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'A crash in enquiries': Wedding planners say the coronavirus outbreak is severely impacting their business

Sharon Masige
  • Many weddings have been either postponed or cancelled following the coronavirus outbreak.
  • They come as Prime Minister Scott Morrison issued a ban on non-essential gatherings of 500 or more people, before banning indoor gatherings of 100 or more.
  • Wedding planners spoke to Business Insider Australia about the impact of the coronavirus on the industry.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

The coronavirus outbreak has led to serious problems for the wedding industry, with planners and event organisers reporting a collapse in bookings and growing difficulties sourcing staff like photographers and caterers.

Jennifer Brancourt, wedding planner at Solstice Events told Business Insider Australia she has seen a "crash in enquiries" coming through with people not wanting to go ahead with their planned nuptials.

She said there are worried couples who don’t want to put deposits down yet because of coronavirus fears, something she believes is "totally fair."

"They’re putting money out on the table for a big day and I guess they’re not too sure if it's going to go ahead at this point," Brancourt said.

"I've also had weddings postponed due to the coronavirus which is absolutely totally fair as well."

Earlier this month Prime Minister Scott Morrison issued a ban on non-essential gatherings of 500 people or more. On Wednesday, Morrison took it further still, banning non-essential indoor gatherings of more than 100 people.

Stephanie Cassimatis, director and founder of Pink Caviar Events, told Business Insider Australia the company had an influx of clients contact them after the initial 500-person limit was established.

Pink Caviar Events doesn't just do weddings – it does corporate events as well, and Cassimatis said many of its conferences, conventions, product launches and expos have all been cancelled or rescheduled for 2021.

When it comes to weddings, guest numbers have dropped significantly.

"This last weekend alone, we've had [several] outdoor weddings being cancelled," she said. "We've had wedding reception numbers almost halve at some receptions, where they were expecting 120 and were lucky to get 50."

Fiona Deans-Dundas, owner and director of Couture Wedding Planning, told Business Insider Australia it has been "a very tricky few weeks". She said people who were set to get married in the next few weeks were the most unsettled by the coronavirus outbreak.

She also said her business has seen many cancellations and postponements, especially for people with many guests coming from overseas. This month, Prime Minister Morrison issued a 14-day isolation period for anyone coming into Australia from overseas.

"The two-week isolation in a way stopped them from going to the wedding that they were supposed to be coming for," Deans-Dundas said.

"And therefore, because they were such significant people in those weddings, we had to either postpone or cancel that particular wedding."

Deans-Dundas said her company had two large weddings of more than 500 people that had to be postponed. She added that Couture Wedding Planning only does "a bespoke number of weddings" a year, and highlighted that it must be a devastating time for wedding planners who have one every week. Her fireworks supplier, she noted, had five wedding cancellations over the weekend.

But for the couples to be wed, it's all about ensuring their guests are protected.

"We’ve seen a lot of people obviously very concerned – wanting to keep family members, the elderly [and] young children out of the spotlight of contracting coronavirus as well as minimising the amount of the spread," Cassimatis said.

The coronavirus has impacted wedding suppliers

As wedding planners often coordinate several facets of a wedding, they have also struggled with getting some decorations in, or even photographers to attend.

Deans-Dundas said some supplies were getting delayed from overseas.

“We were waiting for some very special stone slices that we were creating for some very special place cards," she said. "And they were definitely delayed coming from China."

On top of that, Cassimatis said some of the crew won't come to weddings at all.

“Some people just don't want to come out," she said. "We've had companies call us and say for the safety of their staff, they’re wanting to close their operation and not want to...come into contact with people. That's included some photographers and some catering companies who have really dialled back their operation.”

Cassimatis said these wedding cancellations are having a "big knock-on effect" on other industries. She gave the example of the travel industry, which is affected by guests not being able to travel to the wedding, or the newlyweds not being able to go away for a honeymoon.

Having spoken to several suppliers over the past few days, Cassimatis advised that if you are planning an event, you should have an open conversation with your suppliers.

"We still need to support each other in this time," she said. "Talk to people. Let them know what you're doing, what you're thinking of. If you are postponing or you are cancelling, talk to your suppliers in relation to what they can offer you."

Some couples are taking steps to ensure their wedding goes ahead

Cassimatis said a lot of the weddings her company does have more than 100 guests and some of them are taking measures to make it happen.

"We're seeing that those weddings of over 100 [are] considerably scaling down their guest list," she said. "Or even older people [are] tuning in virtually through a virtual call to watch the service without having to be present.

“We've now had requests for clients to look at changing seating arrangements, so there are fewer people on tables and spacing them out if need be to comply more with the social distancing that we're hearing a lot about in the news."

She added that Pink Caviar Events is doing everything it can to make sure its clients feel better and reduce the possible spread of the coronavirus.

"That is the aim at the end of the day, minimising that spread," Cassimatis said.

The wedding industry is going through a "trying time"

Cassimatis told Business Insider Australia everyone at Pink Caviar is working remotely and is reaching out to clients to work out how best to help them.

"[Coronavirus] is and will have a massive impact on the event and wedding space just because a lot of businesses like us are going to be going through the same thing," she said. "[We're] in the same boat with cancellations and rescheduling."

And while Cassimatis said rescheduling a wedding isn't too much of a problem, issues do arise with cash flow.

"Rescheduling is not too bad in the sense that they will still hold their event at a later date," she said. "But obviously, as a business, you look at the immediate cash flow. It's a massive blow to that area. There's not much else we can do aside from follow the direction from our government and NSW Health."

Cassimatis added that we are going through a period of time that is going to be "very testing and trying" for businesses, couples and clients who are holding weddings, or events in Sydney and around the world.

“We don't know how long this is going to be going for. If we're still in the same position in six months or at the end of the year, you'll see a lot of festivities from springtime – whether it's spring racing or Christmas parties – being put on hold.

"And those who are looking at planning are now looking 12 months in the future. So it's just surviving until that happens in the next 12 months.”