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WIPA Leaders Discuss Weddings in Wake of COVID

Chapter leaders from the Wedding International Professionals Association share how COVID is changing the wedding landscape.

Although the wedding industry is seeing a tidal wave of postponements this spring due to coronavirus, the vast majority of couples are not cancelling their nuptials outright, and the year 2021 is already looking stronger. These findings come from the online WIPA State of the Wedding Industry” presentation, hosted yesterday. Panelists included the association’s chapter leaders.

Due to a vicious outbreak there, the New York area has been especially hard hit, with “90 percent to 95 percent of our weddings though mid-June postponed,” reported Daniela Grafman, CSEP, with Vision Event Co.

But nervous brides—and their guests—are upending wedding plans across the U.S. Popular destinations in Utah such as Salt Lake City and Park City are seeing postponements through early May, said Mara Marian with Fuse Weddings and Events. Chicago-based Beth Bernstein of SQN Events noted her first “go” wedding is slated for Aug. 1.

STILL ON THE BOOKS But in good news, the WIPA panelists stressed that far more weddings have been postponed versus cancelled outright. This development brings opportunities to protect both wedding planners and their partner vendors.

In order to encourage rescheduling weddings versus cancelling them, the industry must “present a united front,” said Lauren Carter, WIPA Chicago president and head of Curate Plan Style.

STAY IN 2020 Wedding planners should try to keep postponed weddings on the 2020 calendar versus letting them bleed into 2021, “but we need to be realistic,” explained Seattle Chapter president BreeAnn Gale of Pink Blossom Events.

With guests concerned at present about flying into Washington State—a early COVID hot spot—several planners suggested prompting couples to hold a small wedding ceremony at home, followed by a big reception later.

Her fall brides are “holding on tight” to their scheduled weddings, said Mary Wright Shah of Diamond Affairs, the Dallas Chapter president. But with guests jittery about travel, brides are “dissecting their guest lists,” she said. And as a result, wedding budgets are starting to slip.

THE RUSH IS COMING However, with pent-up demand coming into play in late 2020 and into 2021, planners should remind clients that the marketplace will be very different, with everything from popular venues to sought-after flowers being snapped up quickly. As a result, costs will rise, too. Shah advised prompting wavering clients that, “If you don’t book, you will lose it.”

Indeed, the panelists noted that the wedding landscape will change markedly over the course of the next 12 months.

With big demand for venues for Saturday events, coming trends will likely include weekday weddings, brunch events, and smaller weddings, explained Southern California Chapter president Renee Dalo of Moxie Bright Events.

A major theme of yesterday’s session: the importance of communication with clients, vendors and fellow planners. Many skittish brides are asking their planners to share what other brides are doing, parents footing the bill are concerned, and vendors are under their own pressures. To ensure effective communication, “Pick up the phone—don’t email,” Shah said.

Several planners stressed the need to protect vendors. Because wedding clients might not understand the vendors’ role, “We need to tell clients what happens to vendors,” Grafman said. “Take the pressure off your vendors.”

Panelists also noted that wedding pros now can showcase their talents beyond logistics, offering “therapy!” Carter said. “Now it’s obvious what we do.”

Added Gillian Marto of Events of a Lifetime Productions, Atlanta Chapter president, “This is our time to shine.”


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