‘I Do’ Times Two: Weddings Roar Back With A Vengeance

wedding sign

Live events took a beating in 2020 as COVID restrictions made gatherings of almost any size impossible. The most personal of live events — weddings — were perhaps the hardest hit as couples were forced to pick between downsizing to a handful of guests, going virtual or delaying their big day until 2021.

So now here we are — the summer of 2021 and wedding season is in full swing. Actually, it’s at 2X full swing as this season is accommodating all the weddings of 2021 on top of an estimated half of all the weddings that were supposed to happen last year. Some people hopped on Zoom or held smaller, more intimate backyard ceremonies. Others decided to wait out the pandemic for conditions to be optimal again. And with vaccines out and in wide distribution, optimal conditions, it seems, have arrived — meaning a mega-wedding season is here and saying “I do” is becoming something more of a race than it ever has been.

Because that rush to get down the aisle, and do it in style, has put a lot of pressure on the industry — where demand is high, and inventory is running low in a few key places.

Monday Is The New Saturday 

Evidence of the boom and shortages affecting the wedding industry can be seen just about everywhere, from clothing to food to venues.

“Moving forward it’s going to be an unprecedented wedding season this year,” said Maggie Lord, a vice president at David’s Bridal. “Couples are getting super creative and having Thursday night ceremonies or Friday afternoon ceremonies just because of the amount of people getting married this year.”

That was echoed by Palm Beach, Florida wedding and event planner Caroline Scarpinato, who told The Wall Street Journal that “Monday is the new Saturday” as far as weddings are concerned locally, as venue spaces have gotten progressively filled up.

Food, according to the report, has also become complicated as finding available catering services is becoming increasingly difficult as the summer of 2021 wears on. Ben Goldberg, co-founder and president of the New York Food Truck Association, told the New York Post they’ve run out of trucks for some dates this year, which has “never happened before.” The group’s phones are ringing off the hook round the clock with calls from clients looking to host the weddings they were forced to delay in the face of the pandemic.

Saying Yes To Fewer And Fewer Dresses  

It is also, according to various reports, getting harder for brides, bridesmaids and even guests to say yes to the dress, because clothing inventories were also hit hard as romantics revved their engines for the bulked-up wedding season. Justin Warshaw, director and CEO of bridal design and manufacturing firm the Justin Alexander Group, reports that wedding dress orders surged 593 percent between 2020 and 2021.

“A lot of that has to do with pent-up demand and also what we envisioned would happen: So many COVID couples turning into COVID engagements, turning into weddings,” said Warshaw, of the skyrocketing demand and the difficulties brides are now encountering in trying to find just the right dress for the day.

And renting, recent reports indicated, isn’t the easy solution unless one happened to have thought far in advance and put their order in on Rent the Runway five months ago as an awful lot of options have been reserved that far out in advance. Because rental companies quickly went from a long period of little demand and paused memberships to a sudden surge of increased demand beyond pre-pandemic levels, inventory levels aren’t meeting demand.

“There’s a huge supply chain component to rental. You need to start buying inventory well in advance. There are basically two years of weddings happening in one year and that creates a compound effect. With more weddings, you need more inventory,” says Andrew Blackmon, CEO of men’s formalwear rental service The Black Tux, who noted that shoring up inventory ahead of the 2021 wedding boom was one of the main priorities for his company.

There’s Always Vegas 

Can’t get a Vera Wang, food trucks booked out until 2022 and not interested in gathering friends and family on a Tuesday to celebrate the big day? Well, there’s always eloping to Vegas, which requires none of those things and is drawing in couples in droves.

Since spring, the number of marriage licenses issued and marriages filed in Clark County has surged. The number of marriages filed in June jumped nearly 30 percent compared with 2019, from 5,737 to 7,451. So far, 2021 has had more marriages in every month compared with 2019, except for January. Marriage licenses in June were up more than 14 percent compared with 2019.

“We’re a full-service town. If you do it anywhere else, you now have to become a project manager, hire 14 different vendors, find a location, your minister, photographer, videographer, florist, DJ, limo driver,” Donne Kerestic, CEO of Chapel of the Flowers told the Las Vegas Review. “I think it just became so overwhelming for couples that they’re like, ‘Let’s just go to Vegas,’ because it’s a one-stop-shop. They’ll do the whole thing for us.”

And even hand them some chips to gamble with at the tables.

There were, of course, the really out-of-the-box thinkers committed to bringing new meaning to the phrase “true love can’t wait” who took the plunge in 2020 anyway. Airplanes had fewer capacity restrictions than ground-based venues last year, giving New York-based jet leasing outfit Air Charter Service (ACS) an unusual opportunity in the market — allowing couples to rent a jet and tie the knot as they soared through the wild blue yonder, provided they had at least $18,000. Or, if they wanted to host guests, $28,000 for the “Ultimate Wedding in the Sky” package aboard a luxurious Bombardier Challenger 850 private jet.

The good news about 2021 thus far, it seems, is that consumers won’t have to spend quite so much to think out of the box and find a way to make it down the aisle. Terrestrial weddings are once again an option.

But things are clearly not quite going to be back to normal — because a lot of love on hold is flooding into the market and there are only so many venues, dresses and caterers to go around. Meaning 2021 may still be a year where a lot of couples in love are going to need to be a bit extra imaginative when it comes to tying the knot — because the field is a lot more crowded than normal and the race is going to be to the swift and the creative.