‘It was like driving off a cliff’: Wedding companies look back, excited for business in 2021

Coronavirus

CHICAGO — For some couples, this is the “summer of love” as they head to the alter to tie the knot.

Last year, most weddings were postponed or canceled all together as COVID-19 took hold of the world. If your relationship survived the pandemic, you may be asking yourself, “why not get married this summer?”

Arina Calamari, with Big City Bride, had five of her 15 scheduled wedding cancel last summer with 10 postponements.

“I think people look to their wedding planners to have answers and I didn’t have any answers. That was a terrible feeling,” Calamari said. “This year, I am doing a little over 20.”

She does think the traditional wedding is going to shift a bit as the world returns to normal.

Sanitized stations, personalized masks and color-coated wrist bands are all new to the wedding scene.

Calamari wants brides and grooms to be flexible this year as the demand to get married goes up everywhere.

“I think we’ll see more intimate celebrations and things that look a little bit different,” she said. “Whether it’s broken up in pieces, ceremony one day, reception another day or we’ll do a nice restaurant and do a cocktail-type reception.”

Micro-ceremonies on non-weekends are catching on too as demand increases.

“We’re seeing Monday celebrations, Thursday’s. What used to be planning in 9-12 months, now we are looking at two years and maybe we are out of Saturdays,” Calamari said.

She said for couples wanting to wed in 2021, the theme should be “be flexible.” Churches have only so many Saturdays to offer as couples from 2020 scramble to play catch up.

There are also a few other things to consider as a result of the pandemic. There’s a beef and flower shortage. Kehoe Designs, an event company with its roots in flowers, is still reeling from last summer.

2020 was projected to be our biggest year ever,” said Mathew Lahey.

After a disappointing 2020, Lahey is projecting an 80% increase in events and revenue compared to 2020. When it comes to catering, Blue Plate Catering, established 38 years ago, cannot remember a year like 2020.

“It was like driving off a cliff,” founder Jim Horan said. “As a business person, it took us to the brink. We’ve been in business for 38 years. Never have we approached anything like this.”

Historically, Blue Plate caters food for parties of 10 to 5,000. Until events like black tie events and the Chicago Marathon come back, the company has shifted its attention to weddings.

“People are little quicker in decision making,” Elinor Harton said. “So eager to check boxes of the decisions they have to make.”

With constantly changing variables amid the pandemic, even wedding dresses and invitations have been harder to source with international shipping and factories overseas slowed or shut down in recent months.

For Blue Plate’s founder, so many lessons have been learned about pressing on, believing in others and remembering who you are in the most difficult of times.

“When times get tough, you learn a lot about people,” Horan said. “People have really stepped up.”

The event companies WGN News spoke with said next year is booking fast.

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