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Vendors scramble to keep up with post-pandemic marriage boom

NEW YORK (AP) – Couples in the United States are rushing to the altar in a marriage boom in an age of vaccination that has sites and other providers in high demand.

With the loosening of restrictions on large gatherings, wedding planners and others who are making the magic happen have said they started pushing back reservations in late 2022 and early 2023.

“We’ve been out of trucks for some dates this year and it’s never happened before,” said Ben Goldberg, co-founder and president of the New York Food Truck Association. “Our phones are ringing nonstop with clients looking to host weddings they had to postpone during COVID.”

Couples who have gone ahead and married during tighter pandemic times with few to no guests and are now in their second go-around with larger groups are also contributing to the rush. They compete for services with those who had always intended to marry this year.

“We see a lot of last minute bookings with shorter scheduling windows,” said Anna Noriega, owner of luxury company Alorè Event Firm in Miami. “With increasingly widespread vaccinations and on-site COVID testing available for events, we have seen an increase in the number of customers and an increase in bookings. “

Namisha Balagopal, 27, of Emeryville, Calif., Is among the double brides.

She and Suhaas Prasad, 33, met in 2014 and got engaged in May 2019. They planned a traditional South Asian Indian wedding last August in Utah, where Balagopal grew up, with 320 guests and events on five days. But they couldn’t get there under the pandemic restrictions. They decided to have a small sunset ceremony this month with less than 10 people in attendance at Muir Beach near San Francisco. This is where they had their first date and where Prasad proposed.

Now their big celebration takes place on August 15 outdoors at their home location in Park City, Utah, with around 230 guests and multi-day events including seven clothing changes for the bride and groom. Many of their relatives in India are not allowed to travel to the United States

“It’s just a very big part of our culture,” Balagopal said of the extravagance. “In the end, it was really important to our parents.”

Above all, she is past the frustration phase of being a pandemic bride.

“The wedding is going to be so much fun. It’s just deferred gratification at this point, ”smiled Balagopal.

The boom is also active in wedding and bridesmaid dresses.

Economy chain David’s Bridal, with 282 stores in the US and more in the UK, Canada and Mexico, has 300,000 dresses in stock in part because of the wedding drought of 2020.

“Going forward, it will be an unprecedented wedding season this year,” said Maggie Lord, vice president of David’s whose online wedding planning guide, Rustic Wedding Chic, was acquired by the company. David’s has been tracking vast data on marriages during the pandemic.

“Couples get super creative and have ceremonies on Thursday evening or Friday afternoon just because of the number of people getting married this year,” Lord said. “We know that 90 percent of brides this year are looking to get married in outdoor locations,” where there are fewer restrictions.

Lord said the pandemic has helped normalize non-traditional aspects of weddings: an end to past appetizers and buffets, for example, more live broadcasts to accommodate travel restrictions, and more planning and online shopping.

Competition for sellers has driven up their prices. “They know they have customers who are going to pay for it,” she said. “Wedding vendors are making up for a year of limited work, if at all.”

Anna Price Olson, associate editorial director of Brides magazine, said many suppliers to the wedding industry are small businesses.

“They are trying to meet demand from new customers and customers who have postponed,” she said. “To do that, in many cases, they have to charge more. They have to hire additional resources, bring back staff. In addition, the cost of goods increases. There are only a limited number of linens, a limited number of rentals, and a limited number of flowers that were planted last season.

One thing’s for sure, Lord said: the bride and groom are “bringing the big wedding back, with slightly more organized guest lists and maybe not 300 people on a crowded dance floor.”

Tirusha Dave is the owner and CEO of the premium wedding planning company Bravura Brides used by Balagopal. She managed 10 weddings in 2019, with only three in 2020. Dave has already booked 11 weddings this year with 250-300 guests each scheduled.

“I think everyone is set for things to bounce back, but just in a safe way,” she said.

Lord’s online planning site has many more vendors with two-year bookings, rather than the more traditional 12-month planning period, as couples wait for the places they want and seek to move away their special days altogether. of the pandemic.

Justin Warshaw is the Creative Director and CEO of the Global Justin Alexander Group, a wedding design and manufacturing house with five and more major brands under license and white label agreements.

It saw wedding dress bookings increase 593% from April 1 to May 15, 2020 compared to the same time this year. Eighty-eight percent of its 2,200 retailers in 80 countries are now open and operational, with the United States being its largest market.

Comparing January to May 2019, before the start of the pandemic, with January to May of this year, Warshaw saw a 40% increase in sales of made-to-order dresses in the United States.

“A lot of it has to do with pent-up demand and also what we imagined would happen: so many COVID couples turning into COVID engagements, turning into weddings,” said Warshaw, who is among the new fiancés. “With the optimism of vaccinations, people want to party with their family and friends and get their lives back on track. “

Chappall Gage, who runs with her mother Susan Gage Caterers in Washington, DC, has experienced a special events boom overall, with 30% to 40% of their weekend business in weddings.

“This is the only big event that returns quickly,” he said. “Right now we are at that transition point where micro-marriages are ending and now people are starting to feel comfortable having bigger marriages. When the mayor announced that she was allowing dancing at weddings, I could hear an audible cheer from the city.

Follow Leanne Italy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/litalie

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