As the wedding industry emerges from its pandemic slump, businesses and betrothed alike are reinventing ceremonies and celebrations to a large extent.
No longer are there only ceremonies. Mini-monies follow micro-weddings while sequel-monies are bigger receptions that are scheduled the following year.
Whether plated or buffet, reception meals are different and guests who belly up to the bar for a cocktail likely will be pouring everything themselves except for the booze.
And couples may have to move off a traditional Saturday for a wedding if they want to tie the knot this year.
These and other pandemic impacts on the wedding industry – and how they affect couples – are part of the first biennial Arizona Wedding Show in a year and a half.
Kim Horn of Ahwatukee, one of the world’s few certified master wedding planners who helps organize this long-time event, said that couples also will be able to check out 175 matrimony-related vendors.
And like most everything else in wedding world, the show is bending to COVID-19: attendees must be masked and their number will be limited at any given point through timed tickets.
Although future brides and their entourage could try on gowns at previous shows, that won’t be happening.
The show – which was canceled both times last year – will run 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 6 at the Convention Center’s South Building in downtown Phoenix. Tickets, which are $8 now or $10 on June 6, will not be sold at the door and must be purchased at arizonaweddingshow.com.
That ticket also entitles one lucky couple to win a package with big discounts on gowns, tuxes, venue, DJ, photography, invitations and décor – courtesy of the vendors.
Horn said the ebbing of the pandemic has “basically unleashed everything” in her professional world.
Think train wreck when it comes to a popular venue or a specific date.
“Put it this way,” Horn explained. “Almost half the couples last year that we’re getting scheduled to get married rescheduled their date to 2021. Many have been rescheduled to fall.”
“Then you have all of the new people who got engaged last year and are looking at having their wedding in the fall of 2021 too,” she continued.
And naturally, most want a Saturday wedding, prompting Horn to reflect, “It’s insane because you only have so many Saturdays.”
As a result, wedding planners like Horn are prodding couples to think other days of the week for their nuptials.
Like Friday – “Then you get the reception out of the way and you have the whole weekend to relax and visit with family and friends.”
Or Sunday, though, “you have the whole weekend to be stressed.”
Or even Monday through Thursday – which could save couples a lot of money from vendors all too willing to make some money on what would be a typically dead day, Horn advised.
The venue operators themselves have their own stresses – starting with the fact that resorts and restaurants can’t find enough people to work.
That’s a big reason why Gov. Doug Ducey last week said the supplemental $300 in unemployment pay will end July 10 and why two weeks ago he rescinded his pandemic order that had relaxed the requirement to prove people are diligently searching for a job if they want to receive the state’s $240 in weekly unemployment compensation.
In rescinding the extra $300-a-week, Ducey specifically cited the difficulty that restaurants, bars and the like are having finding wait staff, bartenders, cooks and other employees.
Arizona Grand General Manager Paul Gray can testify to the wedding challenge.
“As larger gatherings become safer, inquiries for more traditional weddings are definitely coming back,” Gray said. “Many couples that had to cancel in 2020 and chose to wait are now itching to throw their dream wedding. We are currently working aggressively to hire new and returning staff in just about every area of operations to meet current and future demand.”
Horn added, “A lot of the resorts that I’ve talked to are having a really hard time getting cooks back because they went off and found something else.”
The venues themselves have changed their operations to some degree to be in step with the times.
“Everything is very different,” Horn said. “The plated meal is very different. The buffet is very different. Now we have the stations with acrylic dividers so if someone sneezes and doesn’t sneeze in their elbow, the food is covered.”
Even attire has been impacted, though, of course, new fashions still remain a big consideration, COVID-19 be damned.
Couture wedding gowns feature ruffles, high slits and varied necklines, Horn said, adding that mix and match bridesmaid dresses for style and color to accent body shape are a big thing.
“The groom now can choose from designer suits and tuxes in bold colors with pocket squares and accessories to highlight their personality,” Horn added.
Micro-weddings for up to 50 people are still a big thing, so as a result, she said, “floral and succulents have a specific color palette in lieu of a specific flower based on what’s in season and available.”
And while many pandemic restrictions have been lifted, cautious couples are still seeking outdoor venues for weddings – putting even more demand on venues for cooler fall wedding dates.
All of which means, Horn said, is that what “couples should be looking at is flexibility.”
“If they call a venue and they love that venue and this is the venue that I want, they are normally going to save money if they switch to an off-premium date.”
Nonetheless, Horn said, the pandemic hasn’t taken the thrill or the traditional stress out of a couple’s big day.
And that’s what makes the Arizona Wedding Show so useful, she said.
“We have venues. We have invitations.
We have dress shops. We have wedding planners. We have DJ’s. We have live music. There are suits and tux rentals. There are florists, weight loss clinics and hair and makeup, rental companies.”
Asked if she added any type of vendor specifically because of the pandemic, Horn replied “we’re not really adding any vendors but we are adding more people doing sanitation.”