Wedding planners ‘learn to pivot’ after year of postponed ceremonies
It has been a difficult year trying to help couples celebrate one of the happiest days of their lives.
âIt was a bit of a nightmare,â said Laura Seguin, wedding planner. âThe biggest hurdle has been surviving and being able to pay our bills and getting people to start booking again.â
Seguin is the owner and lead planner of Moments 2 Memories, based in Jacksonville and California. His company saw an 85% drop in sales in one quarter in March 2020. This year, there is still a 50% to 60% difference from its pre-pandemic figures.
The wedding industry has been among the hardest hit by the rise of the coronavirus, forcing couples to postpone or completely change their plans.
Meanwhile, the CDC continues to recommend avoiding large gatherings and suggests that event planners should work with state and local health officials to follow these guidelines.
Reflecting on this year’s booking season, which runs from January to March, Seguin said she booked two clients in the three-month period, compared to an average of at least eight per month.
âAlthough I haven’t booked a lot of new clients, I am finally able to organize the weddings for the clients that I have had for two years now,â she said.
Seguin is optimistic about the upcoming wedding season, which runs from June to September.
âThings are going up. The vaccine makes it very promising. The rooms are reopening. People feel a little safer going out, âshe said. “It was difficult but now I finally see a light at the end of the tunnel.”
At the Keith Watson events in Gainesville, owner Keith Watson expects to see more bookings for fall, winter and early next year.
Watson said most of his events from last year were postponed, some canceled. As a result, the majority of its employees were fired.
The marriages he could still make were small, socially distant, and in the open air.
â2020 has been dismal for the entire special events industry,â he said. “We were able to reduce our expenses as much as we could and luckily we were able to take advantage of the PPP loan.”
Aristocratic Events CEO Markesha Fuller saw the pandemic as an opportunity to adapt.
âIt put me and other entrepreneurs in a position to learn to pivot instead of completely stopping,â she said. “I won’t say it was a bad experience at all because I believe everything is going as planned.”
Aristocratic Events, located in Jacksonville and Georgia, had 13 reschedules and no cancellations. Requests for virtual events were a common trend.
âWe needed to be virtually and readily available knowing which virtual platform we were using or the customer wanted to use, and be able to bring in the resources needed to make this event work,â Fuller said.
She said in-person marriages resumed in January and she expects to be back to normal by next year.
âIt’s already very busy and we’re ready,â Fuller said. “We are going lightly, making sure we take charge of projects that are good for us and our staff, but it is definitely coming back to normal.”
In Gainesville, Essence Events owner Erma Sams said she focuses on online advertising on well-known websites such as Wedding Wire and The Knot.
âWe are broadcasting more electronically than before,â she said.
Similar to Fuller’s experience, Sams had no cancellations and focused a lot on virtual ceremonies.
âWe found ourselves doing more Zoom consultations than in-person consultations,â she said. âI had a client who not only zoomed in on her wedding for her guests, but also barged in so they could have a more personal impression for those who weren’t able to travel.â
Sams believes couples who got married during a pandemic made them more grateful for the ceremony.
âI think the pandemic has given our brides a better eye on the importance of marriage itself,â she said. âThey come back on the guest list, they spend more time on the menu, they spend more time on things that really matter to them. They take the time to take a closer look at what this really means to them.
In anticipation of this year’s wedding season, Sams believes things will pick up.
âI don’t think the numbers will stay the same as before the pandemic. I think there will be more in-person weddings, I anticipate more brides looking for a destination, and some looking for an intimate atmosphere.