âMy business from last June was a lot of silence. Now we’re back there,â said Rhee, owner of Rheefined Company Weddings & Special Events.
Nearly half of couples who planned to tie the knot last year have postponed their wedding – most setting the new date for this year, according to The Knot, a wedding planning website. This, along with newly engaged couples looking for dates, has created intense demand.
âLast week we turned down six weddings. We don’t have enough dates available. You have two years of mouth-watering couples to celebrate,â Rhee said.
Now, with vaccines readily available and capacity restrictions lifted in nearly every state, couples are speeding up their wedding planning. While in the past couples preferred weddings on Friday and Saturday, now any day of the week will do.
âI think there’s a bit of panic going on right now because they don’t know what to expect in six or eight months,â Rhee said.
Brooklyn Winery typically hosts weddings Friday through Sunday, but this summer it’s reserving weekday weddings to keep demand. He even canceled his September harvest to free up dates. The tradeoff is well worth it – weddings at both Brooklyn Winery and their sister location, District Winery in Washington DC, account for the majority of the venues’ revenue.
âThe day of the week doesn’t mean anything anymore in the sense that the demand for any date is the same as the demand for a Saturday date,â said Rachel Sackheim, Chief Revenue Officer of First Batch Hospitality, owner of Brooklyn and District wineries.
An industry in recovery
Despite the current sharp increase in demand, the wedding industry is still recovering. Last year, industry revenues fell 34% from the previous year, lost 34% of revenues last year, according to IBIS World.
Rhee opened his new event planning studio just days before the pandemic forced him to close. Meanwhile, Brooklyn Winery survived through small events and micro-weddings, as long as they complied with ever-changing regulations and state-imposed collection limitations. The two are now planning weddings of more than 100 people in the coming months, but the wounds of the pandemic are still fresh.
âI think that’s something we all try to honor as we get into this crazy next version of wedding planning in the Wild West,â Rhee said.
Like many industries, the wedding industry – which typically employs 885,000 people – is emerging from the understaffed pandemic. Julia Testa, owner of a flower shop in New York City, is not only looking for drivers and customer service representatives, but the cost of doing business has gone up as well.
âFlowers are a commodity, every week the price has changed. We have seen in some flowers where the prices have doubled. So you will see a slight variation in the amount of flowers we can supply,â Testa said.
The majority of Testa’s business before the pandemic was corporate events, but the demand for weddings has changed its business model. She now organizes weddings every day of the week and has created a wedding department within the company to manage the influx.
âI think the pandemic has taught us that you have to really diversify your portfolio, having only 90% of business accounts is kind of dangerous because it was the first thing to do,â Testa said.
“Sad and stressed” about the big day
Kira Tutko was supposed to walk down the aisle with her fiance Dan Sgro this coming weekend. The couple got engaged in January 2019, but in the midst of the pandemic earlier this year, they decided to change their date because vaccines were not yet available.
“It was sad. It was stressful. I cried almost every day,” Tutko said of the days leading up to the decision.
Tutko – a teacher who plans to get married at The State Room in Albany, New York – says the venue only had one weekend available in October of this year, right in the middle of her school year. After months of stress, the couple decided to look to 2022. When they saw the same date their initial June wedding was available, they grabbed it.
“I feel positive and hope this exact time next year will be even better. It will be an even better place than we are,” she said.
The couple are getting married on a Sunday instead of this Saturday, but despite the change of day, Tutko says her wedding will cost the same amount. She says she’s grateful, given that other brides have had to shell out thousands of dollars for a new date.
âAnd I got the 2019 awards, so I really wasn’t going to complain,â she said.
Additional reporting by Kate Trafecante.