Ozarks booking locations are busy amid 2022 wedding boom

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) — There’s been quite a wedding boom so far this year, and it may continue to grow.

Industry experts predict that 2022 could have the most weddings nationwide since 1984. Local venues across the Ozarks say they too are feeling the heat of the surge, but this surge comes on the heels of a few years of minimum activity.

“Ha, I mean for lack of a better word, it was pretty devastating,” Savoy Ballroom owner Andy Walls said of the trends of the past few years.

Walls and his wife had hosted countless weddings over the years at the Savoy Ballroom prior to the pandemic, although things came to a halt almost two years ago.

“Luckily we got some help, but it was a very big blow to the business that we are still trying to recover from,” he said.

Wall and his wife operate two businesses. Not only do they operate as a venue for weddings and other events, but they also run a dance business.

“So we operate a dance school where we teach adult social ballroom dancing,” Walls said. “We had been doing this for about 15 years until the pandemic hit, so we’re still waiting for our dance business to recover.”

These days, the wedding industry is picking up, maybe even a little faster than expected.

“Over the past year, we’ve really tried to catch up,” Walls described. “We kept moving forward, we postponed as much as we could. We were lucky and many of our customers were understanding. And we had very little [couples] who demanded reimbursement. Most of them postponed and continued their event, just at a later date, which led to busy months.

While many events and weddings have been pushed back, Walls said her venue is also seeing an influx of new guest inquiries.

“It’s been a busier than normal year with people calling and asking for dates,” he said. “I know that if we had more Saturdays available in September or October, we would fill them. So I imagine any event venue is experiencing that right now with just running out of physical Saturdays and physical weekends that just aren’t available.

It’s a bit of a saving grace for Andy and other venue owners, but just another hurdle for those looking to get married, like Melissa Bertrand and Patrick Zimmer. The couple moved to Wyoming from Fort Leonard Wood.

“We were originally going to get married in September,” Zimmer said. “But the new unit I’m a part of here in Wyoming said there was a possibility I could deploy in July.”

Fortunately, the couple secured a spot in June, but the couple said they are aware of high demand these days.

“That’s why we jumped on that opening when we could,” they said. “Because even one of the other places we could have considered in Montana even before COVID was an 18 [months] two-year window.

Walls said timing is often critical in booking weddings. He said there are some things you don’t want to put off because many companies are going through the exact same thing.

“If a chapel or church is important to you or the physical location of the reception, that’s one of the first things you should consider securing, especially if a date is important,” Walls said. “Once you start being within a year of those dates, you just play the odds then. Sometimes you are available. Sometimes things cancel each other out, but the sooner you can start this, the sooner you can commit to it, the better off you’ll be.

Melissa Bertrand says she recommends the same.

“Book early, definitely,” she said. “Plan well ahead because I’ve done pretty much everything, we’ve done everything and our wedding is still three months away.”

Once the venue is secure, many couples look forward to a “normal” wedding, hoping that COVID-19 can take over.

“That’s what excites me,” Bertrand said. “Just having fun and not having to stress about that stuff.”

Wedding venues say there have been a few other challenges lately.

“The cost,” Walls said. “The operating costs are higher, the cost of employees, I mean, everything has gone up.”

He said he suggests couples hire a wedding planner to help with the process.

“We always recommend hiring a planner or having someone walk you through this process,” Walls said. “And that’s just to help make sure that you don’t put off decisions until they’re there, your ultimate timeline or what you hope to have for your event, and the costs. Sometimes if you wait too long, you just have to take what is available and it can also disrupt your wedding budget.

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