The Toronto wedding industry is booming again, but vendors can’t keep up

“Everything all at once.” That’s how wedding planner Tracey McAteer described what her job has been like since restrictions have lifted.

Claudia Masciarelli of Claudia & Co. echoed a similar sentiment. Many of her clients are looking to “move forward with their lives.” Though many of her clients are “more laid-back” and considerate due to the ongoing pandemic, mitigating the ever-changing restrictions while planning events has also been challenging. In some cases, events that would normally take a year and a half to plan are now under the time constraint of three weeks.

Data from the government of Ontario on vital events showed that the number of marriages decreased from 62,488 in 2019 to 40,549 in 2020. A 2021 study from insurance comparison website predicted that, while weddings may increase to over 48,000 in 2021 with easing restrictions, many couples may still wait to postpone until 2022. The study estimates there will be over 78,000 weddings in 2022, compared to the 60,000 mark in 2019.

Despite growing demand, resources are limited

You can group the couples currently trying to plan their weddings in three buckets. There are those couples who are re-planning their wedding postponed in 2020. Then, there are the recently engaged couples who are rushing to get married before the fourth wave hits. Finally, there are the couples who are looking ahead, planning for 2022 and 2023. Sometimes these groups overlap in a Venn diagram sort of way, which complicates things further.

According to planner Iris Li at Blue Lavender Events, the “cautiously optimistic” couples who are booking venues for 2022 and 2023 are “panicking a little bit.” Why? The economics of the wedding industry has radically changed from the historic trends that planners, vendors and venues alike are used to.

Last year, flower farmers disposed of unnecessary flowers they had planted because there were significantly fewer events being hosted.  When planting seeds and bulbs this year, in anticipation of the pandemic continuing in the same fashion, they opted to plant less to avoid throwing their harvest out again. Now, when couples are seeking to expand their weddings, ordering more flowers is out of the question because you can’t fill an order if there aren’t any flowers to fill it with. This doesn’t apply to just flowers, but supply in general — venues, catering and staff. Resources are already limited for 2022 because “there are existing contracts [vendors] need to fill,” Li says.

In a normal year, vendors usually have difficulty finding staff as the summer winds down into fall with a great number of their employees returning to school full-time. This year, these problems have been exacerbated due to the disconnect between the vendors’ expectations and their prospective employees’ wishes. Vendors, having furloughed employees yearly on the pandemic, are “nervous about hiring any full-time staff,” according to McAteer. Meanwhile, those who lost their jobs in the service industry last year have found substitutes (a new career path or CERB) that allow for consistent income, mitigating the risk of another lockdown and the financial insecurity that comes along with it.

Couples are looking to splurge on fewer guests

In a situation sterile and devoid of romance, couples have pivoted to more intimate weddings, not just in size, but also in intention. Li’s clients are seeking something more personal and detail-oriented as they want to “go the extra mile [and] show their appreciation for their guests.”

This is made more feasible by the fact that many couples have had more time to save for their big day. “People are up to splurge a little more. Because they’ve been waiting to have these weddings, they want to go all out,” Li says.

Masciarelli agreed. She’s noticed that since there are fewer guests invited, couples can afford to spend more on decor and other items, rather than the meals of 200 uninvited guests. These days, her clients are less concerned with tradition than actually having a wedding they can enjoy with their closest friends and family.

Article exclusive to Streets Of Toronto