding caterer, branching out could mean booking smaller, more intimate events, Stone adds.

“To homes, to families, to smaller groups of people.”

Root, meanwhile, has a piece of advice for any couple affected by this week’s restrictions: “Hang in there.

“At the end of the day, the most important thing is that you marry the love of your life,” she says.