Businesses belonging to B.C.’s vibrant wedding industry are searching for ways to remain afloat with a summer of diminishing ceremonies ahead under the COVID-19 pandemic.
Florists, DJs, planners, rental companies, venues, caterers, photographers, videographers and still more are still trying to sort out how to support couples and their guests under fast-changing public-health rules or prepare for next year.
“There doesn’t see to be a safe way to have a wedding in the traditional sense right now,” said Erin Bishop, founder of Filosophi Event Planning and Design in Vancouver.
“It definitely is a huge strain on the industry. We are looking a year with no income. It’s a scary thing when you are a small business.”
Earlier this week, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said any weddings that aren’t postponed this summer must be held in ways that allow for physical-distancing.
“I know that it’s really hard for people to think about having these events without getting together, but we’ve found some very innovative ways of doing that,” Henry told her daily news conference.
“Think small. We’re not going to be having large gatherings.”
This has wedding vendors looking at alternatives such as setting up live-streams for guests to join in from home, or holding boutique smaller ceremonies with the plan for larger events down the road.
At the very least, vendors are asking couples to postpone their events rather than cancel.
“Cancellation is like a worst-case scenario,” said Bishop. “In a lot of cases, the client will lose their original deposit and it puts the vendor in a very uncomfortable position where they have to look at their own contract and decide if they are going to give part of a non-refundable deposit back due to the circumstances.”
She said she’s seen some “friction about what is reasonable” when some clients have cancelled.
“In the worst case, there could be a legal fight about it.”
The postponements will put significant pressure on the 2021 wedding season, she added, with potentially double the number of couples looking to tie the knot.
Chelsea Kanstrup, wedding videographer and owner of Paper Heart Films in Victoria, said more than half of her 20 bookings this season have been postponed.
She said she’s trying to help couples deal with the disappointment of not being able to celebrate how they wanted.
“Things often don’t go to plan on wedding day. But this is a pretty big thing to have come out of nowhere,” Kanstrup said.
“We have asked our coupes to maybe think outside the box a bit — trying to look at (off-season) dates, maybe a Sunday or during the week so they can keep the dream team of vendors together and have their guests there.”
Many of the small business owners and workers that make up B.C.’s wedding sector will be able to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, also known as CERB. But the problem is the industry’s season is only five months.
Said Victoria photographer Jon-Mark Wiltshire: “Most of wedding vendors I know are looking at a 70- to 80-per-cent loss in income, (and are) just trying to figure out a way to live off as little as possible this year …
“Even getting access to the CERB for a few months won’t cover the losses for anyone in event-based industries.”