How wedding planners prepare for future post-pandemic events

  • The multi-billion dollar wedding planning industry has been hard hit by the pandemic.
  • There were 2.2 million weddings in the U.S. in 2019, with around 29% of people using a planner.
  • Planners said they can get by on loans and grants, digital options, and even be ordained.
  • You can find more stories in Insider’s business section.

The biggest day in many people’s lives is also a billion dollar business. In 2019 there were approximately 2.2 million weddings in the United States. Around 29% of weddings employ a wedding planner, although that number has been falling over the past decade.

It is estimated that there are around 40,000 wedding planning companies and around 300,000 wedding industry providers such as venues, bands, and photographers across the country.

With weddings generally being postponed or turned into intimate, virtual ceremonies due to the pandemic, production revenues for existing weddings have been pushed back and new business has completely dried up.

Piper Hatfield, founder and creative director of wedding and event planner Piper & Muse in Houston, said the coronavirus has been “devastating” for her company and its sellers.

Piper Hatfield, founder and creative director of wedding and event planner Piper & Muse in Houston

Piper Hatfield.

Piper Hatfield

“Typically, the way most contracts in the industry work is to have a 50% deposit payable upon booking and the remaining 50% balance due about a month later,” she said. “As the events are postponed, we will postpone this 50% balance until a later date.”

Insider spoke to Hatfield and three other leading wedding planners about how their business is doing and what strategies they are using to bring it to life after the lockdown.

You are applying for small business loans and grants for the time being

“Initially, it was hoped that some of the Small Business Administration (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and unemployment checks would help cushion the blow to the industry, but most of the people I work with were for this Loans not approved due to the fact that the banks did not consider their application, “Hatfield said.

She also shared that given that many workers in the wedding industry are independent contractors, there has been little help as they are not considered payroll clerks for corporate PPP application.

“I have a bank account with Wells Fargo, so I had the same problem that almost everyone had with their application process. I submitted my first request before they closed the link. I finally got the chance to meet me the day before the announcement of funding because the PPP had dried up. I haven’t received any further information about my application, “she said.

Hatfield said she recently received the $ 1,000 advance on the EIDL loan.

“The initial money will be used to rent my office. Any further funds will go towards my salary and help my 1099 workers who are handling their own weddings. I had a part-time assistant who relieved me of some I hope I get enough money through EIDL get to hire them again, “she said.

Kris Turner, owner of Atlanta-based wedding planner Kris Lavender, said she has already postponed 18 events. Most couples decided that summer and fall of 2021 would be a safer option.

Kris Turner, owner of Atlanta-based wedding planner Kris Lavender

Kris Turner.

Kris Turner

She stated that it was an emotional time for her clients, but between working through postponements and her four-year-old attending school, she has looked for grants available to small businesses affected by the shutdown.

“In addition to the standard SBA loans that are out there, there were also a few minority and women grants and I applied for those too,” she said.

Turner ran for SheaMoisture’s award for Minority-Owned Companies with a Social Impact, but added that given the number of COVID-19-affected companies across the country, “I don’t have much hope of getting funding from any of them.”

You are working on planning digital events

Hatfield added that like many other industries, the event community is working out what traditional activities can continue online.

“One of the planners on my team is working on a baby shower that will be completely overhauled

. The guests will be all over the country so she will send them all the elements of the party like decorations, favors and games, “she said.

Hatfield added that it was difficult to turn this into a profitable model for event planners and providers like caterers and florists

“Let’s face it, we can’t turn a Zoom party into a $ 200,000 budget event,” she said. “Most of my fees come from the event budget – I take a percentage of the total – so I need a reasonable budget to justify the amount of work.”

Many states have passed laws making it legal to apply for marriage permits and get married over online video calls. Some couples have already tied the knot through Zoom.

They are ordained to marry people in secluded or small ceremonies

Turner believes there is a small market for couples who want or need to get married this year.

“I was asked by one of my favorite clients if I could be ordained to marry her this month,” she said. “It seems like this might be a trend, so it’s an idea I’m thinking about.”

Turner said the couple in question recently decided to hold a small “elopement” wedding with the bride and groom, parents, best man and maid of honor before throwing a “big bash” the following year.

“In some states you can literally only get a one-day permit to marry a couple as celebrants. But I’m going to look into permanent certification now – it seems like a good role to have it in your pocket in case an official does.” won’t show up on a wedding day, “she said.

The rules for temporary and permanent licenses to marry people vary by state and even county. However, some require that an ordained minister actually have a ward in order to legally marry people. For states that allow for rapid certification, organizations like American Marriage Ministries and Universal Life Church Monastery will quickly ordain people online so they can perform a wedding ceremony.

They prove their worth through ongoing contract negotiations

Ashley Douglass, owner of Ashley Douglass Events, serves clients in the New York and Connecticut area. She said that while weddings have come to a complete standstill, the wedding planners still have a tremendous amount of negotiation work to do.

“We review contracts and have changes made for weddings that are postponed into the future,” she said.

Douglass said it has taken some couples time to come to terms with the fact that their wedding is not going to happen. The uncertainty means that she had to use her negotiating skills.

Ashley Douglass, Owner of Ashley Douglass Events

Ashley Douglass.

Ashley Douglass

“A lot of hypotheses are playing out right now, such as constraints on gatherings, which means it will reduce the number of wedding guests they can possibly have,” she said. “In reality, if you say 50 people, it really means 30 guests because 20 people have to be providers. To make our customers feel better, we turn to these providers to negotiate all of these different scenarios.”

In some ways, she said that it means she is busier than ever because she is effectively planning each wedding at least twice. While she said it could cost her financially, a reputation for getting things done is more important.

“I’ve negotiated new contracts for my clients postponing their weddings. If it’s 60 days before the date and you can’t have more than 50 people, you reserve the right to cancel or reschedule them – and if you can If you cancel, you will get a refund, “she said.

Douglass said she expected vendors to rewrite acts of God clauses in their contracts – usually defined as acts of God, natural disasters, government regulations or laws, or strikes – to include pandemics. Force majeure events usually have a non-refundable reservation for the cancellation or postponement of an event.

On the east coast, Douglass predicts many weddings will be postponed for summer.

“People don’t want to lose their deposits, so we’ll see a lot of weddings on Friday and Sunday in 2021,” she said.

You plan what weddings will look like after lockdown

Similarly, New York based planner Tzo Ai Ang of Ang Weddings and Events said her focus is not just on rescheduling weddings, but also on how they will look after the lockdown restrictions are lifted.

Tzo Ai Ang from Ang Weddings and Events

Tzo Ai Ang.

Tzo Ai Ang

“I’m already starting to think about how weddings will work when they come back. It won’t be free for everyone right away, it will be a gradual process like everything in the hospitality industry,” she said.

She starts planning scenarios in which tables need to be spaced a certain distance apart and provides things like face masks and gloves to employees who work at weddings.

“Weddings are about bringing all of your loved ones together in one room, and it’s difficult to socialize. We may need to create seating plans for individual families and larger dance floors. And I would imagine any kind of buffet or food station Doing this is definitely going to be a no-go for now, “she said.

Ang said the best guide for weddings is likely to be as the restaurant industry adapts to innovation and the time it takes to return to normal stages.

“Ultimately, if they want something imminent, couples really need to think about whether they’re okay with a different type of celebration than they originally planned,” she said. “If you want something more in tune with your original vision, I think you have to find a meaningful way out of moving things.”

This article was originally published on May 5th, 2020 on Insider.

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