As the Australian government’s vaccination program begins to reach WA regions and restrictions ease across the country, brides and grooms are rushing to secure dates to hold their postponed wedding.
Many wedding and event service providers in the Margaret River area say they have survived their toughest times ever, and while business has started to recover it is still a long way from being “normal.”
“The biggest challenges come from the uncertainty and stress associated with postponing many weddings at short notice,” said Ryan Cope of The Wedding DJ.
“We actually had a small spike in business, especially in the winter months. Partly due to postponed weddings, but also new bookings had to choose between winter or midweek to make sure they got a venue.”
Mr Cope said he has been forced to postpone more than 45 weddings and with a postponement up to 18 months later, he does not want to pass his increased costs on to customers.
“For example, there is a difference of over 3.5 years for a booking that had to be rebooked twice, from the original booking to the wedding date.”
He said budgets have also fallen, and weddings that previously had an average of 80 guests now have around 50 attendees.
Jane Ashton, owner of Southern Light Events, said postponed weddings meant she and her staff had to set up and take down a lot more each weekend than they have in the past.
“Where we normally would have had two, we have four, so we start preparing for these weddings much earlier in the week,” Ms. Ashton told the Mail.
“I have a bride who is making her fourth attempt [at holding her wedding]”She had to cancel three times, so it can be very stressful for families, it’s an emotional time for them.”
Ms. Ashton said the housing crisis in the area combined with a lack of certainty about their future calendar has made recruiting even more difficult.
“I have a great group of people who are really understanding and flexible, but it’s tough when we get caught in a lock and I have to say, ‘Sorry, all the work I had for you is gone’.”
Her partner and longtime local sound engineer John ‘Soundy’ Strickland has been without a permanent home for over 18 months and the couple have had to juggle business and residence to keep their businesses afloat.
“JobKeeper has been a great help and that got us through some tough times, and Soundy’s work has been pretty consistent with venues in the area, but there are still venues that close their doors a few days a week because of they just can. I don’t get the staff. It’s all connected. “
“Most bookings were either moved to an uncertain future or canceled altogether,” said Pearsall. “I would say that in 2020 after the arrival of COVID-19, at least 10 percent was canceled and 70 percent was postponed.
“Since this is such a breathtaking destination, there are still many weddings from overseas or with guests from abroad that have been postponed indefinitely. It was of course devastating for the customers too. I was really impressed with how my couples dealt with the disappointment. “
The award-winning photographer managed to change his focus to adapt to the coronavirus climate.
“The silver lining has been that it has forced me to reinforce other avenues of my business,” he said.
“At the time, I was running several local companies in the areas of social media and content creation. Mainly in the hospitality industry, which was booming after the initial uncertainty.
The couple worked to attract a wide variety of local and national businesses, helping them define their brand, and building their online presence.
“The consistent cooperation with the same companies gave us security and gave them the time to concentrate on their business activities in a rapidly changing landscape.”
Mr Pearsall said the pandemic disruptions are a powerful wake-up call.
“In hindsight, it was probably a little short-sighted to believe that things would grow forever from year to year.
“I’m sure I’m not the only one who was shocked to get a really good look at how to diversify his business to hopefully withstand future challenges.
“Digital marketing is at least as important now as weddings, so it has caused a huge shift towards an essentially contactless business model.
“We also work regularly with a variety of local restaurants and wineries to deliver them consistent content that is in line with their branding guidelines.
“I am very grateful to be working with such a variety of great companies and couples.
“I hope the majority of the community has prevailed in these uncertain times so far.”
Mr Cope said that in addition to finding dates to reschedule couples, new weddings are being planned and the pandemic is adding more complications.
“It was a very troubling time, with many challenges and, in some ways, some benefits,” he said.
“As you can imagine, a bride who had to cancel at the last minute due to a lockdown is very emotionally attached to the change and she then has to secure at least 3-4 vendors – in some cases up to 10 – in a very short time at short notice and let everyone agree on a new date.
“In many cases the DJ is the voice of the venue and communicates compliance during a wedding. It is not always easy to ask guests to wear a mask when they are not eating or drinking, to remind guests to remain seated, and to ensure the safety of staff “at all times.”