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How Wedding Professionals are Coming Together for their Couples during COVID-19

With the state of our everyday lives changing as rapidly as COVID-19 is spreading, it’s been a breath of fresh air to see such positivity and flexibility amongst many of Toronto’s top wedding vendors.

While some weddings have already been postponed and many more in limbo, couples all over the city – as well as world wise – are scrambling to alter their plans around the recent COVID-19 pandemic.   This feature provides couples and the wedding industry as a whole, an inside look at how wedding professionals are coming together for their couples during COVID-19.

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Alana Klein, of Swoon Events, put it bestNone of us have ever had to face anything like this, so we are all doing our best to adapt and figure out plans of action that are best for each of our companies and for our clients. A lot of wedding vendors have come together to support each other, which is amazing, and to try and inform each other and keep open lines of communication to best help our clients and navigate this challenging time. I am observing a lot of positivity and vendors helping one another, as well as their clients, as best they can.”  While the majority of the wedding vendor community has banded together and is rallying to help our clients, there’s no doubt that panic is trickling in from couples. “Events being cancelled or postponed.  Birthdays, baptisms, confirmations, showers, weddings – events of all scales.” says Patricia Drewnowska of Patricia’s Cake Creations.  

“Most vendors are very sensitive to the current situation and are offering their services on a new date, without penalty.” says Roxy Zapala of Art of Celebration.  While the status quo with signing contracts is that the services are to be delivered on a specific day, the flexibility offered by many of the leading Toronto wedding vendors is our way of saying “We understand – we’re here for you.”  Unprecedented times call for unprecedented flexibility. This flexibility and is also seen in how many planners are responding to this COVID-19 crisis; planners are working overtime for clients whether they are continuing their events or postponing.  “Vendors want a happy ending for their couples, nothing brings us greater joy to see happiness on peoples faces!” says Patricia Drewnowska.

The impact that COVID-19 in the wedding industry is having on small businesses is huge.  Many of the smaller businesses with staff are facing the very difficult decision to have to let go the majority of their workforce, Alana says.  Patricia adds “Cost of running a business are still continuing despite COVID-19; taxes, electricity, office or warehouse rental – it’s all still there even though the events are not.”

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Impact of COVID-19 also varies depending on what services a vendor is offering; those who have perishable products are harder hit by last minute cancellations.  Rosanne Farano-Romanino shared what happens behind the scenes in her business, The Social Rose, Designer Events. “Florals must be ordered several weeks in advance; even more for special orders.  Often times business owners are committed to paying for these products and any wedding materials once the order has been placed.  There are hundreds of hands who are involved in processing a floral order before it even arrives at the florist’s door; from the farmer to those who pick and process, those who package, ship and deliver.  Once this chain of events if started, you’re committed to your order. This is why last minute cancellations for florals are challenging for florists.” Carmen Luk of Devoted to You adds, “Couples may have to pay for perishable goods, even if the wedding is cancelled or postponed as once the order is placed the investment has been made and a return simply isn’t possible.”

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Patricia also adds “Cake artists and any food vendor also have perishables associated with a clients order.  Sometimes unused perishables from a cancelled order can be re-distributed to other existing orders, but when everyone is cancelling, all the product goes to waste.”

A further impact is not necessarily immediate financial impact, unless perishables are involved, but a future impact – especially for vendors who can only service one client per day like planners and photographers.  Many vendors are offering penalty free rescheduling to clients affected by COVID-19 but it’s important to also acknowledge that moving the event to a new date means that the vendor will have less availability to take on new clients.  This will limit future income for all companies offering this; but in the realm of what is possible during this time, the overwhelming majority of wedding professionals agree that this is the best way to serve our clients and support them in achieving their dream day. 

There’s no doubt that COVID-19 is causing an economic crisis – even if you don’t truly understand the stock market, hearing “DOW dropped again this evening” is enough for most folks to understand that a possible recession is looming in the distance.  With the economic impact hitting worldwide, it’s more important than ever to stand behind small businesses in your community.

According to Roxy, “The events industry will suffer greatly due to the pandemic, there’s no doubt about that – but we are not the only business type that is suffering. Most small businesses, aside from grocery stores and gas stations, are going to feel this (if they don’t already). I think it’s important that we continue to support local businesses of all kinds so that they can open up with confidence once all of this is over.”  

Chain stores and large corporation will be able to take a hit and stay afloat; the cash flow is much different in a large business or chain than in a small business.  Small businesses operate on much smaller margins which means risk of bankruptcy and business closure is much greater during these times. Patricia says “When the COVID-19 pandemic is all over and done, go for a walk and find a local bakery and buy from them!  Celebrate health and celebrate your local small businesses!”

Businesses aren’t the only ones facing challenges at this time – of course, the couples are affected greatly and the predicament COVID-19 puts them in is the reason we’re even talking about all of this.

One of the most challenging things for couples is that things are changing literally day by day.  A venue who may want to charge a penalty for rescheduling when asked on the Friday has changed their policy come Saturday as they see the worsening pandemic and the dire situation so many couples are in.

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Roxy strikes a balance with the emotional impact as well as the logistics of upcoming weddings and the COVID-19 pandemic.  “Vendors are extremely sensitive to the heartbreak that couples are going through right now as they need to make the decision to cancel or postpone their wedding. This is one of the biggest days of their lives and all of a sudden they are faced with the challenge of adapting to the evolving world during a pandemic.  They have to make the decision of whether or not it is worth having the gathering or if it’s better to cancel or postpone for a further date. If they decide to move their date they will most likely be facing challenges with new dates and trying to align them with all their vendors so that deposits can be transferred to the new date. It is emotional enough to have to make that decision to postpone the wedding and it becomes even more challenging if aligning vendors becomes an additional challenge.”

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Another challenge is knowing how far in advance one must act.  While florals and vendors with other perishables require several weeks notice, at the very least, to navigate the possibility of changes most couples want to wait as long as possible.  Nobody knows what the state of things will be 4 weeks from now, let alone 4 months from now.

If a couple wants to navigate this situation as seamlessly as possible, we suggest that contact with vendors be made ASAP.  A touch-base email with your vendor would be ideal; especially if your wedding is within the next 3 months. Over-communicating never hurt.  It’s important to remember that the longer you wait to make a decision to reschedule your event, the more likely it will be that finding a new date may prove challenging.  Just like tackling the virus itself, early action is key.

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“Couples should also be open to hosting their wedding on a weekday, as prime dates (ie: Saturdays) likely will not be available.  With the popularity of Friday and Sunday events having risen in the last several years, a weekday wedding may be the likely option for many who want the wedding to occur in a timely fashion.” says Carmen.  Just as vendors are being flexible with offering new dates, couples too must be flexible in choosing that date.  Fidan Ismayilove, owner of Designed Dream Events suggests that if possible, try to keep your date within 2020 not only to ensure your deposits can transfer but because you, your fiance and your families are looking forward to this celebration!

Of course the million dollar question that many people – not just couples – have is “Can’t I just get all my money back?”.  This is always a tough question to tackle because this question is only ever asked in scary situation when emotions are already running high.  There’s a very logical answer to this question; but when the stakes are high and emotions are involved, communication can breakdown very easily.  This is a tough, tough question to discuss openly but for the sake of transparent and professionalism we will absolutely address it.

While each vendors individual policies may vary slightly; the important thing to remember is that vendors are not purposefully profiting on a pandemic.  Vendors are looking for solutions that are well balanced for both parties .

We’re here to work with you through this, but we also ask for the acknowledgement that the investment of our time, our employee’s time, perishables and product all must be covered, as well as our operational costs like rent and utilities.  When working with wedding professionals, you’re not dealing with transactions – you’re dealing with investments and investments cannot be undone. But as professionals, we also acknowledge this and are doing what we can to continue to serve our clients during this time by finding ways to accommodate new dates.  Seeing our clients happy and celebrating their love is why we do this job – and our goal is to get you there, even if it’s a tad later than what you originally planned.

Roxy shares her feelings about the current pandemic crisis and words of wisdom to the community, “I think we need to think positively while still being realistic about what to expect in the days to come. We need to take precautionary measures in order to put a stop to this pandemic and that goes for absolutely everyone in every industry. In the event industry we need to continue to support both the vendors and the clients and we need to be sensitive to everyone’s individual situations.”  Alana adds, in a reassurance to couples and vendors throughout all the countries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, “Venues and vendors are working so hard to help couples, and couples have to remember this – it is no ones fault, it is something we are all facing together, and together, we will find solutions to the challenges we are currently facing.” 

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The Team of Experts

Thank you to the team of experts who took the time to contribute and support this project in an effort to provide the wedding community with crucial information during this time:

  • Row 1; Left to Right:  Erika Hammer (Ten·2·Ten Photography), Alana Klein (Swoon Events), Roxy Zapala (Art of Celebration), Rosanne Farano-Romanino (The Social Rose, Designer Events)
  • Row 2; Left to Right:  Patricia Drewnowska (Patricia’s Cake Creations), Diana Pires (Diana Pires Events), Fidan Ismayilova (Designed Dream), Carmen Luk (Devoted to You)

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