The Day – ‘It’s out of the ordinary, crazy busy’: Marriage business thrives on pent-up demand
A list of wedding dates for 2022 hangs on the wall of Pot of Green Florist in the shopping center adjacent to Stonington Police Station, starting with one last January and ending at the end of October. It’s not normal for owner Judy Mann to do flowers for a January wedding, and it happened right after New Year’s Eve.
“I’ve had more weddings this year than ever before,” Mann said. One thing she discovered is that young people getting married may not have so much money to spend, because while postponing the wedding, they bought a house or had a baby.
That’s a far cry from the lack of weddings at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, although Mann said business was generally better for her boutique, which opened in 1973: although there are no Had weddings or funerals, people weren’t traveling to see friends or family either, so they called Pot of Green to deliver flowers.
In this regard, Mann was in a different position from businesses that focus primarily on weddings or banquet halls that had to adapt to severe capacity restrictions. But now sellers and sites agree that business is booming, although they are also facing supply chain issues and labor shortages.
On the StoneHurst Hampton Valley website, a message appears: “Please understand that this wedding season is packed due to backups from last year’s COVID postponements. For this reason, we may need a little longer to get back to you than it did before.We appreciate your understanding and patience.
The Meadows in Stonington won’t start hosting weddings until May, but owner Ian Camfield expects a busy season ahead. He added: “I don’t know what will happen to the cost of food, I don’t know what will happen to the availability of manpower.”
Wedding site The Knot predicts 2.6 million weddings in the United States this year, compared to an average of 2.2 million per year before the pandemic.
“It’s out of the ordinary, very busy,” said wedding planner Debbie White-Palmer. “It’s a domino effect of people who had to postpone their weddings, or who got married but couldn’t celebrate so now they have their celebrations. So my calendar is very busy, with all types of weddings, from traditional hotel ballrooms to backyard weddings.”
Her challenge at this point is to juggle the 2022 wedding season with inquiries for future weddings. White-Palmer, who has been planning weddings for 22 years, has more weddings planned for next year than she normally would at this point in the year.
She found that the size of marriages is smaller. Couples getting married now may have been part of a marriage that was forced to scale back due to capacity restrictions earlier in the pandemic, but they’ve found they like the more intimate experience.
“It’s been really fun for me, because it’s a lot easier for me to get into the details, the special details when it’s only 40 or 50 guests,” White-Palmer said. She added that whether the wedding is 40 or 250, “you still need cake, you still need music, you still need flowers,” so her job hasn’t changed much.
Kirsten Nicholas of Love Me Forever Bridal said she still had couples getting married earlier in the pandemic, but weddings tended to be backyard weddings or small civil ceremonies.
“The wedding industry is always busy,” Nicholas said. “People are going to get married no matter what’s going on in the world, but last year and this year, because of all the changes in securing their venues with dates, it’s only increased traffic.”
Like White-Palmer and Nicholas, Elizabeth Campbell of Alterations by Elizabeth in Groton saw that some people got legally married earlier in the pandemic but are just having their party. She estimates her wedding dress business is up about 35% to 50% from where it was this time of year before the pandemic.
A few weeks ago, in a single day, she went from half a rack to two racks of clothes to work on. It’s also because another season is approaching: prom season.
High flour and fabric costs
“Our number of weddings and inquiries is unprecedented, that’s for sure,” said Gabriella Withrow, owner of Zest Fresh Pastry in Stonington, where about a third of the business is for wedding cakes and desserts. “I think it’s a number of things. Last year was one of our peak years, and that was due to postponements.”
But this year, she said it was more organic, that “the pandemic has shown people that life is short and there’s no time like now.”
Unlike White-Palmer, she sees a trend of larger marriages, some of the largest she’s seen. According to The Knot, the average number of guests fell from 131 in 2019 to 66 in 2021, but fell to 105 last year and is expected to rise to 129 this year.
With larger weddings, Withrow doesn’t expect to make many of the larger three-tier cakes, but rather a smaller cake for display and a back-up cake for guests.
Lisa Argilagos of You Take the Cake in New London found that last year was more about cupcakes than cutting a cake, and now people have dessert focal points different from the big white cake, like a cream bar ice cream or a chocolate bar.
She’s seen a lot of interest in weddings, but runs into a cost issue: With skyrocketing prices on ingredients, including eggs, butter, flour and sugar, she’s “roughly reaching close to break-even” on cakes, given that the cost of making a cake is up about 35% from the time customers book and lock in their price.
Argilagos has since raised its prices, but said that every time it raised its prices, so did its suppliers.
At Waterford-based EZ-Occasions, which offers custom lighting designs and draping installations, owner Karina Alvarez has found fabric prices have risen dramatically. The fabric she receives from her California-based supplier comes from China, so shipping costs have increased and she has to wait longer to receive orders. She also cannot find people for the part-time seasonal work she needs.
As of 2020, Alvarez has only had 10 marriages, but was helped by a Paycheck Protection Program loan and had another job, working as a translator for the government. But last year has been busy, including with last-minute weddings, and she already has around 52 weddings booked for this season – with more expected.
She said about a quarter of weddings this year are those that have been booked due to COVID-19, but the rest are taking place on their original date.
“We’ve seen a really, really good comeback,” she said, “and we’re all excited.”